In France, "Laundry Day" takes on a whole new meaning. It can literally mean an ENTIRE day of doing laundry. And not because we get our clothes any dirtier here. Laundry day is the result of two-hour long wash cycles and an itty-bitty washing machine. In Colorado, our washer/dryer unit did not allow for the dryer and the washer to be running at the same time. So, we are used to long laundry days. But, even with this limitation, we could do 4-5 loads of laundry in a single day. And, unless we only did laundry once a month, we rarely had to do 4-5 loads at one time. In France, however, this is quite typical.
We have a fairly modern washing machine at the Maison Mercure, our temporary house. There are 12 different cycles to choose from. First, there are the hot cycles for whites. The shortest of these cycles, which heats the water to 90 degrees C, takes 2 hours and 17 minutes. My towels are washed at 60 degrees C, a cycle that can take 1 hour 40 minutes. At 40 degrees C, it takes 1 hour 18 minutes to wash my colors. Jeans and other cold-water clothes can be done a whole lot quicker on the "Time For You" cycle (30 minutes).
Then, like most French homes, we do not have a clothes dryer. So, there is the fun task of hanging the laundry on racks to dry. This isn't really a time-consuming task (though, I can think of better ways to spend this time) but it is space-consuming! Those clothes racks are BIG! And, unless it's a sunny day when I can put the racks outside, racks of clothes can fill my living room. And, indoors, it can take at least 24 hours for clothes to dry.
And to make the tedious task even more daunting, the feat of drying clothes indoors takes on a whole other strategy with a curious toddler around. Owen loves clothespins. Last year, he delighted in pulling them off the drying racks if I left them hanging on. This year, a little older and a little more mischievous, Owen likes to pull the clothespins off the drying rack while the clothes are still attached. And, if there is no clothespin, who cares! He’ll just pull the clothes off. It’s especially helpful, actually, when the clothes are dry and I want help putting the clothes away. Owen pulls the clothes off and helps me organize them into piles based on ownership. But when the clothes are still wet… well, then his fun is just a royal pain in my you-know-what.
So, I have been spending the last few weeks (and several loads) trying to perfect the system. I think I have it down now. The first laundry load gets started on the way out the door in the morning. Owen helps load the machine, we turn the 2 hour cycle on and go out for a few hours to play or shop. We come home for lunch and then Owen goes to take a nap. During naptime, I take the laundry out of the machine and hang it on the rack. Then start the second load. Owen usually wakes up as the second load is coming to an end. He helps me carry the wet clothes to be hung and I let him play with the unused clothespins while I hang the second load. We wait for the clothes to dry overnight. The next day, I get Owen’s “help” with putting the clothes away. The remaining loads are saved for another day. So, I tend to do 2 loads at a time so I never get to finish "all" the laundry in a single day. Laundry day has become laundry week in France. But, really, there's always going to be more laundry so what's the point in trying to get it all done in one day anyway?
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