It’s been one of those weeks where I feel like my house is slowly taking over my life. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get done all that needs to be done. The dishwasher feels like its always full. The mail is piling up on the kitchen counter. And the floors haven’t seen the sanitizing effects of a mop in weeks. But right now, it’s the laundry that seems to be doing me in the most.
I remember when I was first on my own as an adult. And it’s true I’ve never been particularly reliable when it comes to staying on top of laundry. But an afternoon here and there devoted to a quick wash, dry, and fold wasn’t such a big deal.
Then I had kids.
If someone had told me the amount of laundry a person under three feet can generate, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have been even more skeptical of claims that a teenager can actually produce a higher amount of dirty laundry than the actual amount of clothes they own.
I have friends who are really good at laundry. They run the washer and dryer daily or every other day. They immediately fold and put away clothes. I never see full laundry baskets (clean or dirty) sitting around their house. And their kids have obviously never been told, “You’re fine. You can barely see the stain.”
I admire these people. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I imagine a few of you out there are just like these friends of mine. And for you, I hold the highest levels of regard. But for the rest of us, I can do nothing but offer the comfort of commiseration by sharing my own struggles.
So with the goal of making you feel better – or at least less alone – in the very real struggle that is laundry, I offer a peek into my reality. A reality I call:
The Life Cycles of Laundry
Conduct house-wide search for laundry. Remove socks from under couch in family room. Locate dirty underwear behind the door in all bathrooms (note: there WILL be dirty underwear behind all bathroom doors. Even the guest bathroom. Do not attempt to explain this.) Look under all beds for shorts, socks, and shirts that you do not recognize, but are quite certain do not belong to you or any member of your immediate family.
Collect all loose items from the kitchen: jackets, hats, dirty gym clothes, etc. Yell at children for leaving said items in an area meant for food preparation. Answer their snide comments with a self-righteous explanation that the reason you don’t cook is due to unsanitary conditions, not laziness. Explain the concept of “vicious cycle” until they walk away.
Gather assorted items into a large pile (or piles) as needed. Pretend to sort through in an attempt to separate colors, but really just put all towels to one side (there will be approximately 1,738 towels although you do not own that many – do not attempt the math). Walk away.
Walk past pile(s). Remind yourself to remind yourself to remember to get to them later.
Eventually, move piles of laundry to the general vicinity of the laundry room. Open the washer, only to find that at least three sports uniforms, seven mysteriously damp kitchen towels (what spilled…and where???), and a jacket that you told the 15-year old to hang up have been thrown in the washer.
Shout to all members of the household in your best “mom voice” (so as to ensure maximum sound coverage because said household members disappeared the moment you mentioned laundry and you still have not located them), “WHAT SPILLED?” Wait through the first silence. Shout again. Ignore all responses of, “I don’t know. I didn’t spill anything.” You don’t really care anyway as it’s too late to do anything about it. You just needed to make your point.
Throw in a load of towels, as they’re the easiest to deal with, and walk away.
Continuously remind yourself for the next 20 minutes to be sure to listen for the end of the wash cycle so that you can start the next load. Five minutes before the end of the wash cycle, unconsciously remove all memory of having ever started a load of laundry from your mind due to having moved on to dishes/decluttering the dining room table/ reading online articles about how to run your house more efficiently.
Two days later, remember laundry when the eight-year-old informs you they have no clean underwear 15 minutes before the school bus is due to arrive. Ask the eight-year-old how long this has been the case. Immediately regret the question.
Run frantically to the laundry room to quickly do a load of the eight-year-old’s things, because surely, if you do a small load you’ll have time to get it in the dryer before the bus.
Smell aforementioned load of towels before actually seeing them as they have now mildewed in the washer.
Convince eight-year-old that it’s perfectly ok to substitute bathing suit bottoms for underwear in the event of an emergency and mention that this knowledge will come in handy in college. Applaud yourself for teaching a valuable life skill.
Restart load of towels. Remember to take them out of the washer, put them in the dryer, start the next load of laundry in the washer, forget to turn on the dryer. Walk away.
Discover wet towels that have now mildewed in the dryer once you finally remember to switch the second load of laundry. Curse softly under your breath and debate simply buying all new towels. Move the second load to the dryer. Rewash towels.
Repeat Stages 4-6 until all laundry has been washed and dried.
Transfer (finally) clean, dry laundry from the dryer to a laundry basket. Place in a prominent location visible to all in the event that one or all of the following occurs:
- You remember to fold it.
- Another household member sees it and decides to fold it because they know you’re busy and they really want to help out.
- Elves appear magically in the night and not only fold but put away all laundry.
Eventually get all loads of laundry folded and placed into appropriate owners’ rooms. Realize that people have been taking clean clothes out of piles for the past week and now most of the clean laundry is dirty again.
Repeat Stages 1-9 until the end of time. Or at least until the kids leave the house…whichever comes first.
I know these days won’t last forever and one day I’ll be in control of my house again instead of the other way around. Before you know it, my kids will all be gone, doing their own laundry…presumably. And I know I’ll miss them. I’ll miss their voices echoing throughout the house. I’ll miss the sounds of their laughter. I’ll even miss the chaos they bring to my life on a daily basis.
But the laundry? I’m not sure I’ll ever miss the seemingly endless cycles of laundry. In fact, I look forward to the day when I can watch TV without feeling like I should have a basket of clean clothes to fold sitting next to me. And you can be certain, that when that day comes, I’ll sit happily, wearing my own bathing suit bottoms, without a care in the world.