Sometimes motherhood feels like I’m on a carousel of ever-revolving chores that don’t stop.
Make a meal, clean up after the meal.
Wash the clothes, dry the clothes, sort the clothes, fold the clothes, put the clothes away.
(Don’t even talk to me about ironing . . .)
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
I want to get off the chores carousel, but if I don’t do the chores, who will? The piles of dirty dishes and clothes will only grow and grow.
So, mamas, as the expression declares, I’ve decided to “work smarter and not harder.”
Several months ago, I read a blog post that changed the way I thought about laundry. Something clicked as the author described where all her clean laundry goes to die: her laundry basket, which she aptly described as clothes purgatory.
I thought, “I have that clothes basket at my house too!”
Her solution was to get rid of the laundry basket. With no basket, clean clothes would have to go directly to their homes.
I was in the middle of moving when I first read about the purgatory clothes basket, so I couldn’t implement the author’s method. However, once we were settled in Omaha, I rethought my laundry dilemma.
At the time, I was reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits. One tip stuck out as I thought about my laundry dilemma. He wrote that if you reduce the steps in a habit, you will more likely accomplish that habit. In other words, he wrote, “Make it easy.”
Suddenly, I knew what would ease my laundry routine. Instead of getting rid of my laundry baskets, I distributed one basket to each family member’s room. By washing each family member’s clothes individually, I would cut down on what I disliked the most: sorting.
What I dislike about this stage is how long it takes to fold and hang each family member’s clothes, and then I still need to go to each closet to put away the clothes. If I omitted this step, I could streamline the process by folding and hanging clothes directly into that family member’s closet.
Then I really started to dream. As my kids get older, I can imagine throwing clean clothes on their beds, and then they could take care of putting away their own clothes.
So my routine became what follows:
One load of laundry, including the washing and putting away (no sorting!), each day. (Sometimes two loads if I got ambitious!) I laundered each family member’s clothes once a week (my husband got two baskets, therefore two days, one for lights and the other for darks). Each family member had two towels, one that was clean and used, the other in the laundry ready to be washed.
If someone had an urgent need to wash a pair of socks for tomorrow’s meeting (my husband), I could sneak in a pair of socks in whatever load I was doing.
And when I had completed all the clothes, it was easy to throw in some dirty towels or bed linens.
Will this routine work for any household?
Probably not. My kids are no longer in the infant stage where you need to do laundry every other hour, nor are they old enough to do their own laundry.
However, the same strategy could apply to any family’s laundry dilemma: You don’t have to do laundry the way you always have! Think outside the laundry basket and implement James Clear’s strategy of “make it easy.”
Purpose in the Mundane
One day I asked my mom, who always seemed to enjoy cleaning and laundry, why she loved it so much. She laughed and said she had asked her mom the same question when she was a little girl. My grandma had seven kids, and I’m sure the washing machine never took a break in that household! My mom told me the secret that her mom had told her, the secret to appreciating the ever-rotating carousel of chores:
“I don’t do the laundry because I love doing the laundry. I do it because I love seeing my family in clean clothes, and I love that I can contribute in that way.”
Am I passionate about doing laundry?
(But I am SO GRATEFUL for modern washing machines and the opportunity to have one in my house.)
Do I enjoy taking care of my family?
Will I start ironing?
But if I can find ways to make chores easier for me in this “taking-care-of-my-family” chore carousel, I will.