the smell of my desperation has become a stench

What did YOU do this weekend?

I normally try to tackle laundry at least two to three times a week to stay on top of the ocean of clothes that floods a home with two children. I was having a text message conversation with someone who doesn’t have any kids and when I mentioned that I was, yes, still doing laundry on a Saturday afternoon I had to explain that one child doesn’t just double the amount of laundry. No. Children shed clothing in much the same way reptiles molt skin and suddenly there are sixteen pairs of pants in the hamper in less than 48 hours.

“Why are there so many pants in here?”

“I needed that many.”

If “duh” was used as commonly today as it was in my childhood it would be the only word my kids would ever say to me.


Having children causes an exponential rise in dirty clothes, and when I fall behind it causes obvious problems. One, I end up spending days devoted to nothing but the washing machine and dryer, days I could be using for more productive things like continuing to ignore the laundry. Two, the kids run out of clothes to wear, and on Friday night this happened. Leta walked into my bedroom after putting on her pajamas and, wow, is it ever fun to watch as the DNA I passed to another human being unfolds.

“This…” she said with her hand on her hip, waiting for me to grasp the severity of the situation. “This is crazy.”

I was reading on my bed and looked up. Why was I reading and not doing laundry? The only right answer to that question would be that whatever I was reading was far more important than clean clothes. And I am here to tell you that Golden Globe predictions are pretty goddamn important.

The first thing I noticed was the very white flesh of her arms and legs poking like sticks out of a pair of flannel pajamas about four sizes too small for her. I grinned and she shook her head to indicate that I was not exhibiting the proper response.

“Your pajamas magically shrunk!” I offered.

“MOM,” she said through clenched teeth. “None of my pajamas fit.”

“‘None’ is not the right word here. The ones you have on? They do not fit. One pair does not fit. And they do not fit spectacularly.” There is never a wrong time to explore semantics.

I finally got around to the laundry the following morning (and following afternoon and following night and the next following morning), and as I was putting in a load of darks I came to the same realization I have come to the last ten times I’ve loaded the washing machine. God god, does Leta ever go through pajamas. There were, what, forty pairs of pajamas in her hamper? Is she getting up in the middle of the night and changing? Is she wearing them underneath her regular clothing? Are the pajamas mating and reproducing at an unsustainable rate?

And then there’s Marlo. I already knew that Marlo likes to change clothes about four times during the day on the weekends. But every time I do the laundry it’s like she’s invited every single kid in her preschool class to come over and dump their entire sock and underwear drawers into her hamper. There aren’t that many pairs of socks in all of Canada. Sorry your kids are missing socks, Ottawa. Somehow they ended up in Marlo’s hamper. I’ll get them washed and shipped to you so that your four-year-old can put on a pair, notice that the elastic at the top isn’t as tight as it was last week and then go rummage around in the drawer until they find a pair that will suffice for only the next ten minutes.

  • kristibug

    2014/01/13 at 3:20 pm

    Pajamas should be worn TWICE before they are tossed in the laundry. I keep reminding my kids of this fact.

  • Jennie

    2014/01/13 at 3:24 pm

    Wait, your kids put their clothes in the hamper??

  • kmpinkel

    2014/01/13 at 3:29 pm

    I have 4 kids. Count your blessings. Two loads of clothes each day, every day, or we all die in what would look like an average hoarders home. 17, 12, 6 and 5. You have Ottawa’s socks, I have Quebec’s. Poor Canadians.

  • Starla Dear

    2014/01/13 at 3:34 pm

    Yes! Blue jeans can also be worn twice!

    I am the laundry police of my household, making sure no one throws anything in the hamper if it can be worn another time sohelpmeGod.

  • susanfishy

    2014/01/13 at 3:58 pm

    On behalf of Ottawa, we appreciate the shout out. And the explanation.

  • issascrazyworld

    2014/01/13 at 4:02 pm

    We never seem to have socks. I feel like all I do is buy new socks. At some point when my kids were babies I used to put them in fresh new PJ’s every night. Something about having a zillion and wanting to use them. Silly first timer deal. However, it has never changed and ALL THREE of my children need a new pair of PJ’s every single night. I’m not good at new math, but 3×7 is, what a zillion pj’s needing to be washed every week?

  • Katybeth

    2014/01/13 at 4:12 pm

    I am certain my teen son is running a laundry business on the side. He denies, but there is no way two people (one who hangs her clothes up) could have so much laundry—and I do see some evidence–a strange shirt here, a pair of socks there—no he is not selling weed or making meth–he is selling my laundry services…frankly I might prefer the former. . .I wish I could tell you it is gets better but alas the clothes get bigger and the drying time is longer.

  • Canadian Flasher

    2014/01/13 at 4:15 pm

    Twice?! What the heck? You wash your kids before bed (a quick wash, not a bath, you know where, takes me two minutes), and those pyjamas last a week. Are they bedwetting them several times a night? Sweat like a newly hormonal teenager? Otherwise, little kids do not stink, those ‘jamas last a week. Do they demand fresh new clothes every three hours? Then get that attitude outta their heads.

