Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgThe more I look at the schedule I made for myself yesterday, the more certain I am that there is no way that is all going to happen. I want to make it the full 100 days with this project, and one week of that schedule would send me screaming away from my blog. So I've decided to take Hala's advice and focus, at least for this first week, on the recommended daily cleaning tasks.

None of the books I've looked at so far have assigned certain tasks to given days of the week, the 1941 volume does recall a time not long ago when it was a contest to see whose laundry was on the line the earliest on Monday. (Interestingly, the book goes on to say Tuesday is a more sensible choice for laundry, as to not combine it with the leftover chores from Sunday's day of rest that accumulate on Monday.) Curious about why laundry should specifically be done on Monday, I did a little Googling. The New Homemaker explains that "Laundry was far and away the heaviest task a housewife faced, requiring a great deal of strength and fortitude to hand-wring clothes and carry big baskets of wet laundry to the clothesline from the basement washtubs. Monday was the day to do it, when you were still fresh and rested from Sunday." That makes good sense. The other days follow from laundry on Monday (i.e. ironing on Tuesday, mending on Wednesday, etc.).

I tend to do laundry on weekends, but I'm not married to that practice, it's just when things tend to happen. In the spirit of this project, I have no issue with making Monday "Laundry Day."

So how to begin? "America's Housekeeping Book" devotes a whole chapter, pages 261-271, to "Washing Methods," then goes on with chapters on "Ironing Procedures," "Special Laundering Problems," "Professional Laundering and Dry Cleaning," and "Spots and Stains." In total, laundry covers pages 255-325. This is daunting to me, as laundry has always seemed like a fairly easy task. Sort the clothes, throw them in the machine, try to remember to go back in 45 minutes to put them in the dryer. Try not to dry anything that's going to shrink in the dryer, and fold and put the clothes away sometime before they get permanent wrinkles.

The book, on the other hand, lays out the following steps for laundry:


  1. Sorting (including separation by both color and fabric type, as well as by soil level if necessary, and mending and rips and tears

  2. Soaking (which should apparently be done to all laundry?)

  3. Washing (instructions are given for a wringer washing machine or by hand with a washboard)

  4. Rinsing (again, by hand or in a wringer washer)

  5. Blueing (to correct the yellow tinge in white clothes and linens)

  6. Bleaching (for white cottons and linens)

  7. Starching (the book warns that "haphazard methods of making starch are almost as disastrous as haphazard methods of making a cake," so apparently we should all be very careful with our starch)

  8. Drying (as done on a clothesline)

  9. Sprinkling (which should apparently be done if clothes are completely dry before being removed from the line, before they are ironed)

Clearly, some of the difference between my way and the way spelled out in the book are due to changes in technology--I have an electric washer and dryer. Some of them are due to some combination of laziness and preference--I don't think I've ever even seen blueing or starch, though I suppose some people must use them. The basic steps laid out haven't changed, though. When I do my laundry, I should be sorting, soaking as necessary, washing, drying, and putting away, with things that need ironing set aside for that task.

Does it surprise you at all to know that's not really what happens at my house? To illustrate, I went around this morning and took some pictures of the current state of laundry at my house:

On my kitchen counter, there are two baskets of laundry, both laundered last week. One is of sheets and blankets and everything in it is folded. The other is of kitchen towels and cloth napkins and nothing in it is folded.

In my bedroom, there is an overflowing laundry basket full of both Mark's and my clothing laundry:

In my office/walk-in closet, there is an overflowing basket of clean laundry, washed and folded last weekend that I have yet to put away:

In the dryer, there is a load of clothes that I washed, dried, and forgot about at some point mid-week:

Clearly, help is needed! I begin by sorting the laundry that I know needs to be done. I decide to start with linens, so here you see two down alternative comforters, two duvet covers, and a basket of sheets and pillow cases. The photo also shows a basket of things that need to be taken to the dry cleaner for professional cleaning, which has been sitting in that spot on the bedroom floor for at least a month. Addressing that will be a task for this week as well.

After starting the machine for the first comforter, I catch up on the things that should have been done already--putting away the three baskets of clean laundry from mid-week. I also re-run the dryer with the load from mid-week in it, after discovering that it was not left damp and doesn't need to be re-washed, just de-wrinkled.

Nine hours later, I have two clean comforters, a clean duvet cover, and a duvet cover in the dryer. I also still have a basket of sheets and two of clothing laundry yet to do. Even with the modern conveniences of washing machine and dryer, and a family consisting of only two human members, I still couldn't get all the wash done on "Wash Day." Sure, I could tell you I worked for pay all day as well, so I ran out of time, which I did, but in truth, I just wasn't organized and didn't stay on top of switching the loads in and out like I was supposed to. The only thing I can say to my credit is that I did put away all the clean-but-not-put-away laundry I had hanging around, and change the sheets and blankets on our bed. Which is, I guess, better than nothing.

9 Comments

OK, so yes, I'm obsessively following this project.

(I also use both starch and bluing, though, so I obviously have a mental illness.)

I'm a SAHM, and there's only 3 people in our household, and I would go absolutely nuts trying to do all the wash in one day. I do at least one load a day, and it still gets piled up in the corner of the bedroom - clean, but not put away.

Also, now that you are living in Va., every good Southern woman has a pot of red beans on the stove on Monday laundry day! :)

Laundry is the bane of my existence. I have 5 people in my house and I can literally do 10 loads of laundry in once day and still have 5 more to do. No matter what I do I always have more waiting. We need to get rid of more clothes it seems to be the only solution.

Maybe a new definition of dirty would help. Like, some clothing could be worn more than one time before being considered dirty.

Was laundry day overwhelming because you were hitting up a backlog of "shoulda done this" laundry, like things that only need washing twice a year?

Did you use an alarm clock for the wash/dry cycles?

Hey Grace, I would like to make a suggestion for a possible side project with regard to laundry, purely for selfish reasons. See, I picked up an idea from my Israeli relatives, all of whom (for obvious reasons) don't use dryers to dry their clothes. Everyone over there uses clothlines (not that they don't have dryers, just that they hardly use them unless they need to). After my last trip there, I started wondering if I could try and dry my clothes on the line as much as possible in order to save electricity, since my apartment has the worlds worst, most inefficient dryer. I haven't actually tried to get an estimate of the actual amount of money that I and my roommate spend on electricity to power our dryer, but I suspect that it's a lot. After some searching, I finally found a fold-up gadget in a catalog that allows for hanging clothes in apartments, like mine, that don't have a balcony to dry on. But what I'm specifically interested in is how much money, approximately, a person could save by not using their dryer for, say, a week or a month. Do you feel like, perhaps, doing a trial run of this experiment with me, and we can compare notes?

Hello, I found you through chookooloonks who reads something that you commented on. Now for my comment:

My mom still uses bluette (comes in a bright blue bottle) for her whites. When I was a kid in Jamaica it came in a cake of astonishing blue color. It makes your whites whiter, is all. Used in a moderate amount it basically undoes the dingy-ing process that all white clothes seem to go through despite all the bleach in the world.

I also have a vague memory of someone making starch for clothes. It was made from shredded bitter cassava in my area. Your pressed clothes never looked so straight! Nowadays most middle class Jamaicans have washing machines at least.

I should try to buy some bluette. My husband and I are ashamed of our whites.

Sounds like you have been reading the same books I have. I would like to make a suggestion that really works for my family, but then we lave a sizable laundry room, my house was built in 1927. I have three regular tall laundry baskets and one little one under the laundry shoot. When ever I am down there, the school room adjoins it, I sort the laundry into one of the three bins, then when it comes time to do laundry part of the work is already done.

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