I have finally found the solution to my biggest problem.
Mine is a pretty typical American story:
I grew up in a big family and my mom did all of our laundry. Yay! Except, we were never allowed to touch her washing machine. So, I was not properly trained how to wash my clothes, before I left home. Oops! Off I went to college and was totally stumped when my clothes got dirty. I had to learn by trial and error, in the basement laundry room at the dormitory. No sweat! Laundry wasn’t very hard, after all.
As time went on, I became a die-hard environmentalist; hand washing my homemade dresses in the bathroom sink with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and hanging them outside to dry in a tree.
When I first started having babies, I was a bleeding heart ecologist, still attending classes amongst the University liberals. My most abundant pieces of laundry were the cloth diapers. Wow, a baby goes through a lot of diapers everyday. At the time, I was living, for free, in a school bus in my friend’s backyard. The weather was mild and living in a bus was a perfect way to reduce expenses during my final semester.
Without electricity, I had to hand wash the diapers and baby clothes. I would wring them out on the clothesline pole. One day, my friend Dakko, feeling sorry that I had to hand wash all of those diapers and baby clothes, bought me a 1938 model 10 Maytag at a yard sale.
The girl who lived in the art studio on the same property let me share her covered front porch as a place to plug in and use my electric washing machine. It ran on 5 amps. And, it had an electric wringer. No more hand wringing!
Fast forward to three kids later.
16 years of laundering all of these dirty clothes has worn me out. I almost never catch up and sometimes feel like I’m being buried alive in piles and piles of laundry.
I made up my mind, once and for all, I would conquer my laundry fears and learn to love it. I decided to interview my friends, many who have similar, or worse, laundry woes and begged them for the secrets to their laundry success.
Now I love laundry!
Here are my best laundry tips.
1. Transform the space.
I do not have a laundry room. My washing machine is in the bathroom and my new “laundry folding room” is in my dining room. When it’s time to fold the laundry, I simply sweep up the dining room and wash the table. I also hung a beautiful piece of art, depicting a peaceful laundry scene as inspiration.
2. Know yourself.
I like sorting, starting the washer and going outside to the clothesline. I do not like folding. There, I said it. But, I do like listening to a good record. I simply asked my friends to suggest their favorite laundry folding records. So far, my favorite is Revolver by: The Beatles.
3. Get real and dig deep.
The first step for me was admitting that I had a problem with laundry. I asked my friends for ideas. Sometimes a solution is as easy as using a friend for inspiration and adopting one of their practices.
4. Set up systems.
For me it’s all about cute. I put my dirty laundry in vintage wooden boxes and carry it wet to the line in galvanized tubs. Find ways to be organized no matter what stage of laundry we’re dealing with.
5. Have laundry habits that align with our values.
I am not the type of person to waste energy resources. I live in a semi-arid climate and I hang the clothes out to dry on my clothesline. Even in the winter. If the weather is particularly wet, we have an indoor wooden clothes drying rack.
6. Do our best. No guilt.
When my mother comes to visit, she takes over and does our laundry. What can I say, she loves laundry. But while she’s at it, she constantly reminds me of how terrible I am at doing laundry and marvels about how I didn’t get her great laundry genes.
Beats me. Forget the guilt!
I just pat myself on the back and applaud my victories and keep singing along to the Beatles, while I’m folding.
7. Plan ahead.
I have teenagers and their wardrobes are very important to them. I help them by reminding them to make sure and put their outfits in the washing machine the day before. I do some of their laundry some of the time, but I have trained them to do their own laundry, so they know how to take care of washing their clothes, on their own. I think it’s empowering for them. It’s a little liberating for me.
And there it is. My laundry sits nicely folded, in tidy piles, waiting for us to put it away.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman