Airing the Dirty Laundry

Drifting off of Sarah s and Engie's laundry posts - from one end of the scale to nearly the other, a family of seven and a family of two. I am currently a family of one, more regularly a family of two, and still occasionally a family of four. 

I was so relieved when Sarah said that she did everyone's laundry and, further, said exactly what I've always thought (but often been too chicken to say) - it's great if your kids can do their own laundry before they leave home, but if they don't, they'll learn very soon after. I actually think this about many things - I have half-joked (half-confessed) that I coddle my kids. I didn't work for most of their childhood, my husband worked hard and traveled much, the kids were often busy with school, sports and extracurriculars, and while I didn't act like a servant or expect nothing of them around the house, I didn't feel the need to be a hard-ass about making them 'pull their weight', when I was the one with the most free time to get shit done. 

This has largely worked out perfectly fine. They both live away from home at least during the university year, feed themselves competently, do their own laundry, keep their living spaces relatively neat and clean, and conduct a bunch of adult business so that you'd never know that I cut their meat for them until they were 12 (funny side anecdote about this: we were once visiting good friends out west and after everyone was served, I started to cut Angus's meat without thinking, and then froze with embarrassment. I turned my head to find the other mom doing the exact same thing, and HER son was a year OLDER haha). 

So anyway. Laundry. Some people I know name laundry as one of their most despised chores. I don't feel this way, although I do get that the grueling neverendingness of it can be overwhelming. It's less gross to me than cleaning up after dinner (my husband does most of that), less back-breaking than vacuuming or floor-washing, and gives me an appealing sense of setting things in order. 

We don't have a laundry day. My routine when the kids were/are home is to have a hamper in the upstairs hallway that everyone puts their dirty clothes in. One of us brings this down two floors to the basement in the morning, and sometimes then brings the clean clothes from the dryer upstairs. Every night before I go to bed, I go down and get the clean clothes if they're still there, put the wet clothes in the dryer, and put a new load in the washer. This way I find that it's just a part of the daily routine rather than a big chore for one particular day. 

I love the machines we bought I can't remember how many years ago. Our old ones had to be served twice before they were the age these are because they would leave black marks on the clothes or stop draining or whatever. I wish we had gotten the - what do you call them - booster things for them, which I think of every time I'm bent over with my back aching transferring laundry - but other than that I am very happy with them. 

I usually alternate between hot water loads (sheets, towels, underwear - I read an article once that made it almost impossible for me to wash everything in cold water, although I see the eco-sense of it and I sometimes try) and cold water loads (other clothing - sorry, Engie, I don't typically sort lights from darks unless something is new and I'm afraid it will run. I find almost nothing does with the way clothes are made now). Every few days I do  delicates load, a short, cold-water cycle with Woolite detergent for fancy stuff and bras, which I wash in mesh bags.

I hang most clothes to dry. Matt affixed the top part of a drying rack to the wall in the laundry room for me years ago which, along with hooks on the back of the door from the laundry room to the storage space (and, in a pinch, the arms of the treadmill) is usually sufficient for hanging stuff with the way the loads are spaced. Stuff to be ironed stays down on the laundry table (usually an unholy mess - I was in the process of getting it cleaned off and organized in the fall, but that energy has since departed, so it's still in progress) since the iron and ironing board are in the laundry room. I often bring everything up to the main floor to iron in front of the tv when I have a pile - if I need something quickly I just do it down there.

My laundry room is messy but a good size and I'm pretty happy with it. I love the flooring, which I picked at the same time we picked all of the finishing for our house (the house was build and in inventory, which meant we got it quickly but still got to pick things like counters and flooring, which was nice). When I said what I wanted for the laundry room, Matt, whose taste is quite a bit more conservative than mine, said that he didn't really like it. I said "yeah but who cares, you're going to spend almost no time in the laundry room", and he allowed that it was a fair point, so I got it. I still like it. 

I love folding laundry, especially when it's still warm, or even when it's cold from the dryer vent being connected to the outside, because then it smells like outside. I still yearn for the clothesline from my parents' former house, the one I grew up in. We had a deck, and the clothesline stretched from the deck across the yard to the hydro pole, and there was some kind of pulley to lower it to hang stuff and then raise it up and send it soaring across the lawn, which was so satisfying. 

When the kids were little I used to sneak into their rooms after they were asleep to put away laundry and surreptitiously gaze lovingly at them. Once this wasn't doable any more I would put their stuff in baskets for them and they would put it away (Eve immediately, Angus less so). 

There's some complicated baggage (ha ha) around the laundry that needs to be done when Matt gets home from a work trip, especially a long one. When the kids were little and it could get really difficult being alone with them, I would sometimes feel resentful that I then had the dubious pleasure of dealing with his smelly, well-traveled dirty clothes, who were seeing so much more of the world than I currently was. At this point I don't mind at all, but he feels kind of sheepish about it. 

I'm finding it really interesting how an ostensibly humdrum subject like laundry has so many patterns and permutations in different families. 


NGS said…
I honestly do not know if I've ever washed any laundry in a warm/hot setting. Ever. I have always used cold water. I mean, I guess I don't ever really have super dirty clothes with grime/grass stains/whatever, but I've always used cold water and I find that jeans and dark shirts DO tinge whites/lights and make them look grungy even with the cold water. I'm starting to wonder if some of this is because my husband and I are still natural fiber wearers (mostly cotton and wool) and we have very little in the way of synthetic fabrics except for workout gear. If we had more poly blends, maybe we wouldn't need to sort?

