Today we're dealing with one of the most mundane chores of modern life: laundry. Everyone needs clothing washed periodically, especially young kids whose primary idea of fun is seeing how much mud and grass they can get onto their clothes in the least amount of time, or older kids whose occupations involve large amounts of dirt, sawdust, cement, and other assorted substances.
The mound of soiled laundry at our house is affectionately referred to as "Mt. Telianappolis," and for good reason. Climbing Mt. Telianappolis is a constant test of stamina and will. Battling valiantly through an avalanche of soiled jeans, dirty jumpers, and smelly socks, the laundry sorter organizes the chaos by color and weight into wicker baskets. That's the hard part.
From there, everyone processes their assigned loads: from the basket to the washer (don't forget to "check the pockets"), from the washer to the dryer (don't forget to "shake the jeans"), from the dryer back to the basket, from the basket to the couch (to be folded), and from the couch to the appropriate bedrooms.
Knowing what is what and whose is whose at our house requires a Ph.d. in laundrology. Reading size tags on jeans, noting miniscule differences in sock design, and developing a detailed knowledge of your siblings' wardrobes are all part of the art. Sometimes certain loads are assigned to certain people because they're the only ones who have memorized the article ownership, and yes, that includes underwear.
This all may sound like a perfectly well-oiled machine, and it usually is. Sometimes, however, the evil laundry monster rears his ugly head, and a pair of shorts or a fleece pullover mysteriously disappears. The process of recovering such an item can take weeks. Sometimes it's buried deep in the bowels of the laundry sorter. Sometimes it winds up in your neighbour's closet or chest-of-drawers. Sometimes it winds up on the pile for Goodwill in the garage (true story!).
My favorite load was always "towels." One, they're nobody's, so you don't have to worry about that. Two, they're nice simple geometric shapes - squares and rectangles - so they're a breeze to fold. (I still can't fold T-shirts "tight" - and "fitted sheets" are an absolute nightmare, even with a partner. And why for heaven's sake do we always have to fold the stupid thing in "thirds"??)
Our laundry system is rather like the Postal Service in that it provides consistent service but very unpredictable results. Depending on when you put your clothes into the central hamper it can take anywhere from several hours to a week or more. The average tends to be about two or three days: if you need it faster you may need to do it yourself.
Because our house is two stories, with the bedrooms upstairs and the laundry facilities downstairs, Dad designed a "laundry chute" that is truly an engineering marvel. Essentially, it's a curved piece of melamine in an upstairs cabinet that directs soiled clothing through a hole in the downstairs ceiling into the laundry cabinet, with a very satisfying whooshing sound. Genius.
The only drawback to the laundry chute is that it occasionally gets "clogged." Depending on the severity of the "clog," you can generally ram the clothes through with your foot. Other times you have to get down on your hands and knees and fish everything out piece by piece in order to clear the blockage, which is quite exasperating, but you always feel very noble and heroic afterwards, so it's worth it.
(Common-sense etiquette requires that you ensure your clothing sails completely through the chute without getting jammed. If you clog it, you clear it - just like a toilet. However, not everyone abides by the code and it's not always easy to enforce.)
In a big family, you can make scandals and celebrations out of almost anything - even dirty clothes.
Image courtesy of campus-cleaners.com