Laundry in 5 easy steps? Yes. Laundry is actually 5 separate jobs: Sorting, Washing, Drying, Folding, Putting away.
Sorting: This is the first step of laundry and by far the stinkiest (unless you are washing wool and then getting it out of the washer is the stinkiest.) This can also be either the easiest or the hardest. If you are like me, you do not sort your laundry because you do not buy anything light colored. Sorting problem solved!
If you aren’t an animal, then you buy a variety of colors and must sort them. Or you are washing heavy clothes and lightweight clothes. Or a dizzying combination of all this. And then there are baby clothes and gross work/sport clothes. Delicates (ha! Who has delicates? I want to meet her and then I want to be her because she has skills when it comes to living life and doing laundry.)
Sorting can be where the task of laundry gets derailed. One interruption can throw the entire process off, especially if you don’t want to do it in the first place.
I forgot linens! I know people who are scandalized at the idea of washing linens with regular clothes. I wash swim clothes and beach towels all together because they all get stinky pretty quickly and/or they are full of sand. Also, a couple of our ‘beach towels’ are actually cheap blankets I got at IKEA.
Washing: I knew a woman who, when she ran short of money, washed her clothes in her bathtub and dried them on a drying rack in her kitchen. Washing machines are the dream millions of women over thousands of years have been waiting for. There are still millions of women on this planet who do not have access to one. Washing machines make me very, very, very happy. I use a coin-op one in the laundry room across the parking lot of the apartment building I live in. It is ancient, in the process of shredding our clothes and regularly unravels the hems on our towels and washcloths. I love it.
It is top loading so I dump the contents of the laundry basket into it, sprinkle on some detergent, feed it 5 quarters and then go about my business. The water heater heats the water, the agitator tears my clothes and linens to pieces and then it whirs at a blinding speed to get so much of the water out my clothes often dry very quickly. I don’t boil water or stir stinky clothes or burn myself wringing out wet clothes. It’s fucking awesome, by far my favorite part of doing laundry.
Drying: Here’s where I tend to fall off the pace. I do minimal sorting and as I said, I love all the washer does for me but getting the clothes out of the washer and into the dryer and then out of the dryer is a challenge. One day, about a decade ago, my mom said, “You aren’t going to believe this, I left the clothes in the dryer overnight.” And I said, “Well there goes another pillar of Western Civilization.” As predictable as the patriarchy, my mother timed her wash. Nothing lingered above 5 minutes in either the washer or dryer. I have, more than once, left clothes in the washer so long they either dried out or got so stinky I had to rewash them. I appreciate the dryer because hanging out clothes gives me a crick in my neck and since I live in an urban area, clothes dried outside have a certain unpleasant scent of petroleum. Also, towels get super scratchy when line dried. So here is, for me, where the slowdown begins.
Folding: I wonder how many hours (days, weeks, months) of my life I have spent folding clothes. I folded clothes with my mom when I was a kid so I know the old school drill (one that I do not in any way follow). When I was a kid laundry was done on Saturday because Sunday was reserved for going to the mall. We got up, everyone sorter their own clothes and then my sister and I took turns doing the general leg work of schlepping clothes out to the washer (avocado green, as was the dryer, matched set, natch) and then transferring them to the dryer before bringing them into my mom’s sewing room. There was a recliner, a sewing cabinet (wherein an avocado green sewing machine from Sears resided), a giant bookshelf full of books and an ironing board that was up most of my childhood. Here we would fold the clothes while they were still warm or we would iron them if they needed it. My mom did most of the ironing but I did pillowcases and the top hem of the top sheets so they would lie flat when the beds were made. Despite all this cleanliness, no one in my family made their beds everyday. You made it once a week when you put on new sheets then wallowed around in a mass of linens until the next Saturday. You got one organized night before six nights of chaos ensued.
I do not fold my clothes this way. I stand around and mostly watch something on Netflix until it is time to do something time sensitive like give baths or make food or drive someone somewhere. The clothes get shoved back into the laundry basket. Then we paw like rabid animals through the baskets looking for whatever clean thing we need. My mom never once criticized this system, even though I was raised to do better.
Full disclosure, this morning I was lazing in bed rather than getting up and making an actual breakfast for Six and I patted the bunched up edge of the pillowcase next to me and thought, “This really needs to be ironed.” If thoughts do indeed lead to action, I will be ironing my pillowcases soon. I will never admit it.
Put Away: This step is a bit of a unicorn for me. I have gotten better at getting the clothes away and the linens into the cupboard over the past year. I do have hope that this will become a regular occurrence. There is something soothing about getting everything into place where it’s easily accessible, rather than having people dumping out laundry baskets at 7:15AM, frantically looking for socks that somewhat match.
A person can dream.