The great unwashed

Our washing machine died a bit ago. A replacement is on order. Unfortunately, the replacement is not available for immediate installation. Our clothes make a visit to the laundromat once a week but with five people — including a baby and a newly potty-trained 3-year-old — the sheer volume of stuff to be washed can get pretty incredible.

So I’ve been playing offense on reducing it. Kids can sleep in the same pajamas multiple nights in a row. They can also sleep in any clothes that are soft enough. I’ve been wearing the same light jacket around the house. Jeans can be worn multiple days, as, frankly, can any other kid clothes that look clean enough. I wear the same clothes for multiple runs. Sure, they smell, but they’ll just smell more a few miles in. Towels can get re-used. My husband is traveling this week and has been advised not to bring dirty clothes home — he should use the hotel laundry service the day before leaving.

With these strategies in place, the pile is not down to zero. But it is smaller than it would be otherwise. Which means that our household laundry requires fewer loads at the laundromat, and less folding and putting away.

As I ponder how I spend my time, I’m continually struck by just how elastic many categories of human activities turn out to be. When I’m busy at work, I read less. When I’m enamored with something time-consuming (like watching the Olympics) I spend less time on work, exercise and sleep. Housework is also endlessly elastic. Until you run out of that last pair of underwear, you don’t have to do laundry. This is all as much about preference as anything else, and while one could do laundry every day (as this schedule suggests) there are also other ways to approach this problem.

How do you keep laundry under control?

In other news:

We’re having that home problem where everything breaks and goes wrong at the same time. Our basement furnace needs to be repaired. The basement toilet overflowed and it turns out the valve’s broken on it (we discovered this after the 3-year-old attempted to go potty by himself and didn’t quite make it, then stuffed a lot of toilet paper into the toilet). There’s the laundry bit, above, and I’m getting increasingly angry as I’m staring out my back window as our backdoor neighbor just decided to cut down all the vines/shrubs on his side of the fence, making my backyard much less private. So now I either have to stare at his house while I’m working, or I’ll have to shell out big bucks for landscaping to recreate privacy on my side of the fence.

Have you ever had multiple things go wrong at a house simultaneously?

Photo courtesy flickr user Sunfox

22 thoughts on “The great unwashed

  1. We always use towel multiple times…otherwise I’d do a ton of laundry! Sometimes we wear jeans for two days, and my kids wear their pjs for a number of days before we wash them.

    I’m so sorry your washer broke-I hate being without mine. Fortunately, the last two times it’s broken, we’ve been able to fix it, which is great (it’s an older machine, and my parts guy tells me it’s way better quality than the new ones.)

    1. @Kristen – thanks. It’s been ok so far, if annoying. The repairman came to look at our old one and kind of laughed. I think the people who had the house before us must have taken theirs with and the realtor put a cheap model in to sell it or some such. This version breaks all the time. But we’re getting a much better one so all good!

  2. Laura, I can empathize with your no-working-washer situation. At my apartment complex, the only two washers are in another building in an alley, and it’s not safe to do laundry after dark. I also play offense by reusing T-shirts to sleep in and exercise clothes. AND last week, when I had to do extra laundry b/c of the change in weather (sweaters, sweatshirts) plus deadlines and work and you posted about laundry service, I used the fluff & fold for the first time. It was expensive but worth it, b/c I think it saved me from getting a cold. I took care of my delicates with my manual countertop washer and salad spinner (10 minutes).

    And like you, I’ve been using the laundromat away from my place on the weekends, because there will be enough washers and Saturdays I’m more likely to have a 2/3 hours block of time. But yesterday, instead of carrying laundry down the hill, I parked my car near the laundry room at my complex with my laundry & detergent in the trunk. So when I get off the bus today after work, I’ll start the laundry before it gets dark. I hope this will work! Good luck with your laundry.

  3. Well, lately we’ve been doing a lot of laundry, but when things aren’t so frequently covered in cheese and other liquidy substances they tend to be reused rather than washed right away. Tomorrow we’re talking cloth diapers, so exactly the opposite end of the laundry/disposable spectrum. (Remember doc brown being disappointed 1985 didn’t have disposable underwear?)

    DH fixed our clothes washer and dishwasher last time they broke (and they broke in rapid succession… it never does rain but it pours, eh?)

    1. @NicoleandMaggie – oh, everything is breaking. Turns out the useful life of a lot of major appliances is 10-15 years. Our house was built in 2000, so everything is breaking right on schedule. An interesting thing to ponder — if one is better off buying a house that is 20 years old vs. 10, because almost everything will have been replaced in the 20-year-old house relatively recently.

      1. In my understanding the cost of the new water heaters, roof etc. is priced into the house (the real estate agents point out relatively new appliances specially). So it just depends on how much your hassle and time value compares to the average person’s.

