Friday, March 30, 2012

Laundry part II: Matushka's Law

In the Inner Game of Laundry I talked about the whole process of folding and sorting laundry. One critical element to this is the actual folding. It is rare that two adults living in the same house will do all of those things the same way. Matushka's Law states that if two adults are in the same house they will always load the dishwasher, make the bed and fold the clothes differently AND one person will care deeply and the other won't and will think the first person is silly.

Take towels, for instance. My sister Emily calls the way her husband folds towels "boy folding". I think this is very apt. My husband and Rebecca's husband fold them exactly the same way. They fold them in half, then fold them in half and call it done. This results in a droopy, flat towel that, no matter how you turn it, always has one "messy" edge visible. It is also too big to fit on the shelf without hanging off. Hand towels and dish towels folded the same way have the same result. See [Exhibit 1].

[Exhibit 1]

The proper way to fold towels is to fold them in half, then in thirds, then in half again. This results in a neat, compact fold that will not flop around and fits on the shelf. [Exhibit 2] I tried to teach Father this the other night when he was helping me with the five loads of laundry on the bed before bedtime. I demonstrated and said, "Just remember: half, thirds, half." In the end I wound up folding the towels and he folded the washcloths. Those are acceptable in quarters because they're so small.  
[Exhibit 2]

Towels aren't the only things that fall under this law. Shirts do too. Hands up, how many fold t-shirts sleeve to sleeve (folded lengthwise) then fold in half? I feel the same way about that fold as I do about the towel in [Exhibit 1]. I hold the shirt up in front of me, fold the sleeves back, then fold the bottom half up to the back. I think you can guess how Father likes to fold shirts.

The secret to a happy marriage while working under Matushka's Law is for the first person to shut her eyes when the second person is willing to help. (Sometimes breathing into a paper bag is necessary.) In the larger scheme of things, is it worth a big argument to insist on things being folded the proper way? (Notice I didn't say "my" way. Ahem.) No, it is not.

At the very least, if you do go back and refold things, don't let the second person see.

P.S. Many thanks to my wonderful husband for helping me fold laundry on so many occasions. (:


  1. Folding my husband's t-shirts was my least favorite laundry job until I was introduced to this. Perfectly folded t-shirts in five seconds every time. :)

  2. an addendum to Matuska's law:

    when children are first learning to fold- any semblance of folding, male or female is praised and cheered. As they get older, they can be indoctrinated in the folding pattern of whomever is willing to sit there and show them the "right" way. when they get to a certain, teenage level, the best thing is to get them a job at a clothing store, where their paycheck depends on good folding and they will get annoyed by customers that dont fold correctly.

  3. Many thanks to Kh. Nicole! I've seen that technique before but it was over explained & made no sense. :)

    I've been banned from loading the dishwasher for over 6 years (I was banned a long time before we moved). Just recently, DH said "Don't you notice I always have to move the bowls after you load them when it comes time to unload them?" No, I never noticed! Haha!

    I'm neurotic about folding. I tried to help my sister once & she told me to quit b/c she does it the way Mom did... I don't.

  4. I fold towels differently depending on their use and storage. Explaining to my husband that our towels get folded in half twice, then rolled (for easy retrieval in a low cabinet, even for the kids) results in ALL towels being folded that way and stored there. So much for the other bathroom.

    Explaining to my husband that the hand towels should be folded in thirds (for easy hanging) usually results in success. Kitchen hand towels are "boy-folded" and put in a drawer, as they are hung up by a corner when in use, so they get completely unfolded anyway.

    Kh. Nicole, I wanted to learn that method but never had it work out. Now my husband doesn't wear t-shirts... but my three-year-old does, and was just caught folding (boy-fashion) all his shirts (which he'd helped his sister dump out all over the floor of his closet) yesterday ... so I wonder whether he'd be interested in practicing that with me, and if it would work on such small shirts!

    Every time I go to my sister's house, I do her laundry, and it seems like every time she has "always" had a new-to-me way of folding it. (She's the one who taught me how to fold properly in the first place, having worked in a clothing store as monica mentions above!) But then, she is Thrilled to have me do her laundry, and feeds me tasty things, so it all works out pretty well.

  5. My mom and I fold towels differently, I think I got my habit from working women's clothing stores in my teens and early twenties.

    My Dh very, very rarely folds laundry. However, he does so much of the housework and chores, I am fine with it being mine.

  6. It's certainly not my place to correct Father, but in my quietest, smallest voice: your way is the Right Way, at least as far as towels go. You're on your own for tshirts, though. I used to know the Air Force Way, but forgot that long since, and it hasn't been an issue for a long time.
    My favorite laundry experience: when he was a young teen, my son decided to live with his dad for a year or so. Clothes no longer magically appeared in the closet and drawers. Dad said, "Son, here's how that washer works." Son, being an extremely neat person due to some random gene mutation, developed his own laundry techniques, and when he moved back with me, he just kept on doing his own. It was beautiful.

  7. You're too funny, Matushka! I love reading your blog.

  8. I found this very funny because my Dad folds towels in the "right" way, as you've described, never in the "boy" way. (He was in the military when he was young, I assume this is where he picked this up, and his ironing fanaticism). I remember he use to get so angry at us if we didn't fold them in the right way. It must have had a negative effect on me because I've never folded a towel the "right" way since, even though I know it's a better way.

  9. Yay! My towels fit on the shelves now! Amazing! Now I just have to figure out that t-shirt voodoo...

  10. Kh. Nicole, that is an awesome way to do shirts! I tried it, but it's obvious I need more practice.

    Monica, I absolutely agree. I start them out on simple things and work up.

    Janelle, that's funny that you're on the other side of the dishwasher-loading war! (:

    Pres. Magda, yep, you have to fold things to suit your storage needs. We don't have any towel bars so it's pointless for me to fold hand towels like I used to (like you do it). I fold them the way I do because they fit in the storage basket better that way.

    Mimi, I always envy people who worked in clothing stores who can fold things so perfectly. I just never got the knack.

    LV, that's funny about your son. (: When I was a senior in high school, I was presented with my OWN laundry basket and told from henceforth I would be doing my own laundry. That way, when I went to college I would have figured out all the ticky things while there was still someone around to help.

    Thanks, Luba! (:

    Mat. Constantina, that's interesting about the military connection. My father was in the navy and we could definitely see the influence in the difference in his and Mom's cleaning methods. When he did the dishes the dish towels were always hung up perfectly symmetrically, for instance.

    Tawni, glad to help! (: I need to figure out the shirt trick too.

    I enjoyed reading about everyone! Thanks for commenting!

  11. I loved reading this! My husband is, surprisingly, much more obsessive about how things get folded and stored. He learned to turn a blind eye to my haphazard way of loading the dishwasher, and I learned the "right" way to fold his clothes. :)
    He's also wonderful enough to do all the ironing, if it were up to me our clothes would always have that nice "worn" look. :)


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