U is for Underwear

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

I learned this trick from a resourceful college roommate – if you have 30 pairs of underwear, you need only do your laundry once a month.

Well, I don’t take it quite that far, but having a good two week’s worth in the drawer can make life a lot easier. After all, if a kid is looking for a pair of jeans to wear to school, you can always respond, “Take one out of the dirty laundry.” But you’d have to be pretty desperate to do the same thing if they’re hunting for clean underwear.

I stock up on socks for the same reason. I think the socks in our house would disintegrate if they had to endure two consecutive days of wear. We generate some pretty disheartening laundry at our place. I’ve often compared it to toxic waste.

(And one more laundry-reducing trick, for the more devious among you – you know those towels that get thrown in the wash after one use? Pull ’em out, let them dry, fold them, and return them to the bathroom. No one will ever know the difference.)

Read the series at A is for About

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#3: I have only one child but…

desertToday’s installment of Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate, where I offer advice to visitors whose search terms hit my blog: “I have only one child but laundry and housework never end.

Stop right there, all you parents of multiple children! Do not mock the poor soul who posed this thought! Instead, think back to how overwhelming it was to have that first child, back before you let your standards slide to unthinkably low levels.

Take it from me – I am the Queen of Relaxed Standards, as evidenced by the fact that one of the search terms used to hit my blog is, in fact, “relaxing your standards”. The only way to cope with housework is to accept that it will never be done, you will never like it, and even if you can find someone else to do it for you, they will not do it the way you would do it. Standards are based, at some level, on averages, right? Someone has to be below average.

Still, I wonder about the motivation of this reader. Are they contemplating a second child, but feel as if they are staring into an abyss of laundry and dishes? Are they questioning their ability to cope? Are they measuring themselves against someone else’s nearly impossible example?

Laundry and housework never end. It is one of the immutable laws of nature. There is a poetic beauty to that first shirt deposited into the empty hamper. That lone dish in the sink. The dust motes in your newly-vacuumed living room.

Embrace housework and laundry, oh sad person, they reaffirm our existence. They remind us that we are here to live another day, dirty another pair of socks, track grass clippings into the house, spill a bottle of nail polish on the furniture. These events, these items, are the very stuff of life.

Yeah, right. Even I can’t drop my standards that far. Just get out that dust cloth and get to it.

Read the series:

Anxiety dreams involving my kids 

How do I talk to my surly teen? 

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

Immutable laws of housework

Grocery listWe all know there are certain natural laws you cannot defy – gravity, for instance, alas. The laws of housework are no exception. You can try, but it’s likely to leave you sobbing in a pile of crumbs and dirty socks.

There may be others, but here are those I know.

Immutable Laws of Housework

  • As soon as you finish cleaning the kitchen, someone will come in to make a sandwich.
  • For every item of laundry you wash, there will be an equal and opposite piece of dirty clothing deposited on the floor of the utility room.
  • The one item of laundry your child needs for the day will be the one you didn’t wash.
  • The amount of time you have to run an errand is directly proportional to how much gas is in your tank.
  • The crucial item on your grocery list will be the one you forget.
  • Your actual grocery bill will be greater than or equal to 125% of the cost of the items on your list.
  • A damp towel at rest will stay at rest until someone claims it, which is never.
  • No more than 80% of any given family will like what you’re serving for dinner.
  • The younger you are, the more cleaning product you will consume on a given household task, and the amount of cleaning product you consume is inversely proportional to how clean you get the actual surface.

Of course, housework is the ultimate Sisyphean task, only the mountain is laundry and the rock is the one you want to knock against your head repeatedly until you no longer see the dirty dishes in the sink.

And since I can’t avoid it, I’m picking up a new mantra: “Housework is a great way to start the week. And end the week. And fill those days in the middle, too.”

OK, what did I miss?

Oh, laundry – it didn’t have to be this way

In my heart, laundry, I feel like we could have had a better relationship, you and I. Perhaps if you’d waited for me in the orderly fashion I desired – whites with whites, delicates with IMG_0472delicates – we could have found a way to coexist. Or if you’d made even the slightest effort to stay folded in the drawers instead of ending up in a wrinkled, tangled mess. But you’ve made no attempt whatsoever to make my life easier. If there is to be any future for us, laundry, you must not, anymore:

  • Hide under beds, at the bottom of closets, in gym bags, and under car seats. Even though I know you are there it is agony to seek you out, over and over again.
  • Show up in the laundry basket when I know you are clean, in fact, just washed. Oh why, laundry, do you punish me in this way?
  • Exceed many times over what is practical for the number of people in this household. I see them each day, wearing the same clothes they not only slept in, but wore the day before – how is it possible that you multiply so? Is it just to taunt me?
  • Appear before me in such a disgraceful state – soiled, wrinkled, smelly, stained with God knows what. It tears me apart, laundry, it really does.

