Laundry is for Suckers

I love my washing machine

Washing machines: the best thing since washable fabrics.

I am a sucker, a chump, a fool. Every week, I wash and fold about eight loads of laundry. That’s pants, shirts, socks, dishtowels, sheets, etc. for five people. I fill my baskets with towers of uniform rectangles, folded according to the depth of their intended drawers so that the folded edge will stand next to all the others and a census of the drawer’s contents can be taken at a glance. I don’t put clothes away; I file them.

I organize drawers, ostensibly so people can see what they’ve got and find what they need. A week later, I walk upstairs and, in any room,  am greeted by vomiting dressers, drawers spewing sleeves and pant legs over their lips.  I grumble, shove the mess over, and make room for my neat little stack of good intention- all ready to be disheveled tomorrow.

Is there another household chore that takes as much time and is as equally futile? I can’t think of one. Cleaning out the fridge is important for organization and hygiene, even if the pickle jar with the bad lid ALWAYS tips over on the top shelf within a week of cleaning.  Cleaning kid-level windows is a waste of time, but it isn’t something I do every week [read: year.]

Why do I do it? To model neatness? Because that is the way laundry has always been done and I’m a slave to tradition? I think I do it because deep down, I believe an organized laundry practice has merit. That said, all my trouble is only worth it if all parties agree to operate on the same system, and, well, they don’t.2628256853_8f0cd46700_z

It doesn’t matter to anyone but me if the drawers are neat. As long as there is a pair of underwear in there somewhere, I will hear nothing about it, good or bad. My children think the hamper is a folding machine- throw it in; it magically reappears in the drawer, clean and ready to wear. Do the children care if their clothes are wrinkly? No. Likely, smooth shirts would clash with their hair, which gets impressively sculptural under winter hats. Do I care if their clothes are wrinkly? No, not unless it’s picture day and the shirt has an archaeological aesthetic to its creases.

If I were sensible, I’d sell the dressers and get everyone two laundry baskets- one for above the waist, one for below. I would wash and dry clothes, sort them into north or south piles by owner and dump them into the appropriate baskets. The family could root around for what they want and I would save HOURS of wasted labor each week. You have to admit this system has merit. It saves loads of time and takes into account the reality of our clothing situation.

I currently entertain a Disney level fantasy of children and husband whistling while they refold their clothes and tuck them away in neat rows. There may even be songbirds folding t-shirts and chipmunks pairing socks. Then I get irritated when the reality falls short.  This is not a smart mindset.

I must be chicken, or a little OCD. I can’t change my broken system. I don’t know why, because I’m able to let go of other futile endeavors: flattening my post 3-baby belly, singing bass-baritone, not letting the kids eat in the car. I would feel like such an iconoclast- giving folded laundry the old middle finger and getting rid of furniture that is full of pointless expectation.

I cannot wait until I can share laundry duty with the children. (rubs hands together and cackles.) They are learning to fold, and I give folding as a chore- especially if I catch a kid throwing clean clothes in the hamper/folding machine. I am determined; they will do more. The summer chore campaign is approaching. Will I make them keep their drawers neat? No, but drawers must close fully and there must be room for fresh laundry to fit. Will I make them fold in uniform shapes? Yes, they will learn the proper way, even down to how to fold fitted sheets. (Yes, it’s possible.) Then, if they choose a more chaotic laundry practice as adults, it will be by choice and not because they know no better. I hope that some day, my children will appreciate that daily dressing need not involve the added stress of scavenger hunts for matching socks and quests for the one pair of magical sparkle tights.

Even if they end up choosing a less fussy system, they will learn one important lesson from me: Sometimes you just have to do pointless stuff because that’s what the boss requires.

I'm gonna need you to fold those in thirds. M'kay?

I’m gonna need you to fold those in thirds. M’kay?

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7 comments on “Laundry is for Suckers

  1. blessedx5ks says:

    Oh my gosh! I think I just read my own thoughts! That is exactly how it happens here at my house too.
    You made me laugh 3xs today. Thank you.

    • 3xs? Well then, my day’s work is done! Laughter is one of the bonbons of life. Glad to know I’m not the only parent on this silly hamster wheel. Are you going to keep up the folding scam or are you buying laundry baskets as I type?

      • blessedx5ks says:

        l would love to employ the laundry basket idea. But years of “being raised” by my parents makes me stop and hesitate… And besides they, most of them, have truly awesome dressers/chests. I guess we could use those for toys and crafts? Hmmmmm. May be we should start a new trend. It certainly makes a ton of sense.

      • I can’t change my system either. I’m going to keep folding and grumbling. My kids are 8,6, and 4. I think this summer is the time for the older two to do laundry on a regular basis.

      • blessedx5ks says:

        yeah that was my intention too. Mine are 7,9,11,15 and 18. Good luck….. Mine put theirs away, pretty well they just don’t treat their drawers very nicely. Here is a hint that helps with my monkeys… we do the dance and chore. Do chores, stop for a song and sing and dance to the radio or a music station on the tv. My kids love it. They actually look forward to it and do their chores without complaint, as long as they are promised that fun break. It works wonders.

      • Ooo, I’ll have to try being fun. That’s a good idea. I am naturally more of a “chores aren’t fun. I never said they were.” kind of mom. Your way sounds better for everyone.

      • I tried your dance party pick-up. It worked brilliantly. Thank you, Mary Anne.

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