Looking for practical suggestions about adulthood (laundry & furniture)
March 14, 2013 9:17 PM   Subscribe

There are a couple of things that I have problems with: laundry, and getting my home looking furnished and decent. Especially my bedroom. Can you help?

1. Laundry problem -- it piles up and I get super daunted. I get a massive wave of tiredness at just the thought of it. It takes me a long time to sort then I have to lug it to the machine. I can easily spend most of an afternoon or day, longer if it's piled up. I know, first world problems, but can anyone give me some help to make this part of my life work better? It's actually a problem that extends into a lot else, because I'm embarrassed to let people into my room, don't have enough clean clothes, can be late getting places if I am hunting for something to wear that isn't wrinkled, etc. I welcome any and all pointers, or new perspectives.

2. Furniture / house problem -- getting my living space looking like a decent adult place takes SO much goddamn time and money! And I keep messing up. E.g., I bought some furniture off Craigslist today and thought, "What am I, some kind of wizard?" However, it ended up being much more broken/rickety than it looked, and it smelled too nauseatingly awful to keep in my home. So I had to get rid of it and start over. I sometimes think of doing a project, like painting the walls, and I get halfway and it takes a lot longer than predicted. In my last THREE living spaces, the apartment never really got furnished. The only times I'd make real progress was at the last minute when a significant other was coming over... even that involved a fast trip to IKEA for random lamps and shoving a lot of stuff into the closet. Now (as of today) I'm trying something new, which is extending my budget by a lot so that I don't waste time on DIY and Craigslist. However, I don't know if this is a good approach. Can you give me tips about how to make this all work? I would like to have a functional, adult, nice looking living space and it seems I can't get it together.

Your pointers -- especially things that have worked for you personally -- would be much appreciated!
posted by htid to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I've totally solved problem 1. I buy almost only things that don't wrinkle, and I toss them directly into the washer once they're dirty. Most of my clothes get taken out the dryer only when I'm about to wear them. Sure, it might not be very "adult-like", but I always have clean clothes, and they don't end up in piles around the house.
posted by hasna at 9:23 PM on March 14, 2013

re: laundry, do you live in a city where you can just drop off and pick up laundry? in new york, it's basically cheaper to do this than to do your own laundry yourself, and oh my god, if i had to do my laundry myself i'd never do it. i just lug everything over in one giant bag, tell them to sort it and how to do it, and pick it up in a few hours. they even fold my clothes, which i would never do myself.
posted by lia at 9:23 PM on March 14, 2013

I would hire a decorator to help you plan out your house/apt. You will save a lot of time and money in the long run. A good decorator will ascertain your tastes and style and make it all happen. They are actually wizards if you get the right one.

As for laundry, just pick a night. I like Monday nights because there ain't crap going on anyway. EVERY Monday night, regardless of how much or how little you have, do a load of colors and a load of whites at least. Take out of dryer and fold. It will suck for about 20 minutes, but worth it. Once you get into a routine, it will not be that bad. Or, as lia pointed out, drop off and pick up. Sometimes your whites turn a little pink, but the time and money savings is incredible. When I lived in NYC, I had one of those old granny metal carts. I would stick the laundry bag or duffle bag full of clothes in and viola, they would come back clean and folded. I would just have to hand over some money.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:34 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

What is your laundry machine situation? Do you have a semi-private laundry room or do you have to babysit your stuff at a laundromat? That might help people make suggestions.

Can you set up your laundry hampers so you sort as you go? Get a couple of cheap small hampers and throw stuff into the appropriate hamper when you're undressing. You can dump it all into a larger bag in layers when you need to move it to the machines, but you remove the barrier of sorting through all your dirty stuff when it's laundry time.
posted by MadamM at 9:35 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a laundry sorter hamper and have one day set aside for laundry.

As for furniture/decorating. Do one room at a time. Decide on a budget by doing some window shopping in person or online at a few stores like Ikea, Pier One, The Room Store, Ethan Allen, to see where your taste and budget lead you. Start small - for the living room you probably want a sofa and coffee table, maybe later add a chair; bedroom - bed, dresser, maybe later add a nightstand. From there, you can add other things as your budget allows and as you see what else you need, lamps, art, etc.
posted by shoesietart at 9:38 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Okay laundry is a big pain in the ass so you have to treat it less like a single chore and more like an ongoing process in your life at all times. Think of it less like cooking thanksgiving dinner and more like having some sandwich stuff in the fridge so you can have lunch anytime easily. (Or whatever life skill you've got down pat, fill in the blank!)

