Tell me, how does your laundry grow?

I don’t want to alarm you or anything, but surely you’ve noticed
that dirty clothes are taking over the world and no one seems to be
putting up a fuss over it.
I don’t want to alarm you or anything, but surely you’ve noticed that dirty clothes are taking over the world and no one seems to be putting up a fuss over it.

If you don’t believe me, take a look around my house. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry hamper and slowly making their way down the hall into the guest bedroom. And, on top of that there are the strays: lost socks found stuffed in the sofa cushions, a shoelace buried in the planter box, a lone mitten found suspiciously frozen in the vegetable crisper behind the lettuce. Tell me just how do you explain THAT?

Now it may seem to some of you that odd forces are at work here. Others of you may blame it on shoddy housekeeping. Me, I think that it just proves my theory: as soon as you turn your back, laundry multiplies. And not only that, it disperses itself throughout the house so you won’t catch on.

Admit it, way back before children entered the equation, you got along fine doing your laundry once, maybe twice a week. But now that you have kids you have piles and piles of laundry everywhere you look. How could your life have taken such an awful turn, you ask?

No one really knows. But I think it has something to do with how many times a day children insist in changing their clothes.

At my house the latest estimate is 37. And that’s conservative. Back when my daughter was 3 years old, she wore around 368 different outfits each day. She’d be sitting in at the table eating toast and cereal, then suddenly slam her spoon and announce that it was time for her to wear something yellow. So I’d rush upstairs to help her change just so she’d be happy for five, maybe 10, nanoseconds before announcing that she needed to wear something “red” or “green” or a color that made her feel “perky.” This went on and on until she either found the right outfit with just enough je ne sais quoi, or until she eventually lost steam and took a nap. Usually, the latter.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to control the amount of laundry loose in my house.

During one desperate moment, I invented the Five-Minute Laundry Rule.

“From now on,” I said firmly, “everyone in this house must wear a piece of clothing for at least five minutes before it officially qualifies as ‘dirty’.”

However, once the shock wore off, this only led to all sorts of discussions like what, exactly, is the dictionary’s definition of dirty, whether or not 300 seconds really does equal five minutes, and what if you only wear your snow hat for two minutes, is it possible to add those onto your scarf or maybe your knit sweater set, or is that cheating?

Next, I tried a more visual approach by telling them no clothing is to put in the hamper unless it has a stain. Which was then followed up with a 10-minute question and answer period that went something like:

Me: A stain is a spot that’s two inches in diameter and mostly likely either red, green, yellow or brown.

My 7-year-old son: Can it be purple or blue?

Me: Yes, well, sometimes.

My 10year-old daughter: What about spit? Does that count?”

Me: Well, that’s not technically a stain.

7-year-old: But what if I just ate a red Popsicle and then spit onto my t-shirt?

Me: Well, I think …

10-year-old: And what if we get an orange stain that’s four inches long?

7-year-old: Or a one-inch green one?

10-year-old: Or what about a brown spot that looks like a stegosaurus? What then?

Me: Don’t get smart.

Now, I could change my bad attitude and be more like my friend Shirley.

“Oh, I don’t mind doing laundry,” she said to me one day over coffee, “because I just love my washing machine.”

She lowered her voice and leaned towards me. “It’s the first one I’ve found that’s powerful enough to get my white clothes clean, yet gentle enough for my hand washables.”

She sighed wistfully.

But, let‚s face it, most of us don’t have the time or energy to build this kind of a relationship with our appliances.

Me, the most I can hope for is reaching the bottom of the laundry hamper. Either that, or the invention of disposable clothes.

Granted, it’s not much to hold on to, but sometimes with laundry, it’s all you’ve got.

Debbie Farmer is a humorist and mother holding down the fort in California. Readers can reach Debbie at her web site,