Monday, April 9, 2012

The never-ending horror of laundry

Families are all different. They come in a range of sizes, and each has its own unique personalities and dynamics.

But there is one constant that unites them all. No matter who we are, no matter how many people live in our house, there is something universal toward which we all direct our most intense hatred.


For many people, my wife included, laundry is the most evil of necessary evils. Short of increasing your clothing budget tenfold and just buying new clothes when the old stuff gets dirty, there's no way around doing the laundry.

I realize some people actually enjoy doing laundry. I can accept that, in the same way I can accept that some people are clinically insane.

And understand, this comes from a man who does almost zero laundry of his own. My wife is a stay-at-home mom who does my laundry for me. And I love her for it. Really, I cannot begin to express my gratitude for this saint of a woman who makes sure my underwear is washed, folded and put away every week.

My older three kids all do their own laundry, while Melanie at least folds and puts hers away. I'm sure Jack is just a few years away from being inducted into the family Laundry Club, too. I always thought this was a good strategic move by Terry, getting the kids to do their laundry independently. And it's not like it's difficult to motivate them. You just stop doing their clothes and suddenly they have tremendous incentive to learn how the washer and dryer work.

There was a time when I handled a decent percentage of the family laundry. This was years ago when Terry was working at Lincoln Electric and I was working nights at the News-Herald. I was home during the day, and while there were always plenty of other chores to tackle, it seemed a little lazy for me to just leave the full laundry hamper sitting there unattended. So I did laundry.

This was back when our family was less than half the size it is now. There was just me, Terry and Elissa, so the volume wasn't that bad. My problem with laundry is that I'm painfully slow at it. First, I insist on looking at every tag to see whether a particular item is supposed to be washed in hot or cold, whether it needs to be turned inside out, if it's safe to bleach, etc.

Terry just knows all of this instinctively, of course. She can get a load of laundry going in seconds. It takes me several minutes. If nothing else, I'm doing my best to defy the stereotype of men being inept at laundry and turning everything they wash into a dull shade of pink.

Then there's the folding, another thing I do v-e-r-y- s-l-o-w-l-y. I can do it, and I do an OK job of it, but Terry can fold three shirts in the time it takes me to fold one. And they end up looking much nicer than the ones I do. As it is with home maintenance, you either have the folding gene or you don't. I, it must be said, do not. But I try.

I just can't get over how much stuff goes through our laundry room. I would be interested to know the actual amount of laundry, in tons, that Terry does every year. I usually try to make sure the full laundry baskets are at least carried down into the basement for her, but from that point on, she's the star of the show. She washes, dries, folds and puts away my clothes, her clothes and Jack's clothes, while also washing Melanie's clothes and putting them out for Mel to fold.

And it never stops. I try not to contribute too much to the laundry pile, but it almost doesn't matter. The Mound O' Unwashed Garments grows exponentially in a frightening and seemingly impossible way. We'll go on vacation for a week, and when we get home, even before we unpack our suitcases, it's clear that the amount of dirty laundry has doubled since we left. How does this happen? Do people break into our house while we're gone and throw their own stuff into the clothes baskets? This is the only possible explanation.

I have to hand it to American appliance manufacturers. We obviously use our washer and dryer a lot, but other than a recent problem with the dryer's heating element that resulted in a $100-plus repair, these machines have held up well.

One of these days when I become rich (NOTE: This will never actually happen. Just work with me here.), I'm going to hire someone specifically to do our laundry, thereby saving Terry a whole lot of time and effort.

But I'll bet you 10 to 1 that our in-house laundry professional won't be nearly as good as she is at folding my tighty whiteys. Just saying.

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