Instead of doing multiple loads of laundry all in one chunk, have a basket instead of a hamper. When that basket is full, put it in the wash. You will always have some clean and some dirty clothes.

This will also help you cull clothes you don't need, because you'll be like "wow I have five baskets' worth of clothes, these are all clean and I'm not gonna wear them, I should get rid of them!"

You know that whole separating your colors and whites and blah blah? That's total bull with modern fabrics and dyes. If you have a lot of whites, yes, you should run them separately in case you want to bleach them, but that's like, high-level laundry wizard stuff, and you should just not buy things that need specialty care. Clothes that are keepers are clothes that I can toss together with all my other stuff. Sometimes I have things that can't go in the dryer, but that's easy enough to deal with because I take care of that during the machine-shifting process.

You should also be using good quality products to wash your clothes so they aren't destroyed as quickly. Laundry is actually a pretty traumatic process for clothes. Don't use liquid fabric softener because that's actually just coating everything with a fine mist of oil, yuck! Pick a detergent that will be gentle.

Super secret high-level trick: Hangers. If you have enough closet space (or buy those rolly-clothes-racks) you can pretty much never fold clothes again. Have a small set of drawers for underpants and socks and all, but if you can swing it space-wise, hangers make putting away clean & dry clothes a breeze. This also helps you more easily see everything you've got, and again, cull the things you've stopped wearing.

Basically, do laundry in little chunks. You really don't need to have everything clean at once. You are allowed to do a small load of laundry - you set the size of the load on the machine so you aren't wasting water, okay? A small load of laundry is easier to handle, faster to dry, and then you feel accomplished. The fewer clothes you have, the less daunting laundry becomes, so cull cull cull, even though that may seem unintuitive.
posted by Mizu at 9:39 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

These are fantastic tips so far.

For clarification, I do laundry in the basement of my building. I can leave it a little bit of extra time, but not too too long.
posted by htid at 9:42 PM on March 14, 2013

This will sound counter-intuitive, but:

Get rid of most of your clothes. Pare your wardrobe down to a few essentials so that you have, at max, one basket of colors and one basket of whites when ALL your clothes are dirty.

This will simply your life so much. You'll have fewer items to handle (from washing to ironing to hanging up); you'll have more closet space; and you won't have the capability to accumulate mountains of dirty clothes.
posted by nacho fries at 9:53 PM on March 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

Seconding getting rid of stuff. Just pare down your life to the basics. It's a lot easier to keep stuff organized when you don't have much of it.
posted by empath at 10:41 PM on March 14, 2013

Ugh, laundry is a bitch. If you have the space, get a couple different hampers and sort as stuff gets dirty. You don't really need to worry about separating "lights" from "darks" unless you're washing something new that's super dark or bright, but it's a good idea to at least separate your towels out because they leave lint all over your regular clothes. When we had the space I actually kept the towel hamper in the bathroom. I usually wash my socks and underwear with the towels because I like them to be washed on hot, but sometimes I put them in with the regular clothes too.

I also hate folding and sorting once everything is clean. One thing that helps is to have a lot of the same types of socks. I have basically two types - black crew socks for everday (I like Gold Toe) and white "no show" liners for the gym or in the summer when I'm wearing shorts or something. It's was easier than trying to match up lots of unique pairs.

Also I usually put on the TV or at least music when I fold.
posted by radioamy at 10:46 PM on March 14, 2013

Nthing laundry sorter hamper. It's way easier to make yourself do laundry when it's already sorted--all you have to do is toss it in the machine! Much less daunting. And after it's done, fold it in front of the tv to escape boredom.

Along with online/window shopping for furniture, I also recommend poking around on sites like apartment therapy. Search by whatever room you're trying to furnish (agreeing with shoesietart that you should tackle it one room at a time) to see what others have done, and get a feel for what speaks to your style.
posted by tan_coul at 10:51 PM on March 14, 2013

Laundry! I had a similar issue when I first moved into my apartment. Here's what I did:

Spent one afternoon sorting every single article of clothing in my room. Seasonal stuff not appropriate for the current time of year gets put in another room, underwear/socks go in this drawer, jeans/casual pants in that drawer, tee shirts here, semi-casual here, work clothes there, etc. Label these if you need to.

From now on, everything that goes in those designated spots gets folded first. I do this haphazardly with casual clothes and ones that are hard to wrinkle. If they do wrinkle, I just bring them in the bathroom with me when I shower and let the steam de-wrinkle them. (If the steam doesn't do it, wearing them for 15-20 minutes afterward will.)

