Summer Laundry: The Season has Begun

I write this at 9.15 in the morning on Wednesday. This is important information, believe it or not.

Normally, my week starts with Laundry Day. Monday is Laundry Day. There are usually two or three loads of laundry done that day, washed, dried, folded, and put away, ideally by 2.30 p.m. Some weeks, I have a second, smaller Laundry Day toward the end of the week, on Thursday or Friday, but it’s not written in stone. It depends on how vigorously active the household has been. How much of a mess have I made in the kitchen, such that we really need more towels washed? How big a mess did my daughter make of herself when she ate spaghetti and meatballs for dinner? Did my husband spill pan sauce on his shirt and pants when he offered to help out on Wednesday night?

So it pays to be flexible, when thinking about laundry.

I did laundry two days ago, on Monday. I thought we were set for the week. But somehow, between Monday and right now, Wednesday morning, the laundry basket — which is tall and capacious — became utterly filled with clothes that needed washing. So when I got home this morning, after taking my daughter to school, I took a look and started sorting. Sure enough, there’s a big load of whites and a big load of darks accumulated, and the situation isn’t going to improve any if I let things sit for a couple of days. I turned on the washing machine and threw in a load of whites. Then I went downstairs and took the leftover coffee and instead of heating it up in the microwave, I added some coffee ice cubes, milk, and sugar, and made the first iced coffee of the season. I am now sitting on our balcony, drinking iced coffee and listening to the washing machine, wondering, “How is it we already have so much laundry and it’s only Wednesday?”

It took me about two sips of iced coffee to realize: we’ve hit Summer Laundry Mode.

People with children will probably know, immediately, what I mean. Because a normal person would think that laundry rotations would stay constant throughout the year. You only wear so many socks, so many pants, so many shirts in the space of a week, unless you’re someone like Michelle Obama or Madonna, whose costume changes I imagine happen pretty much hourly. But the reality, even for non-celebrity types like us, is fluid and usually seasonal in its ebb and flow. In wintertime, one does less laundry than in the summertime, because children play outdoors less and the clothes do not require as much laundering as a result. (I suppose if you allow painting in your house, or other types of messy childish fun, this axiom will not hold; but since I am a Wholesome Play Fascist, who does not permit painting in the house, it works for me.) It’s true that wet, snowy clothes have to be laundered, especially if they get kind of muddy in the course of events — a common occurrence during New England winters — but in general, a pair of jeans can be worn numerous times by a child before it has to be washed. Shirts can be worn more than once, because they are hidden under sweaters, and so don’t get dirty on first wearing. And sweaters, unless doused in something gross, can be worn many, many times between launderings (though you do have to remember to not put wool sweaters in the dryer, which is a nuisance). In other words, the big things get numerous wears before washing, and what accumulates in the basket is little stuff: my daughter’s underwear and socks. The grownups’ under wear and socks. And those don’t take up a lot of space in the laundry basket, though they do add up.

But come fine weather, it’s another story. That’s when the child plays outside all the time. She tumbles in the grass outside; she goes digging in the sandbox at the playground; she climbs trees; she crawls through hedges looking for the praying mantis that she saw go hide in there. She eats ice cream and gets some on her shirt. All this, plus the usual paint smear from a school art project and, of course, the traditional spaghetti and meatball stains. It means that every day involves at least one shirt or dress, and sometimes two, and on a really hectic day (there might be birthday party to dress up for) maybe three different ensembles. This morning, for example, she put on a dress to wear to school and then went downstairs to eat breakfast: peanut butter on toast. When I stepped out of the shower, she was standing there telling me a complicated story about something I don’t even remember; what I do remember is I looked at her and said, “What’s that crud on your dress?” She looked down and said, “Peanut butter.” I said, “Go change your dress. You can’t wear it to school. You’ll get near some kid with a peanut allergy and they’ll have to go to the hospital because you made them sick.” So that was one dress already rendered unfit for wear before 8 a.m. today.

In fairness, come nice weather, grownups create more laundry too. We sweat through our clothes as we walk to work, as we schlep the groceries home, as we ride the bus and accidentally sit down in something, I don’t even want to know what, that was on the bus seat. Our clothes often cannot be worn twice either. Not if we want to maintain cordial relations with anyone, anyhow. My husband’s jogging clothes must be frequently laundered, or I’ll have to abandon ship entirely. And other things get added to the laundry pile more frequently in the summer, big things: the blankets and cloths we use when we go on picnics, those get laundered after use, because I’m skeeved out by the idea of not laundering them (ticks! general filth! yuck!). Organizing a summer picnic is one of the few activities that all three of us view as hugely entertaining. So it’s not like I’m going to say, “I’m sick of laundering blankets: no more picnics!” And those of you who are saying, “well, why do you need to have a picnic blanket anyhow? Who cares, can’t you sit on the grass?” — I don’t want to have a picnic with you. We like it this way; we believe in it; we think the picnic is almost an art form; and if we can’t do it right, we’re not going to do it at all. And we have to do it, because we just do. So don’t give me tsuris. Just believe me when I say: it’s more laundry.

Complicating matters further: we occasionally (ok, frequently) go to a swimming pool in the summertime and last summer I learned that it was not good enough to have two bathing suits for the child, two bathing suits for me, and one towel per person. We all have to have multiples of these things, because I cannot keep up with the laundry if we don’t have multiples. It is not fun to put on a rinsed-out-maybe-but-still-distinctly-wet bathing suit. You have to plan ahead. I now have three bathing suits, my daughter has five, and I think we need one more beach towel for me to really feel like we’ve got all the bases covered. Even so, I know I am going to spend the summer doing laundry every 36 hours or so. (My husband also needs another bathing suit, but I am not permitted to try to solve this problem for him, so he’ll just have to suffer with his wet bathing suit all summer long.)

So I’ve got a long summer ahead of me. There will be some summer camp sessions (guaranteed to produce a high laundry count), and lots of picnics, and a lot of bathing suits. There will be a lot of ice cream making, even more ice cream consuming, and somewhat less in the way of spaghetti and meatballs, but more in the way of messy tomato sandwiches. Fortunately, I am capable of planning ahead. I will buy extra laundry detergent the next time it’s on sale. I’ll be ready. Today, however, I’ll just do these two small loads of laundry. Since I got an early start on it, I’ll be done by 2.30. As my daughter says, Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

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