It lurks in your basement, it's a dirty job - but someone's got to do it, right?
MONDAY morning, the alarm just went off, and it's time to face the most burning issue of the day. We're not talking nuclear deterrence, environmental protection, or even equal rights here. We're talking laundry - as in, Do I have anything clean to wear?Skip to next paragraph
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``Laundry is one of those things that's urgent, but not important,'' says organizing consultant Alice Shepherd. ``At the end of your life, you don't want to look back and say, `I've really accomplished something, I did 100,000 loads of laundry.' But still, everyone wants a clean shirt in the morning,'' she explains.
The lack of clean laundry is one of those dirty little secrets of the 1980s. With more women employed away from the washer/dryer, doing the laundry has become ``more of a catch-as-catch-can thing,'' says Mildred Gallik of the Soap and Detergent Association.
``We know that more children and teen-agers, and even occasionally husbands, are doing the laundry these days,'' she says. ``And products are catering to people with less time - mixing the fabric softener in with the detergent, for instance.''
But owning a box of The Compleat Detergent isn't, let's face it, the same as getting the laundry done. For that, you need a system.
``Oh, sure I have a system,'' says one frazzled mother, who refuses to be named. ``I wait until everyone is out of everything, and then I gather about 20 loads and run three. Then we will pick it off the laundry table for awhile until people start complaining, and I run three more. I haven't seen the top of my laundry table in five years,'' she laments.
``Laundry needs to be sorted into small jobs,'' says Ms. Shepherd. ``And the good news is that this is a major area [a parent] to unload responsibility. Even small children can do some parts of the laundry cycle.''
She's not just talking about the get-the-clothes-dirty portion, either. Young children can gather at least their own part of the laundry, help sort things into light and dark piles, and put away their own clothes, she thinks.
And school-aged children can learn to run the machines. ``We think anyone who can read can do the laundry,'' says Peggy Jones, co-author with sister Pam Young of ``Sidetracked Home Executives.''
How often you start the laundry cycle depends on the size of your family and the way you work best. The experts recommend that it be done on a regular basis so you'll remember it - start a load every morning before leaving for work, say, or every evening before going to bed. Or do it every Tuesday while you watch your favorite shows, or every time you pay your bills.
``Doing the laundry can sound ominous,'' says Shepherd. ``It's easier if you fit it in with some other work you're doing near the washing machine. Nobody wants to be chained to a machine.''
Here are the experts' tips for running the whole cycle:
Gathering. In her book ``Mother's Almanac,'' Marguerite Kelly suggests that each child have a laundry basket in his or her closet. When it fills up, she runs the clothes through the machines and then hands them back to the child in the same basket, for the child to fold and put away. ``That way, it never has to be sorted,'' she writes.
That's the idea; the reality may be a little different. ``It behooves you to check the drawers of a child or a teen periodically to find the thing they thought could still be worn because it was still in one piece,'' says Shepherd. ``But I would just announce, `I plan to do the laundry today; if you want anything washed, bring it out.'''
Peggy Jones and Pam Young say they pick up those clothes that are left overnight on the floor in a trail behind a disrobing child, soak them in the sink, and then stick them in the freezer.
``That way,'' says Ms. Jones, ``when your daughter comes to you a week later and says, `Have you seen my hockey socks?', you can say, `Yes, I found them in the hall,' and pull them out of the freezer.''