Get a tiny laundry basket. Seriously, no bigger than a standard kitchen garbage can. Only put things in it when you're sure they can't be worn again. Pick a laundry day, and do your laundry on that day whether you really need to or not. If the laundry bin isn't full, think about what you wore the last couple days and refolded instead of putting in the bin, and toss that in to make it a worthwhile laundry load. Then, just do it.

Those three words have become the key for me when it comes to keeping the apartment clean. Yeah, it sucks doing some things, but the constant guilt of not doing it is even worse and causes way more stress. And if one day you miraculously feel like doing laundry, find some laundry to do, and rejoice in your brain's adaptation to the task!

I can't really help with decor though. All I can say is never buy anything sight-unseen, always stick your nose right into the cushions before you consider buying, and always flip the cushions to make sure there's nothing questionable in there before buying. Oh, and if you're buying anything electric - lamps, appliances, whatever - secondhand, plug it in and make it do things before handing over any money for it.

Don't worry about filling the apartment. Open space in a home is a blessing, and just setting existing furnishings at an angle can help turn empty space into open space. If it's functional, it's a great room.
posted by Urban Winter at 11:21 PM on March 14, 2013

Like lia said, you probably have a wash and fold place in your city that'll do it and charge you a couple bucks a pound and you'll never have to worry about it other than drop off and pick up. Some/most? laundromats do it because it's an easy way for them to make extra money.

Or honestly, you know what I did for a long time? Two color wardrobe. Seriously. I wore black all the time with some white stuff like linens and such. Some people thought it was kind of weird but I was so consistent that even now they freak out when I wear color (which I pretty much had to do after I moved to Austin and would die of heat stroke if I wore black all the time, so I switched to light blue, dark blue, and khaki, which is still only two loads of clothes plus one for my linens and such). You'd be surprised what all you can do with a single color if you're good at mixing fabrics and patterns.

Or failing that, there are usually laundromats that have enormo-load machines. Like there's one by me that you can cram 8 loads in at a time, then you dump that in a dryer or two, and hey ho, you're done in an hour or two rather than a weekend. It'll cost more than doing it at home but it's cheaper than therapy.

As for furniture, don't go to Ikea alone. Seriously. People have nervous breakdowns in there (I am not joking! It happened to a buddy of mine.) and it's an article of faith that couples break up all the time in there (and, again, I am not joking!). You need a battle buddy, preferably one with a sense of style.

What I would suggest is decide what you need before you go in and then make whatever would be most expensive your centerpiece. Basically, the idea is you get one really nice thing, probably your most expensive thing, and then you buy pieces that compliment that to get a stylish decor rather than buying things haphazardly. You can read up on color theory to get some ideas. That cuts down the work significantly since, if you know your color wheel, you're no longer looking at every single couch in the entire store as well as the numerous covers they all have in different colors and oh god too many choices and then you're one of the sad babbling broken souls that Ikea creates, you're looking for a comfy couch that comes in yellow or whatever. This also works if you're buying second hand, incidentally, since that comfortable-yet-ugly couch in vomit green can become a comfortable but not vomit-colored couch if you get a cover in your desired color to throw over it.

Alternately you hurl yourself upon the mercy of the nice person in the yellow shirt and say "I have no idea what I'm doing, please help me."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:48 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing simplify, both your clothes and your living space. I used to travel to Africa and Asia for work and got used to wearing clothes several times before laundering them. One can wash undergarments and socks every evening (in the sink if needed), hang to dry and wear again tomorrow. I've carried on that tradition to some degree here in my regular life. I usually go through two pair of slacks and 3 shirts during the work week, mixing them up a bit. Most of my clothes are black, gray, white and brown and then I accessorize with brighter scarves or a a nice piece of jewelry. I often wear wool slacks in the Winter and dry clean them after about 5 wears or more, and even then they still look pretty good. A friend of mine has her slacks dry cleaned once a season! Every year I buy about 12 new pair of black socks, throw the old out and start over. Never need to sort and match. I have a thing about wearing my outside clothes in my house, I don't do it. When I get home, I put on sweats or pajamas, which I can wear for the whole week generally, and hang up my work clothes in a special ABW (already been worn) section of my closet. That way I can keep track of what to wear again that week and what isn't really clean, just medium clean. I want to know what's "dirty" before I put it on. It's really not that complicated and by the end of the week I really don't have much laundry. I hang dry and iron everything too, so it does look very nice on Monday morning. I circulate the wardrobe so that each week it's a new ensemble, so I am pretty sure no one really notices and in fact i am often complimented on how well put together I look. Tidy rather than variety is key.
posted by waving at 2:54 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Skip the drier, hang on a clothes horse (inside clothes thingy), or a radiator attachment thingy for your smalls. Your clothes will last longer. Mr Ju and I live in 30 square metres and easily have space of this. Also we only have about one washing load a week for the two of us. Maybe one-and-a-half. Get the clothes the moment the spin cycle finishes (don't leave your clothes in the machine, it's rude with a communal machine and can make clothes smell), then hanging in the flat takes 5 mins if it's the two of us.

