With the holidays behind us, we widow-men may feel relieved to return to the mundane duties of normal life. If you had house guests, you may still have a backlog of laundry.

“Marriage is about the most expensive way for the average man to get laundry done.” Burt Reynolds

A lady friend told me about her widowed father’s struggles with his laundry. The same woman said she prefers to do all the laundry for herself and her husband, but she lets him wash his own underwear, socks, and towels: he’s not likely to damage those.

If there was ever a serious conflict in our marriage, it probably was over laundry. My wife had very precise routines to govern clothes washing. I called it “scientific laundry,” and to this day I can’t tell you all the elements that went into it. The most scientific procedures were applied to her clothing, not mine, so I have very little idea what was involved. What I do know is I could never interfere! Like my friend’s husband, I “wandered off the reservation” only at my peril. There were times when I wondered if laundry crises would become a serious threat to our marriage. (Near the end of her life, she actually asked me to do a load of her delicate laundry. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but that was a sign that her life was ending.)

My friend and her sisters helped their father by giving him tips on laundry and buying him no-iron clothing. They didn’t want him to stray into the even more technical field of ironing clothes. For my part, I’m reasonably good at ironing, and I usually find it therapeutic. It’s clean, quiet, indoor work, and if all goes well, wrinkled clothes come in one side and smooth ones go out the other.

I’m still pretty unscientific about laundry, but I have experimented with bleach. It’s wonderful stuff! When I found that it would brighten some of my white things, I started using it regularly. I have bombarded underwear, towels, and sheets with chemical warfare. Those successes have led me to use high concentrations of bleach on my kitchen sinks, badly stained old Tupperware measuring cups, and even on my kitchen counters. (Caution! Please do a little research before trying bleach on modern counter-tops. Mine are not modern.)

Confession Time: I have violated some of my wife’s laundry laws in recent months, and I seem to be slipping into habitual laundry criminality. I have sometimes washed outlandishly mismatched batches of fabric: towels, pillowcases, underwear, socks, and jeans all in the same load. Each little experiment with eclectic laundry has emboldened me to take the next step. I have found that modern colorfast clothing rarely discolors other clothes. Now I am an unrepentant felon where laundry is concerned. I have simplified and expedited my laundry work, and that’s worth the shame and guilt my wife thought I should feel.

You may be inclined to violate some of your wife’s laundry rules. Smile when you think of them. Take some pleasure in remembering her care for you and your clothing.


Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at [email protected]

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