Some folks find their Zen while doing yoga or meditation. Some may golf or take the spa for a massage to find it. I find my Zen in Laundry.
A lot of people find it a nuisance to have to sort and organize their laundry into little piles and determine whether it’s best to wash their clothes in hot or cold water. For them, the quicker the clothes get in the washer, the better; “out of sight, out of mind”. What ends up happening is set-in stains, dingy whites, and some color-bleeding that ends up deteriorating the bright colors and the longevity of every item in the wash. A lot of folks don’t mind that, but I do.
Then there is the nuisance of having to dry the items and determining whether the setting should be very hot in order to dry all the clothes as quickly as possible, or whether or not to separate out certain items for a cooler dryer temp or for air-drying. This is where a lot of the wear and tear happens, deteriorating the laundry even further.
For me, doing laundry is an art-form, of sorts. As I begin the sorting process, I pretreat any stains I see. I have different pretreaters depending on whether the stain is biological (blood, grass, food) or industrial (ink, paint, oil). Depending on how intense the stain is, it could blend onto unstained items, so it’s best to take care of these items before they are thrown together in the wash. It’s long been a source of pride for me to conquer stains, sometimes even old ones, that others didn’t think would ever come out of their clothes.
In order to make sure the clothes that I launder last longer and look their best, I take the time to sort them, first, per manufacturers instructions (clothing tags can be your best friend) and then, by color or type (whites, lights, darks, and delicates).
I try to use bleach, sparingly, because, over time, it breaks down the fibers in even the whitest fabrics, so if there aren’t enough whites to justify their own washer, I will launder them with light color items and use another laundry booster such as a color-safe bleach or an oxygen booster. I will inevitably wash these items in hot water because they are unlikely to bleed into one another. Dark-colored items are always washed in cold water, in case they bleed; nobody wants their favorite white blouse to be transformed into a dingy-grey or pink by accident. Delicates are washed on their own, if possible. If the load is too small, they are laundered with other cold water items or as prescribed by manufacturer instruction.
It is not always a good idea to just throw everything into one dryer and hope for the best. Some items take longer to dry than others and some fabrics won’t last long under the constant heat, so it’s important to not put all of your clothes in one drying basket. Typically, a good rule of thumb is, one dryer per washer, with the exception of delicates: if you can, you should air-dry them. Many modern dryers now have an “air dry” setting, so it won’t hurt your delicates to let them run a cycle to minimize their dampness, at the very least. As for the rest of your clothes, all of your items should be dried on the lowest temperature possible. If you insist on drying them on “high”, then it should be for the least amount of time possible. It’s likely that if you have clothing items that don’t last beyond 6 months or a year, it’s due to continuous cycles on too high a dryer setting.
Of course, some of my favorite moments of Laundry Zen come with the folding of the laundry. It’s time for me to solve all the world’s problems, in my head, while I also solve the mystery of how to match 15 pairs of black socks that are mismatched in size and shape, despite having other matching characteristics.
For the most part, matching socks is usually very easy, but one of my most favorite things is shirt, sheet, and towel folding. Maybe it’s growing up, as a military brat, but I take great pride in creating sharp points in my folds, so I know that when the item is unfurled it will be mostly, if not entirely, wrinkle-free.
The last step is packing it all away and taking pride in the effort it took to obtain the finished product. Knowing that, because I took the time to pretreat, sort, and properly wash, dry, and fold the laundry in my care, that it will look better and last longer for the people it belongs to. My best moment of Zen is when my family or my clients are pleased with how nice their laundry turns out, making every step along the way worthwhile.