Agreeing with what everyone says about having less clothes. You just don't need that many clothes in your life. I haven't ironed anything in 12 months (but I'm a girl, and I know shirts are a pain for guys).
posted by jujulalia at 3:20 AM on March 15, 2013

I am also bad at laundry. One of my secrets? I wear a uniform, basically. I have the same shirt in a variety of colors and sleeve lengths and just wear that every day. A few pairs of pants, a ton of underwear and socks (all the same). My exercise clothes and a couple of pairs of sweats finish the bulk of my usual laundry. I need to extend this sameness concept to sheets and towels to make things even easier. It also greatly simplifies dressing in the morning.

Also, hangers changed my life. Hang everything. I even have hanging closet organizers for my underwear and socks and exercise stuff and jammies.

Wash clothes, towels, and sheets every week. Don't separate whites. I can put everything in one load easily if I do it every week. If you can't, separate out towels and sheets into a separate load or loads. If I wait longer than a week, laundry is WAY more chaotic and horrible.

Hang everything, buddy up your socks, and fold up your exercise stuff in a relaxed way. I don't fold my undies because they are underwear. Throw everything in the hanging organizer or on the closet rod, and that's basically it.

For bonus points I fold my sheets, but if wrinkles don't bother you, you can just loosely ball them up and throw them on the shelf. I won't tell.
posted by k8lin at 3:49 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have problems with letting laundry pile up, and I realized a couple years ago that the only reason why was that I had to leave my apartment--stop what I'm doing, put on pants, be beholden to the schedules of others in my building, etc. I HATE THAT. I HATE THAT MORE THAN ANYTHING.

So I shelled out some cash and bought myself a washing machine. I don't have the hookups in my apartment, so I just have one of those half size ones you screw onto the sink tap, and I don't have a dryer (just hang everything on a clothes horse), and let me tell you--it has changed my life.

Now when I take off my clothes they go directly into the machine. As soon as the machine is full, I hook it up and run a load. I do it when I want to, as soon as I want to, and it has turned laundry from this horrible, life-consuming process to Just A Thing.

Highly recommended.

If you want recs for a machine, let me know.
posted by phunniemee at 4:27 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Re: Laundry. There are good suggestions in here about how to get in control of it, but none of these worked for me. It's just more work than I can do, for whatever reason. I'm in the process of solving my laundry problem by getting someone to pick it up and bring it back. So that's one approach, if you live where these services are available.
posted by bleep at 5:29 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Would your friends be willing to help decorate? That's the kind of shit I can't figure out for myself but I would be SOOOOOOOO excited if a friend said "here's 200 bucks, let's make this room beautiful this weekend." You can go shopping with them and point out things you like/ don't like, but they have to burden of work to do.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:54 AM on March 15, 2013

For painting a room --- I don't tape off anymore, and I use a 4 inch roller. Standard rollers are 9 inch. You know what else standard rollers are? A pain in the ass. They throw paint everywhere and drip alot.

With a 4 inch roller I have very little splatter and more control. If I don't feel like painting the whole wall all at once, I can throw it in a plastic bag and into the freezer. I still look for natural stopping points, but using a paint with the primer already in it means that there aren't obvious lines where I've started and stopped. And I only have a small tray to clean out.

Paint with the primer already in it, a 4 inch roller, an expensive trim brush for cutting in, and I don't have to tape off or throw down tarps. Then I do as much or as little as I want at a time, alternating the brush for cutting in at the ceiling and floor molding, and the 4 inch roller.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:23 AM on March 15, 2013

Nthing the others who have mentioned wash and fold laundry service. Good god. Wash and fold seriously saved my life. I was in your situation a few months ago. Mountains of clothes (and shame), spending hours upon hours doing laundry in my apartment's shitty/expensive coin laundry machines. Constantly worrying about not having clean clothes and dreading having to spend basically a whole day fighting over machines and folding and lugging and just UGH. I HATE DOING LAUNDRY WITH A HELLFIRE PASSION.

