Laundry. The price we pay for wearing clothes. Look, I’d be happy to walk around with three different types of macaroni and cheese permanently encrusted on my cargo pants… but my wife insists that we not encourage mice to move into our closet. So I relent, and agree to wash things after every two, three, six times I wear them. And I know there’s probably a “right” way of doing laundry, but with kids, who has time to do anything the “right” way? I have an even better way — the Dad’s Way — more effective, more efficient, more… manageable, at least if you’re anything like me. Ready for marginally-clean clothing, most of it still wearable? Let’s do laundry — the Dad’s Way!
- Sorting is for losers. You know all those settings on your washing machine? I don’t either, and they don’t matter. There are two settings on the washing machine of life – wet, and not wet. And everything you wear is going to get wet, whether it’s supposed to or not, so it may as well get wet in the washing machine, together with other clothes, and not in the toilet. No need to sort by color, because it’s not like you bought any of this clothing based on the color — you bought it because it was cheap, and it sort of fit, and you can’t send a kid to preschool wearing an Amazon box with a hole cut out for his head. The stakes are low, anyway- you’ve got approximately three washes until the clothing disintegrates. Besides, in the time you’d waste trying to sort the clothes, your 4-year-old (if he’s anything like mine) would be busy emptying out the freezer, and once you’d realize this and get all the items back in you’d have forgotten all about the laundry, and, once again, it’s wouldn’t get done. Half-ruined and clean beats well-sorted and still filthy, every time — at least that’s the case I make to my wife. So just drag the hamper to the machine and dump it all in. Heck, dump the hamper in too – it doesn’t even matter, because, next tip.
- You can wash anything. Yes, there’s a stuffed animal inside the pillowcase. There’s always a stuffed animal inside the pillowcase. In my house, there are things inside of everything. I don’t know how a thermometer ends up inside my son’s sock. (We’ve lost at least five thermometers in four years — please tell me if there’s a solution to this problem that I don’t know about?) I have no idea how an entire set of permanent markers ends up in the hamper but I do know if it’s in the hamper, I’m washing it. It could be a leftover half-tub of cream cheese — it’s going in. I am too tired to make judgment calls about what can be washed and what needs to be refrigerated. What’s the worst that will happen? You have to wash it all again? No problem—we’re doing laundry four times a week over here. Your apparel is now stained a rainbow of colors? My son loves colors, doesn’t we all? Oh, but it’s your work shirt? If the worst thing anyone at work can say about you is that your shirt has rainbow stripes that aren’t supposed to be there, I think you’re doing pretty well as a working parent. Next tip!
- Ignore the buzzer. Sure, in an ideal world, the wash cycle would finish and then you’d hustle back to the laundry room, transfer everything quickly to the dryer, and go on with your day. Maybe you’d even read a couple of chapters in that novel you started when your baby was still a fetus. Oh, sorry, I forgot – you’ve been roped into reading your son every book in the house, and he’s not going to agree to use the toilet until you finish. Listen, we all have to accept that life doesn’t stop for the 38 minute wash cycle. If the clothes get mildew-y, fine, run the washer again. Oh, wait– the water bill just came, forget that plan. Maybe everything is just going to have to smell like mildew for a while. Maybe those pants will never be unwrinkled again. It’s the price we pay for doing laundry in the first place. If you didn’t want wrinkled, moldy clothes, you shouldn’t have decided to have children.
- Hangers are weapons, so don’t even bother. Has any child, any age, ever seen an empty hanger and not immediately decided that it’s their new favorite toy? After all, a hanger can be anything – a back scratcher, a sharp-ended frisbee, the most exciting object for my 4-year-old to wave an inch away from his new baby brother’s face — except something on which to gently place your clean, pressed clothes. Do you really still cares if your clothing is pressed, or gets “hung up” in a “closet?” The fanciest place you’re ever going is Trader Joe’s. Just put all the laundry in a pile. It’s going to end up there anyway, so you may as well cut out the steps in between. My pants live in one pile. My shirts live in another. My socks have all been turned into hand puppets. And my underwear — I don’t even know. I should just wear all fourteen pairs I own, all the time. That’s what my four-year-old wants to do with his underwear, and, honestly, it’s not the worst idea.
- Lie, lie, lie. She might not admit it, but my wife has, deep down, always known the futility of removing a load of laundry from the dryer and dumping it on the bed for folding. That’s because our son can smell clean laundry from half a mile away, and he will materialize instantly on the bed and jump, jump, jump until it all is so messed up it has to go right back into the washing machine. But here’s what I figured out – he just wants to jump on clothes, it doesn’t matter to him whether they’re clean or not. So it’s simple: just keep a pile of old, dirty clothes — the decoy pile — for times like this. Pull out the decoy pile, throw it on your bed, make sure the baby isn’t buried at the bottom, and let your child destroy it… while you slip quietly into the bathroom with your beautiful, clean laundry and secretly fold it all there. Where do you store the decoy pile, whose clothes are in there, and how do you keep your kids from finding it? Um… those are all the tips I have! Good luck with your laundry!