“These aren’t my socks.”
“Wait. Are these my shorts?”
“Mo-o-o-m, this is Dad’s underwear.”
“Think this stain will come out?”
“How long as this stuff been sitting wet in the washer?”
Ah, yes, the joys of laundry. It is a mysterious place, the laundry room, full of items in various states of cleanliness, clothing glaciers that seem to grow over night, and items that go missing for no apparent reason. Everyone likes having clean clothes to wear, but not one enjoys the process of getting them clean. I actually don’t mind the washing, drying (thanks to modern technology) and folding. It is the putting away that drives me nuts.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I live in a male-dominated household. Dominated as in numbers, not by power. (As a matter of fact, I tend to assume things would fall apart without me, but that’s a topic for another day.) And while laundry issues are likely common in every household, there are certain habits that are more prevalent with the male species. Like men don’t share and steal each other’s clothing like women do. Their stuff is their stuff, and they each have very particular tastes. If there is any borrowing that happens, it is out of necessity. For example, when my son realized he had outgrown all of his swim trunks this year, he borrowed a pair of his dads until we could get him new. And there seems to be one pair of dress black shoes and a couple of ties that get passed around for special occasions. But other than that, there’s no borrowing. As a matter of fact, they seem offended if one another’s items end up in their bureau drawers. They would not be caught dead wearing each other’s clothing style. Separation of items is paramount.
Men’s clothing falls into two categories: Good stuff vs. Dirty stuff. Men have separate clothing items they will wear for “dirty work” and other clothes for “nice”. We women have categories too, but our differences are more about the style & function than the filth level. We may have workout clothes, gardening clothes, house cleaning clothes, business clothes, casual wear, and going out clothes. Men have stained or clean. Nothing ruins their day more than finding out they’ve been wearing their “good jeans” to paint in, or repair a car, or do yard work. And those Dirty Stuff clothes? Yikes – sweaty, dirty, smelly – that’s a whole laundry load all by itself. At arm’s length. While plugging your nose. With your best friend, Stain Remover, at the ready.
Put a pile of laundry in front of a woman and in 3 minutes it is sorted by color, fabric and washing instructions. Put that same pile in front of most men, and watch the confusion flood their face. Sure, they understand for the most part that very dark clothes need to be washed together, and whites need to go together. But everything in between? No idea. One of life’s great mysteries to them is what to do about stripes and bright colors. I think this is mostly because, let’s face it, laundry is waaaaayyyy down on the priority list. Most guys will do laundry only when they have run out of necessary items – you know, like clean underwear.
I encourage my guys to do their own laundry, preferably on separate days. This happens only loosely. For example, my son will start a load of wash, and it will then sit in the dryer forgotten until someone else needs to use it. Or my husband will walk downstairs, see that a load needs to be switched, and will scoop up whatever is on the floor and throw it in for the next round. Most often, I will end up finishing up various loads of left overs. The good thing is most men’s clothing is fairly durable and not prone to lots of shrinking or needing special handling like line drying. Hence why I’m happy to do my own laundry so my bras don’t end up tangled up in the dryer, and my hand wash doesn’t end up shriveled.
Then….there are socks. Socks have lives of their own. I’m not sure what happens between going from being on someone’s feet, to a laundry basket, to the washer and dryer, but these critters seem to multiply and divide on a whim. I will find a PILE of socks coming through the wash and wonder how any one person can wear so many. But then when it is time to match them up, at least one or two renegades have run off to join the Sock Circus. So the unmatched items end up living together in a heap on top of the dryer, patiently waiting to see if their beloved mate shows up in a future load. There is one pair, an actual matched set, that went through the wash recently, and none of the guys in my house claim them to be their own. How does THAT happen? Were the top-of-the-dryer socks having such a fun party one night that this ownerless pair decided to join in? In reality they were probably left behind by a pool-swimming visitor and they got tossed in with beach towels and other summer paraphernalia. So here they are, clean, matched, but no one will wear them. Which means I will donate them, and let them carry on their magical mystery tour.
I love it when I see images in magazines of beautiful laundry rooms, sparkling clean, with lots of open space, white floors, tables for folding and stacking, plants in the bright and big windows, and cute little labeled tote containers for detergents and hangers. I imagine that everyone in the house would enjoy spending time in a room like that. If it existed in the real world. Our laundry, like so many others, is in the basement. The cement floor, non-finished walls and ceiling, storage and furnace area of the basement. Tight in space, cluttered with other things, certainly not bright and cheerful nor appealing.
My dream concept is to go beyond that spiffy white cute magazine laundry room. I’d like to create a nice comfortable big bright space to embrace our washer and dryer, accessorized with a big-screen TV, bar and snack machine for the guys, along with a cozy curl-up in the sun corner for me to watch movies, read, or just relax with a glass of wine all while being productive and getting our clothes clean. Don’t even think about putting exercise equipment in the same room, that just adds guilt and toil. Soon all of the household inhabitants would race home with a “woo hoo, my turn to do laundry tonight!”.
I bet I could even find a way on Pinterest to decorate my new fun room with those lone socks. Win-Win.