For quite a few years now, at the house by the Parkway, I have been the Laundry Guy. Given the assumption that domestic chores should be shared (I sound like a regular Alan Farookin’ Alda here), I chose doing the laundry as my main contribution to the domestic enterprise.
While I don’t think that anyone can truly like doing laundry, I do find a certain peace and satisfaction in the essentially solitary process that begins with a single pile of dirty clothes, sheets and towels and ends with a laundry basket or two filled with clean, folded clothes, sheets and towels. Maybe it’s one of those “Zen” things.
Scoff if you will, but I would remind you that being a Laundry Guy is not something just any damned fool can be. For example, being a Laundry Guy is not at all like being a congressman or a senator, because to be a real Laundry Guy, you have to know what you are doing.
Sorting. This is one of the parts of the process that requires experience and some thought. I usually have five categories into which things are classified and sorted. They are:
Wait a minute. That’s six categories. OK, so I do laundry better than I count.
Sorting towels and sheets is a no-brainer, because “towels” and “sheets” are the categories, except when the towels and sheets are white, in which case they could be classified as “whites.” But loading white sheets and white towels into the washing machine with the rest of the “whites” would be too big a load, so it is best to keep towels and sheets in separate categories. See? I told you that this requires some thought.
Next easiest to categorize are “whites.” This category is comprised of things that are (drum roll, please) … white. It consists mainly of underwear (mine) and white socks – lots of white sox.
“Delicates” are almost always girlie things, which mostly consist of some form of underwear. Sorting “delicates” can sometimes be tricky, particularly in the case of some pajamas, which I am often tempted to toss in with the colors. I never do, though, because they just seem to belong with the delicates and not with grungy tee shirts. Being the Laundry Guy, I have broad discretion in making these kinds of decisions.
The toughest category is “other.” Sorting things in this category usually requires reading labels, which invariably advise that a particular garment should be washed alone, or in cold water, or on Tuesdays only. If one were to assiduously follow those instructions, doing laundry would take about 40 hours per week and would consume enough water to fill the Great Lake. Sub-categorization is key here. Sweaters, for example, can be gathered up and all washed at one time (cold water, of course). Drying them can be tricky, however, because the dryer can mean death to some sweaters.
Washing. I usually wash “colors” first (again, in cold water, of course), as this category contains jeans and tee shirts that I want to wear again right away. They are not my nicest tee shirts (in fact, a few are downright crummy looking), but they are hang-around-the-house shirts that are the most comfortable and, therefore, the ones I like the best.
Probably my favorite things to wash are “whites.” That’s because, unlike the things that have to be washed in cold water so the colors won’t fade, or things that must be washed “gently,” whites are washed with a vengeance. I set the machine to deliver lava-hot water to which I add detergent and bleach, creating a steam that smells like some serious laundering is going on, which it is.
Drying. Fortunately, most things can go into the dryer. There are, of course, a few items that have to be hung on the indoor clothesline in the basement, and still a few others (fancy schmancy sweaters) that must be dried flat on one of those flat, mesh things. I use one of those little fabric softener towelette things (e.g. Bounce) in each load, although I’m not sure why. I think they might reduce the propensity for clothes from the dryer to produce what the advertisers dubbed “static cling,” but I’ve never been enough of an adventurer to try drying stuff without using one of those little towellette things.
Folding. This is the part of the process that requires a considerable amount of skill. Some people (most often college kids, I think) take things from the dryer and toss them into a drawer “as is.” This is unacceptable. A good Laundry Guy can and does fold. I have tee shirt and towel folding down to a science, creating uniform piles of each. I also have underwear folding (his and hers) wired.
Before folding can commence, the clothes (or towels, or sheets) should be warmed up in the dryer for a couple minutes. This makes them more foldable, and, besides, there are few things nicer than taking warm towels out of the dryer in a cold basement. It is at this point in the process where one often has to deal with socks making up a portion of the things that just came out of the dryer.
Sock Matching. As I come across socks, I toss them into a nearby empty laundry basket to be dealt with after everything else is folded. Only then can the process of sock matching begin. This can be challenging, particularly when all the socks look alike at a distance, but, when seen up close, they are all quite different. I lay them all out on top of the dryer and begin by pairing up the easy ones. (e.g. the gold toes, the “Champion” white socks, etc.) Once the easy ones are out of the way, the task of matching like socks becomes less difficult.
Occasionally, at the end of the matching process, one still comes up with an extra sock, its brother/sister having been lost in the Sock Phantom Zone. I put these outliers aside, and more often than not, the prodigal socks show up in a future load. This was not the case, however, when daughter lived at home and 75% of her socks went forever unmatched, leaving me to ponder the statistical probability of such a thing happening by chance.
Although I consider myself to be a Laundry Guy extraordinaire, I have encountered a couple of vexing problems:
The Gordian Bra-Knot. The first problem is the tendency of brassieres to find one another in the washing machine and to entangle themselves one another and with everything else in the wash, thereby rendering a dozen separate garments into one large, ugly Gordian Bra-Knot that requires the patience of Job to untangle. For some time, I was convinced that this python-like characteristic of bras was simply the nature of the beast and that the aggravation of undoing bra-knots was my to be my fate. However, I have since learned that hooking those babies before they hit the water just about completely solves the problem. And, I figured that out all by myself. A good Laundry Guy always brings common sense into the laundry room.
The Ultimate Unfoldable. Unfortunately, try as I might, I have been completely (and I mean completely) unable to solve the second problem. In fact, I wonder whether anyone has solved the second problem, and that is the problem of neatly folding queen-sized fitted sheets. I have tried countless techniques, but I invariably end up with an unsightly, largely unfolded jumble. I camouflage my shortcomings in this department by hiding the mess under the flat sheet, which, fortunately, is very foldable. In fact, I challenge any one person, without a parachute packer’s table, to neatly fold one of those babies.
I am a Laundry Guy. A Laundry Guy, I am.
If the law business or the music business craps out, I’ll be OK, because I figure that lots of people can use a good Laundry Guy.