Necessary Chore by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By Laundry

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As with cooking, I did not learn to do laundry from my mother. She had household help for much of her life. I learned to iron (a task she NEVER learned) in the costume shop at camp in 1967. That was useful. We had a service that washed the sheets, but we had to make our beds and we had inspection every day. We did “hospital corners” for a neat look, so a quarter could bounce off the bed (if this sounds like the military, camp was very regulated in those days). I still make the beds that way, and though in Newton my cleaning lady does the sheets and towels, I do them in our Vineyard house, including after company leaves (that is true in Newton as well; I only have cleaning help every other week and don’t like a messy house).

a “hospital corner” on the sofa bed for a recent holiday visitor

I first did my own laundry when I went to college in 1970 – as my mother-in-law would say, “a college load”, mostly mixed, but at least I knew to separate the darks from the light. There were machines in the basement of our dorms, but we needed quarters to use them. That was true of every building I lived in until we owned a condo or house, so I’ve never used a laundromat and had the convenience of being inside my own building, though with more units than machines, there was often a wait or someone would remove your clothing if you didn’t get down there fast enough and you’d find your wet stuff in a heap somewhere.

These days, with all the athletic fabrics, where the colors don’t run and then dry very quickly, I have trouble getting a dark load together, and trouble convincing my husband that dark sweatshirts and jeans still need to be washed separately. But I really don’t want my undergarments to get tinted blue. It is an ongoing struggle; (no, he does not do laundry unless he is by himself on the Vineyard for a few weeks. Then he really does a college load).

It can take a while to move laundry from the washer to the dryer, as some fabrics don’t go in the dryer and need to hang dry. Those I need to ferret out as I move things into the dryer. Dan wears a lot of Icebreaker athletic gear, which is made of merino wool and cannot go through the dryer. We try to have a system where he leaves it hanging on the side of the hamper separately, but does not always remember and I don’t always notice when I start the load, so it sometimes goes through the dryer and shrinks a bit…oh well! Can’t get it right 100% of the time. But I give it the old college try!



Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: been there, funny, well written


  1. I learned to fold everything except a fitted sheet.

  2. I’m with you Kevin & Betsy , I’ve even watched the How To Fold a Fitted Sheet video, and I still can’t do it!

    But since Covid when I became chief cook, bottle washer, and laundress , I discovered that nowadays practically anything can go in the washer and dryer and come out pretty much wrinkle free!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I have a friend who tried to teach me how to fold that contour bottom sheet, but I’m hopeless, Dana. I try to smooth it before I put it away. That’s all I can hope for. Except for those special items that don’t go in the dryer (and a few of my own garments that are hand-washed) everything gets the wash-dry treatment. I look for clothing that doesn’t have to be cleaned when I buy summer clothes – no good cleaners on MV!

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    So many familiar things in your story, Betsy. Hospital corners are still required in my house, although I had to teach Fred how to do them because bed-making is a back breaker for me. The worst thing is folding up contour sheets, especially now that they have such deep pockets. That’s a two-person job in our house.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Those deep mattresses are, indeed, heavy Laurie, but I still change all the sheets when necessary (thank goodness my cleaning lady does most of the heavy lifting in Newton; not so on the Vineyard). I remember to use my knees for the lift. Folding the contour sheets is a skill I never acquired (they were foreign to my household – I got them for my mother when I moved her here from Detroit when she was 82; she thought I was out of my mind!). So I just do the best that I can; that sheet is not folded properly on the Vineyard, but at least is smoothed out.

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        Jim, I attended the National Music Camp, now called the Interlochen Arts Camp as a voice and drama major for six summers in the 60s. I didn’t major in costumes, but did work in the costume shop in 1967. I also did a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan and Shakespeare and other shows and made lifelong friends.

  4. Jim Willis says:

    Hi, Betsy. I enjoyed your spin on laundry! For starters, we have the same laundry basket, only mine is always full with that “college load,” which I can still call that because of my career as a college prof. I often learn something new reading these Retro stories and, from yours, I’ve learned (1) that there is summer camp devoted to costume-making,, and (2) that there is a way to test the firmness of your bed-making by flipping a quarter off it. Thanks for the continuing ed class which was also very entertaining!

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I could relate to your discussion of the nuances of how to manage the clothes–separating the colors, hanging some things up to air dry (woolens), the frustration of not being able to get the message through to others in the household. Almost as bad as getting recycling separated correctly. Not that there is a personality issue here (no perfectionism here LOL), but it takes an effort not to sweat the small stuff even when it is annoying….

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    Since bicycling replaced sex and drugs and rock and roll as my chief leisure obsession, I have really taken to the fast-dry “technical” fabrics.Modern marvels!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      If you read my story for the “ER” prompt from last July, you’ll see that I think sex, drugs and rock & roll are safer than bicycling (Dan had three serious bike accidents over the space of two years and is forbidden to ride outside. He put his bike up on a trainer and rode that way for a while, but ultimately found it boring, so has gone back to running or walking if he’s injured, which is most of the time these days with a bad back). But to your point, YES, the new athletic fabrics are, indeed wonderful, quick-dry and convenient.

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