Friday, May 03, 2013

I Rock Laundry (Part 1)

There was a time when we didn't do much laundry.  We had no children and a wonderful woman named Leticia came once every two weeks to clean our house and she did a lot of the laundry. These days, we generate a lot of dirty laundry and no one to come and do it for us.

My friend mentioned that laundry is her nemesis and linked to a Lifehacker article that I felt was quite disappointing, I thought I should write one myself.  So welcome to part 1.  I guess it's only fitting, considering the two posts where I take the washing machine apart to fix a design flaw are the most read posts on my blog.

So here's my take on rocking the laundry.  But first, to answer the question I get asked a lot: "James, you do the laundry?" That's an easy one.  It's easy, it gets me out of some other unpleasant chores, and it frees Lori up to do other chores.  I do have caveat, though - that when my daughter starts wearing the kind of underwear I wish my wife would wear, that when I officially hand over the reins. I remember Bill Engval mentioning in one of his comedy routines about show her a pair of underwear and making a leering face and making suggestive comments and congratulating his wife on her new underwear only to be told it was his daughter's underwear.  So, yeah...

Because I love wringing efficiency out of a process, I feel like I've got it down to almost a science and I had read that same article a few weeks ago and thought "boy, they missed a bunch of stuff."

This is important: Chunk Up the Process

Laundry has multiple steps.  Taken together, it's one massive chore.  Broken into individual steps, it's not as daunting, it feels more productive when you complete, and you can recruit other family members for individual steps.

Step 1: Collection

We have two short square baskets.  One in our bedroom, one in our children's bathroom.  These are clearly labeled (so they get back to the right places).

While dirty laundry may occasionally end up somewhere other than the basket (example: we're changing the little one's diaper and getting him ready for bed, we may temporary throw the laundry out of his room into the hall), we know where the baskets are, so anyone can grab the dirty laundry and with little effort get it to one of the baskets.

I also toss in hangers when I know I'm putting on something that I know I'm going to later toss in the wash.

Step 2: Sorting

This is a task I've largely been able to outsource.  Our washing machine and dryer sit on pedestals containing drawers.  I could never figure out what to store in those drawers until I realized they were perfect for dirty laundry.  So, go get the label maker out again and now there's one for darks and greens, one for lights and blues and one for pinks and purples.   The fourth bin has Dryel Home Dry Cleaning packets, dryer sheets and a few other things.   We've eliminated most dry clean and iron items, but not entirely.

It's not an exact science, but before I got married and for as long as I could get away with it after getting married (before Leticia), I would wash everything in a single load.  But I guess pre-sorting by color is not just Lori's OCD but a best practice for not having clothes that are all the same shade of gray.

This is now one of my daughter's "Must Dos" - one of the 10 or so items she needs to do each day to earn 50 cents and the right to do more lucrative "May Dos"

Socks (which everyone bundles when they take them off and throw them in the baskets) get dumped on the floor in front of their appropriate bin.

Step 3: Sock Ringing

My mom used these growing up and I'm so glad because I'm not sure I ever would have heard about them otherwise and these are what make laundry tolerable.  These are small rubber rings.  You take a pair of socks and you push them through the ring about 1/3 of the way.  They grip the socks and go through the washer and dryer keeping the socks as a pair.

They last a long time and we have one color for each family member. And yes, there are actually five colors here and we are a family of four, but that's a sad asterisk I don't go into here but if you've read this blog, you probably already know.  Moving on.

So, yeah, putting the rings on the socks are their own step.  If they don't have a ring, they don't go in the machine.  Buy your own at  (I am not paid to endorse, not even a referral fee.)

Step 4: Running a Load

The day I learned how to use the "custom program" button on our washing machine was a good day. There are a lot of buttons on our machine that are unnecessary for everyday loads and the launch sequence meant it was impossible to get Rachel to help by running a load.  True, she can't reach the soap and she lacks the strength to open the door when it's closed, but if I put in soap and leave the door open (good for letting the machine air out anyhow), she can run a load without remembering some elaborate launch code.

I've also been teaching Ben to help me load and empty the machines - ah, the joy of front loading.

My laundry-as-a-nemesis's husband is an electrical engineer and programmer and he and I had talked once about building a wireless display so I could having something in the kitchen that showed me how much longer the washing machine had left.  That was before iPhones - now I can just set a timer on my phone, especially since I figured out the custom wash and now know it says it'll take an hour and actually takes about 1 hour and 8 minutes to run a load.

If your machine has it - and is far enough from your bedrooms - use the Scheduling/Delay Start Option.  Then a load can run while you're sleeping.  In the morning, shortly after you get up, another alarm on your phone can chime and remind you to get it moved to the dryer.  I also use this technique as a way to prevent snoozing my wake-up alarm, the notion that another alarm's just going to ring shortly anyhow, so I might as well get up.


Tomorrow, I'll cover the other four or five parts to laundry, including the flaws that still exist in my system, why we own so many baskets, things I no longer fold and why if you come on a non-"Guest Expected" day you'll find clean laundry in weird places around our house.  Continue to part 2 >>>

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