        1. @N&M – perhaps. In general the market works, though there was some definite frothiness up and down over last few years that obscured rational pricing. When we had someone in here looking at the furnace he informed us we did not have a high end model. He said this while looking at the granite countertops and huffed that “everyone says ‘wow, great counters’ – no one says ‘wow, great furnace!'”

  4. Oh, the joy of home ownership.

    And on the 3 year old and toilet paper problem, I recommend double rolls and not mega rolls- has saved me lots of rerolling with the one of my 3 who STILL unrolls the toilet paper.

  5. Well, my jeans don’t generally get washed until they can practically walk on their own…
    I joke, but only slightly. I wear bottoms many times before washing, unless I spill something on them. My kids tend to make anything they wear filthy, so their stuff gets washed every time. My stuff, not so much.
    We do our laundry on Saturday mornings- the kids get at least one of us up so early that we can get through at least two loads before we’re ready to go do anything. We actually complicate things by hanging stuff on the line instead of going straight into a dryer. But it still isn’t too terrible- at least not now that we figured out my husband doesn’t mind shuffling things through the washer and I don’t mind folding.

  6. I feel like I do laundry constantly!! I have two kids and the laundry basket (s) are never empty. I do at least one load a day but it’s not enough.
    the NUMBER ONE thing I will look for next time I buy a washer is a short cycle option. The one I have now does not have this, and each cycle takes 1,5 hours. So I can’t get it done that fast. Very annoying.

    1. @Sarah- I remember an ad once for a washing machine that took like 18 minutes. I don’t know anything else about it, but that struck me as a “wow” kind of breakthrough. To me, the most annoying part is sorting, folding and putting away.

      1. Laura, me too. I especially hate putting laundry (and dishes) away. I don’t really mind the other part. My kids are old enough that I can make them put theirs away (sometimes). But I wish I could pay someone to put mine away (and still somehow know where it is afterwards!)

        1. You can! Hire a high school student to do light chores and make laundry folding and putting away one of them. Our mother’s helpers put away dishes, but not laundry. It only takes a little supervision up front to show them where things go.

        2. @Karen- I have this thought about the dishwasher. I would love if someone would magically appear after the cycle finishes to empty it. But since my office is right next to the kitchen, the person who magically appears most frequently is…me, getting a snack.

  7. How can it be that you of all people do not send out your laundry to wash-dry-fold? I cannot tell you how much work it saves us. The big difference between the people at the laundromat and me is that they take the stuff out of the dryer immediately and fold nicely. No wrinkles!

    The people do mine actually make an effort to sort the laundry by owner. They mix some things up, but it isn’t bad. I get out 5 laundry baskets on Wed night when the laundry comes back and can sort it into the 5 baskets in 10 minutes.

    All this, for $30/week!

    Before we tried wash-dry-fold, we had a laundry disaster like yours, and I actually really found that I liked taking stuff to the laundromat. I would just bring some work and stake out 4 machines at once (something you can’t do at home) and take the stuff out and fold it immediately. (Easier to do with 4 machines at once than processing laundry in serial throughout the day).

    That all being said, I don’t send the sheets and towels to wash-dry-fold. They are no effort to fold and I don’t care if they wrinkle in the dryer. That’s how it only comes out to about $30/week.

    1. @Judy- It’s part of outsourcing cleaning around here, usually. But if we don’t have a functioning machine, no one can do it here, so someone has to take it to the laundromat.

    2. Only $30/week…hmmm. I gotta look into this. May be worth it to save the hassle of wrinkled clothes. Our w/d are in the basement, so sometimes we just can’t get to it until much later. And we don’t have that feature in which the dryer occasionally spins to keep the wrinkles out.

  8. Oh, there is no laundry service that picks up and delivers? I have found it is actually cheaper to have the laundry service do it than have the cleaning person do it. In part because the laundry service has that bank of machines and can do it all side by side!

    1. There must be one– even our little town has one. They have a cute truck and everything. It’s called “Door to door laundry” or something like that and I frequently see them leave large packages and things on hangers on people’s front porches in my neighborhood. I used to wish I had them for drycleaning (which their van says they also do), but since then I’ve been careful not to buy clothing that requires dry cleaning.

  9. We are a young couple but our washing machine is small and our dryer is way slower than the washing machine. I calculated it on time and it would take me more than 2 hours to get rid of a load (adding the folding)

    Some of the things that I did to save time were reusing clothes that could be reused (hanging them at night allows ventilation to help with that), buying more socks (we ran out of them really fast), buying a portable hanger so I could hang some wet clothes to dry in the bathroom while another load was at the dryer, and so on…

    I’m still coming up with new things.

    1. @Angie- buying enough socks and underwear is key. That tends to be the limiting factor on how long one can go between loads. As long as there’s clean underwear, you’re good, but when you run out, things get dicey.

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