Sunday, April 28, 2013

Operation: Do Your Own Effing Laundry.

My dear British friends live in a small house. They have a small kitchen. They have a small fridge. They buy milk in containers only slightly larger than the cartons each child gets as a single serving with their school lunch here in The States. My friends have a washing machine, but no dryer. They wash a load, then drape the clothes on an elaborate drying rack in front of the radiator in the winter time, which in England is a good nine months of the year, and on a line outside the other three months. Their kids wear their clothes many times before they are considered dirty, and they have only a small selection of things to wear. This is not a function of poverty or deprivation, but of a prevailing sensibility about  how much is enough.

The sheer volume of clothing that is dispatched in this house is unrelenting and unforgivable. We, and when I say we, I of course mean they, treat clothing like it's dispensed from a roll. Single use, perforated tear-off, wear and dump. That we have a fire hose of hand-me-downs pointed at us, drenching us in lovely expensive ski jackets in a range of sizes, and shorts in every shade of navy and khaki only adds to the onslaught, but is not the culprit. The perpetrator is heedless sloth and a sense of entitlement.  Fresh towels are used once and rolled into a ball to mildew in the corner. It seems only the freshest terry is worthy to blot the buttocks of my showered darlings.  Oh, and if a zebra farts in the Serengeti, my kids will change their pants and throw the "dirty" ones on the floor.  Its a trousseau tsunami and we are being swept under by it.

When my family want something folded and put away in the drawer not three feet from where they stand, they put it in the laundry basket in the bathroom. From there, magical fairies working in unison, hover the basket down the stairs to the basement, their frantic wings buzzing along with their merry singing, as they sort the colors from the light. There, a hive-like pixie army amasses to better facilitate the changing over from wash to dry, load after load, until the real wonderworking begins, their tiny joyful arms a blur as they fold and sort and basket stack for each member of the family using perfectly timed choreography, like the Chinese Olympic games. The fairies return the once unfolded garment, perfectly creased and scented fresh to the drawer. The owner of the offending toggery never once has to bend at the waist. It's enchanting.

I don't know when I became the laundry drudge. Somewhere between wearing clothes myself and mom as concubine, lies the truth. I do believe it began innocently enough. I don't actually mind doing laundry. Of the thousand miserable household chores, I find the Downy fresh folding to be the least offensive. I enjoy the renewal, the do-over that fresh laundry provides. The ability to take the sweaty past and turn it into a fluffy future is a marvel. Tangled, putrid chaos becomes consent. It's zen in the art of wash.

I like a drink of cool water on a hot day, too. It doesn't mean I want to be water-boarded. When the hand-holding became a prison rape, I wanted out. Before I knew what was happening I was performing  daring feats of laundry - four, five loads a day, for people more able bodied than myself; washing things that were already clean, while everyone around me was getting in their naps and movies, snacks and playdates.  I think part of me worried they'd ruin my fine garments with their clumsy handling of my threads if I allowed them to do it. But I recently woke to the realization that I have no fine apparel anymore. The days of my owning, much less wearing, a thing that requires special attention in its care, are so long gone I can only dimly make out the shrunken silhouette of cashmere or silk as if through binoculars turned the wrong way around.

I say now, feel free to aggressively over dry my ruined cotton panties! Throw my t-shirts in with my jeans, neither have cried tears of fresh dye in more than ten years. Even things that were once lovingly laid flat to dry are now put through the 'fuck it' cycle of the Resignation 365 front-loader I now own.

But really, I don't even want them to do my laundry. My laundry is still a pleasure. I make small loads of legitimately dirty clothes. I use a single towel over an over again by hanging it to dry in a breeze. I am economical out of deference to the laundry doer and really out of not-quite-love for my sad, overworked clothes.

So today I did the thing. I said, no more! I walked my eight year old through the entire laundry procedural and announced the end of my reign. My daughter is ready. My husband is in deep denial, but also ultimately on board.

To those who can conquer worlds with the rapid agility of their thumbs, I say learn the digital interface of your washing machine keypad. Delve into the workings of stain treatment and load logic.

Know thy possessions. Learn the location of your sweatshirt. Heed the call of your dirty socks. When they are no longer in your drawer you will know it is time to listen for the dark whinny of the spin cycle and ride the white stallion of a bleach load.

Ride children, ride!


  1. Facebook promotion has directed me to you, and I'm very glad. You type to my heart.

    I actually decided 7th grade is the year kids get to start doing their own laundry--I WILL INSTITUTE A POLICY OF GROUNDING IF ANY OF THEIR CLOTHES EVER TOUCH MINE--and so that's helped. However, my younger child still tosses his clothes into the hamper after 2 hours of wearing them. It's at the point where I look in the hamper, and if it's his clothes, I take them out, walk into his room, and jam them back into his closet. No washing, no folding.

    This may have caused him to have a limited circle of friends. I don't care. At least we know they like him for his personality and not his appearance and scent.

  2. jocelyn, It never occurred to me that I was also eliminating a litmus test for false friendship. God, this just gets better and better. Thanks for coming over to read and for your nice comment.

  3. (heh im signed in as my huzband opps)

  4. Huzzah! Good for you! End Mom Abuse Now!