American appliances have too many options.
Having endless options is great for getting just the right setting for a specific task, but it becomes quite a problem when you’re forever trying to remember which combinations of buttons and levers to press.
Between our vacuum cleaner (5 attachments, 3 wands and 5 buttons), our washer (23 different combinations of settings) and our dryer (Can I dry towels on the setting that says ‘jeans’?) there is simply too much too much going on.
Sometimes I just whack the washing machine panel with my hand a few times, and take whatever water temperature comes up. I mean, really.
So I get it when an au pair (or a cleaning person, or a mother-in-law) can’t figure out how to use an appliance. Rather than being annoyed that s/he can’t figure it out and irked that I can’t remember either, I’ve found three strategies for helping someone else use the tools the right way.
1. Get out your labeler.
(If you want to get more specific, you can have more types of clothes and loads, but these four categories fit the bill for us.)
I have also used labels on the shelves in my pantry. Then again I am somewhat obsessive about being able to find things.
2. Translate the manual.
My washer, dryer and vacuum manuals came printed in English, Spanish and French.
Okay, so some of our au pairs have been Estonian, Lithuanian and Afrikaans. Wherever your au pair is from, you can translate the key parts of the manual together, and s/he can write notes on the manual in an additional language.
3. Make a video for your au pair’s smart phone.
Here’s the high tech version, for you 2.0 kinds of host parents: You could have your au pair video you as you explain how to use the appliance.
Even better, you could make this a family affair by asking one of your adorable kids to do this with you. Once you’ve made the video, you can stick it on the family computer (or YouTube channel) for the next person who needs it.
My washer and dryer each came with a one page graphic chart with basic instructions– I’ve hung these on the wall by the machines to make it easy to refer to them. And of course, I’ve got the manuals nearby too.
I know I’m not the only mom who cycles between frustration and empathy when people can’t figure out how to use tools to make the job easier.
What have you done, in your house, to make it easy for your au pair to use home appliances more effectively?
Or, have you
just given up chosen some other battle?