My wife and I have a fair distribution of labor in our home. Among other things, I wash and fold the laundry, and my wife puts it all away. Part of the reason that we arrived at this model for the laundry lies in our fundamental disagreement with respect to what needs to be washed. Our debate goes back to the earliest days of our marriage when I would wash everything as soon as it had been touched by human hands and my wife, by comparison, argued that jeans and shirts could be worn for a while and not need to be rewashed.
I was aghast. Could I truly be married to someone who did not share my “you use it, you wash it mentality”? Very quickly, I realized that the differences between my wife and I on the subject of laundry were huge. How had I not learned this while we were dating? She actually believed that a pair of blue jeans could be worn more than once. A shirt worn for only an hour or two could be returned to the closet without a trip to the washing machine. Clearly, I was married to a heretic.
Growing up, I had always been taught to wash clothes that had been worn, towels that had been used and linens at least twice per week. My wife, in contrast, had learned that clothing should be washed when it was dirty, but she did agree with my philosophy on towels and linens. I tried to accept my wife’s “alternative” lifestyle when it came to laundry, but it was not an easy way of life to accept.
Then I finally grew up.
My wife pointed out that washing a pair of blue jeans every time it was worn, even if only for an hour or two sitting around the house, was just foolish. She reminded me that every time I washed a pair of jeans, or a shirt, or anything else, I was giving it more wear and tear than it would ever get from normal use. Accordingly, I was destroying my clothing that much faster. I was also wasting water and electricity and reducing the useful life of both our washer and dryer.
My wife’s second point was the most persuasive, at least for me as a young husband. It was not fair to her to create at least a full extra load of laundry each day just because I thought that as soon as a piece of fabric touched a human body, it had to be washed.
All of my wife’s points were valid. I realized that because I was overwashing my clothing (and later our kids clothing), I was wasting a lot of money because our clothes would not last as long and our washer and dryer used more energy and water than they would under my wife’s model. I was also creating more work for my wife. I had to change.
I thought about washing my clothing less, but I was a confirmed “use it once and wash it” guy. It was far easier to volunteer to do the laundry and that is what I did. That immediately made my wife happy (and she responded by taking over the vacuuming from me). At the same time, it allowed me more of an opportunity to watch our laundry emerge from our dryer a little more worn with each successive wash.
I have been doing the laundry for about 8 years now, and I have changed my washing patterns as a result of it. I will wear my jeans more than once now, if I think they are not really dirty. I will wear a shirt a second time if I wore it for only a short time while relaxing. Of course, I still wash anything that is grimy or that has been worn for a full day, but I try to consider whether an item is truly in need of a wash before I throw it into the laundry hamper.
How do you handle the laundry in your home? Are you from the “you wear it you wash it” school or do you wear your clothes more than once before you wash them? Do you have any tricks for keeping your clothes fresh without repeated washing? How do you save money on your laundry costs?