Seven Quick Takes: Airing My Laundry

“Fine,” I told myself. “If I go check my blog, and the last post is more than four weeks ago, I will post something.” Plus, it was getting awkward leaving CommentLuv comments all over the place that linked back to “Yes, I Worry About Socialization.” I mean, I do worry. But not that much.


— 1 —

Like our hostess, I, too, am taken with Harvard Homemaker’s site. I really like that she is up front about her level of education and looks at it as preparation for the vocation of motherhood.

I also like all of the tips, although…I can’t read too many tips. I have to limit myself. The needle is quick to flip from “this might be a helpful modification to the way I do things” to “I CANNOT LIVE INDEPENDENTLY WITHOUT INTERNET IDEAS SO I MIGHT AS WELL JOIN THE CIRCUS OF BROKEN TOYS.” I probably need to check in with my imaginary life coach about some of these issues.

— 2 —

So, I read Harvard Homemaker’s post about laundry and was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only do I already understand laundry, but I also do something that was not on the list. I thought “hey, I should write about that. Need something to blog about.”

Then I thought “well, hey, what should I call this tip. It could be ‘Lazy Mom’s Guide to Laundry with Kids.'”

Then I got real mad. Reallllll mad. Hey, self, and hypothetical Internet judgy types who might happen upon my blog if they ever actually existed: look. I am not lazy. I should not have to characterize myself as lazy just because I am not that focused on household maintenance.

I can do it, but I frequently forget OR decide something else is a priority.

What is with me? Why is that my first thought, that I should present myself as lazy/inept instead of just being all, “hey, here’s a laundry thing.”


— 3 —

Is it just me? It’s not just me, right? I feel like there’s a dichotomy in how we  gals are supposed to present ourselves on the Internet, if we’re talking about family life:

  • Wacky, madcap adventures in juggling life with kids and dirty dishes and never getting things quite right but we ain’t we got fun! Gosh, I wish I could get it together! – OR
  • Lifestyle expertise from the queen of systems, she who shall be a light to the nations

SPOILERS: I frequently feel this way about how moms talk about themselves in real life. You know, we can’t take a compliment without saying “this old thing?” or pointing out the opportunity cost – “oh, but I’m terrible at such-and-such” as though it’s somehow related to being good at so-and-so.

Am I being too vague? Too grumpy? This is why I should blog more often so I’ll be less scattered.

— 4 —

Well. Anyway: here’s my exciting tip that has no picture because my laundry room is cramped and non-photogenic.

I have a set of shelves in the laundry room and a basket for each family member, along with one for linens. I let the kids make labels for their baskets to add an element of “fun” that lasted for 47 seconds. (Remember, kids: Mom believes that work IS fun!)

When I take a load of laundry out of the dryer, I put each item into the appropriate person’s basket. I do not fold the items.

Once a day, each child is supposed to put away his/her clothes from said basket and return the empty basket to the shelf.

— 5 —

“How do I handle folding the kids’ clothes?”

Gentle Reader: I do not care.

Why do I need to care if my daughter has folded her shirts in the most efficient manner possible?

Okay, I guess I could care. You could argue that I should leave the children an inheritance of understanding how to make the best use of storage space so that they will not buy  bigger furniture than they need someday, all because they don’t know how to fold their shirts. You could say that the clothes will last longer if they are folded perpendicular to the Equator in groups of three instead of folded however-they-want. You could say Flylady (NEVER SAY FLYLADY TO ME) and make vague prononuncements about how it would be even better if our morning routine included Mom inspecting the contents of the dresser to see if the clothes are sorted and stored correctly. You could point out that The Container Store offers various plastic items to assist in folding (the only argument on this list that would convince me.)

And I would say: your world, and you are welcome to it. I choose to occasionally look the child straight in the eyes, intone “DID YOU PUT YOUR CLOTHES AWAY CORRECTLY WHERE THEY GO?” and be done with it, after a cursory consideration of microexpressions that might indicate said child is straight-up lying to me and those clothes are in a pile in the back of the closet instead of somehow organized in the drawers.

