If Wishes Were Work Ethic

Sometimes I really wish I were good at laundry. The problem is — I don’t wish it enough to actually make it happen. I’ve known quality laundresses in my day (yes they’ve all been female). I’ve observed them and I’m pretty sure I could become one of them if I really put my mind and my back into it.

To be good at laundry, you have to be a meticulous gatherer. Like a sheepherding dog, you must constantly be yipping at the heels of the dirty clothes piles and at the heels of the people who create them. Sometimes the people yip back but the clothes rarely do and they need to be gathered. Relentlessly. Possibly day and night. The gathering never ceases.

You then have to be a transportation engineer. This is crucial. Once you gather the laundry you have to find the motivation to actually get it down to the room where the washing of the laundry occurs. I’ve thought about putting in a laundry chute to make this a little more fun, that or a dumbwaiter like Webster used to ride in. I could put the whole basket in a dumbwaiter and even jump in there myself if I were feeling particularly lazy, which I never do. I just like to have contingency plans in place.

At this point in my laundry career I just tend to throw the clothes over the banister while looking at my kids and saying, “You know that only mommy gets to throw things or people down the stairs, right?” They see right through my hypocrisy but have yet to question it openly.

Then comes the sorting. To be good at laundry you need to know not only color names but also color/social groups and not every pink shirt belongs in the same group. The color/social groups as I see them are Whites, Volatile Colors, Benign Colors, Magoo’s Underwear, Light Linens, Dark Linens, Nasty Linens and Nobody Cares.

Laylee likes to sort and so does Magoo. One of my children is better at sorting than the other. Hint — It’s the one who does not need an entire laundry category for her underwear. I like them to help when I’m feeling all Mary-Poppinsy and wanting to sing songs and whistle tunes and teach them lessons about life. But let’s be honest, it’s easier to sort myself and this is probably my favorite part of laundry.

I’m also passable at step three, removing lima beans, pens, crayons, lipstick, chapstick, glue stick, pretty much any stick, coins, bobby pins, bowling balls and living creatures from pockets before putting the clothes in the washer.

Next is the part I never do but always wish I had but then never do again because it takes a little something called effort. Pre-treating. The name is misleading because doing this is not a treat. It’s not even foreplay to a treat. It’s just a pain in the glute.

I have a couple of natural stain removers that I like now, Charlie’s All Purpose Cleaner which was suggested by Kath and the Ecover with the built-in brush. They’re both good for different kinds of stains. That being said, I still hate looking for stains and putting the soap on the clothes. There are too many spots and grime and goo everywhere. My kids attract stains like… like…slime on a couple of kids and it drives me crazy. Usually when I’m pre-treating I want to put down the clothes and just go wrap my kids from head to foot in saran wrap with tiny holes for breathing and visibility.

The next part I’ve probably done 8.5 times in my adult life. It’s probably the most important. The next step to being a good laundress is checking the clothes for remaining stains between the washer and dryer so the stains won’t be forever set in. I find this so discouraging because half the stains become camouflaged with the rest of the clothing item when wet. So even if I decide to go crazy and actually do this step, I miss half the stains anyway and my kids end up going to school looking like schlumperly orphans by the second time they wear an outfit out of the house.

Alas, I believe my mom had a special laundry force that allowed her to see these stains with the aura emanating from her fingertips. I can assure you that the aura is not hereditary. Neither is her knack for finding good deals on clothes. Luckily, although she is not available to wash all my children’s clothes, she is willing to act as my personal shopper, keeping new inexpensive raiment coming so that once a week they can wear something that is not stained until it is.

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38 Responses to If Wishes Were Work Ethic

  1. Janel says:

    If everyone has to have a nemesis, I think laundry is a pretty good candidate.

  2. You forgot the part where you have to remember to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer, instead of letting it sit in there for 24 hours or so, getting all smelly. And then you have to get it out of the dryer, instead of leaving it in there to get all wrinkly. And then you have to fold it, instead of leaving it mounded up in a basket in the laundry room. And then you have to put it away, instead of leaving it in towering piles in the living room for your husband to root around in every morning in search of clean underwear.

    I would have to agree with Janel and say that laundry is definitely my nemesis.

  3. Ha! I, too, toss the clothing over the banister while explaining to my kids that only mommy should do this. (I used to toss the dirty diapers over the railing, too, until one fateful day when I tossed one that was a bit too wet. Don’t ever do this.) My least favorite part of doing laundry is putting is away. Wash, dry, fold, whatever. But carrying it back up those stairs and putting it neatly away in drawers? I hate that part. The top of the dryer is sort of like one giant, towering, close-to-toppling closet in our house.

    • What is this “putting away” you speak of? Isn’t it easier for everyone if they can just get dressed right there off the pile on the living room couch? It also makes a cozy place to make nests in when watching TV.

