You’re a stay-at-home dad, a fresh retiree from the rat race, and suddenly you realize that there is more to staying at home than you thought. You may be the dad who aced calculus, but nothing ever prepared you for the pile of laundry overflowing from the hamper. Don’t worry, Dads, soon you’ll be breezing through the laundry, and your wife will wonder how she ever managed without you staying at home.

Laundry 101 for the stay-at-home dad is a step-by-step guide to get you off and running . . . err washing. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Dad, you can make it look like you stayed home all day slaving away at the laundry and still sneak in time for a nap or a Hogan’s Heroes rerun.

Step-by-step laundry for the stay-at-home dad:

  • Gather. Dad, use your hunter/gatherer instincts and find that smelly t-shirt or elusive sock that didn’t make it to the hamper. If you’re a stay-at-home dad and in charge of the laundry, you might as well get it all done.
  • Sort. This may come as a surprise to rookie stay-at-home dads, but those stonewashed jeans your son wears used to be indigo. Where did the color go, you may ask? Into the wash, Dad, and if you throw your wife’s favorite white blouse into the mix she is not going to be pleased. If you want to keep your job as stay-at-home dad, sort the laundry.  White clothes get washed with whites, colored with like-minded colors, and darks with darks.  Please Dad, don’t throw the stinky kitchen rag in the machine with the delicate unmentionables. And the sheet that gone thrown up on last night? It gets washed alone.
  • Treat. You, as the stay-at-home dad, are now responsible for your children’s cleanliness. As the dad, it is your job to hunt down any stains and treat them before you wash. Once the stain is heated in the dryer, it may be with you for life. Did you want to be the stay-at-home dad with the unkempt kids?
  • Wash. This is important, Dad, listen up. Washing machines come with different water-temperature settings. There is a reason, and if you’re a stay-at-home dad you should know it. Generally speaking, white clothes can be washed in hot water, light colors in warm water, and dark colors in cold. If you are unsure, check the label.
  • Dry. Drying should be done as soon as possible after the wash cycle is finished. And since you’re staying home to do the laundry, make sure you don’t have to spend all the money you are no longer earning on new sweaters because you used your dryer on wool. If the fabric is delicate or unusual, check the label, Dad, it may need to be hung up to dry.
  • Fold. You’re no longer a teenage boy, you’re a stay-at-home dad—responsible, mature. There is no shoving clothes into any available space in the drawer or throwing them in the back of the closet to avoid detection. Dad, it’s time to set the example and start folding. Turn the clothes right side out, give them a shake, fold them flat, pile them up. Take a picture and send it to your mother.
  • Put Away. You’re in charge, stay-at-home dad, you can decide if you put the clothes away or leave them piled for an afterschool chore. But you may want to periodically check the back of the closet for all those clothes you’re sure you bought for your son.

Follow these simple guides and you will find that laundry isn’t the worst part of life as a stay-at-home dad. Now if only someone would tell you how to get that stain out of the carpet.

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