Today is laundry day. And as I wash and dry and fold I think of my new online friend, fellow stay-at-home dad and writer Scott Benner.
Here’s Scott taking about his book, his family, and his bête noire on Perspective New Jersey.
There is so much more to this book than laundry, but watching the interview got me thinking about some of similarities and differences between our respective eternal struggles. First the similarity. Both of us face Sisyphean tasks, for “laundry is indeed eternal.”
But individual circumstances produce some differences. First, here are some ways I have it better, starting with . . .
Fewer Loads. In his book, Scott estimates he does fifteen loads of laundry a week. FIFTEEN! I usually do four, sometimes five. So what’s the difference? I have smaller family–only one child instead of two–I have a girl instead of a boy (boys get dirtier on average) and my daughter’s not into sports yet so I don’t have to deal with dirty or muddy uniforms. My wife works for a company whose image is based around casual dress, and I work from home, so jeans and t-shirts are the daily dress code around our house. Ironically, the seven-year-old is the only one in the house who doesn’t wear jeans. Plus I can do fewer loads because I do larger loads, thanks to . . .
Bigger Machines. Laundry room washers and driers can handle a lot more clothes. I remember laundry day at my parents house. It took a whole day to get through a hamper of dirty clothes with one little washer and one little drier. The machines at our apartment aren’t quite laundromat-sized, but they’re bigger than all but the most expensive washer/drier combos. And laundry goes faster for me as well because I have access to . . .
More Machines. Our old townhouse had a washer and drier installed. It was upstairs, and I appreciate the value of an upstairs laundry room. But it still took most of the day to do laundry. Now with access to up to five sets of washers and driers, I can run everything at once. Two hours total from start to finish and the laundry is done. And once it’s back in the bedroom, I have another advantage . . .
Less Folding. In his book, and the above interview, Scott describes folding as the worst part of laundry. But due to a combination of more casual dress, and a similar view of laundry between my wife and I, folding isn’t the same burden for me. I hang up shirts and pants. As for underwear, socks, and pajamas, who cares if they’re wrinkled? No one outside your house ever sees them. So my folding is limited to towels.
But as Job said “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Here are some ways in which I have it worse, starting with . . .
Stairs. We live in an upstairs apartment. The laundry room is downstairs. Getting the bags down is easy. I use what I call “the freight elevator”—that is, I throw them over the balcony. But thanks to gravity, “the freight
elevator” only works one way. I get to haul those bags up the stairs, and after four years of hauling them week after week, I am convinced that clean laundry weighs more than dirty laundry. Especially when I carry the bags up wet steps, thanks to the . . .
Weather. It’s raining today. I live in Oregon, so it rains most days I do laundry. I can’t wait for it to stop so I haul laundry in the rain. Upstairs. Not fun. But worse still is forgetting the . . .
Quarters. One way or another, you pay to wash and dry clothes. Detergent no matter what. Water and electricity if you own the machines. Quarters if you don’t. In the last four years, I have learned to value quarters far above their monetary worth. I save them. I horde them. Because once you’ve put four quarters in a machine and it’s waiting for the fifth and your pocket is empty, at that moment you would trade almost anything for that last quarter. I hate counting quarters. Almost as much as I hate . . .
Sharing. I shouldn’t hate sharing. It’s a good thing. We teach our kids to share. Our school teach them. Our churches too. Sharing is good. It’s generous. It’s the right thing to do. But when it comes to washers and driers, I hate to share. I hate to have to get up and get the laundry together early enough to beat someone else down there. I hate feeling good about getting a machine first and I hate feeling bad about getting beat. Most of all, I hate it when someone leaves their clothes in a machine that I’ve been waiting to use. I resist the urge to pull them out right away. I also resist the urge to throw the clothes out the window. Then I remind myself “do unto others” and I take the high road and wait. But it’s not easy.
Laundry isn’t easy. It’s tedious. It never ends. And someone has to do it. As Scott said, I’m the one that’s home, so it falls to me. That’s okay. We all have our responsibilities. We’re all counted on to do our part for the most important people on our lives.
Laundry isn’t the only tedious chore. Taking out the trash, doing the dishes, and vacuuming are others that get on my nerves at times. How about you? What household chore would you give up if you could? Which one are you planning on delegating to the kids as soon as possible in return for allowance money? And are there any you like and would keep? (Mine would be cooking, by the way.)