Parenting the coming-of-age adult has always been a challenge. But enter this generation’s cell phones and social media, and even teaching our kids survival skills is a battle. Forget about imparting the subtleties of life wisdom.
When it was time for my firstborn daughter to leave for college, I wasn’t sure what she had heard and what she hadn’t, and I was especially concerned about her laundry. I had my reasons.
So like slipping love notes into her lunch box when she was eight, when she got to college I sent her laundry tips and slipped in some life lessons. I sent it the day after classes started in an e-mail, SUBJECT: Do your laundry or you’ll die alone.
1. Do your laundry regularly. Try every week. Do it before you run out of clean underwear and before you need your favorite jeans. Because when you want your favorite jeans, and only your favorite jeans will do, you will want them clean. You will not want to choose between dirty, stinky favorite jeans and jeans that make your butt look (choose one: wide, low, flat, etc.).
Either of these less-than-perfect options will undermine your self-confidence, and you will not have the courage to talk to that cute guy. And then you may never get another chance, and … then comes the dying alone part.
2. Don’t heat-dry your delicates.
3. Keep your colors separate – but only in the laundry. If you wash a red T-shirt with a white T-shirt, you will get a faded red T-shirt and a nasty pink T-shirt. If you wash a black T-shirt with a white T-shirt, you will get a linty black T-shirt and a splotchy purply grey T-shirt. When you paint a picture, and you absolutely should every now and then, you almost never get what you want straight from the tube. You must mix colors on your palette to get what you need. This can be a metaphor for whatever you like.
4. Check your pockets. Before you do your own laundry or hand clothes over to the dry cleaner, check every single pocket. This means putting your hand all the way into the pockets, not just scrunching the pants in search of foreign shapes. Paper, which can be of great value, is quite soft, especially after it’s been marinating in the bottom of a dirty clothes hamper. A pen in the laundry can ruin a whole load; and washing a love note or meeting reminder can ruin your whole week. (Your mother may not have mentioned this, likely because the things you left in your pockets over the years would have broken your heart or embarrassed you both. And if she found money in your pockets, she likely considered it God’s little thank-you tips.)
5. Lint is never in style. Get a lintbrush, or make one out of tape.
6. Remember that you are the view. As you roll out of bed and into your sweats for an unstructured day, think about all the people who will be treated to the vision of you. Most people care about what they are seeing, hearing, and smelling. Senses define the pleasure of our days. So while it’s easy to say, “It’s nobody’s business whether I take a shower or wash my sweats,” it really is.
7. Have at least one outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Then care for it as if it cost that much.
8. Don’t wad up your clothes. Some morning, today’s dirty shirt or sweater will be your cleanest option, and you’ll want to tell yourself that you can wear it and no one will be the wiser. You might get away with it, if it has not been smashed under a wet towel for two days.
9. Don’t trust the size on the clothing tag. Try on before you buy, and consider what will happen in the washer.
10. Cotton always shrinks in the washer, no matter what the label says. Does this mean don’t wash cotton? No, it just means buy it on the big side, rather than the small side.
11. Wool shrinks when you get it wet. And when you dry it, it shrinks some more. Does this mean don’t buy wool? No, it just means don’t wash it or get caught in the rain.
12. Common sense and self-restraint shrink in the presence of passion. Does this mean don’t be passionate? Absolutely not.
13. You can outfox the sock monster. Yes, the vexing invisible varmint that lives between the washer and dryer is smart. But you are smarter. Know the enemy. Sock monsters dine exclusively on individual servings – that’s one sock of a pair. This leaves you with one lonely sock and an annoying decision to make: whether to throw away the lone survivor or stash it in the single-sock purgatory drawer hoping for its twin to return. The best protection is the buddy system. Clip or pin your socks into pairs when you put them in the laundry basket. Together, your socks will evade their pesky predator and arrive from the dryer pre-sorted. Since you are not likely to actually do this, may I suggest buying several pairs of the same socks?
14. Hangers help. Folding things on a shelf or in a drawer is a good way to keep them off the floor. But smashing and stacking folded clothes can create fold wrinkles that are only slightly better than floor wrinkles. Hangers to the rescue! Use non-slip hangers for slippery blouses and clip hangers for skirts and pants. Drape everything else – from flowing blouses to silk scarves – over a pants hanger.
15. Even sloppy people like neat roommates. Sad, but true. Pick up your stuff.