Coming clean: Confessions of a laundry room czar

April 21, 2001|By Rob Kasper

OF ALL THE battles you fight in your the life, the one for control of your laundry room is of primary importance.

Throughout history, sages have commented on the significance of having clean clothes and a smooth-running laundry room operation.

There is for instance, that ancient but often misreported quote from Lao-tzu's laundress: "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with clean socks."

There is the overlooked rejoinder from the wife of noted football coach Red Sanders: "Winning isn't everything, there is also washing, drying and spot-removing."

And there is the observation attributed to Mark Twain that "Clean clothes make the man, especially wrinkle-free shirts."

These are some of the bits of wisdom I have quoted recently during my long and difficult campaign to restore order to my family's laundry room. The campaign is not going well. But as a wise laundress once said: "The journey of a thousand miles begins ..." Never mind.

I confess I was late to appreciate the vital role laundry plays in life. Being of the male persuasion, I went through a long stretch of my life believing that clean laundry simply appears in your bedroom, somehow having made the journey from the closet floor to the washing machine and back.

However, some time ago, when clean clothes stopped appearing in my bedroom, I began making forays to the laundry room.

Right away I saw that things needed to be changed. Mounds of clothes dominated the landscape. Some were clean, some were not, and some were undecided. It was the lumpenproletariat of laundry. Order needed to be restored.

Steps were taken. Each family member was assigned a plastic milk crate. A nametag was attached to each crate and clean laundry, fresh from the dryer, was tossed into each appropriately labeled container. Persons seeking clean clothes were directed to the milk crates.

Strict zoning laws, posted on the laundry room walls, went into effect. There would be no illegal dumping of dirty clothes on top of the washer and dryer. Soiled clothes should be deposited in or near the hamper.

And, the tops of the washer and dryer were declared Open Spaces. Nothing could take up residence there. Clean laundry could temporarily park there, but only while it was in the process of being sorted and tossed into the milk crates. There would be no exceptions. Violators would end up in the rag bag.

Instead of embracing this improved laundry system, members of my family scoffed at it.

"Dad is getting weird about the laundry," our younger son reported to his older brother during the older boy's weekend visit from college. I also heard a reference to the "Laundry Room Nazi" tossed in my direction.

Despite criticism, I have remained vigilant, and over the past few weeks, I have detected several deviations from efficient laundry room practices. Two weeks ago, for example, a blue tie was stuffed into the pocket of a pair of khaki pants. The pants, which had been washed and dried, emerged without harm. But the tie suffered irreparable damage and had to be put down.

In a brief family meeting, I pointed out that this incident reflected a fundamental breakdown in check-the-pockets procedures. No one listened.

This week, there was another breakdown. Another tie, this time a red one, ended up in the pocket of another pair of school pants. This time the pants shared the washer with the white pants of a baseball uniform. The red tie bled. The baseball pants turned pink. The pants had to be washed several times to make them an acceptable hue to wear on game day.

The pink-pants incident has, I think, weakened the opposition to my new rules. I look forward to the day when the forces of order, justice and good laundry procedures prevail not just in our linens, but also in our hearts.

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