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.