Do Your Laundry Or You’ll Die Alone


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.

About the writer

Becky Blades is author and illustrator of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, a wise, witty collection of counsel for women of all ages. She lives in Kansas City with her husband of 30 years and her Maytag front load washing machine.Check out Becky’s web site, Laundry or Die, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Ben 9 months ago

My hairstylist, does hers, her 3 kids, and mine. She was texting me about money in my pockets but now she started playing a game called Finder’s Keeper’s.

Elanor Rhodes 1 year ago

So true. So smart. So witty. Hunting down the book right now!

Blaire 1 year ago

Hilarious — if it weren’t so true and frightening. Honestly, I know my son WILL NEVER check his pockets when he goes off to college this year and does his own wash. I could write a book on what I have found in his pockets over the years.

bodynsoil 1 year ago

I love this post and your subtle, but effective, sharing of widsom via laundry tips.. Shared with all my mom friends who have children heading off to school this year..

Jill S. 1 year ago

Love this advice and despite being a fully grown adult I still haven’t mastered laundry – hence the fact that you must traverse laundry mountain as you walk thru my laundry room. Love all the practical advice in this book, but the pearls of wisdom like #12 above are the reason to buy the book. Oh yeah – AND the artwork!

Melody Mankus 1 year ago

Can we please post #6 in every airport, store… Ok every public place?

I think I need to save this for my older daughter. (6 and a laundry slob- dirty clothes on the floor next to the basket? Really??)

    Lauren R. 1 year ago

    YES! Let’s post #6 in Walmart, just to make it safe for the rest of us.

Becky Blades 1 year ago

Have you visited a college dorm laundry room lately? It will convince you that armageddon is right around the corner.

Anne-Marie 1 year ago

Perfect timing! I am sending this to my daughter, a college freshman this fall.

Or maybe I should print this list and pin it behind her dorm room door. Or perhaps I can send her emails, one point at a time for more digestibiity? Or I can create Facebook updates on her wall? Or make an infographic? All of the above? She’ll roll her eyes either way but someone, bits of this precious advice will resonate…

Shelby 1 year ago

Haha, love this! I started doing laundry in high school, but everybody can use a couple of tips–and I’m not sure laundry instructions are really the purpose of the book,anyway. I love #12: “Common sense and self-restraint shrink in the presence of passion. Does this mean don’t be passionate? Absolutely not.”

Nikki Fugett Dobens 1 year ago

Love this!

Judy 1 year ago

Love this book. I think with young women today we are so focused on their smartness and achievements we forget the basics. It’s another aspect of our lives that make our lives smoother and more comfortable. We all like clean underwear.

Sara 1 year ago

“You are the view” I actually really like that, I’ve never thought about it like that before. Last night I had some unexpected company, and I was wearing a white tank top (no bra) and a pair of my husbands boxer shorts. It was so embarrassing and I never want to feel like that in my own home again! Do your laundry people trust me!

Kate 1 year ago

1. My five children started doing their own laundry when they were in middle school. I am horrible at laundry and it was a way to ensure I didn’t have mountains of folding. But they told me (and they all went to good schools) that almost no one did their own laundry before arriving at college.

2. I’m a grown ass woman and I still ask friends about doing laundry who are good at it. You need a new strategy for raising money or a 3,000 word article, I’m your gal. You want to wash the cute new lingerie you got? I have no fucking clue. I’ve ruined more clothes than I can count. It’s a drag.

3. The publishing industry these days demands that a book grabs attention. My guess is that’s the purpose of the title. The book itself was intended for young people of both sexes (I bought one) and I’d give it to my sons or daughters. I don’t abide by every word of it (see above) but it’s cute and a fun take on some stuff kids may need to know and may not feel like calling home to find out.

Marion Sistrunk 1 year ago

Man these laundry tips were useful to me too!

Valerie Ann 1 year ago

Do you know how many freshman guys have NO IDEA how to do their laundry???? I taught so many clueless boys a valuable life lesson the first weekend of college! Still makes me laugh!

    Carrie 1 year ago

    So did I . . . but do you know how many GIRLS now need laundry schooled at college? Maybe that’s a success story of the women’s movement. Yaaaay!

Leahaun Shea 1 year ago

Oh yeah, just at a theme park, mine put his head on my chest, than barfed…My bra will never be the same, my shirt looks tie dyed…No gold star for Mama today…

Caren Fox 1 year ago

I cut my son off the laundry train young. Funny thing is I over-heard him telling one of his friends that if your socks are pink that means they are clean (same goes for underwear), the same thing I used to tell him back when

Deanna Tibbett 1 year ago

Lol! My biggest laundry advice to my son when he started college 3 years ago – don’t forget to wash your sheets too! Lol! And I worried that he wouldn’t so every few weeks I would ask! Hahaha

Joanne B. Jarvi 1 year ago

Yes! This! Smart and Sassy in a non-pushy way. MUST get this book ASAP.

Carol Cassara 1 year ago

Great advice for life…in more ways than one! 😉

Doreen McGettigan 1 year ago

This is the best advice, serious stuff but written so creatively.

Cynthia Hudson 1 year ago

I love, love, love, this book. Best gift ever!

Grown and Flown 1 year ago

Any mom looking to impart a little wisdom to their high school daughter could not do better than Becky’s little book of advice. Even my boys roared with laughter and then gave me a knowing look!

    Kathy Dodd 1 year ago

    I wish I would have had this book handy when my daughter was going thru the stage my husband and I referred to as the” Linda Blair ” years!! Great book for anyone who has kids, wa
    nts kids or just likes kids. !!!


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