Previous generations grew up with a familiar weekly rhythm: Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday. Before the advent of the electric washing machine, cleaning the family’s clothes was a physically exhausting all-day task.
Most people who use a communal washer or a laundromat still do all their laundry in a day. When we lived in Texas, we had to do our wash in the apartment complex’s laundry sheds whenever our ancient hand-me-down washer broke. Thirty or forty apartment units shared the two washers and two dryers in the wash shed. Laundry for the week got done all in one day because it was a lot of work to find a free machine, haul heavy loads down several flights of stairs, around the building, and across the parking area in 110 degree heat to the even hotter shed, run back and forth to switch machines, make sure nothing got stolen, fold everything, and cart it all back to the apartment.
I couldn’t wait for our own home with our own (working) washer and dryer. We’d be able to throw in a load whenever we needed an item cleaned. It would be so convenient! And at first, it was nice. However, with time, the here and there approach began feeling stressful and overwhelming. There was always laundry to be done, someone always ran out of something, and without an orderly system it often ended up as every-man-for-himself fishing crumpled items out of the unfolded clean laundry basket.
The laundry situation went from bad to worse when the twins arrived. Our son had (and stillllllllll has) severe reflux. Little Puke Skywalker blessed us with 30+ massive spit ups a day, endlessly soaking blankets, his clothes, our clothes, the rugs, his sibling, and anything else in a three-foot radius. We did a LOT of laundry, and after as little as three days between loads would find ourselves in increasingly odd combinations of clothes as we scraped the backs of the closet for anything clean to wear. Our boy ended up in his sister’s floral outfits more than once when he ran through every shred of boy and neutral clothing we owned. When our son was around four months old his doctor had us start thickening his bottles, which slightly improved the spit-up problem. With that shift we finally had enough clothes to last a week for him, but no system. Laundry was a Sisyphean task – never completed, always there.
The turnaround came after I found a great book on the church book table called Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life. The author pointed out something that should have been obvious: Even in the modern day with electric machines instead of washboards and wringers, doing the washing is a big job. Laundry needs to be collected, sorted, treated, carried to the machines, washed, dried, folded, and put away. With a major job requiring organization and preparation, tossing in a load here and there is not necessarily convenient, easier, or simple.
I decided to give Keeping House’s plan a trial run. For two months now, Monday has been wash day. And, thank goodness, it works perfectly for us. On Monday mornings after the twins’ first feeding I collect every scrap of laundry from the house, strip the sheets, and sort everything into whites and coloreds. As I sort, I set aside heavily soiled items (whoever said spit-up gets better once the kids are on solids was dreaming. It just gets more colorful) and soak them in a bucket with a scoop of Oxyclean while I start the first load. Over the course of the day, I keep popping loads in and out around the rhythm of the kids’ naps and awake times. During naps, I fold and stack laundry at the kitchen table, just a few steps from the garage. At nine months our son still spits up often and generously, though he’s improved since his infant days. However, at this stage of life, it only takes about six loads to wash everything from the week – everyday clothes, PJs and workout clothes, blankets, bathmats, sheets, burp cloths, swim suits, towels (of which there are a lot since we use full-size bath towels when burping our boy. Yes, it’s that bad), and other oddments. Once Carl is home in the evening he helps put away the folded laundry. At the end of Monday, everything is clean and ready for the week. There’s no constant assessment of whether I need to run a load hanging over my head, no digging around for clean clothes in the garage, and no last minute realizations of “every pair of shorts is still wet in the washer because we forgot to dry them.” I love it.
What kind of laundry system works for you?
This week I’m joining in with Jen Fulwiler’s “A Post a Day” challenge over at Conversion Diary. Click through to see posts from others.