Most wash and folds are ~$1-2 per lb., and it is SOSOSO worth it. I was shocked when the entirety of my dirty wardrobe was only 50lbs, or $50 for someone else to deal with it. That's basically everything I owned. And I have A LOT of clothes. I was positive it was going to be so much more expensive, but you'd be surprised. Now that everything is under control, I go once every 2 weeks or so, and my bill is typically under $15. The cost runs pretty much even with how much I was already spending on quarters and detergent for the coin machines in my basement.

Oh, and I live in suburbia. There are wash and folds everywhere. I'm really excited for you to discover how magical it is to come home and realize everything is clean and folded and easy to find because it's not at the bottom of a giant putrid laundry mountain. I'm not exaggerating when I say this seemingly minor thing has improved my quality of life so significantly that it's led to a bunch of other positive changes with house cleaning and my overall confidence.

I beg of you. Try wash and fold.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 7:19 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Okay, this might be slightly unorthodox, but:

I recently moved, and found all my new furniture on Craigslist. Because of this, I have been spending a ton of time on Craigslist and am really good at finding the good stuff. I even have a single-purpose Tumblr dedicated to finding a room's worth of things on Craigslist in a given city that match. If you're willing to tell me your location, your budget, and the general look you want, I will totally go on Craigslist and find you some awesome stuff.
posted by nonasuch at 7:33 AM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I separate whites (any color up to and including khaki) medium/ darks and towels (they shed lint). Sheets go in white, in my case. 2 sets of sheets means I do sheets maybe once a month or so. Enough towels for at least 2 weeks. Enough underwear for 3 weeks. Use less laundry deterg. than the bottle says (too much deterg stays in clothes and they get dirtier faster). Softener or dryer sheets aren't required, unless you like them.

Be prepared; this reduces the barriers to completing laundry. Put laundry night in your calendar, on an evening when tv is boring to you. Save your quarters in a specific place so you always have quarters. Put laundry in canvas bags, bring laundry and deterg. on trip 1. Start laundry, set your smartphone or a timer for as many minutes as it takes. Go watch your favorite tv show on hulu, or play a good video game. Time! Bring hangers and quarters, a laundry basket or 2. Go put laundry in dryers. Use at least 2 dryers; be lavish with quarters. Some things dry fast, so stay downstairs and remove socks, polyester-blend stuff, etc. as they dry, match socks, hang shirts, and fold laundry as it dries. Got a tablet or laptop? Keep a show running. Or read a trash magazine in between folding dry stuff. Mmmm, clean laundry smells good. You are a laundry super-hero.

Pro-tips: buy socks 6 or more pair at a time, and sock-matching becomes so easy. Buy white sheets, and they will always match. If you consistently fold/ hang pants, they look better; this applies to clothes generally.

You don't iron, right? Except for really special occasions.

What's your secret splurge/ reward? I'd buy some Ben & Jerry's butter pecan ice cream, and reward myself with it, liberally sloshed with good bourbon; YMMV. Or go out for some late Chinese food. Maybe save up new music purchases for laundry night. Save the reward for laundry night so it's a good motivator.
posted by theora55 at 8:21 AM on March 15, 2013


Many good tips above - I'll agree with simplifying and minimizing your wardrobe, getting into a routine and hanging as many items as possible right from the dryer. I'll add that if you can take one day, gather every single thing up and take it to a laundromat and get every thing done at once in one huge effort (using lots of machines, it's only a couple of hours at most) it can "re-set" your system and then you're only maintaining it.

Previously recommended on MetaFilter, UnF*ck Your Habitat has some great laundry tips. These have helped me to conquer Mt. Laundry many a time (my husband and daughter contribute a LOT to the piles.)

I have a few of these SKUBB hampers from Ikea - if you use them to pre-sort laundry before it becomes a floordrobe, you can carry the bag right down to the machine and dump everything in.


Having just completed a hallway project, I can stand in line with vitabellosi's comment, but I'll recommend painting pads and getting a really, really good quality paint. That makes painting almost a pleasure. Things like playing good music while I work, taking before and after pictures, and a reward after dinner out are also inspiring to me. Going to a paint store rather than a big box store means a really helpful employee will set you up with everything you need, you're looking at your paint under proper lighting, and they'll often even help choose colours so that your beige doesn't go pinky and your yellow isn't searing your retinas. Painting a room is fast when you have two people who can move everything into the centre, throw tarps over it, cut in with pads and then roll on a quick coat - then you both go out for pizza while it dries and come back for the second coat. The trick really is to set aside one day for the project, and get it done in one day - or you're right: It never gets finished.

As far as pulling things together, knowing your location would help. We shop a lot of estate sales and antique markets in Toronto and Buffalo, and here Craigslist is like an online store for many people. nonasuch's offer is pretty cool - and it is too bad Craigslist's not a scratch-n-sniff site, but you can say "no" to an item if you get there and it's not what you thought it would be. Happens all the time.

