Tag Archives: laundry

Airing My Dirty Laundry …

7 Mar
A dirty job ....

A dirty job ….

I recently had a conversation with friends about if we won the lottery what kind of paid help we would have. One friend wanted a personal chef and another wanted someone to straighten her hair every day. I want someone to do the laundry – and do it well. Let me be perfectly clear: I.Hate.Laundry. While all of you reading this may not share my total aversion to the task, no one really loves to do laundry. It’s dirty, it’s thankless, and no sooner are you finished than something else is dirty.

I believe there are two categories of household tasks: those that can evolve into hobbies because there is something creative or pleasurable about them; and those that will not become hobbies because no one in their right mind would spend their free time doing them. Laundry is in the latter category. No one decides to separate lights from darks and spot treat stains for fun.

Household duties that can be considered hobbies have whole industries devoted to them. Think about decorating and cooking – there are magazines, websites, TV channels, stores all to support these hobbies.

There’s no Houzz for laundry. No one posts laundry pics on Pinterest. There’s certainly no laundry channel (although I remember hearing extreme ironing events a few years ago.) Laundry isn’t even shown on television (other than in detergent commercials.) I have watched every episode of Downton Abbey for five seasons, and I have never seen one of the servants do laundry. Cook, clean fireplaces, style hair, get charged with murder – yes, all of that has happened on Downton. Laundry, if it’s been done on Downton, I missed it.

A quick Google search for “laundry” pulls up a list of local dry cleaners and Laundromats, the website for the clothing company Laundry by Shelli Segal, one blog posts on how to organize one’s laundry room, and a 2010 article from Wall Street Journal on Americans using too much laundry detergent. From this list it’s clear that laundry is not a hot topic.

People enjoy receiving cooking-related gifts such as herb infused olive oil, juicers or Williams-Sonoma gift cards, but can you imagine giving someone a bottle of Clorox? Similarly,  your friends appreciate it if you invite them over for dinner – but inviting folks over so you can wash and fold their towels while they sip margaritas, well, that’s not going to happen.

My husband happens to be a good cook, and someone who enjoys cooking. He also is good at doing laundry, but enjoys that less. His recipe for sautéed mushrooms or his technique for rack of lamb may earn him praise from our friends, but no one exclaims “And look how clean his golf shirt is too!!!!” No one asks him for his advice on the best unscented fabric softener. Laundry is a thankless task.

As much as I dislike doing laundry, NOT being able to do laundry is much worse.  I learned this the hard way when our washer died over Thanksgiving two years ago, and it took me more than a week to replace it.  I decided I would take a week’s worth of sheets and towels to our dry cleaner for wash and fold service. I was very excited about picking up two loads of neatly folded sheets and towels until I was told the bill was $60.

So, my next step was to take our clothes to the Laundromat at Cameron Village Shopping Center do the laundry there. I was so clueless at the Laundromat that I stuffed a huge load of dirty clothes into what I thought was a front loading washer that was actually a huge dryer. I figured out my mistake when I could not find a place to pour in the detergent. The guy beside me literally said “You don’t come here often, do you?”

I said at the beginning of this essay that if I could afford it I would hire someone to do the laundry. Well, I had that once – sort of. When my children were younger, I hired a sitter to watch them while I worked, and she told me in the interview that she would do the children’s laundry. Hallelujah!  The answer to prayers!

I soon discovered that although our sitter was very willing to do laundry, she was not very good at it. She did not sort by color, and she washed and dried everything on the hottest setting. My two-year-old’s clothes were now the perfect size for my newborn. Being a nice Southern girl, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings – or be disrespectful since she was 30 years my senior — so I began to hide all the boys’ clothes in the hamper in my room. When it started to overflow, I stuffed dirty clothes under my bed so she couldn’t find them. In my postpartum haze this all seemed like a perfectly good solution.

I imagine there are people who can hire competent people to wash their clothes – for example, Kate Middleton probably has good help. But there are lots of important and influential people who can’t escape the drudgery of laundry. One such person who comes to mind is Carol Greider, a molecular biologist at John Hopkins. A few years ago she received a call at 5 a.m. from Sweden that she had won the Noble Prize for Medicine – when she got the call she was NOT in the lab, NOT sleeping, and NOT out on a run – instead, she was hard at work – you guessed it – folding laundry. With that said, I need to go get a load out of the dryer.

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