— 6 —

Now. The system does break down in times of Mom Distraction or Mom Stress. Mom decides to be all freeeeee and in the wiiiind, and to do ten loads of laundry with nary a thought to its ultimate destination. Mom cannibalizes the baskets. “I’ll just fill up all eight baskets with random clean laundry and stick them in my room for now. Just for a minute.” And then, after about two weeks of We Can’t Use Our Baskets Mom Well Hey Go Look In My Room I Know You Have Socks In One of the Baskets We Are Already Late, I dump the entire pile onto the bed, cue up Netflix, and re-sort everything into the appropriate baskets. Still without folding the children’s laundry. It is already wrinkled (see: two weeks of W.C.U.O.B.M.W.H.G.L.I.M.R.I.K.Y.H.S.I.O.O.T.B.W.A.A.L.) and they are just going to wear it and put it in the hamper so I can start fresh. Besides, they are so grateful for clothing by that point that they fold each item as though it were the precious lost handkerchief of Imhotep the Ninth.

— 7 —

WAIT I JUST THOUGHT OF ANOTHER TIP. My beloved, already-mentioned Container Store has color-coded mesh laundry bags. I mostly just use white mesh bags to line our hampers but this has made it easier: I bought a black one and a red one for the set of hampers that the kids use. Now it’s easy to tell which hamper  is for darks, which is for reds and burnt orange (hook’em), and which one is for light colors.

SEE? Look at that. A whole housekeeping-related post with almost no self-deprecation.

Just don’t ask me how our schoolroom looks. (foreshadowing music) (of doom) (srsly it is bad u guyz)

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  1. says

    You win at Quick Takes: 7 takes with two really great laundry tips and some excellent reflection on self-deprecation and the general tone of lifestyle/mommy blogs.

  2. says

    Howling with laughter because my mother-in-law is a devotee of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned and mentions her to me every time I whine about my house being in chaos. I think I’m the one house where she’d fly in in, shriek in horror, and fly out, proclaiming me to be completely behind and beyond help.

  3. says

    (You’re just cilantrolling me with those hook’ems. I know it.)

    I don’t see why life can’t be BOTH wacky adventures and OOH, I know how to do THAT advice. I mean, I’m a fantastic cook. I can make all sorts of stuff. And when I set my mind to a specific tricky task, I can do it no problem. But just keeping up a regular cleaning and laundry schedule? I’m hopeless. I don’t even do laundry. Mike does the laundry and I don’t complain when he accidentally shrinks things because losing favorite sweaters is still better than doing the laundry myself.

    I’ve had that color coded laundry bag idea too, only I haven’t had the chance to implement it because multi compartment hampers are expensive. I’ve got one picked out on Amazon though. I read Harvard Homemaker’s laundry post, and I’m going to have to go back and poke around some more. I wonder what her degree is. In my experience, being a lab manager is excellent practice for motherhood and housekeeping. You get a lot of experience cleaning up messes, breaking up fights and dealing with whining.

    FlyLady and Backpfeifengesicht go together.

  4. says

    I’m with Nancyo. You totally win. And yes, you’ve nailed the Two Modes of Internet Motherhood — just nailed it. I often ask myself: Can I be funny AND have the dishes done? Please? (or funny and not have toddlers to embarrass on a worldwide stage with stories they’ll really wish someday that I hadn’t shared with anyone?)

    My kids are old enough this school year that I’ve assigned everyone a laundry day. Mine is Tuesday (and every day, but my official day is Tuesday), the 11-year-old has Wednesday, the 15-year-old has Thursday, the 9-year-old has Friday. The 19-year-old has catch-as-catch-can, but then she’s hardly ever here, so that’s okay. On his/her laundry day, each child is to gather up his/her hamper of laundry (conveniently located in his/her room or space, for those who share rooms), strip sheets off the bed and add them, plus whatever towels that person has used, because I have decided that dirty towels piled up in the upstairs bathroom closet awaiting Armageddon, which is when I’d remember to go up and see if there were any towels needing washing up there, are an abomination and not my problem.

    So, the person whose day it is is to bring all of this downstairs and wash and dry it, also changing the sheets on the now-stripped bed. That person is not to dump any laundry still in the dryer on top of the dryer, but bag it up neatly for the appropriate party to deal with at the appropriate party’s leisure. So far all of this is working well. Like you, I could care less how they fold their laundry or where they put it (barring on the floor — I do care that they don’t do that). I do not care what they do with their clothes, as long as everyone has something decent to wear daily, and the Sunday clothes are clean on Sunday. My aim is to get out of the family laundry business altogether — I do mine, my husband’s, and the kitchen’s laundry (tablecloths, napkins, dish towels). Period. And this is making me so happy that I really don’t care if I’m funny or not.