  • ST

    2014/01/13 at 4:19 pm

    I do so much children’s laundry in my home that I forget about mine and my husband’s. I work from home and,practically live in pajama pants, so it’s no big deal for me, but he actually goes to an office. Every so often, he’ll be like, “Um, I have no more underwear,” and there have definitely been times I’ve thought that running to Target and buying him more would be much more mentally satisfying than actually washing them.

    Also, I have a son who’s favorite thing in the world to do (and I mean that sincerely) is open his brother’s and his drawers, pull out all the clothes, and throw them on the floor. For some reason, he leaves my daughter’s clothes alone, thank goodness, but all boys clothes belong on the floor, covering every inch of space in his room. My sons have been living out of a laundry basket for the past 6 months because every time I think he’s over it and put a freshly folded load of laundry in the drawers, I find them on the floor within an hour. So that’s an added bonus to all the laundry fun.

  • Breanne

    2014/01/13 at 4:36 pm

    Only twice? 🙂

  • Sarah

    2014/01/13 at 4:39 pm

    Yeah. Same mind on this one. Jeans: a week. PJs: a week or until they are starting to get ratty. I can understand the allure of changing clothes often as a kid…you know, for funzies. But just because a shirt touched skin for maybe 3 hours does not mean it needs to be washed.

  • Niki

    2014/01/13 at 4:57 pm

    I used to go through clothes, pajamas, and socks and underwear at the same rate the girls do. My mother put up with it until the exact moment I was tall enough to reach the controls of the washer and dryer, at which point she told me that I would be doing my own laundry, and any unnecessary loads washed by me would result in a dollar a load being deducted from my allowance. Problem solved.

  • erinn

    2014/01/13 at 5:05 pm

    Changing 1 zillion times per week wasn’t an option in my house. I got to wear 3 (sometimes, if I begged…4) different outfits in 1 week. I imagine that when I was quite tiny, more outfit changes were necessary due to soiling, but then again I was always smocked or aproned so it was impossible to even use that excuse. Jammies and sheets were changed once per week barring any emergencies/illnesses.

    These days, I like the idea of getting as much wear out of clothes/pjs as possible before a wash–not only does it save time, but also financial and environmental resources. And the fact that my apartment does not have reliable laundry facilities, necessitating me in doing laundry at a facility across the city, does not hurt the cause.

  • Its Me! Lucy!

    2014/01/13 at 5:12 pm

    Hmph. I have boys, which means they joyfully don comically mismatched pajamas two sizes too small (or large), and I let them, because LAUNDRY.

  • Kristan

    2014/01/13 at 5:34 pm

    Lol sounds like my fiancé. I swear he must wear 6 outfits a day. (Okay okay, he probably only averages 3. But seriously: 3?!?!) God help us if/when our kids take after him…

  • Stef

    2014/01/13 at 5:35 pm

    I did that to my kids too, Niki, and I had to train my husband that you could wear your jeans more than once.

  • bluebird2b

    2014/01/13 at 6:20 pm

    I charge for extra clothes found in the hamper. Cash or extra chores.

  • Sarah

    2014/01/13 at 7:11 pm

    So that’s where my socks went 🙂

  • kmpinkel

    2014/01/13 at 7:21 pm

    Send a description of lost socks and an address that I may ship them to! And what do you do with all the single socks? I have a basket full.

  • Teal

    2014/01/13 at 8:46 pm

    My mom used to do laundry on Friday nights into Saturday. Since there were 3 of us kids, she would do a dozen or more loads. There was a rule that we had to use our towels & pajamas for at least two nights in a row. Otherwise, it was just way too much laundry. Then on Sunday, we would have our “folding parties.” All of us would help fold. I always got stuck matching all the socks. And then my dad, saint that he is, put all the clothes away himself.

    This post brought back some fond memories. 🙂

  • Teal

    2014/01/13 at 8:49 pm

    I wear my pajamas an average of 3-4 nights before I change them. I’m a night bather, so I always figure I’m relatively clean when I go to bed.

  • Hannah Cartmel

    2014/01/13 at 9:21 pm

    Yeah, wow. I wash my jeans on average once every six months or so! They’re so much more comfortable unwashed and don’t get all shrunken or worn out so quickly. 🙂

  • Hannah Cartmel

    2014/01/13 at 9:23 pm

    ^ YES! 🙂

  • Michelle

    2014/01/13 at 9:43 pm

    Wait. Your kids put their dirty laundry IN the hamper? What witchery is this?

  • Dan

    2014/01/14 at 7:59 am

    really? laundry?…………………gee Heather, coming to your site used to be fun. now all you do is complaining and sharing what a huge chaos your everyday life is like. and you take up to 7 day to post something new, and when you do………………. it’s this kind of stuff…………

  • dan

    2014/01/14 at 8:00 am


  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/01/14 at 8:58 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I love this.