If you have a particular style in mind, that can guide your search - we happen to like mid-century (but not necessarily modern) furniture and know that solid teak stands up to our abuse. That guides our search terms so we're not shopping the entirety of CL. Looking at ads where people have taken good photos and listed measurements, and carefully noted things like smoke-free and pet-free home also keeps us from wasting our time on wild goose chases.

A comfortable sofa, a useful coffee table, a credenza for storing cluttery items and displaying nice ones and cool lamps are good foundation items - then finding an interesting rug and curtains to dress the room up are a next step. In a bedroom, a comfy bed, useful nightstands and clothing storage that works for what you wear and how you manage it (we are wardrobe people, not dresser people) will support you rather than work against you. Choose simple, neutral basics (but colours you like - it doesn't have to be beige) with good lines, and then add art that you really like and the rest is just keeping it tidy. Again, this is where UF*YH comes in handy.

Having a shopping buddy or a friend who likes makeovers can help too. Do you have someone in your life maybe who's been dying to play decorator and do a makeover? And while Apartment Therapy can be overwhelming, they now have a "Decor Styles" subsection that, despite the ridiculous names like "Happy Modern" and "Warm Industrial" can guide you toward some proven combinations of good-looking things that might work for you, that you can put on a shopping list.
posted by peagood at 8:38 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

At the risk of getting too psychological and/or sounding hokey -- strike that, I will aim for maximum hokey -- I will say that in my experience, at least part of the problem with doing chores in the transition phase into adulthood is a mental resistance that's related to wanting life to be convenient and non-boring, which it actually is not.
Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.
—Simone de Beauvoir
I was invited to a birthday party tonight, and I wanted to go, but I (seriously) have to do laundry. The Machine must be booked at least a week in advance; doing laundry at this appointed time is a duty for me, though significantly less fun than pretty much anything else I can think of. I could easily see this as the Stupid World impinging upon my personal freedom.

But interestingly, this resistance is itself a major source of suffering, and in some cases the only source. And you know what? I think tonight is actually going to be pretty good. I have resigned myself to my fate, and I will find a silent pleasure in patiently finishing the chore. It will not be fun, but there are other values.

Think of the untold legions of people who have washed their clothes throughout history. This duty -- maintaining our extended bodies -- links humanity. The clean becomes soiled... And we take care of it.
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
—Albert Camus
Is it possible that adulthood demands the capacity to fill your heart with doing the laundry? Not just the idea of doing it, not just some abstract sense of duty, but the actual physical, embodied series of steps? Is it possible to do laundry as an expression of the human life-instinct and one's innate tender caring for oneself and the world? Can it be done with a sense of ease, even delight? As a meditation upon the never-ending messiness of the real world and the ceaseless human diligence of work?

Chores are not elevated in our culture; they are seen as private, uninteresting, and necessary evils. But the daily work of maintaining one's body and environment is the meat of life... It's what humans do. There are spices, excitements, and unusual delights, and these are wonderful -- but we can't subsist on saffron. And the subtle aroma of rice, if you just pay attention, is -- infinity!
posted by mbrock at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2013 [22 favorites]

Wow, mbrock. That was pretty good.

I was just going to say that I found a measure of peace in my laundry-doing by making everything in my life one of three colors--white (undies, sheets, towels), black/gray, and red/pink--and then seriously reducing the number of items I own and the bulk of the individual items, so that I can, for the most part, wash it all in three loads. One set of sheets--surely I can stay out of the bed for the time it takes to wash them! The towels I switched to those thin ones from Ikea so they take up way less room in the washer. Jeans get washed with the black/gray clothes. I have three hampers, stuff gets sorted as I take it off (theoretically--I won't claim to never leave it on the bathroom floor but I'm much better about it now).
posted by HotToddy at 9:34 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

nonasuch, I love your tumbler. Your offer is excellent.

Decide what you want your home to feel like, and what you want it to say about you. Calm/ relaxed, colorful/ vibrant, hipster, artistic, funky/ esoteric, etc. That helps you narrow down the choices. One really nice thing makes it all look better - a couch or a great rug are nice starting points.

If you need bookshelves, get them, or a music table, or storage for any hobby/ pasttime. If you have a tendency to pile up unopened mail, learn to toss junk asap, and put the rest in a basket. If the place is cluttered, spend some time de-cluttering, and figuring out what causes most of the clutter. Learn to put dishes in the sink and dirty clothes in the hamper daily. If the space is too empty, a big piece on the wall and a number of smaller pieces, will help. Apartmenttherapy and Pinterest, with the somewhat wretched term 'wall art' can help you find easy/ affordable/ nice-looking stuff. A cord tacked over your desk with postcards clipped to it is an easy start.

