Keeping House Book Club: Laundry & Clothes

See also the table of contents for the Keeping House series.


So, I am behind on the book club, but not because I have not been reading. I decided that instead of musing and writing on the chapter, it would be better for me to take action. And I did. Willa summarized. I shall report.

Laundry is one of my least favorite household responsibilities. Food is just as relentless as laundry, in fact, moreso, since it insists on attention three to five times a day. Still, I have always enjoyed cooking, and keeping a stocked pantry and a plan in the kitchen has been one of the challenges I have tackled head-on and tackled with vim and vivacity.

Laundry, not so much.

However, it might just be that the light is breaking forth in this dim area. And, probably not coincidentally, it has come only after I admitted defeat, sighed, and admitted I was going to have to deal with laundry every day, whether I wanted to or not.

A common concept that seems to run in self-help areas, whether it be housekeeping or paying off debt or weight loss or anything else, is that real change comes after the frustration level hits top, giving you the energy and motivation to kick into gear and Get Things Done.

The factor that fueled my frustration was hearing, more often than not, “Mom! I don’t have any pajamas/pants/socks/underwear.” Here I was, trying to deal with laundry as minimally as possible — that is, as infrequently as I could possibly manage — and more days than not that call for help would sound forth and absolutely break my bubble, ruin my mood, and start me fuming. For, of course, it wasn’t always true. And I maintain it’s not my fault that they have no clean socks if they have shoved them all under the bed or behind the couch. So, I’d have to go in, ready for the recriminations, but hounded by the fact that in one third of the cases, I really was at fault. Every time that plea came ringing down the hall, it was as if I was being hit over the head: “Fail!” Even if it wasn’t a laundry fail, then really, it was a “not running an orderly household” fail nonetheless. Defeat. Ignominy. Gloom.

I hate laundry.

And that didn’t help things.

So. I started my one-load-a-day routine, and that helped tremendously. There are often wet sheets in the mornings around here, so that helped feed the necessity to get the load going first thing in the morning. I just tossed in whatever needed to be washed in with the sheets. And, really, one load of laundry takes less than 10 minutes to fold and put away. I can do anything for 10 minutes, even fold laundry. Then, when suddenly it wasn’t an hour or more of laundry-folding I was staring down weekly, but just 5-10 minutes. It didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. Who cares about laundry? It’s no biggie.

Whew.

Then, finally, the week after Christmas, after reading these chapters on clothes in Keeping House, I realized clothes management really would be much simpler and easier if I weeded through all the kids’ clothes and only kept what they need, what they wear, and what fits in the drawers we have. Really, Knox does not need 10 shirts, particularly not if I wash kid clothes every other day. So, I decided on the objective amount of clothes that was “right” for us (about 6 t-shirts for the older boys, and I packed up the ones that were starting to run small; 2 nicer pants and 2 play pants each; 3 pairs of pajamas each; etc.) and weeded. Some clothes got packed away for the next child up, some got packed to pass on to the next down the line in the church handmedown cycle, some just went to the Goodwill.

I hate putting away sheets, because the drawer I have for the twin sheets is stuffed so full it is difficult to open and close. Why do I have 3 twin beds and 9 spare twin sheets? I weeded through those, too, and kept 3 spares. Three of the weeded sheets were plain white or an almost-white green and soft, thin flannel. Those are in my bin to turn into cloth napkins. Others just went to Goodwill.

Oh, I do love the feel of a good purge! Now in the evening, after running a load for the day, I go around the house and toss straight into the washer my kitchen towels (they don’t get musty! They’re only damp with dishwater anyway), the cloth napkins from dinner, an assortment of kids’ clothes, and the hand towels from the bathroom and sometimes bath towels. That runs in the evening, first thing in the morning I move it to the dryer and start a regular load (jeans or whites or such). I must thank my friend Zoae for the inspiration for this routine; it has really been working for me!

And, I am never short on kitchen towels (I purged and sorted and rearranged these, too), the bathroom always has a fresh hand towel, and the kids don’t run low on clothes and pajamas. And the drawers are half empty and thus easy to open and close and use.

Not only have I had these successes in this area of former dread and defeat, but laundry is losing its status as a foe, and is actually, just maybe, beginning to feel like something I might actually be getting good at.

After all, now I am succeeding not so much at the doing of the laundry, but at the goal for which laundry is only a part of the process: clothing my family and having at hand what is required.