  4. jsprik says:

    oh… here i have been doing it all wrong. i usually let them sit in the washer for days on end tl they get all mildewy and stinky. THEN i get to re-wash them before transferring them to the dryer..so you’re sayng i can skip that step?? hhhmm…if only i could remember that. i detest laundry btw. i have recruited my 12 year old to collect and sort the laundry. if only she could remember to do that. between the two of us….we could conquer the laundry beast!!!

  5. Melissa says:

    I hate laundry. And hey, atleast you sort the clothes. Mostly I just throw all of my kids’ clothes into a couple of HUMONGOUS loads and let it all just come out as it will. It makes folding more exciting, kind of like Christmas morning. And my boys don’t mind wearing pink tie-dye church shirts once in awhile.

  6. Sketchy says:

    Eventually your kids will get big enough and you can give them the gathering and sorting job. I’m telling you…it’s a whole new world. It’s almost as good as them being old enough to babysit themselves.

    Alas the stain thing will still be on you.

  7. sarah k. says:

    Um, I’ve never even heard of that last step. I think you made that up.

  8. Beck says:

    And then there’s my mother, and if you ever see her coming anywhere near your laundry room, run like the wind to stop her. God bless her and keep her, and she wants to “help” but her cheerfully loading my washing machine for me while she’s babysitting my kids has literally ruined MOST of my adult wardrobe. MOM! DUDE! STAY OUT OF MY LAUNDRY ROOM!

  9. You have nailed the bane of my existence as well. I totally wrote my blog yesterday about the exact same thing! I loathe all the jobs that are NEVER done: laundry, dishes, and picking up toys. It’s like being assigned to sit on the top half of funnel and make sure the funnel is always full….. impossible!! Good luck to you– I feel your pain.

  10. Fawndear says:

    Oh Kathryn, I’m depressed. If I did all those steps I’d be in the laundry room all day. My average laundry loads per day is around 5 to 7 seeing that I’m raising six dirt loving little people.
    I too huck things over the banister and hope I don’t nail anyone walking below.
    I do need to make an effort to check pockets. I tell the boys (the offenders in our home) if they don’t clear out their pockets I’m not responsible for ruining their MP3′s (2 of them), game-boy games (3 of them), Flash drives (4 of them) – See the picture. My boys have expensive pocket habits.
    At least I’m ridding their addiction to things electrical because I’m not paying to replace them – they are.

  11. Emmilee says:

    Ah, laundry. I’m living in university married housing and thus lug all my laundry to the complex laundromat. Which means if I leave it in a washer or dryer too long, it’s likely to get stolen or at the very least left in a heap on the filthy floor. Good motivation.

    And the only way I ever pre-treat stains is with a bottle of spray and wash that’s easily accessible in our only bathroom. As soon as I take off the stained garment, (or take it off one of the kids) I pre-treat then.

    And who the heck checks to see if the stain got out before tossing it in the dryer? Who has that kind of memory? And TIME?

  12. Stephanie says:

    yeah, I don’t really bother with the stains so much… Unless it’s MY clothes.

    And I have a problem getting it in the dryer sans moldy smell.

  13. Ruth says:

    Ditto to you all. thank heavens the kids are old enough to put away their own clothes. I did figure out a stain tx that works for me. I use oxyclean on all my whites and colors. I soak them in it overnight. Gets out most stains. i throw in a load before i go to bed then run it in the morning.

  14. Rebecca says:

    My 3 month old just had a real doozy of a diaper the other day. I took one look at the bee-u-tiful golden goo dripping all over the adorable (ivory colored) outfit, imagined myself boiling water (no hot water in Brazil!) and scrubbing OxyClean into the stain with a toothbrush, letting it hang dry because it didn’t come completely out, making a paste out of detergent, and trying everything from vinegar to baking soda …. and threw it out.

  15. That reminds me. I have a batch of laundry growing mildewy in my washing machine even as I type this reply.

  16. Laundry is easy. It’s the folding that sucks.

  17. jennifer says:

    Oh my some people truly do have the laundry gift. I personally do not I have the gift for leaving the laundry on the couches. Which make ever such nice laundry holders :) I occasionally will checkout books on stains from the library but the info never seems to be retained :)

    I love the word “mary poppinsy”!!

  18. Wendy says:

    Am I going to be beat on if I confess that I actually like doing laundry? :)

    Something about the sorting, and the warm, clean laundry that comes out of the dryer is calming for me.

    I hoard my laundry for a week or two until I have 5-6 loads, then do them all in one day, so I have wet undies and tshirts draped over every surface area in my laundry room. I have to admit, I’m not good at the pre-treating, I usually do that while the washer is filling up with water. But if I had bothered to pre-treat, I definately check between washer and dryer for stains, as I don’t pre-treat very often!

    Funny, I hate loading and unloading the dishwasher, and you’d think that would go hand in hand with laundry.

  19. I leave the stains unless they are glaringly obvious…I figure a little stain never hurt anyone. Except for me when I tried to take it out.

