Saturday, November 04, 2006

I don’t know but I’ve been told...Now it’s time to sort and fold

My last post was a bit too confessional for my own personal comfort. Perhaps the internet is not the place to admit parenting breakdowns or air dirty laundry. I think I’ll stick to safer topics for a while. How about clean laundry?

We had a laundry bee last night. The laundry bee is a time-honored tradition in our house and dreaded by all participants (who do not fall for the cheery name as they know they will be conscripted into service against their will – or rather given the choice to help or go naked). We ought to call it Laundry Boot Camp and bark out drill-sergeant commands:

“You call that pathetic lump a folded shirt, Private Ethan? Drop and give me 20 sock matches!”

“Sir, yes sir!”

In case you’re looking for more ways to torment and/or instill the value of hard work in your children you may want to try hosting a laundry bee at your house. You’ll know it’s time for one when the stack of clean clothes in the laundry room reaches the height of the three youngest children, combined, or when your kids are wearing sandals in November because their sock drawers have been empty for a week, whichever comes last. All household members are enlisted to transfer the piles of clothes to Mom and Dad’s bed and commence sorting, folding and stacking. Whining is not tolerated, and parental lecture #47, “It’s time you all carried your share of the load around here,” can be played and replayed as necessary.

There are reasons why we dump the laundry on our bed. First, the bed provides the largest flat space in the house on which to sort and fold. Secondly, Ken and I know we will have no place to sleep until everything has been put away – thus ensuring we will “stay the course” until the task is complete. (This is assuming we resist the temptation, when we get tired halfway through, to transfer the remaining clothes back into baskets that will sit at the foot of our bed for another week and create a narrow gauntlet to whack knees on and tip over while fumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night.)

Last night’s laundry bee was a huge success, meaning we now all have full drawers and an empty laundry room. By the end, the kids were laughing and creating mountains (complete with highly realistic avalanche sound effects) with the socks. Along with the fresh smell of fabric softener that lingers on my bed, the evening’s efforts produced a few new laundry-related observations.

First of all, I must admit that my 6-month-old daughter is a clothes horse. Seriously, her wardrobe could belong to Paris Hilton. A miniature Paris anyway. When Nora was born – after 3 boys – people went completely crazy with gifts. Thanks to the generosity of friends, neighbors, Ken’s co-workers and two of my siblings who are done having children and happy to give away boxes of clothes, Nora can go weeks without wearing the same outfit twice. This is made all the more ridiculous by Nora’s apparent distain for fashion. What does she care? It’s all drool fodder to her.

In a related phenomenon, after years of domination by the denim, khaki and baby blue color families, we now have a glut of pinkage. Honestly, the fuchsia glow from Nora’s closet rivals the Barbie aisle at Target.

You know all those fabulous clothes I bought last year when I reached an all-decade low in weight exactly one week before I got pregnant? You know that brilliant strategy of keeping those skinny clothes in my closet to inspire me to lose the bazillion (approximately) pounds I gained with the baby? Yah, well let me be the first to say: THAT STRATEGY REEKS.

When one sock in a pair has a hole in it, I have no problem tossing it in the garbage. Why then do I have such a hard time throwing the other one away? “But it’s perfectly fine,” I reason, “It has no hole and is still wearable.” Yeah, by whom? The one-legged guy that lives in our house?

In a case of perfect timing, I happened to be looking through a book of Millet paintings yesterday and came across this one of “laundresses” at the river. Just looking at them makes my back ache. I think if we had to wash our clothes like this, we’d own a lot fewer clothes.


The Lazy Organizer said...

We have Folding Parties at my house where everyone gets to help with the towels. We all fight over the big ones.

Don't throw those unmatched socks away! Put them in a bag to save for camping next summer. When you get home from the mountains with your filthy unmatched socks you can toss them.

Bernita said...

I use the socks-with-a-hole for a one time dust mitten - and then I toss it; but I have the same problem. Have this little permanent pile of lonely socks.

Radioactive Jam said...

This is yet another reason why all my socks are identical.

"Laundry bee." I love it.

Kimberly said...

Drool fodder...hee hee!

Julie said...

You're just full of great ideas. Maybe you should start a website where you give people tips on being more organized. Or something ;)

Another great one. We'll have to follow the laundry party with a dusting party.

Most of my kids' socks all look alike for exactly this reason. But mine are the problem (I'm not crazy about the fashion appeal of all those Hanes-white-with-grey-heel ones).

I sense I've struck a chord here. Maybe I should post regularly about socks.

I'm not kidding. She's an olympic drooler and spitter. The kids call her Mount Nora.

Ruth said...

Love the idea of family laundry night. I was reading the results of a thirty year study completed in the US recently (can't find the link at the moment) that looked at predictors of success as adults. The number one predictor of succes, out weighing socio-economic background, IQ and parental education levels was... having chores to do at home...there's
something about having responsibilty and decision making that really benefits kids.

The Lazy Organizer said...

I have a problem don't I. You can pay me back by leaving art links in my comments.

Julie said...

Thanks, I think I really really love that study. I'll have to quote it often when my kids complain about chores. "You're going to thank me later for this!" ought to impress them.