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Laundry Is The Worst Thing In The World

Illustration by Angelica Alzona/GMG

Years ago, a friend told me that sweeping is the worst possible chore. My God, she was wrong. I took a screencap of her being wrong and would show it to other people, and they would gaze at it and say, “My word, look at that person being wrong.” That’s how wrong it was. Everyone agrees laundry is objectively the worst chore in the world. I checked.

Let us dispense with sweeping entirely. First, what are you doing without a vacuum? A vacuum reduces sweeping annoyance by 90%, by skipping the dustpan. Most sweeping now involves limited areas like garages, stoops or patios, from which you can whisk all detritus into a dirted zone that scientists call “nature.” Also, buy a damn leafblower.


Second, sweeping can be serene! Monks rake and sweep dirt! On purpose! And any household chore that you can convert into karate instruction is off the list. You ever hear about someone folding fitted sheets and turning into a ranked MMA fighter? Christ, no.

What of other chores? Cleaning the bathroom? Sorry, no. If you can’t do that in less than 10 minutes, you have problems. Just two rubber gloves, a scrub brush, cleanser and some paper towels. Do the whole thing naked and rinse out the tub area while you take a shower. PEAK EFFICIENCY. Dusting? Dusting, you say? What did I just tell you about the vacuum? Get one with good attachments and get out of my sight.

Mowing the lawn? Hell, that’s like plant vacuuming. After you’re done, you get to flex at your neighborhood with how you tamed your lush yard into symmetry with lethal order. You just optimized the lawn’s water use, keeping the roots strong and keeping the soil of your land from washing away under the forces of erosion. If you think about it, not having a baller lawn is basically like giving nature a license to steal from you.

Besides, you can enjoy your lawn. Roll around on it, play games, have a picnic, let your kid run around, even make the next kid if your neighbor’s floodlights are out. The enjoyment factor mitigates some of the chore, in a way similar to another candidate for worst chore: dishwashing.


Look, this column is a primal whine of privileged problems, so let’s just lean into the classism: Buy a damn dishwasher. A new one, where you can chunk plates in there without pre-washing. If you can’t, I get it. Maybe it’s been a bad year or you’re renting or have a tiny kitchen. I’m sorry. I just put my hand on my heart and stared out the window. My eyes were wet.

For all its complaints, though, handwashing dishes is the byproduct of something great, which is either eating or eating and cooking. God, eating is so great. Remember that crying I just did? I did it onto a turkey breast. I’m brining it with my empathy for you. It’s going to be so great I might cry even more on it out of joy. Then I will eat it and wash dishes as part of a long fond goodbye to one of the finest delights of being alive. That goes a long way to forgiving that chore.


For laundry, there can be no forgiveness.

Now, I grant you that there are some articles of clothing so lovely, so comfortable, so flattering that no amount of toil can rob you of their innate pleasure. I’m willing to bet that many of those clothing items are dry-clean only—excepting that lucky shirt or bottom-flattering pants that are worn rarely, so as to extend as long as possible their mojo in your life and not to anger the luck gods.


But almost everything else we wear is just a concession to the reality that it is illegal to be naked, or because we have a job, or because we have to go to a function, or because while we aren’t exactly naked while wearing sweatpants and jelly shoes, going to the grocery story in them to get some milk makes us look like Jeffrey Lebowski.

Thus everything you do laundry-wise is a surrender to a cruel world that makes you wear pants.

A guy doing laundry and almost certainly thinking about how bad doing laundry is. Photo credit: Jamie McDonald /Allsport/Getty

Maybe you have bought a few sets of sheets and towels, 60 pairs of underwear, 60 pairs of socks, over 60 shirts and two pairs of jeans that can go for a month each. Maybe you have reduced laundry toil to a noxious event that occurs only six times a year, when the underwear drawer lies fallow, when you must step into a closet full to bursting and realize you can no longer summit the musty ziggurat of discarded clothing you have dubbed Mount Laundry, realizing that it has finally beaten you and that you cannot pay for a sherpa to ease your descent.


I was once like you. It was a time long ago, called college, and this was a process easier to engineer when t-shirts were acceptable at all times.

But no, now you are responsible, and you must reckon with all these godawful processes just to have pants so the fuzz doesn’t arrest you. Now you must determine whether everything dirty can be washed in cold water together, whether your whites are getting dingy and need to be washed in hot water or whether your whites are so dingy that they must be washed in hot water and bleach.


You must decide whether your laundry pile—either in isolation or combination—contains delicates, whereupon you must wash them in a separate delicate cycle and waste money on a half-filled wash tub, play clothing roulette and see if they’ll survive a more conventional wash, or if you are a woman, buy some silly mesh sack for vulnerable underthings to keep bra underwires or thongs from wrapping around the agitator (which means getting to the laundromat and taking out a sack of panties in front of people you don’t know).

Drying of course means removing everything that can’t be put in a dryer without risk of destruction (some sweaters) or shrinking too much (that ancient t-shirt) or heat warping (the aforementioned sack of panties) or that fall victim to permanently set-in discoloration (any pit or collar stain that wasn’t completely removed during that Oxi-Clean soak that you didn’t even remember to do at the start of this process). Everything that doesn’t make the cut has to go on a hanger in the next half hour before it starts wrinkling into a permanent accordion.

A small child faces a future in which he’ll do laundry rather than literally anything else. Photo credit: Tim Boyle/Getty

Anyone who says they take only 20 minutes to wash and 40 to dry is your enemy or lives on a sitcom planet.


None of this considers whether you have a washer and dryer inside your house. For 10 years, mine were in the garage, in Florida, a fetid metal-and-concrete sweatbox that was 90F (32C) for eight months out of the year. If any more fluid had poured off my head, I’d have been a deleted scene from Scanners. And I was lucky! God help people who live in cities like New York.

There are dozens of things I could think of doing that would result in people on the street seeing my underwear, and every one of them is infinitely more enjoyable than laundry, but big city dwellers have to lug giant bags of dirty clothes to a laundromat, stay for hours, then rush them back home in their bags before they permanently wrinkle, or else fold them on a table teeming with more organisms than were on Smithers’ face when he was covered with Freemason bacteria. If that’s the case, what’s even the point?


The only purpose to washing clothes is apparently to put them on your body make them filthy again in a prudish world that frowns on those who would just wear a tie and nothing else and proudly Yogi Bear it down the street, yet here you are soiling them on a table that two people who like Mumford and Sons albums scromped on last night.

Worse, you still have 30 more minutes of folding to do. Folding: because not only does it need to be clean, but it also needs to be arranged in rectangles. That’s not all! You must also run home with the sodden clothes that couldn’t go in the dryer and festoon your coffin-sized apartment with them like you’re decorating everything for this month’s Shirt Festival. Have fun waking in the night, groggily walking into one and accidentally suffocating yourself with your many laundry ghosts.


And, sure, sure, you could just take your laundry to a service, but if you can afford a laundry service, I honestly hope someone waterboards you through a sack of panties.

Death to laundry. Laundry is objectively the worst, and it is somehow also laundry’s fault that I had to write all of this to settle the issue forever. And before you lift a finger to waste your time disagreeing with me and being wrong for whatever horrible personal reason that makes you need to be wrong in front of mankind and your God, go in your closet and check whether anything you recently washed hasn’t been ironed, because I bet you still have that to do too.


Jeb Lund is America’s foremost expert on gift wrapping, hot dog sandwiches and talking. Give him money or go to hell.

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