Of all the chores in the house, laundry is far and away the worst. It’s not like a bathroom: You clean it and it stays clean for a few days. It’s not like dishes: You wash them and you are done until the next meal. There is no “done” when it comes to laundry. I almost always have laundry somewhere in the cycle: waiting to be washed, in the dryer waiting to be dried, hung on the line waiting to be ironed, in a basket waiting to be put away, or, my personal favorite, thrown on a kid’s bedroom floor waiting to be walked on until it’s dirty again.
I make it a goal to have all laundry done—washed, dried, and put away—before each of the shalosh regalim. Early this past erev Pesach, I was pulling the last load of laundry out of the dryer. Everything else was washed and put away. I felt such a deep sense of relief and excitement . . . and then I heard the swoosh of dirty laundry sliding down the laundry chute. Sigh.
I often get insight into or inspiration for other home tasks from a shiur, but I’ve been waiting for months and nothing has come my way when it comes to laundry. I googled “laundry motivation” and wound up with a video of someone doing their laundry (I am not kidding) and an article with no good advice. I tried searching for “laundry inspiration,” but all I saw were guides to remodeling your laundry room (literally the last place in my house I would spend money remodeling) and links to sites that sell laundry-room wall decals, which is just more plastic I am trying to avoid.
Certainly, Judaism has plenty to say about laundry: what counts as laundering when it comes to Shabbos (soaking, scrubbing, and wringing out), plus the ins and outs of not doing (but sometimes doing) laundry on Rosh Chodesh, Chol HaMoed, and during the Three Weeks. Important stuff, but nothing that would send me running to the laundry room with a new spiritual charge for this chore.
That hasn’t stopped me from making changes in my laundry habits—specifically, the laundry products we buy. While there are many zero-waste laundry products out there (Dropps and Sheets Laundry Club are two examples), for the amount of laundry we do for a family of five, the cost of these products would be astronomical. Instead, we transitioned away from liquid laundry detergent. (We started with liquid detergent in a plastic bottle and then moved to buying plastic refill pouches.) For the moment, I’ve settled on Tide powder in a cardboard box. The only downside has been that occasionally items come out of the washer with Tide streaks on then, so they have to be washed a second time. But except for the small plastic handle, Tide’s packaging is recyclable or compostable. (If I find the rewashing becomes a problem, I’ll likely switch to Tide’s liquid in its “ecobox” packaging. It’s one box with a plastic inner bag that washes as many loads as three bottles. It’s concentrated, so it contains 30 percent less water, and the outer box is recyclable cardboard. Seeking out products that come in reduced, recyclable, and or recycled packaging is a great and easy way to reduce your ecological footprint.)
Sidenote: So much of low-waste living involves thinking creatively, looking at old habits in a new light. For me, that is an endlessly inspiring and rewarding exercise, a way to see all the possibilities HaShem built into the world. But sometimes the breakthrough is more mundane, such as a simple change from buying plastic containers to choosing cardboard. It’s not thrilling, but it gets the job done. You wanna talk thrilling? Let’s talk about appliances. A more exciting change we’ve made is the new high-efficiency (HE) washer we got last year. In addition to looking and sounding like a spaceship, it’s Energy Star-rated so it uses less electricity, and the HE designation indicates that it uses less water per load. Some estimates say you can save 50 percent of water per load. Although I was skeptical about a washer with no agitator, the reviews about how well it washed clothes have proven to be true.
I also added wool laundry balls to my toolkit. I’ve bought a few kinds of these wool balls that take the place of laundry sheets, fluffing and softening laundry while eliminating static cling. With three or four in the dryer, I can cut the dryer cycle by 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how heavy the load is. We don’t really like scented laundry, but for towels and sheets, I do put six to 10 drops of essential oil on two of the dryer balls, and everything comes out smelling great. (And of course, if you have the ability, hanging laundry is a great way to cut your electricity use and help clothes last longer. We don’t often have laundry-hanging weather in Cleveland, but we’ve jerry-rigged a drying area in the corner of the basement with plastic-coated steel wire, a dowel and two bicycle hooks, and a multi-level skirt hanger that is more useful in the basement than it was in my bedroom. And of course, this awesome 16-hook hanger from IKEA, the ultimate laundry space-saver.)
Perhaps if I were on a different madrega, I could find inspiration in the fact that doing laundry means my family has clothes to wear to daven, to learn, and to do their avodas HaShem. Sadly, I am not. But while I was working on this post, I took a highly unscientific poll and discovered that two members of my family say getting clean laundry delivered to their rooms (everyone is responsible for putting away their own clothes) makes them feel loved and cared for. As a reason to get inspired while doing laundry, making the people I care for most feel loved isn’t so bad.
Until next time,