My husband and I, like many couples, have more than our fair share of squabbles about home care responsibilities. I bemoan the fact that he can’t ever seem to move a plate from the sink to the dishwasher; he wonders why I can’t manage to detangle the nest of charging cables that sits beside my bed (I have a system, OK?). But one thing I’m convinced we’ve managed to do right is our laundry. Because we’ve determined that it is not, in fact, our laundry, but my laundry and his laundry and therefore should be treated as such.
Some household chores you delineate carefully and deliberately, and others haphazardly fall into place over time by default. Our laundry was the latter. In our first Brooklyn apartment, there were no washing machines in the building, so we had to take our washables out for laundering. The relationship was still relatively new, and we weren’t yet combining all our expenses, so it made sense to drop off our respective bags, pay our bills, and be on our way. After we moved to L.A., our apartment had laundry capabilities in a shared back building, and we simply kept the habit up.
One day, when my husband was on a deadline for a project, I offered to do a quick load for him, and he recoiled at the suggestion with a chilling mix of disdain and confusion. “Why would you want to wash my underwear?” he asked. It turns out I did not have a satisfying answer to that question! I never bothered to broach the topic again.
Now that we have our very own washer and dryer in our house, we’ve proudly upheld the tradition, our two matching hampers sitting side by side, independent yet peacefully coexisting. And I’m convinced it plays a role in any domestic harmony we’ve managed to conjure.
Joint Laundry Is Kinda A Scam
I know there are many who disagree, but none of their positions on the matter hold any water for me. Some claim that the eco-friendliness of combined loads clinches the superiority of their preferred method, and I’d say think again. If you wait until you each have a more or less full load of laundry to do, you’re expending no more water or energy than you would otherwise.
Others say separating their clothes makes no sense since they only have one laundry bin, and a simple solution to that would be: Get a second hamper, my friends. One couple explained they like the consistency of their shared laundry schedule, and to that I’d argue, you can create a regular routine with or without your spouse.
When another person told me they wash their things together “because we’re married,” I simply stopped asking.
You Don’t Want To Go Sock-Blind
Embracing the two-hamper system spares you from my personal circle of hell: the unenviable task of attempting to separate each other’s clothes once they’re dry. You don’t realize how many brands of white gym socks look exactly the same until you’re practically going blind scouring around for a label, trying with all your will to discern a sizing tag.
There is a soothing satisfaction that comes from dumping clean clothes on my bedspread, knowing every item belongs to me, and that the folding process won’t end with me handing a neat pile of clothes to someone who will let it sit on the floor of his office for a solid week. But I’m not naming names.
Why Risk Resenting Each Other?
Washing your clothes, even if you’re not beating them against a rock by hand in a river, is a tediously laborious act. It’s a time-consuming chore with lots of moving parts: Separate your colors, measure out your detergent, don’t leave your items in the washer too long or they’ll mildew, fold them before they wrinkle — the list goes on. And it’s not like vacuuming the carpet, where the mix of errant popcorn kernels, discarded wrappers, and other debris is a chore of both your making. Laundry is easily divided into the clothes I made into a gross, sweaty mess and the clothes you made into a rumpled, disgusting heap.
Constantly cleaning up someone else’s mess is a fast-track to resentment, making it much more appealing to simply opt out of the joint affair. Marriage is already a series of niceties that get slowly stripped away over time. Why add “manhandling intimate stains of unknown origin” to that list?
We all have such a personal relationship to our laundry, anyway. I, for one, don’t want to be held liable for shrinking someone’s favorite nostalgic college band T-shirt, and I don’t want anyone else running my delicate knits on an extra high spin cycle.
Your Laundry Habits Are Superior, Anyway
Eliza, 36, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner, pays attention to garment care instructions, whereas he does not. “I would never let him touch my clothes for that reason,” she says, without a hint of uncertainty. And when we know exactly how we want to care for our clothes, why entrust someone to read our minds and get it right, only to be vaguely disappointed in them when they fail? Lower the bar, level the playing field, and leave their laundry alone.
Then there are the inarguable convenience benefits. When you each tend to your own dirty clothes, you don’t have to argue over whose turn it is to do the wash. This is especially useful for couples who go through clothes at different paces, ensuring no one is stuck standing their ground, completely devoid of clean underwear and going commando for three days straight out of spite because “they did it last time.”
Alison, 40, who lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, understands this conundrum all too well. Alison is in a polyamorous relationship with a man and a woman, and they all have different laundry timelines. Her husband likes to take his time and wait for things to pile up, whereas her wife requires a fast turnover so she has clean clothes for work. Alison is somewhere in the middle, and not wanting to hold up her wife or wait for her husband, she happily does her own laundry. Although it wasn’t always this way — there was some combining when their children weren’t old enough to do their own washing — Alison is thrilled with the current arrangement.
“[It’s] nice just to be responsible for my own things,” she says, with unmistakable glee in her voice.
I love my husband for a multitude of reasons, but chief among them is that I never have to wash and fold his boxers.
This article was originally published on