By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
I walked into the laundry room and stopped short – as if someone had slapped my face upon entry.
“Who did this?” I glared at the white laundry basket stuffed full of clothes sitting in front of the dryer. I turned and bellowed the angry question downstairs, so the guilty party could hear it. “WHO.DID.THIS?”
By my location and the tone of my voice, Tom and the kids could tell exactly what “this” I was yelling about. In our house, there are only a few rules I’m strict about. Number 1: Don’t open the door to strangers. Number 2: Don’t call your brother or sister a bad name. And Number 3: Don’t ever take shirts out of the dryer and stuff them into a laundry basket.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: “If the clothes in the dryer aren’t warm, turn the dryer back on and tumble the clothes for five minutes. Then take them out and hang up the shirts immediately while they’re still warm.” When the rule gets ignored and clean shirts or khaki pants get stuffed into laundry baskets, they come out looking so wrinkled that they might as well be dirty. Then the vicious cycle starts all over again.
No one in this house scores points for “helping” with the laundry if their idea of helping is to cram clean clothes into a laundry basket where they languish for days on end. I’ve structured my entire life around avoiding the need to use the iron, and I’m not about to change it now.
I remember the first time our family played Monopoly, one of the kids held up the game token shaped like an iron and said, “What’s this?” That’s how serious I am about not ironing – so serious that my kids couldn’t even identify an iron in a line-up of common household objects.
Perhaps my standards are lower than they should be, but I don’t see the point in ironing when five minutes on the warm tumbling cycle can do an adequate job. If the shirt I’m wearing can’t be tumbled, I’ll hang it in the steamy bathroom while I’m taking a hot shower. If that won’t do the trick, I’m wearing a different shirt. I’ve got no time or patience for high-maintenance laundry. That’s what dry cleaners are for.
Thankfully, our dryer has one of those “wrinkle prevention” settings, which tumbles the clothes periodically even after the cycle has ended. I am such a chronic clothes tumbler that sometimes I wonder how many thousands of times any given shirt has spent being tossed to and fro in the dryer.
One morning last week, our 15-year-old son came downstairs for breakfast wearing one of his school uniform shirts. I noticed that the sleeves suddenly looked like more of a three-quarter length. Of course, the shortened sleeves might mean the kid has had a recent growth spurt. But a part of me wonders if it might be a result of one too many trips through the extra tumbling cycle.
(Can extra tumbling make jeans feel too small in the waist? Because that has happened to me and Tom a few times, too. We’d like to blame the dryer and not carbohydrates, if possible.)
But back to the scene of the laundry crime. I never did find out who crammed clean clothes into a wrinkled mess that day. When I questioned the suspects, none of them had any recollection of having abandoned the laundry load. Isn’t that a convenient lapse in memory? It made me consider installing video surveillance by the dryer just so I can catch the cramming culprit in the act.
I know there are some people who love ironing and find it peaceful and almost Zen-like. My sister-in-law irons her sheets, and I have a friend who used to iron her socks. Perhaps for some people, ironing is a metaphorical experience that helps them smooth out the worries in their head while they transform a wrinkled mess into the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.
To those people let me say this: I’ve got a laundry basket full of wrinkles, and you’re welcome to tackle it any time. Hold the starch.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com.