Growing it up: if it's too college-y, video-game-centric, adolescent, get rid of old posters, consolidate the game stuff in a basket or a storage hassock or something, and, again, get a pretty nice piece or 2 that looks like quality. One nice piece of framed artwork is another start.

Last time I was in New York, there were students selling their art in front of the Museum of Art on Saturday. Find out where the student art is. Much of it is rather bad, but some of it will be appealing to you, or will at least look like Art. I love to buy art; it makes me feel like a grown-up patron of the arts. I don't get fancy frames, but I do frame it.
posted by theora55 at 10:12 AM on March 15, 2013

For furniture find a look you like and copy the hell out of it. Steal ideas from magazines and websites or your friends or that catalogue, shop display or coffee shop. See a look you like, find the nearest matches in your price range (that you like) that you can and recreate the look, it's as easy as that and pretty much how I decorate.

The fact that it's hard to find exact duplicates of anything means you make or redo a few pieces or have something that is mostly a match but looks good to me. It's the little differences that make the place yours. Also nothing wrong with shopping Ikea if you know what you want before you go. Hell I'm off to Ikea next week end with a shopping list as I have stolen/pintrested a million ideas and have settled on the look I like and get to start decorating my dining room next week. The cool part about decorating, which no one ever told me when I started trying to figure this all out is none of it is permanent, if you hate it you get to return things, or move them around or paint them or whatever there are no rules there is no "right" way. You'll do things you hate and you can change them.

Also as for painting you totally don't have to paint the whole room or wall at a time. Do it in dribs and drabs, despite what people say the finish will be fine if you just pick up where you left off a week later. Or try some wall paper or just throw up some decals or cover the whole wall in art work or just paint one wall, or a recessed part of the wall, or the back of a book case. It doesn't have to be perfect, it's just paint, if you hate it you can always paint it again. Trust me no one will notice your perfectly taped and finished edging but you. Though the suggestions to buy good paint and use good brushes holds true, it makes it so much easier.
posted by wwax at 11:06 AM on March 15, 2013

I don't understand how laundry can take you hours and hours when you have it in your building? You're making this a huge Process but if you do it once a week or so, whenever you've got a couple hours when you're home, its not a huge deal. You don't need to go crazy sorting things in my experience. I don't really sort my clothes at all at this point and they come out fine. You don't really need to wash jeans and sweaters and sweatshirts every time you wear them. My laundry process is: wait for an evening I'm home, carry laundry to basement, upend basket into washer, toss in soap, watch parks and Rec, go downstairs and transfer to drier, take a shower or something, bring clothes upstairs and let them sit in basket until i get around to spending 10 minutes folding them. maybe you have a different caliber of clothing than me, but this works just fine for me. Not trying to call myself a super efficient laundry master, I'm just wondering if you've made the process more complicated and overwhelming than it needs to be.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:03 PM on March 15, 2013

In the summer, I usually do my "light wash" once a week and my "dark wash" every 2 weeks. In the winter, I do my "dark wash" every week and my "light wash" every 2-3 weeks. (It feels amazing to have so many white sox that I can afford to wait 3 weeks!)

If you divide by color, make sure you have some dark bras and underwear so you never run out.

(You must have a really big closet or dressers to have as many clothes as you seem to have...)
posted by serena15221 at 5:51 PM on March 15, 2013

maybe you have a different caliber of clothing than me

There are so many amazingly good responses here that I don't even feel I need to add any clarification. I'm so grateful. Thanks a lot! However in response to this above, in case anyone is INSATIABLY curious about another person's clothing habits...

I have quite a lot of clothes for the various activities in my life. Work clothing is pretty fragile, it seems, and also expensive, so I try to do cold water washes. I think I panic when I see a work shirt of an unusual material, or pants that I tried on 10 pairs of to find the right one, and wonder what will happen if I wash it wrong. So I use cold water and hang dry.

Towels and gym clothes require hot water washes or they smell bad. They don't smell bad coming out of the wash, but seem to need more frequent washing if I just use cold and there is some residual sweat or bacteria.

As for the clothes that are neither work nor gym, those get sorted into brights and whites, though prior to this thread I didn't really know how sorting was supposed to happen. I sorted into whites, reds, blues, not-sure-if-this-will-bleed-so-I'll-hand-wash, wool-so-i-should-probably-use-woollite, etc.

