I stretched my fingers to the back of the drawer, searching for just one pair of clean underwear, just enough to make it through the day with a shred of dignity. Finding one corner empty, I cringed and swept my hand over the back of the drawer in desperation. I brushed the tips of my fingers against a crumpled ball of fabric hanging over the lip of the back of the drawer. I pulled back my hand in relief, only to find a pair of the stretchy mesh maternity panties, which I had received from the hospital after giving birth to my son. If my son had been a little younger, these would have felt totally acceptable. But, considering that my son was nearing his second birthday, these wouldn’t have been first choice. Thankful to, at the very least be able to say I was wearing clean panties, I shrugged and put them on anyway. Quickly, I opened another drawer and grabbed the least raggedy pair of yoga pants and pulled them up and over the panties. I had to tuck the panties back in around the waistband, as the unsightly mesh extended several inches above the pants. No one needed to know but me.
I sighed and looked over at the mountain of dirty laundry in the corner of the room. Though I had at least managed to corral the weeks old dirty clothes in one section of the room, the mound of crumpled jeans, PJs, t-shirts, socks, and underwear were cascading up and over the sides of my over-sized laundry basket, in an evident volcano of my own inadequacy. Actually, it was a little difficult to tell there was even a basket hidden within the pile.
Several months later, I can look back on this moment and laugh, but that’s not how I felt then. Other mothers told me that the adjustment from one to two children was hard, but that I would regain my ability to function and have things figured out by my second child’s first birthday; however, my youngest was twenty-one months old and, most of the time, I still felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. As I went about my day, caring for two kids under three, each time I had to readjust the endlessly bunching mesh underwear, the shame of my failures of domesticity sang out in the back of mind. I couldn’t live like this anymore; it was time to make a change.
After trying several different methods to keep up with laundry, a friend reminded me of a method she used. A method I had actually used when I was on maternity leave with my first baby, but had completely forgotten about (mom brain lasts a lot longer after the second baby). When I tried this method the first time, it was out of boredom not necessity. I had needed something to do during the long hours of the day when the baby slept. This time, I decided to try it again out of desperation and it actually worked! Here is how I went from wearing mesh maternity panties to an empty laundry basket every day:
Say Goodbye to Perfection. Stop Separating!
I realized that my problem with laundry (and with a lot of other things, too) was an unrealistic desire for perfection. The level of perfection I hoped to achieve was unobtainable, so I’d gave up and l let things slide. In order to preserve the expensive clothes I had purchased before we spent most of our income on diapers and “I didn’t have time to make dinner, again” take-out, I was deeply committed to separating my laundry into multiple categories. I separated laundry into whites, lights, darks, delicates, sheets, towels, and more. In separating laundry this way, I had to let the laundry pile up for several days to get enough for each load; however, when I started washing everything together, I found that loads would build up more quickly and I could wash much sooner. I haven’t had any problems with colors bleeding. If I buy anything red, I wash it once on its own before I start mixing it in. Delicates are the only things I continue to separate out to wash once a week.
Switch to a free and clear detergent.
I also used to wash our clothes separately from the kids’ clothes, because I used special baby detergent for my kids’ sensitive skin. My husband didn’t appreciate smelling like a baby at work, so I’d separated our clothes and wash them in a nice smelling regular detergent. By switching to a detergent free of scents and dyes, I can wash our clothes together. If you miss the smell, you can add a few drops of essential oils to some wool dryer balls in the last 10 minutes of your dryer cycle, but most days I skip this step.
Wash one load every day – get an early start!
Before I go to bed every night I gather all of the laundry from the day, throw it in the washer, and add detergent without starting the machine. When I wake up, my laundry is ready to start. I only need to push a button and I have already accomplished something before breakfast! If I’m spending the day at home, I move the wet clothes to the dryer as soon as they are finished. If I will be out and about that day, I put the clothes in the dryer as soon as I get home. I would like to say I immediately fold everything as soon as they come out of the dryer, but that doesn’t always happen. Some days they get folded right away, other days they sit in a pile on my bed until after the kids are asleep. Remember, we are saying goodbye to perfection, a few wrinkles are better than not having clean clothes!
Schedule a few things.
For things like sheets and linens or extras that don’t fit in with the regular load, I have found that it is best to still stick to a schedule. For me, that schedule is: kitchen rags and doormats Wednesdays, my sheets on Thursdays (I can usually squeeze crib and toddler bed sheets in with that load), comforters every other Thursday, and delicates on Fridays. Everything else usually fits into the regular load.
I give myself a break when I need to
So, I do one load a day, with a few exceptions. If I have a crazy busy weekend, an illness, or just need a day off, I let a load slide here and there. I catch up with an extra load the next day or skip my additions of kid’s bedding or towels and just do all clothes that day. My family and my sanity are still more important than an empty laundry basket.
This is the method that works for me. It may not work for everyone, but if you are struggling with laundry, I encourage you to give it a try!