    But yeah, systems always break down, and we’ve lived out of laundry baskets a lot. Just not in the last three weeks, which deal I will take while it lasts.

  5. says

    Re: the website dichotomy: there is also the Gritty Reality type of blog, don’t forget. Something like the wacky and madcap, but with a Dark Side.

    I do not mean to dismiss it or sound like I am mocking it, but it is certainly a third way.

  6. says

    Re: laundry, I do something like that, except once a week. We wash and dry baskets as they fill up, one or two a day, so they don’t get too stinky, and we let the clean unsorted laundry pile up in baskets in the laundry room, which is also the kids’ bathroom. Then on Wednesday afternoons while the 3yo is having a bath and I need to be in there supervising anyway, I sort all the laundry into individual people’s baskets.

    Theoretically the kids are supposed to put them away on Thursday mornings, and they do unless I forget to tell them to.

    It isn’t totally bump free, but it works well enough, especially since nobody in the entire house gives a flying $%(*# about wrinkles. Thank God I married another engineer.

  7. says

    You mean *I DON’T HAVE TO FOLD THEIR CLOTHES?!?!?!?* OK, I think you just rocked my world. Been doing the “individual baskets for each kid” thing for a while, but the folding? Honestly, you gave me a total paradigm shift.

    And I’ll take what I can get of your posting…I always love it (even if I don’t always comment). :)

  8. says

    Yay! Dorian’s back!!!!
    I don’t even want to think about what kind of blogger I am. Can I just write a blog without navel gazing? (Did I seriously just write that?)

    Anyway, about laundry. My system is like yours except the kids’ baskets don’t sit neatly on a shelf. They’re just sort of all over the floor. And they don’t actually put the (non folded) laundry away. They just get dressed out of the baskets. I gave up on the whole transporting clothes to their rooms thing back when I was pregnant with Lucy I think. Maybe I should start pestering them to put clothes away again, but I just can’t bring myself to care about that particular battle. And they seem to prefer things this way. Do they really need to keep their clothes in their rooms? Maybe I should make the storing clothes laundry room thing permanent by dismantling the clothing bins in their rooms (which mainly hold the out of season clothes and the stuff they hate) and re-purpose those shelves for toys and books.

  9. Amy Welborn says

    My laundry system is centered on the reality of everyone having no more than three shirts per season that they enjoy wearing. This includes me. Laundry happens frequently, but sparsely. And no, I don’t fold their clothes either. They’re totally large and in charge of that now.

  10. says

    We kinda just live out of baskets, with occasional folding binges, and though it’s not the ideal, it’s worked okay for many years. Also, one of my girls is a good worker who likes to earn money, and I will pay her to fold the laundry and put it away. And I’m okay with that, because by the end of the day we’re both satisfied.

  11. Mark S. says

    Mesh laundry bag to line the hamper. GENIUS! Yeah….I am right in this with everyone else. Empty nest and all.

  12. says

    Amy, I keep trying to arrange our laundry around that reality. Well, let me rephrase that. I keep trying to make it be a reality, so as to organize the laundry around it. My teenaged son, however, really does wear all 32,000 t-shirts in his possession. I don’t know how he manages this — my girls have never had that many clothes and worn them all. My one girl still at home accumulates clothing like nothing I’ve ever seen before — she goes to friends’ houses and comes home with entire (usually out of season) wardrobes, and although she is one of those people who wear only three things until they fall apart, the trick is to know ahead of time which three things they’re going to be, out of all these masses of hand-me-downs, and get rid of everything else a) when she’s not looking and b) before I forget all about it.

    Right now my kids aren’t using their laundry baskets for dressers, but this is unusual and may well not last. But whatever. Not my problem.

  13. says

    My dream house includes a laundry/storage/dressing room. Clothes leave on bodies and come back to hampers. No moving clothes up and down two sets of stairs. If I had $10k I could do it in the house we’re in. But, alas. By the time I can do it (if ever!) the kids will be gone.