Then there were questions in my mind like, can I wash a scarf? This has velcro, is it going to mess up this other item that is silk? Should I remove this fabric belt because it tends to get tangled up with everything? But if I do, is the shirt going to fade to a different color and it will no longer match? Etc etc etc.

Eventually, I ended up with 10 different sorting piles, small ones. Weeks would pass and the "red sweaters, cold wash" pile never got big enough to do laundry, but all my clothes were still there in piles. I'd rummage through to find something relatively clean to wear, and in doing so I'd mess up all the sorting, having to redo it. Then I'd panic. "Oh dear god, remember how long I consternated about whether I can wash a scarf and whether a red fabric belt can go in with the velcro black work pants? Now I have to make all those decisions again, ahhhhh!! My life is basically over!!! I will never solve this!! I am stuck in laundry land forever!!!"

[I am mostly adding this clarification for humor... and in case anyone reading this wants to commiserate with my OCD nature. You don't have to reply to any of what I just wrote. I have learned a lot from this thread already, again very grateful for your tips. There are a bunch of tips that I'll definitely use, to get past what wasn't working before.]
posted by htid at 6:12 PM on March 15, 2013

Do not underestimate the power of lingerie bags.

You can buy these at places like Target, they're just lightweight mesh bags with a zipper that come in various sizes. Put clothes in them that are either especially fragile (like bras) or especially troublesome (like things with velcro or hooks). Toss them in the wash inside the bag.

This helps with two things: It makes the wash and dry agitation much less destructive, by either keeping the fragile things all together or by protecting the rest of your wash from the dangerous bits; and it makes it much easier to extract things between washer and dryer. I put my bras in a lingerie bag and then I just have to find that one thing before I put things in the dryer, instead of digging through for a bunch of twisted wet straps. You can also get larger bags for things like bulky sweaters, or things that would otherwise tangle all throughout the rest of the wash like scarves.

Wash as much as you can in cold water. Once you've washed red things enough you don't have to do them separately. It's true that you need to wash gym clothes in hot sometimes, although it might make more sense to instead give them a soak in something bleach-like and then chuck them in with the rest of everything and see how that works for you.
posted by Mizu at 6:28 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the clarification! It's amusing and revealing.

Adding baking soda to your wash will really, really help with body odours for your gym clothes. And-or, vinegar in your rinse cycle. Add them together and all you get is a science experiment.

You may want to do more hand-washing. This is kind of how I wash my cashmere and wool sweaters - other hand washes get the same treatment without the conditioner. You can do a scarf in two minutes. Once you realize it's only two minutes out of a whole day, the idea of doing it isn't so insurmountable.

And it's wonderful that you have so many colourful choices in your wardrobe - it takes energy (and gives energy) to wear colour, and to have a variety of choices in the morning. Cutting down on non-vital choices and creating routines is a secret weapon that I see by the above answers that many of us use, but I do believe you're younger and up for the fun of variety. But making some choices before you buy an article clothing makes the decision making when it comes time to do laundry easier. Just asking yourself " How am I going to care for this?" before it leaves the store can save you the agony of the piles later on. (And that's how I can justify always buying more cashmere sweaters, because I'm on top of that.)

mbrock's answer is philosophical and wonderful, and I can't favourite it enough.

You may also find these two sources of information interesting, based on it: Adulting is a blog about unf*cking your whole life. And Home Comforts is a book that's often recommended here on the green, and I agree - it's like my bible.

Home Comforts is a great title, because having a comfortable home can be one of the pleasurable parts of being an adult, and it is a science and a process - not something you do once and get a trophy for. And if, like me, you didn't pick up these skills growing up, they help to demystify how the heck other people make it through life without careening and flailing and wondering.
posted by peagood at 6:51 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I came back to this thread because I just did laundry and was thinking about you!

If you do start doing more hand washing, I recommend getting a super-absorbant towel (like the Aquis) to help drying. Once you have gently squeezed out as much water as possible, wrap it in the towel and it let it sit for a few minutes. Then take it out and hang it up!
posted by radioamy at 1:49 PM on March 16, 2013

Oh I was also thinking that in order to get some laundry momentum going, try the Don't Break the Chain technique. Maybe make it a weekly chain instead of a daily chain? But every Monday or whatever, you just buckle down and do laundry.

I tried DBTC with flossing, which is something I hate to do and was kinda slacking on. I have been good for three weeks straight! I actually don't mark it on a calendar, but I know in my head that I've done it every day and that keeps my momentum going.
posted by radioamy at 1:58 PM on March 16, 2013

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
posted by htid at 6:54 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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