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Weekend Life

Tales from the Motherhood: The great suburban clean-laundry crisis

In my house, the phrase “laundry crisis” refers to that oddly disconcerting moment when the natural order of things gets thrown out of whack. You know, when all of the laundry is done.

My teenager agrees.

“I depend on the cycle of dirty and clean laundry to keep my room neat,” Noah laments whenever this happens.

He’s right. Things get ugly when we have too much clean laundry. Wait, I should clarify. When we have too much clean, folded, hung-up-and-put-away laundry. The thing is, we simply don’t have enough storage in this little 145-year-old house to properly stow it all.

When it’s all been laundered and efforts are made to actually put it somewhere logical, it gets jammed into drawers and smushed into closets, of which there are only three in this old house. Things get especially ugly in Noah’s tiny room.

“Surely some of this can go to the Goodwill. I want you to go through and try everything on,” I said to him, Tuesday night.


Whatever. But I know he’s not wearing all that stuff. Maybe I should buy back those groovy infomercial “space bags” I unloaded at some long-ago garage sale. Remember those? Off-season clothes can be stuffed inside and all of the space-hogging air vacuumed out, so the newly liposuctioned packages fit smartly under your bed? Yeah. Weird. Does anyone actually use those things? 

I think I’ll just stick to my tried-and-true strategy of avoiding the plague of too-much-clean-laundry. If I happen to slip and lose my rhythm, I’ll just bear in mind that, barring all of the tripping and clingy dog-hair, nothing really bad happens when clean laundry simply piles up.

I had it made, this week, until Tuesday morning. Things were humming along nicely. There were clothes in the closets, in the drawers, in the washer and dryer and on the floors. Everything as it should be, everything in its place. But then I called the plumber. The only good thing about spending the day waiting for a no-show plumber is that I got my housework done. Which, you know, means the laundry got done, too.

But as I hung the last of the clean laundry in my tiny closet the rod came tumbling down. The cheesy, plastic rod-supports installed by the previous owners finally cracked under the pressure of too much clean laundry and died. Unlike previous collapses where the clothes slid off into a fiery pit of doom, this time the rod just sort of dropped, remaining parallel with the floor. Oddly, the clothes remain tentatively hung in a fragile state of order fraught with possibility. You know, that no-one’s-allowed-to-touch-them-until-new-supports-are-installed-or-all-tarnation-will-break-loose state.

I typed this column lying on an ice pack (you know, because my back hurt from all of the darned housework). Nor do we have room for all of our dishes to be clean at once, by the way, but I digress.
When I typed Noah’s exasperated “Mom!” I laughed so hard at the memory that I startled the dog. He stayed almost perfectly still. From my vantage point I could see only his red eyelashes twitching with worry, which made me laugh even harder. And then I remembered my laundry crisis.

I asked Facebook for help.

“People hang their laundry?” Mary commented.

My point exactly.  I’m blaming the plumber. I wonder if he’ll help me fix my closet when he finally does show?

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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