As I write this, there is an overflowing laundry basket behind me. I can’t see it. I can’t hear it or (for now, at least) smell it. But I can sense it. I know it’s there. It’s always there, eyeing me with its passive-aggressive glance. “Dave,” it says. “Daaaave! Look at all this laundry.”
No, I’m not going crazy, nor am I having a conversation with the laundry basket. I am, however, aware of what the laundry basket really is: a mid-station.
What is a mid-station?
Think of a train that leaves Boston for New York City but first stops in Hartford, Connecticut. Partway between its departure point and its final destination. That is the mid-station stop. If you wanted to, you could get off the train at Hartford, have some lunch, do some shopping, and then eventually continue to New York City.
The laundry basket is a mid-station stop — holding the dirty clothes before they get to the washing machine. The trouble is, laundry often gets stuck in the basket. Days go by and the pile gets higher and higher. It’s annoying, and this prompted me to find other mid-stations in my home and I found several.
The dish drainer is a classic mid-station. I’ll clean up after a meal, wash the dishes, and put them in the rack. A couple of days later, we’re all using the rack as if it were the cabinet.
We also have a collection of keys, backpacks, and lunch boxes that come in from work and school every day. In this case, the mid-station is the mudroom. The coats and backpacks have hooks and the keys have a small basket, yet these items often languish on the first flat surface inside the door, or on the floor itself.
What can be done about mid-stations?
Adopt new habits. I live with three other people and laundry builds up quickly. After just 72 hours there’s a mountain piled up. The solution that works for us is to do at least one load per day. If we do this, the clothes don’t pile up as much. Doing one load per day, is manageable, and a lot better than spending three or four hours on the weekend getting caught up.
As for the dishes, diligence is the answer here, too. Simply make it a part of the daily routine to empty the drainer and put the dishes, glasses, and utensils, away.
Continually reminding the guilty parties results in getting the coats and backpacks hung up properly in the mud room.
Eliminating mid-stations. I’ve read about people who’ve addressed mid-stations by eliminating them. In other words, laundry won’t pile up in baskets if there are no baskets. Likewise, there’s no “Leaning Tower of Dishes” to admire without a dish drainer to serve as the foundation. This is true but not often practical. When I was a kid, we didn’t have laundry baskets because my parents’ house had a laundry chute. We tossed the dirty clothes through a little door in the wall and they fell downstairs to the laundry room itself. Most homes don’t have laundry chutes these days.
If you can get away with eliminating a mid-station, give it a try. I don’t think I could do it.
The other point I want to make here is delegation. My kids, my wife and I all share chores. Many hands make for short work, as the saying goes.
If you’ve identified any mid-stations in your home, share your solution (or struggle) in the comments below. Let’s see what we can do about this common problem.