I really like the tile in your laundry room, too! It's so fun and pretty! I think you made an excellent choice.
Sarah said…
I, too, love the way everyone talk about this topic-- such a little fascinating glimpse. I also wish our washer and dryer were raised up-- it is such a pain to drain the filter with them on the ground. I love having laundry be part of the routine and not a special chore-- you said that so succinctly, and it's exactly my aim, too.
Anna aka.Beachmama said…
Ahhh I feel redeemed a little. While both the kiddos can and often do laundry, I still grab their baskets and do it for them. Because one day I won’t get to do it for them. Same goes for cooking, they can both cook better than their dad so my work is done and I still cook for them 😄
I feel the same way as you, as regards the kids and their laundry. It's not hard to figure out, they can do it, but also, their laundry makes up loads of my laundry, so I just do it.
StephLove said…
It's never made sense to me to have people do their own laundry. It would take a long time to get enough for a load and if we combine, everyone gets their clean clothes back more quickly. I had Noah do all the family laundry for a couple weeks right before he left for college and then he knew how to do it.

So I do laundry on Mondays and Fridays and occasionally other days, as needed. I am the main laundress, but the kid (or kids if Noah's home) do most of the folding. We have a clothesline in the back yard (no pulley, though) and I dry about half our laundry on it year round (more than half in the warmer months and less than half in the colder ones, but probably half on average). I actually enjoy putting the clothes up and taking them down. It's a nice excuse to be outside. And I love the smell.

StephLove said…
Oh, and I split the difference in re sorting. If I have just one load, everything goes in together. If I have two or more, I sort by color.
Suzanne said…
WHY is it so fascinating and satisfying to read about this topic?! Loved this. Especially the memory of the laundry zinging out over the lawn. You managed to make this very ordinary subject fascinating in a new way (and I have read others’ posts feeling riveted as well!) but ALSO so poignant! I felt a little choked up while reading this. It is such a personal and intimate topic in some ways, I guess, and more tied into our personalities and family structure than I realized.
Tudor said…
Family laundry for the win ... because otherwise you just have a bunch of too-small loads. Also I don't use a dryer, ever. This helps me space out my laundry, because I can really only do one load per day, since that will fill my drying rack and it will take about 24 hours for one load to fully dry in the winter. In the summer, when it's really hot and things will dry on the clothesline in an hour flat, I COULD do more loads if I wanted to, but I like the rhythm of one load / day and I usually only do multiple ones if we've just come back from camping, or the cottage, and have lots of really dirty stuff to wash.

And laundry time is my special treat to myself. It's when I get to watch whatever I want to on TV while I sort and fold. I honestly look forward to it and, not only did I do my kids' laundry while they lived at home, I do it for them whenever they come back from university.
Ernie said…
You and I have SUCH similar laundry philosophies. Who knew? I was underwear/socks in warm. Towels and sheets warm. The rest cold.

I have always been home- before the daycare days I was home with our gang. I do all the laundry. I make Lad do his now- as we try to point him on a road of independence. Ed does his own when he comes home from school because he hates losing socks. There is definitely an unsolved sock mystery that messes with my sanity, so I don't blame him. It would drive me nuts to wait for kids to do a million small loads.

I sort most of the laundry- 1. I'm home. 2. I can sort at the speed of light. When others try to help, I end up with a lot of Mini's stuff and vice versa.

I do not hate doing laundry. At all. Not sure why, but to me it is an easy task. Cleaning bathrooms? Yuck. I do a load most days. Sometimes 3 or more. Sometimes I go a few days without doing a load and the piles can get pretty huge, but it is such an easy fix.
Shan said…
Laundry is a chore I don't mind doing, so I have done it through out this entire relationship. I especially adored folding little clothes. I am a one load a day kind of girl because I didn't care to devote an entire day to laundry, also I used to line dry clothes back in the pre-pool days. As the kids got older I'd have them start a load, switch a load over or help fold a load to ensure they'd know how to do it. We've always done whole family loads. Then for a while we tried having each of us take a turn doing the load everyday because more than just learning how to do laundry I wanted the kids to understand what it meant to be a good partner in a household. Then I got incredibly sick with covid, which actually ended up being long covid and I just couldn't/can't do all the things. After some discussion between the 4 of us we settled on a new laundry plan, everyone takes care of their own. I do a couple of loads a week for Mike and I and the towels/bedding. The kids each do their own, typically when they're at the verge of running out of clothes. We all offer up space in the machine if anybody doesn't have a full load to start and then that person will fold and deliver once it's dry. It's actually working out great. Love this post!
Busy Bee Suz said…
Three were times when I was obsessive over laundry, then times when I resented it. Did your kids ever try on an outfit, decide NOT to wear it then toss it in the hamper instead of putting it back? My girls did and It blew my mind...that is when I decided that they could do their own laundry.
I also remember reading about how cold water really doesn't clean your stuff well, but I still use it for most stuff aside from towels & sheets.
I like how you have your system set up and your laundry room rugs are super cute!

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