  • ale

    2014/01/14 at 9:23 am

    Exactly – only twice? My kiddo and me and my husband we wear them more than just twice…

  • ale

    2014/01/14 at 9:29 am

    Extremely lucky in the laundry department here. I have the greatest husband in the world who after 7 years of marriage, he still does his own laundry…. And, I have tried to do it myself, but he just likes doing it, he likes the way he folds his stuff, his techniques or I don’t know what… but that’s totally fine with me. …

  • Eva

    2014/01/14 at 11:05 am

    My adult kids “start” the laundry, but never seem to finish it. A load sitting in the washer (weee…) and a load in the dryer. This can go on for days. It’s exhausting, I’m tired right now just thinking about it. sigh!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/01/14 at 11:09 am

    Score! You know, I don’t mind doing laundry. The act of it is kind of mind-numbing and soothing. There’s just something about looking at the mountain of clothes that causes me anxiety.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/01/14 at 11:09 am

    A lot of pinching.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/01/14 at 11:09 am

    I’m stealing this idea.

  • Daphne Phillips

    2014/01/14 at 12:37 pm

    1. Too many clothes = too much laundry. (no judgments here; just looking at the sheer quantity can be helpful sometimes. Less clothes = less laundry… perhaps more FREQUENT laundry… but still…)
    2. PJs, unless you are sick, get worn MULTIPLE times before washing. Same with pants and ‘good’ shirts (unless obviously dirty)
    3. 1 towel per kid per week
    4. Any kid over the age of 8 can learn to do their own laundry.

  • Coconuts1234

    2014/01/14 at 1:46 pm

    I hated sorting so we have four laundry baskets in our master closet: whites, mediums, darks and dry cleaning. There is a rule for the kids: bring me your laundry by noon on Saturday or do it yourself. I have not touched the 13 year old’s laundry in 6 months. The 9 year old brings it to me on Friday night lol.

  • acm

    2014/01/14 at 1:48 pm

    Wait, pajamas two nights in a row? How about one set for the duration of a laundry cycle and then switch to the next?!? that’s what *I* do, and I’m not keeping my kids on any more mattresses than I need for a beauty sleep…

  • Jennyfabu

    2014/01/14 at 2:06 pm

    Have you ever noticed how your own pile of laundered clothing is exponentially smaller than everyone else in the house? Seriously, when was the last time I washed my jeans…

  • JenVegas

    2014/01/14 at 3:33 pm

    Ugh my husband still does this…every piece of clothes that touched his body for any amount of time goes in the hamper. I wouldn’t care if he would do more laundry. Alas….

  • Beth Rich

    2014/01/14 at 3:34 pm

    Just wait until they are teenagers. My son changes clothes more often than he takes a shower, which is at least twice a day. And he didn’t learn to “recycle” until I made him do his own laundry.

  • JenVegas

    2014/01/14 at 3:35 pm

    ^^^^^^ THIS A THOUSAND TIMES!! ^^^^^^^

  • Beth Rich

    2014/01/14 at 3:38 pm

    Yep, did that too. Hide them in the attic.

  • BlackPantySalvation

    2014/01/14 at 4:42 pm

    I’m convinced clothes reproduce while sliding down my laundry chute and have thusly renamed it The House Vagina.

  • Lisa

    2014/01/14 at 8:39 pm

    I’m in Ottawa and my 4 year old is always running out of socks. But I’m pretty sure we’ve got all your hats…

  • Melanie

    2014/01/15 at 7:12 am

    Do you also have all of my kids’ right mittens? I have a pile of left ones…

  • Andrea

    2014/01/15 at 9:08 am

    my kids socks too! LOL!

  • Andrea

    2014/01/15 at 9:10 am

    I have 4 kids. Lots and lots of laundry. They are 10 and under, they are responsible for bringing me their laundry basket when they need clothes. I do their whole basket, no sorting. Then I can fold and not spend time guessing who’s shirt is who’s etc. I save so much time not having to look at the size before folding. LOVE IT!

  • Shannon

    2014/01/15 at 2:20 pm

    If you’re from my house of 19, 17, 14, and 10 ,three of them girls, you wear them mismatched anyway. So no point in trying to find those matches….spread them out on a bed and call them in to choose theirs, lol.

  • Alexandra

    2014/01/15 at 4:30 pm

    The first time I complained to my mother about the laundry she marched me into the laundry room, showed me what to do, and declared that my laundry was now my responsibility. I was 10.

  • Lisa Jetonne

    2014/01/15 at 7:46 pm

    Laundry is a metaphor for life. It’s why I made a rule that each of my 3 kids would be in charge of all their own laundry by their 14th birthday. All. Including their sheets and towels. At 12, each started doing it with my help, and was completely savvy well before the final handover. Even my husband got into the idea. We still have one kid at home, but I haven’t done any laundry except my own in more than 10 years.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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