I know, laundry, that I could improve, too. I know I start out with the best intentions, laundering you in a practical, reasonable way – carefully sorting and calibrating the right water temperature. But I admit that after a day with you, I often find myself throwing you into the washer at random without any regard to your care label, not caring if you shrink or pill. And I’m sorry, truly, but at some point I hit the limit of what I can endure.

So how shall we go forward, laundry? Is it to stay this way between us always? Or can we change, coexist peacefully, get along even for just a day? Tell me – what is it to be? I just heard the buzzer on the dryer so the time for truth is now.

Of laundry, and other things I won’t finish

Last week I attended an online nonfiction writers conference which was fabulous, but consumed a lot of time. Because I’m too antsy to sit for several days (and because I am perpetually behind on the laundry) I decided to multi-task. It seemed reasonable to me that in the course of three days I could sort, wash, fold and put away whatever laundry life threw at me while listening to the conference speakers and taking notes.

Turns out it wasn’t reasonable at all.

I washed sheets, towels, uniforms for two sports, dark clothes, light clothes and assorted socks and underwear. But at the end of three days I had laundry everywhere and I wasn’t close to “done”. And, of course, the uniforms were dirty again.

This is yet another example of how I set myself up for failure, by taking on more than I can accomplish in the time allowed. Or maybe I should say I set myself up for feelings of failure because who am I really measuring myself against, anyway?

To counter this, I’m trying out a new technique for sorting my tasks. I’m calling it Now-Later-Never.

Now tasks are pretty self-explanatory because they require immediate action – cleaning up cat vomit, taking a phone call from a key client, digging a dirty baseball sock out of the utility room 20 minutes before the game.

Later tasks are things I can put off for some amount of time without negative impact – scheduling routine appointments, filling out summer camp forms, outlining a presentation I’m not giving for two months. Admittedly, over time, some of these will become Now tasks.

Never tasks are my favorites. I just don’t do them at all because:

  • I miss the events or deadlines (so how important could they have been?)
  • The level of activity in my life ratchets up, so some things don’t seem as important anymore
  • Someone else can do them – provide dinner, empty the dishwasher, submit my business tax forms

It’s true that by subscribing to this method there are times when I’m doing only what is required to get by. For those you in start-up business mode, think minimum viable product. Not very ambitious, perhaps, but it gets me by.

And granted, this doesn’t always work with the laundry – I’ve only opted to throw clothes out instead of washing them a couple of times. I’ll spare you the details.

What’s the Never task on your list? Post your comments or send them to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

Two more tips – and one addresses my pet peeve!

Many thanks to readers who responded to my last post – Three clutter-busting tips from an unprofessional organizer – with their own suggestions. My favorite tip came from reader Kelli Quinn, the owner of QuinnEssential Massage Therapy & Holistic Wellness in Millville, NJ.

Anyone who knows me knows that I despise the endless loads of laundry I am forced to wash as the head of a busy family. But I must confess, it hadn’t really occurred to me that many of you are running businesses that generate laundry. Oh, cruel reality! Kelli writes:

Between washing my own sheets, my massage linens, my clothes, towels, and even my boyfriend’s laundry, I’ve found that if I can JUST get my laundry picked up (that gradually gets strewn over various surfaces throughout the week, none of which are their actual home) I feel lighter because I know where everything is. If I begin with laundry organization, I am much more likely to tackle the next project because I can see “what’s left” — and I’m always surprised that it’s not as much as I initially anticipated.

So thanks, Kelli! You win the prize of granting me undying relief that my business generates little, if any, laundry.

Another tip came from Liz Truesdale, an attorney in Appleton, WI:

If I ever get in a time pinch, I remember the sage advice one of my bosses’ secretaries gave me nearly 20 years ago: If your bathrooms are clean, people will assume the rest of your house is clean. That translates to a lot of situations!

So take that tip into your holidays.

Keep the tips coming! Send them to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.