I am currently blogging about everything. Jump in where you are and thanks for coming by!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Laundry: The Neverending Story

I dislike housework, housekeeping, home keeping, chores, cleaning, straightening, organizing, putting away, whatever. It always feels like I am on an endless hamster wheel. Do the dishes, make the dinner, clear the table, do the dishes, repeat ad infintum. I married someone quite like me, he also would rather find something, anything else to do. This is a mixed blessing, because while neither of us is badgering the other person to pick up more or feeling resentful that the other person is more comfortable with mess, neither of us is actually leaping up from the couch to clean.

We got along okay in our mutual sloth until we had children. Children turn everything up to 11. We were both determined to do better and actually I think we have. We started small, with the laundry. First we bought a pink wood and cloth folding hamper for our daughter's room. She's 11 and still using the same hamper. I kept it next to her changing table near the closet. As I pulled the baby out of her tiny onesies and even tinier socks I would grab a bottle of stain treatment and hose down whatever messes she had accumulated. Then as I did laundry all I had to do was dump everything in the washing machine, and add the soap and hit start. This worked so well with her clothes that I started doing the same routine for my own clothes, getting them in the hamper, already stain treated, pockets emptied, turned right side out. My husband spontaneously bought some rubber sock rings and started pairing his socks before he put them in the wash. He puts clothes in the wash before he leaves for work, I make sure they go into the dryer when I get home with the kids, and then after they go to bed we fold the clothes. The folded clothes either get put on top of the dresser in the kid's room or left right outside their door. Our clothes get put into the dresser.

That doesn't sound like a lot but the routine took years to establish. We tried a lot of other things first. Having a specific laundry day, where we did all of the laundry at once. We tried getting the clothes washed and dried before work. We tried having one person do the laundry by themselves, we tried trading that job back and forth. Sometimes the laundry routine would get so insane we'd load the entire back of the car up with dirty clothes and drive to the laundromat with soap, bleach, and baskets and go and do all of the laundry in 2 hours using the super capacity machines. The upside to the 2 hour laundry marathon was that the laundromat was right next door to a Goodwill charity shop. As clothes came from the dryer that were too small, or were unwanted for any reason, we could bag them up and drop them off on the way home. The cost was astronomical, but at least we could begin again without climbing a slippery pile of dirty clothes I dubbed Mt. NeveRest.

The story flipped again when we lived in a place that didn't have a reliable dryer, but did have a large clothesline. I learned that if you want gleamingly white undershirts, dry them in the sun. Seriously, blinding whites. Sheets smell fanatic dried in the sun. Bathing suits and leotards and any garment that has a lot of stretch, will last forever getting line dried. I quit ever putting my bras in the dryer after that. They dry so quickly and they last forever! The hooks never snag other clothes in the dryer, nor do the underwires get bent.

We live in a new place now, same old routine, except the washer and dryer are in the garage and we hang clothes from the garage door tracks. The garage doors on this house were sealed off 30 plus years ago, but the tracks remained. Things that get hung up to dry include, all dresses, all bras, bathing suits, leotards, tights, pantyhose. Anything that has glitter or sequins on it. All of my husband's work shirts, all of his work pants, anything that is made in a "stretch fabric" anything very sheer or that has beadwork, or complicated embroidery. When I dry things in the dryer, I make sure what goes in the washer is compatible. Towels get washed together, jeans get washed together, bath mats and throw rugs get washed together. T-shirts and similarly weighted clothes get washed together. This way everything will dry in the same amount of time and it causes less wear and tear on your clothes. I am obsessed with removing the dryer lint. The girls like to throw it in the yard for the birds to make nests. Recently we saved our in-laws' dryer by going to the outside of the house and removing the cap on the dryer vent. It had become clogged with dryer lint, we pulled out 2 feet of backed up lint from the vent and now their dryer does the job in less than half the time. It was getting to be a serious fire hazard. If your dryer starts to take longer and longer to dry I suggest you locate your vent and check!

Everything we wash is separated by color, all darks and reds go together unless I have enough reds to have their own load. Light colored clothes get their own wash as do whites. I wash everything in cold water, it saves energy and money. The only exception to that is bed sheets and whites, they get washed on hot water. I use very little bleach, but I do use it on things like white socks or t-shirts. I have taken to using the detergent pods, that just get thrown in the wash. I wash delicate items on the hand washing cycle with a little Woolite. My favorite stain treatment is a cleanser called "Greased Lightning" which is also an all-purpose cleanser. Such became my zeal to complete my laundry that I would even bring it with me. I once lived 6 hours from my Mom, if I was coming to see her over the weekend, I would bring my dirty laundry with me and bring it home folded and sorted into piles to go straight to the drawers. My kids' drawers were labeled with pictures of the appropriate clothes, so they could put them away themselves.

So now our laundry is all caught up, big deal right? Well, by establishing the hamper routine, you have to make sure the hamper gets emptied. That keeps clothes off the floor. The bathmats and towels are getting washed regularly, which helps keep the bathroom clean. The dishcloths and dish towels are always ready to go to work in your suddenly cleaner kitchen. When the clothes are clean you have to make sure you can put them in the drawers and closets, so these start becoming cleaner and more organized spaces. With me it started with my fantastically organized underwear and sock drawer, then the jeans all started going to one place, then I started folding my t-shirts like the professional organizers do. When you can see your clothes at a glance you can routinely weed clothes out of the wardrobes. For the kids we try and check in the Spring and the Fall, but sometimes they have a sudden growth spurt and you notice all of their clothes look like capri pants and 3/4 length sleeves. Regular laundry means these clothes are always ready to be bagged up and taken to a thrift shop or to a friend with smaller kids.

If you are swimming in a sea of chaos, you just start with one thing, anything and watch the ripple effects. Maybe you have your home life down, but work is where you are floundering. Make a commitment to one thing there and see what happens. Fix your files, check e-mail first thing, block Facebook from your computer, whatever it is that is your personal boondoggle. My opinion is that when we take a macro view of our lives, the problems seem insurmountable. When we look at our lives in smaller parts we can see solutions. Can I fix everything today? No? Can I finish this load of laundry, sort, wash, dry, fold, put away? YES, I CAN!


  1. Laundry is winning the war in my house. This is how I do laundry now: "Ah crap, I'm out of underwear!" or "Oh smack, she has no long sleeved shirts for her field trip tomorrow!" or "Oh no, I completely forgot she threw up on her last clean sheet and it's already 7PM, quick, find a blanket to cover the bed while I wash something!" It's been this way since September, when our dryer broke and the ONLY gas dryer in town, which cost $200 more than we had budgeted to spend, had, unbeknownst to me, a sensor. Which means NOW it takes 5 hours to dry one load, because the dang thing shuts off whenever it feels like it. Most of those times I'm in the shower, cooking dinner, or doing something so I cannot hear the silent jingling of the far too cute "it's dry" chime in our upstairs laundry room. (No, not it's really NOT dry. Not even CLOSE. Still dripping, in fact.) We're only about a week away from my laundry pile reaching the ceiling. I'm in really bad need of Thing 1 and 2 showing up with that cleaner thingy. On the upside? My Seven Generations pricy detergent is lasting FOREVER.

  2. I think you need to sell that dryer and get a new one.

  3. I can't even imagine how stressful this has been!