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When I was growing up, laundry was serious business. Stains were attacked with a vengeance, clothing was washed mercilessly in scalding water, and my father’s shirts and handkerchiefs were starched until they nearly stood up by themselves. Even the pillowcases were pressed until they were smooth as paper.
My mother knew all the tricks. Freshly washed clothes were stored in a pillowcase (this was before plastic trash bags, mind you) so they would be uniformly damp, ready for a blistering hot iron to melt out every last wrinkle. Others were sprinkled, then steamed, and before I was ten, I was expertly weaving the iron in between the buttons of shirts and placing proper creases in the sleeves.
Today laundry is easier. Many fabrics require no ironing and washing machines offer a myriad of temperatures and spin cycles. However, dirt and grime have not accepted modernization and seem to accumulate without regard to technical advances. Yep, every week laundry must be done. And it gets tedious.
So I’m going to offer Meridian Magazine readers my Top 5 Tips for making it easier to tackle this unending chore, and thus improve your family life:
- Involve your children. Years ago a friend said to me, “If you can read, you can do laundry.” The brilliance of that struck me immediately, and I taught my children, from a very young age, to do their own laundry—including the folding and putting away of clean clothes. Let’s face it, today’s kids are so electronically savvy that a kindergartner could tutor her grandparents in cell phone and computer use. If kids can do that, they can easily navigate the buttons on a washer and dryer.
- Train everyone to stop putting perfectly clean clothes in the hamper. This is a lazy trick some try, rather than hanging things up. But it costs money to run the machines, and money to replace clothes that have undergone wear and tear in the washing process.
- If you have a large family, parents can assign a day and a time to each person. Keep in mind the best times when your local utility company offers discounts for running appliances. This also prevents quarrels between two kids who both need a vital piece of clothing NOW, and they both insist they should be first.
- Teach the best way to get clothes really clean. Talk about pre-treating stains, separating dark and light colors, using cold water vs. hot water, and resisting the urge to pack the machine so full that clothes have no room to swish around. Show kids that if you turn clothes inside out, the “right side” won’t sustain as much abuse, and will look new longer. Have them safety pin their socks together so one won’t get lost. Help them with bleach if it’s needed, making sure it mixes with the water before you add clothing.
- And here’s the best way to get over the mundane repetition: Think about the Sacrament. Every single week we get the amazing chance to wash ourselves clean–as clean as we were on our baptism day. Incredible! Just as with laundry, we prepare. We go through a routine that has several steps: There’s a song, there are prayers, there is passing of the emblems of Christ’s body and blood, and there is the partaking. There is also the opportunity to close our eyes, to pray, to repent, to pledge our devotion again, to draw closer to God than we may have felt all week. If done right, we can feel sparkling clean and ready for the new week ahead.
Doing laundry can be “doing laundry.” Or it can be a reminder that we are cleansing the outer vessel, just as we cleanse the inner vessel when we partake of the Sacrament. Like other household duties, we can remember that we do all this to keep family life in order and running smoothly. This isn’t just a menial job; this is something that sustains our loved ones. We can consecrate this task to God, and do it to the best of our ability. We can make it mean something.
As a little girl, I felt confidence as I learned to master ironing. I knew my mother (obviously, today that message can come from both moms and dads) cared about the details of this assignment, so I cared, too. It was something important, something that meant I was part of running a home. Of course she could have ironed much better and faster, but at the time I felt I was doing something vital.
We also set the example for our children as we model for them the seriousness of taking the Sacrament. By showing them how much we look forward to it, how truly we concentrate on it, and how much it means to us, they learn to value that weekly ordinance for themselves as well. Instead of seeing it as rote or routine, children straighten up in their seats. They concentrate. They know this is one of their family’s values. Yes, it can become repetitive. Or, if done correctly, it can become so much more.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.