Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spin Cycle on Doing Laundry

Laundry systems work best in theory. The best theory is to let someone else do them. That's a system that works every time it is tried. Normal laundry systems work too, it's just they work until the person working them is tired.

Recently I was asked to share the secrets of my laundry system because I felt proud that there were 14 baskets of laundry sitting in my main room. There are no secrets. Laundry is a constant of my life, it is proof that my home is full of life, and it can also make one feel like one has no life. At one point, I did the math and it came out to around 78 pieces of clothing per day. My heart didn't have the nerve to multiply by 7 to figure out how much a week or then by 52 for a year.

For the most part, I can do the wash. I can sort. I can do the dryer. I can fold. I can even put them all in their appropriate baskets. It is then that we hit a snag that rivals O'Hare with four feet of snow and a traffic controller's strike. Nothing moves.

I went into my living room after bragging of getting all the clothing folded including 150 pairs of socks. Socks! Children were carefully managing around these baskets or playing laundry bumper cars if they thought Mom would indulge such actions. The baskets were left there like parked cars. The children would rummage through for necessary items and then return to pretending they weren't there. Laundry Stonehenge it seemed to me was a real possibility. They weren't going to move these things without motivation, either carrot or stick. My proof: No one noticed for three days as the piles grew dangerously taller, threatening to cause concussive injury to any child that wandered past as a leaning tower of towels came tumbling down.

The scientist in me wondered how many days it could go. Could I play laundry jenga without ruing the consequences? I decided I couldn't and offered Pizza Pizza if all laundry baskets would be ferried to their appropriate rooms. Naturally, the zeal with which the first three baskets were pushed out of the way led to a collapse in the structural integrity of some of the piles.

But the floor was clear. Then the dryer signaled that the next load was ready for folding. Alas, I had no baskets nor mental energy to go and empty one of the three in my room (Mom's, Dad's, baby's) or the two auxiliary ones (towels, sheets), and so there was this pile of warm clothing that needed a temporary home. They could not squat in the dryer as the cue of wet clothing was also piling up. I had to rodeo the process along.

Playpen to the rescue! We have an extra folding crib. It is deep, it is wide, it is unused. It is a perfect holding zone. The problem with a perfect holding zone is, it's perfect. Load 1 goes in. Load 2 is dry. It goes in too. Load Load Load 5, Load 6...Load 7...Load 8...Load 9 spills over the top. Load ten is waiting.

I go to each of the rooms. There is the laundry, sitting in the basket like a museum exhibit. Waiting for me. So I can unload the basket so I can reload. Not happening.

In a fit of passive aggressiveness, I dump the folded mass that has acquired a jello mold consistency, and pile up the empties. It is oddly cathartic until I go in the next day and find my old enough to know better daughter has pushed the pile to the other side of her bed rather than put it away.   In fairness, some of the youngers have too. I may tell them,  they now get to sleep in the playpen.

Short answer: Here are my tips. These work. But they don't end the battle, they are merely tactics in the never ending war.

1) Have a basket for everyone.
2) Have one for the towels, the sheets and the socks.
3) Fold socks once a week such that there is enough for the week. Then stop.
4) Inform children if they fight, they will have to sort ten pairs of socks. Each time.
5) Bag fitted sheet with folded sheet inside of the pillowcase and toss in linen closet like a sack.
6) Have a laundry bag outside of each bathroom for easy gathering of clothing. If you're really organized (I'm not), have a bag for each kid --so there's no sorting or limited sorting necessary.
7) If your family isn't huge, wash a different person's each day of the week. If it is, you can try one of three methods:

1) wash every day, fold once a week. (This works for us) Folding parties are universally despised but they do last only about an hour and it's much better to have one hour of pain for 7-10 people, than 7-10 hours of pain for one.

2) Assign two per day. Make sure the two doing the wash are compatable partners. Don't do the girly girl with the boy who wants to wash everything seperately. Keep a chart. (I'm not good at charts).

3) Inform anyone over the age of 9, they are in charge of their clothing. They can work the x-box, ipads, blackberries, and Wii and use the DVD while playing the Wii, they can measure tide and push a few buttons.

4) Earn enough writing to pay someone else to solve this problem.  (It's a goal in my life). 

1 comment:

Helene said...

I am only a household of one, and therefore don't have any struggles with my laundry, but I thought that your most beautiful (part of a) sentence was: is proof that my home is full of life...

You are surely blessed!

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