So, hopefully dinner and food shopping are going better. We’ll talk about it some more. Seems like the kind of thing we can talk about every day, huh? Don’t get impatient with yourself…stick with me and we’ll take it one step at a time.
But in the meantime, it’s good to think a bit about the laundry. Remember how important it is to be sure to at least do the minimum?
Namely, three pain-free meals a day and clean underwear…
And just so you don’t think that I’m doing my laundry in a sort of washerwoman’s paradise, I will show you this:
Which is actually in my back (that is to say, most used) entry way, so it has to look pretty much like this all the time. (At some point I had a vague idea to hang a curtain there, but that never materialized. Get it? Materialized? I slay myself with my wit…)
I mean, it should look better than that, but it’s what I’ve got.
So I’m not Martha-ing you here. I’m just like you, only less sophisticated.
Okay. Here it is. The one thing you just have to grapple with to be able to emerge from the mountain of dirty clothes and the ocean of clean clothes at last. It’s not all you have to do, but it’s the indispensable first step.
Have fewer clothes.
(Whose room is that??)
And I don’t just mean this for the shopaholics among us. I’m not just talking about the victims of the overgenerous grandmas and aunties. I mean it for the frugal, thrifty, “simple living” ones — all you out there with a lot of kids and not much cash.
In some ways, we have it worse, because we’re afraid of letting go of something in case it could come in handy later on, and this is particularly hard when you know that the little sprouts are outgrowing their togs faster than you can find them at the thrift store.
Our family actually got by for several years when the kids were little purely on bags left on my porch by kind neighbors. Yet, this posed a problem. Anxious to keep anything with any possible use, I was actually making a lot of work for myself and preventing my children from helping me effectively.
The truth is, children will only end up wearing a few outfits on a daily basis. They don’t like change; they like predictability. Not only is it no use fighting this trait, it’s counterproductive. Their drawers and closets are so full of things they don’t wear, they actually live out of their laundry baskets most of the time. They simply can’t put things away.
In addition, they function within a paradox: they only want to wear a few things, but the knowledge they have many things gives them implicit permission to overuse the laundry system. Clothing doesn’t fit in drawers, so it ends up on the floor, or if you are lucky, in a hamper. A garment on the floor is by definition dirty! So you are overwhelmed.
Here is what your pre-adolescent children need: a few, five at the most, bottoms (say, two pairs of jeans and two corduroys). A scant week’s worth of tops. Two light sweaters. Possibly a vest. For boys, a good pair of pants for Sundays, and two good shirts. For girls, two nice dresses or two church-worthy skirts and two ditto blouses.
Much more than this, and you will find that it all sits in a drawer getting stuff heaped on it. If the child has six drawers and they don’t close, you have an issue. (My older kids shared dressers, and basically had two drawers each. For all their clothes.)
Now, at the same time, each child also needs more underwear than you might think. First, socks.
Please, for the love of all that is good, try to buy socks in a minimum quantity of 6 to a pack. And buy two identical packs at a time.
Why? Because, this way, if you lose a sock, and then you lose another sock, you still have a pair! But with the cute unique socks you are getting them now, lose one and you are out a pair of socks. I once met a poor lady who had an entire laundry basket full of single socks. There were so many different styles you couldn’t even hope to find the missing one in that pile if it happened to be there.
Buy the kind they like, which these days is ankle socks (but not super low in the winter). Never buy tube socks. Don’t skimp on quality. Get them at Marshall’s. Get the good kind. Get good tights for the girls. And one pair of dress socks for the each boy. He won’t wear them anyway. Try to have at least 8-10 underpants, and at least 6 undershirts. You will be doing a bit less laundry by the time I’m done with you, so they need to have enough underwear to survive the gap, including if for some reason you are sick and can’t get it done, the power goes out, or some other disaster.
Just go ahead and go through those drawers. If something is out of season, take it out. Ask yourself if you have seen each item on a person in the past two weeks. If the answer is no, give it away or put it in a box to try on the next kid. Maybe it’s too small, too big, or he just doesn’t like it. It’s hard to accept that last one, but there it is. Just get it out of your life, at least for now.
Fewer outer clothes, more under clothes. That’s the beginning of the path of laundry wisdom, according to moi.
If you need a more in-depth discussion of this aspect of the laundry, without pictures, check out my Worksheet I.