Monday, January 23, 2012

The Laundry (Part 1)

Lets talk about the laundry.  It is, I think, the number one, universal, overarching problem of the housewife. You may be able to live with little piles on your counters and clothes on the floor by your bed, but simply cannot abide finger prints on the mirrors and windows. You may have thrown up in your mouth when I mentioned the beginnings of a ring in the toilet, but shoes and books laying around in the living room you barely notice. We all, however, are buried in the laundry. If you aren't buried in the laundry there are only three possibilities.  1) You don't have enough people in your house yet.  Just wait. 2) You are in fact, the superwoman we spoke of before (and like I said in the last post, you really have more important things to do than hang out here with non-supers), or 3) you're a liar. Oh wait, four choices. 4) you really don't mind "living in a hovel" (another little Jacob nugget which is now part of the family vocabulary). Really, this conversation is for those of us who know it isn't working and are either ready to give up or already have.

It comes down to this: all of the fabric in all of the world gets dirty.  It does it all of the time in all of the ways no matter how hard we fight against it. And these dirty things must be washed.  I want to insert how grateful I am for the invention of the washing machine, because before this machine the laundry problem was so unsolvable that humans all just agreed to be dirty. Let's assume that we all prefer to have clean stuff.  So since the invention of the washing machine (and the subsequent freedom to start wearing more things more often) there is a universally accepted system in place. We wash our items and dry them in these wonderful machines, fold them and then put them into their homes which are located all over the house.  The system is perfect.  It allows you to have clean, neatly folded things just exactly where you need them.

Now at this crucial time in my life when I began to re-evaluate this system, here is what this whole routine actually looked like.  I could push clothes through the washer and dryer without too much trouble, but after a couple of loads they started coming out the other end much faster than I could fold them and put them away.  So I would start working off my beloved hind end folding the clothes and sorting them into piles--Lucy's pile of shirts, Lucy's pile of bottoms, Lucy's underwear, Greta's piles , Jake's piles, My piles, towel piles, cleaning rag piles, etc.,  etc., piles to the ends of the earth--or at least to the end of the room. Now at this point a toddler wanders in and wants to "help" and trips over a couple piles or starts grabbing folded piles and I start scrambling to protect my work without verbally abusing my little darling. Or another of my adorable little bundles of joy falls down the stairs and splits her lip open, or she hits her sister, or poops in her pants. Or instead, how about lets say I would wait until nap time to avoid this little scene.

Let me inject a little something about nap time here first. It's the most coveted moment of the entire day for a housewife.  The 1 1/2 to 2 precious hours in which I can do whatever I want to do without having anyone else to take care of or to come along behind me undoing everything I do.  Hmmm.  You might think I would read a book, get online and look at handbags, enjoy an entire cup of coffee without interruption while finally pouring over the new InStyle magazine, or have a little nap because I likely slept no more than 5 hours last night.  You would be silly. This time quickly becomes time used for pounding out work that I can't get done with little guys hanging on my legs and needing things and working against me.  Also it's time I can do that stuff without feeling guilty about how I would prefer, really, to be doing it than reading stories to my kids in the middle of it. You know, clean a bathroom, or put away the toys and stuffed animals and shoes and coloring crayons and papers on my desk, blah blah blah (see my previous post for more on that) so that I can spend two seconds of the day enjoying the way my living room is supposed to look and feel because I've spent so much of myself making it beautiful just the away I like it.  It's also time I might use for taking a shower or getting in a workout, or calling my mother who wonders if I love her because I never call her. Or paying bills, or in all honesty probably folding the laundry.

So I waited for this precious time and now it's been decided that I will spend it folding laundry.  I do, and I even put most of it away, but there are napping babies in some of the rooms so those things stay folded in the baskets waiting to be put away when they wake up. Also, my mom called so I talked to her while I folded, and I was a little distracted so I didn't quite put away some of the other things either, so there are some "folded laundry" baskets hanging out in various places--mostly my bedroom or the hall. Or maybe today I decided to take a shower and dust the bookshelves and get a marinade going for the pork and didn't fold at all, so there are also baskets of clean unfolded clothes hanging out waiting for the system to do it's job--probably also in my bedroom or worse, in the living room. I blink my eye and the little ones are awake and it's time to make dinner and daddy's almost home, and I need some wine, badly. And besides, I can fold laundry when the kids go to sleep tonight while we watch tv.  Awesome.  I will just keep working until I go to sleep and then I can wake up tomorrow to find that everyone wore clothes yesterday and someone had the gall to take a shower and there were some spills, and lo and behold there is more laundry. Also, I never did put the folded clothes away (because those darn kids are in there sleeping again) so this new day finds me digging through the folded clothes in the basket undoing what I spent my ever-so-valuable 2 hours doing yesterday.

My conclusions are that I am not doing a good enough job on the laundry and I need to get organized. I read some books and blogs and flog myself and vow to do better.  I will either commit to doing a load or two every day so that it never piles up, or I will set aside one day every week for nothing but laundry.  I will put in movies and have snacks and have no expectations for anything else and it will be fun, right?

Well, the "every day" commitment goes out the window almost immediately because we had to get out the door for a dentist appointment, or we went to my friends for a play date or heaven forbid we went on vacation, and now we're just screwed--laundry for days.  And really, same for the once per week. It comes around astonishingly often, and I was really hoping to still get to be a person. Furthermore, eventually your family is big enough that you almost can't do it all in one day. We go on muddling through with some combination of these two approaches and the reality is, laundry is the millstone around our necks--pulling us ever downward, slowing our step and killing our spirit.

Really, I've talked this much already? There's so much more to say! Please don't go, stay for another cup? Jacob, my man of few words, tells me that although he thinks I'm enchanting, I should write the rest tomorrow.  I suspect he would also get really bored if he were chatting away about this in my living room (actually I've tested this theory and he does), but I take his word for it.  He's a wise man.  I do talk way too much as a general rule.  I guess I'll let you go, but come back.  I still have to tell you what this led to.  I've now talked about it for three days without telling you what it is, so of course there's no way it will ever deliver on your expectations, but whatever.  We can't all be concise talkers. I like to think it's part of my charm. Tomorrow, I promise, The Laundry System. 


  1. Not a liar and not a superwoman -- gave up years ago trying to keep the standard -- despair and defeat immediately set in -- waiting on tender hooks for your system. Could it be after all these years, a solution? Too much to hope for since I will still be left to implement it. Maybe I can con you into coming over and implementing it for me .... I'll throw in the coffee??

  2. I will gladly come over for coffee, I wish you were down the street!

  3. Oh the suspense and I'm waiting because you have described the way laundry is handled at my house! And you are right, there is a time when your family is so big you can't do laundry all in one day. I can't wait to read the next installment but it will have to wait until a little later. I have a few munchkins demanding attention.