Cleaning Hack #2: Laundry. Sorta.

19Feb10

So, I’m not sure this counts as an actual hack, because the sad news is that you still have to do the laundry. Which, pardon my Serbo-Croatian, sucks.

I hate laundry. Hate. With hatred. I don’t mind putting in the washes, and I don’t mind flipping them into the dryer and then into the basket. I hate folding. Not because I dislike the actual folding (you’d have to have an aful lot of time on your hands to bother hating something like folding) but because then there are these stacks of folded laundry to put away. Which I hate doing. I’m not sure why — maybe there’s a 12-step group for that — but I do know that I also hate turning around and seeing that while I’ve been wandering around bumping into this batch, more laundry has piled up behind me.

If I just had to do my own laundry, I’d be fine. I honest to God don’t have that many clothes — when I do these enormous heaps of laundry, there will be a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and one sock for me. The rest is for these other people who live here (and why my 4 yr old cannot step up to the plate I do not know) and they have just these huge tracts of clothing.

And I long ago realized something deep and meaningful about the laundry. Ready? Here it is:

If we didn’t have so much clothing, we wouldn’t need so much clothing.

Think about it: Every day for a week, I throw a pair of undies into the laundry basket. If, at the end of the week, I wash those self-same undies, I will have clean undies for the next week, right? Right? No, I’m asking you, because I have no idea.

I have no idea because I never get to do that. At the point when I should be washing last week’s undies for this week, I am instead strip-mining Mount Laundry and running stuff that has been down there far longer than that. Probably including the undies I wore last week, because I couldn’t wash them right away either. So what do I do for next week? Well, I have to have another set of undies for next week, too.

Now, imagine that I only owned one week’s worth of undies. First of all, they’d get pretty scruddy pretty fast but, second, I’d have to do the laundry right away. And third, I’d probably have only a weeks worth of everything else (which, now that I think about it, is pretty much what I have) so doing the laundry right away would be no problem.

Contented, horizon-gazing sigh!

Never gonna happen. Because there’s no blessed way I’m going to get my handsome husband to believe that I will always in every case have his laundry done in time for Monday morning. I don’t believe it either because I won’t, I know I won’t. I’m just being practical here —  I know that eventually something will come up, I won’t get everything done, we’ll all have to go out in dirty underwear, someone will get hit by a bus and end up in the emergency room… and your mother probably gave you the rest of that speech at one time or another.

So, we have more laundry than can be kept up with in one week, which means that any given garment will take at least two weeks to go through the laundry, which means we need to have two weeks worth of any given garment type, which means that we have more laundry than can be kept up with in two weeks, which means that I will never ever get rid of the tangled mess of baskets and piles of clothes in the basement.

Or so I thought!

Because when I came home the other day, my wonderful mother-in-law had sorted all the laundry. She didn’t wash any, she didn’t fold or put any away, she just sorted.

What the hell good is that? you ask. Yes you did, liar, I heard you.

I will tell you anyway — it is all the hell good.

And here’s why. I have, for years, tried to figure out exactly where the process falls apart. I know I should just put the clothes away, I know I should just keep running loads, I know I should bring the dirty laundry downstairs before my children become trapped in their rooms and we have to go on Hoarders. (Not a bad idea, anyway, ’cause they clean the house for you!)

I know I should “Just get to it!” but if “Just get to it” were going to work, it would have worked a looooong time ago (as I recently informed my Mother who, God bless her, laughed her head off.) So I’m willing to give up that dream and take a cold hard look at the situation.

I tried focusing on organization, so putting away the laundry wouldn’t be such a big deal. I tried focusing on putting away, so folding wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. I tried… well, all the rest of it. No dice.

But when my MIL sorted, she sorted into colors. Not owner, not type of garment, just by color. Here is the color breakdown:

  • Blue
    jeans, shirts, towels, tons of stuff here.
  • Pink
    I have two girls. ‘Nuff said.
  • Purple
    See Pink.
  • Green
  • White
    Nothing goes in here unless you’re willing to bleach it.
  • Black:
  • Red/Orange/Yellow

Right, so I’ve got these baskets, each containing a different color. And how does this help me?

1. I have these baskets upstairs, full of yet more laundry. But I can’t bear to bring these downstairs because there are already so many down there, and I’m really not all that keen on digging deeper when I’m already standing in the hole.

But guess what! Everything is sorted. So instead of bringing these baskets down and hurling them at the heap, I can bring them down and sort them into the categories that are already set up. Which feels less pathetic.

2.  I try to keep things running so I’ll have clean laundry to fold in the evening, but I do actually have a real job so…

Guess what! With the laundry all sorted, I can tell my tween to do it! “Honey, please go flip the laundry — just put in a load of blues, please.” Fabulous! Organize the task so as to put my daughter to work for me? I am SO all over that.

3. Folding? Still a drag, but now that I’m doing laundry regularly, not so bad! Plus, you get a whole big load of pinks, guess where they’re all going? Most of our towels are blue, most of our sheets are green… you get the picture.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the surprise sorting, and no, I’m not all caught up. But I no longer think there’s such a thing and I just can’t get my act together. I don’t think anyone is all caught up, ever, with anything. Whatever you’re doing, it’s all Lucy in the Chocolate Factory all the time. Right? I mean, unless you’re fabulously wealthy, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this post… unless you just like my writing, in which case please feel free to sponsor me so I won’t  have to work a day job OR do laundry!

Yahrite! Anyway, Here’s Cleaning Hack #2: Sort the Laundry. It seems like a little thing but it definitely changed my laundry life. (Sorta!)

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3 Responses to “Cleaning Hack #2: Laundry. Sorta.”

  1. Deborah – I’m with you. I HATE putting laundry away. I don’t know why… maybe it’s because by the time I get to that step I have already sorted said laundry, stuffed it into the washer, transferred it to the dryer, pulled it from the dryer and folded it semi-neatly. All that stuff absolutely must be done. But if I then drag my ass into the bedroom and put it away, I’m just going to have to get it out again to wear it. Surely it’s just better to save myself a step and leave it in towering piles around the bedroom, no?

    I have no grounds to complain though, really. I have no children and ever since I did something wrong to the husband’s clothes, he insists on doing his own laundry. So I have only myself to look after and only myself to blame. I too am a three weeks of laundry kind of girl. But you know it’s bad when everything you usually wear is dirty, so you scrape the back of the closet and your boss asks where you are interviewing because you’ve come to work in the clothes you have to iron. (Don’t even get me started on ironing!)

  2. 2 Deborah Bancroft

    Sounds like we should set up housekeeping! Just you, me, and seventeen cats.

  3. 3 Amy

    Wow. Your “fewer clothes” idea reminded me of college, when I figured out if I had enough underwear I wouldn’t have to do any laundry for an entire semester and then just bring it home.

    Now I’m such a slacker mom that if the kids are looking for a particular piece of clothing I just go tell them to look in the dryer. And often, I notice, if they don’t find it in the dryer they just turn their attention to the pile of dirty laundry next to it and find what they need.

    I find myself doing laundry finally when I AM out of clean underwear. And based on paragraph #1….that is not too often.


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