The Messy Person’s Guide to a Tidy House – part 9

One of the biggest misunderstandings about being a parent is that there is a point in time when things will be done. Finished. Complete. Full stop. Nowhere on the domestic landscape is this more misunderstood than in the laundry.

Today I’m going to get the laundry done.

No. You are not. You are not going to get the laundry done today.  Nor are you going to get it done tomorrow, or the next day, or even next week.

This is because of the simple fact that THE LAUNDRY IS NEVER DONE.

The laundry is on an infinity loop:

  • Clean and waiting to be put away
  • Clean and about to be worn
  • Actually being worn (this is the crossover point on the infinity loop)
  • Dirty and strewn across the floor
  • In the washing machine
  • In the dryer, on the line or in the basket, damp
  • Clean and waiting to be put away

At no point ever will all the laundry be ‘done’.

For many this is an earth shattering realisation. You have been struggling, possibly for generations, to achieve something that is fundamentally unachievable.  Entire days have been dedicated to ‘getting the laundry done‘, a mission so misguided and doomed that only the quest to find Lasseter’s Reef can be considered more futile.

As with any problem, a basic understanding that the problem exists is widely acknowledged as the first step to solving the problem. And this is somewhat true of the laundry conundrum. But only somewhat.  Even as you sit here reading this – the infinity loop of your family’s clothes are gathering silently at an action point, waiting for you to move them on and keeping the loop, well, looping.

Happily the solution and the problem are intrinsically linked, it is just a matter of finding a way to keep the laundry loop running smoothly so you can avoid pile-ups in the common area’s of folding, ironing, and drying. The Family Beast has tried and tested an enormous assortment of tricks and techniques over the years, here are 3 of the best:

  1. Baskets
    To train your Family Beast in the ‘lost art of laundry looping’ you must first show them how to keep their clothes in the loop to start with. In the same way you trained them to place thier toys in the toy basket, but threatening to throw out everything left on the floor – place a dirty clothes basket in key rooms – bedrooms, bathrooms and the laundry. Under no circumstances should you place one in a common living area to cater for those family members who insist on shedding socks etc on the living room floor. Eventually they will run out of socks and learn to put them into a dirty clothes basket. Advanced Basket: Try teaching them to turn their own clothes right-side-out before they place them in the basket! If they are able to hold down a steady job or reach the Nutella jar at the back of the fridge, then they should be able to master this.
  2. Timing
    How you time your laundry loop is very much up to the individual. Some prefer to spend a day dealing with the wash/dry part of the loop and the rest of the week trying to get it to the ‘ready to wear’ stage. Others prefer to do a bit every day to keep ‘high-rotation’ items available as often as possible (avoiding meltdowns about favorite tops, pyjamas and business shirts not being clean and dry RIGHT NOW). However you time your loop, the most important thing to keep in mind is the drying aspect. Laundry does not wait for a warm sunny day with a fresh breeze – laundry waits for nobody – it just piles up and starts to stink. Always have a wet week option built into your loop. These are two things that will not change – the unpredictability of the weather and the consistency of the laundry. Make a plan. Buy a dryer, use the laundromat, build a drying room in the basement.
  3. Folding
    Piles of unfolded clothes can bury an entire Family Beast in a matter of days. It is the section of the loop that is most prone to ailments such as procrastination, denial and avoidance. Sadly, despite much research, time, and investment, it appears that the only way to fold the mountain of clothes, is to fold the mountain of clothes. The trick here is not the position of the unfolded clothes in the laundry loop but the position of the pile of clothes within your house. For most, a spare room, an office or even a second sofa are actually just re-purposed folding holding bays. The more out of sight it is, the more likely you will use it to dump the fresh dry clothes, and the less likely you will get around to folding the before you children grow out of them and you can simply send them onto a friend or the charity shop. The only solution to this problem is to dump the basket of fresh dry clothes in the middle of a location that cannot possibly be used until the clothes are folded. The kitchen bench is best (but requires tidying first which is not ideal), the dinning table is also quite effective, and on the bed is another – you may not get into bed until much later than anticipated, but at least the laundry will be folded and ready for the next section on the infinity laundry loop.

As soon as you understand the circular nature of your laundry, you can devote your time to keeping the laundry loop running smoothly rather than wasting energy on the futile search for an end-point that doesn’t exist.

*While you may be wondering how an entire post about the laundry can avoid the topic of ironing, it has become very apparent over the years that ironing is an entirely unnecessary task created by the manufactures of irons, ironing boards, ironing aids and burn cream. Any man who can operate a motor vehicle is capable of ironing an item of clothing. With some smart shopping and updated belief systems, you can avoid ironing for years at a time.

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  1. Petra says:

    The laundry loop. Yes, nicely put. When we had the back courtyard paved, we realised afterwards that it was actually 10s of 1000s of dollars spent on what was essentially the drying area.
    And for me, the very worst part of the whole process is socks. I was reduced to asking Jake whether he actually wore his socks in pairs, because there was *not one single pair* of his socks in the laundry, only singles. And you know, the machine really does eat them. Really.

    • The Family Beast says:

      Socks are one of the Seven Domestic Wonders of the Modern World. They probably deserve an article all of their own!

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