Mary Beth Writes

I did cleaning and laundry this morning. My fav (not) part is moving stuff from the second floor to the first floor to the basement and then back. Because who doesn’t love a Stairmaster with a dirty bathroom at one end and half-done laundry at the other?

Long ago (and far away) I read an article where the author interviewed many 1950’s and 60’s graduates of Wellesley College. Many of the women had gone on to brilliant careers. (Looking at you, Hillary).  One of the questions for these illustrious women was “What surprised you the most about adult life?”

Many of these movers and shakers answered, “Who knew there would be so much laundry?”

I often put laundry on my to-do list without clearly considering how much time it will take. Carrying it around the house, starting it, moving it, hanging some, carrying again, folding, putting away… Laundry is NOT a quick chore. Yet like many housekeeping activities it’s invisible if you do it and only noticeable if you don’t.

So here we are at home nearly all the time and no one else is writing about laundry during quarantine. So I thought I would.

  • One of the early things to go when money is tight is a laundromat. What is happening in hard-pressed families who do their laundry that way?
  • When I was young and between paychecks I would sometimes do my laundry via the bathtub. It’s hard work. Rinsing soapy stuff is a bear, hanging things to dry in a place not set up for that is stressful. And after you get it all hung around, there’s no place to sit.
  • One of the chores put off to another day when one is working from home, helping kids to their schoolwork at home, cooking from home, ordering most of what the family needs (at new websites one needs to figure out) from home – is keeping up with laundry.  So I suspect there are baskets of laundry piling up these days. For those who notice and care, this is more stress.

 To which I have this to say.

Our economy is in freefall. All sorts of gloomy-doomers are saying our only hope is to sacrifice the oldsters and vulnerable so that everybody else can go back to their jobs right now no matter what.

That kind of thinking works well enough if what you care about most is preserving the infrastructure of your old rich life. And you don’t lose anyone to this disease. Good luck with that.

Can we be more imaginative. Can we think outside of the damned old box?

Laundry is one of those places we can START to reinvent an economy that supports modern families.  Everyone needs their towels washed. Our beds need clean sheets. We need clean underwear and clean clothes.  All of this is about being healthy and functional.

So why does modern society not value and then create systems for doing all laundry? In the ‘Old, Old West’ cowboys could leave their dirty clothes at someone’s house and pick it up the next day. My grandmother took in shirts to wash and iron during the Great Depression. My mom took our sheets and towels to a downtown laundry when I was a kid. I still remember picking up the clean stuff which was in a “brown paper package wrapped up with string.”  (First time I heard that Sound of Music line I thought Julie Andrews was singing about clean laundry.) There is no reason laundry has to be done in-house by one person who puts it on her to-do list as if it’s a 10-minute job when it’s not.

Doing the family laundry is ripe for change. We can make it cheaper than $1500-worth of appliances every five years. Community laundry can be MUCH more ecological than millions and millions of plastic bottles of somewhat dubious chemicals. When the minimum wage becomes $15 and health care is not tied to employment – boom, here is an industry that can get up and going pretty quickly, bringing many workers along with it. And freeing many more people to do the other things their families and jobs need them to do.

There’s a problem right here, under our noses, smelling stale.

There’s a solution right there, too, and its just fresh, clean laundry.

...

Oh, and one more thing.

 

Comments

When my now husband first started courting me, many long years ago, I was a single mother, with 3 young children. It was not always easy to find a free moment to “court”. One of the first presents he gave me was a gift certificate for months of drop off laundry service at the nearby laundromat, possibly one of the most romantic gifts I have ever received!
Mary Beth's picture

Yep, that would do it for romantic gestures. How would one ever leave a partner who also thinks about the laundry!!

I just picked up my laundry from the cleaners on Friday, I don't enjoy doing it so I'd rather pay someone else to deal with it... Some stuff I take over to George's and wash and dry it when I do his sheets every other week thus saving time and money while creating a full load...
Mary Beth's picture

So that's why your shirts are always crisp...

A couple of comments- first, this is one house chore that I don't mind because I have the equipment here, and recently got a first floor laundry room, which is wonderful! I can see results, it's mostly hands-off work, and smells good, at the end. I hang it outside in my yard when I can, for several reasons. I guess I appreciate what I have as far as laundry facilities because I have done laundromats, bathtubs, winter-time stuff hanging all over the house, and all of that. I even did diapers via toilet-rinse/wringer washer/clotheslines on my porch, which was better than other alternatives I had at the time! I work at a COVID-19 hotline at a government agency, and we have gotten several calls about "how am I supposed to do laundry?" It seems like people would be able to figure it out, but, people are pretty stressed. One lady wanted us to "force the cleaners to clean the slipcovers the dog pooped on" after they refused. She said it was mandatory because it was an essential service. Last, I met my husband via an apartment building laundry room!
Mary Beth's picture

Wow! You have strong and interesting laundry stories! I did cloth diapers, too, but I had the washer/dryer in the basement and it wasn't harder than any other laundry. And zowie - the $ saved was incredible. You have a front seat on this coronavirus. And the more frightened and stressed people are - generally the less imaginative. It must be sometimes exhausting to try to help people who are scared and unrealistic.

Now that it’s only for me...I just wish the genie would take care of my bed: take the sheets off, wash/dry/reassemble! I got paid to do laundry...though it was fabric samples: as a textile tech at the Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco in the 1970s, we all took turns washing and drying all fabric samples to ensure standards were met. Still not my favorite chore! When we moved to the USA my mother ironed for several families so she could make some money and still be home to half my sister and me with our adjustment to a new language and country.

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I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

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