  20. True confessions…I love laundry too. I even wrote a post about my laundry, which is actually slightly pathetic. I have found that I treat my girls stains each night with spray & wash when they change into their jammies because I was spending wwaayy too much time treating stains and this made it manageable. But I’ll make you a deal….you come clean my kitchen and bathroom and I’ll do all your laundry! ;o)

  21. Weird, I just posted about laundry.

    I am really good at keeping on top of my laundry (one of my few areas of housekeeping strength), but only because I break or ignore some rules that I find illogical or too time consuming to be worth the trouble.

    I find that if I make my systems as easy as possible for my lazy self, I actually stick with them. Gone are the days of mildewed towels in the washer and hopelessly wrinkled clothing in the dryer.

  22. Bailey's Leaf says:

    I fancy myself as somewhat of a laundress. I can get pretty much anything out, though admit that I do so non-organically. (Sorry.) Two weeks ago, we installed a laundry line in the backyard. The yard is fenced in and no, I don’t put my underwear out there. Our hope is to hang everything possible and to tumble towels and blankets only in the dryer. In the winter, I’ll use the line hanging in the basement.

    Back to stain removal. We went camping for a week. This involved a week of funked out dirty clothing and a 4 year old that had a fascination with many stainful things. Clorox 2 and detergent with Oxiclean added were my friends. They literally got everything out and that is saying something.

    Mom taught me that a bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid will get grease stains out– even old ones. Spray and Wash Dual will even remove dried on blueberry. (K- accidentally blueberried me and her at a Mother Daughter function in May. It wasn’t until that night before I could put on my laundress hat.)

    Color separation is easy. Lights (whites/pastels/things that you know might be mid-grade in color but won’t fade.) Darks (dark colors, light colors with dark trim.) Special exceptions (the bright red pants that I’m certain will bleed, the Easter dress in a lingerie bag. . . ) Towels. Rugs. Sheets. Shoes.

    Throw a load in a night. One load. Oh, and don’t forget it. It smells funny if you do.

    Good luck.

  23. cheetah says:

    YOu just make my WEEK, MONTH, YEAR. I was just feeling terrible about the piles of clutter I have around the house and everything else that doesn’t get done. I can blame it on being busy, but if I weren’t busy, I still wouldn’t want to do it. This just perked me up and just did something for me.
    You are hilarious!

  24. Lisa says:

    Oh how I envy you living-in-Americans and your dryers! Well, at least theres not that check the stains before you dry them step for me!!

    I love how your health consciousness has affected your writing. It’s not longer a pain in the rear, butt, etc. but a pain in the glute! Excellent.

  25. Abbie says:

    Thanks for mentioning the natural stain removers. I’ll have to give those a try.

  26. owlhaven says:

    I don’t sort.

    I don’t pretreat.

    I don’t iron.

    And yet the world still spins.

    And most of the time my children look fine. First thing in the AM, anyway. After two hours in their clothes, they look just like any kid…

    Spotty and a bit damp.

    Mary, mom to many

    PS– My teen daughters who have evolved enough to care about their laundry do their own!

  27. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Hung Out to Dry

  28. Jenny says:

    Loved your laundry post. Laundry is NOT my thing. I have this friend, sort of an adopted grandma to my family. She loves laundry. And, one time not long ago, I was up to my eyeballs in laundry, and she offered to catch it up for me. I brought her many baskets of dirty, nasty laundry. She brought it all back to me clean and folded. It was one of the greatest gifts ever!! I’d love to tell you that I quickly put all of it away, but the truth is we dug through those baskets for the next couple of weeks, picking out clean clothes. Oh laundry.

  29. Sandy Toes says:

    What a fun post on laundry…I loved it and so true!
    -Sandy toes

  30. KYouell says:

    Wow, go out of town and have no time for email or blogs and look what happens! Linky love right back atcha. And a new use for the Charlie’s Soap All-Purpose Cleaner in the “P.S.” section.

  31. Julie says:

    My 19-year old daughter is WAY better at laundry than I am. How sad is that? While she was home for the summer the laundry was always done and put away. Oh, how I miss her. I think you just have to have the personality for laundry. I’m way too flighty.

    p.s. I’m in the Seattle area too. Do I know you?

  32. Ann says:

    What a delight it was to read your post!
    (got here by link from Raising Biscuit)

    I’m not a laundress either. I also am not good at getting clean clothes folded and put away. Sometimes a strange mood hits me and I fold and store, but it always amazes me when it happens.

    I should probably tell the story of the three identical marigold sweaters, identical except for size, that is, a 4, a 6 and a 6X, and how the day when there were only TWO in the wash prompted me to teach my girls how to do their own laundry, but I won’t, as I have a thumping headache, (which makes it hard to think) and it would take up way too much of your space here.

    Just, thank you for the post!

  33. Heidi says:

    I don’t know why this is, but I feel like I should be done with the laundry after I put it in the washer with the soap and get the water going. Transferring it to the dryer is not too terribly obnoxious, but after that I’m done.

    BTW, OxyClean (powder version) gets out some stains that have been set in by the dryer. Of course, when you use it at the necessary concentration, it sometimes takes out the dye too. Make a runny paste and leave it on the stain for a few hours, or even a day for the bad ones.

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