Laundry: A Mathematical Perspective

I always said I would never use all that math I was forced to endure once I got out into the “real world.” I was so wrong. I don’t know about you, but around my house, laundry increases exponentially by the number of human beings it represents. One person is never directly equal to only one dirty outfit. Ever. 

So I’ve worked out a little math for you. I think this should help. You’re welcome!

On average, for every one adult person in your household, you can expect at least three outfits per day. This loosely represents work, work-out, and sleep clothing. Your wardrobe may vary. Additionally, you can expect several towels and (hopefully) one set of sheets per week. But sorry, that’s not enough information to formulate a plan. While 1 Person X 3 Outfits X 7 Days a Week, does in fact, equal 21 outfits, unfortunately, the amount of dirty laundry one person produces varies by so many different factors that it takes much more than a basic math equation to figure out. 

In other words, we need more data. 

The first piece of data reflects a reality check. Life’s a hot mess. It just is. We slip in mud puddles, spill hot coffee on our blouse and accidentally pee on ourselves while laughing at our friends. We leave the clothes in the washing machine a little too long and have to wash them again. While 21 outfits may get us through the week, the weekend is likely to add to the struggle with more clothes needed for sports, dinner plans, and church. So our first data point leads us to a big ’ol Variable “X” because, well, we don’t actually know what that number is now do we?!

In other words, we still need more data.  

The next piece of data represents the truth that, as parents, there are not just adults living in your house. Let’s be honest, adults can function, living their best laundry life, out of a basket placed neatly at the foot of the bed. They can shake out the crease from a perfectly folded shirt and match up orphaned socks every morning, without messing up the other neatly folded clothes that will never actually be put away (not that I speak from any experience in this exact scenario). Adults tend to triage what really matters in life and one little laundry basket has never scared a grown-up. We can live out of a laundry basket, like our life depends on it, as needed. The issue is, there is never just one little laundry basket. Ohhhhh no. There are other people living in the house. And There is SO. MUCH. LAUNDRY!!!!!!!! So data point no.2 leads us to the mathematical coefficient of age, as the amount of laundry per person is proportionate to said person’s age (ok, only with about a hundred potential exceptions, but I digress).  

In other words: Kids. Offspring. Children. Dependents. You know who they are. 

They are DESTROYING your laundry equation!

The average human comes out of the womb at a pace of about 4-5 outfits per day, and a truly innumerable number of towels, burp cloths and bibs – and hopefully only one set of sheets. per night. From that point forward, there is a horrendously slow decline in the number of outfits and linens used per day but with an improvement rate of really only about 20% per year in the first 3 years of life. This is deceptively encouraging, however, because when kiddie sports begin at age 5, the 20% improvement declines back up to a new baseline of about 2-3 outfits per day. Between school clothes, tiny t-ball uniforms and 2 piece pajamas (You did realize there was less pajama laundry when they wore footed jammies. Didn’t you?), you are nearly back where you began. Except by now you have probably had another child. So you are actually far worse off than you have ever been… 

In other words, this data is really only helpful when plotted on a graph. 

Don’t Worry. I made you one below! You’re SO welcome! 

At this point, I want to be encouraging, but I can’t be; it really just never gets any better. They will always have a school uniform complete with PE clothes, spirit shirts, team jerseys and marching band polos. They will have after school clothes and going out clothes. They will have whatever they decide they sleep in pajama-ish clothes. They will get a job with a special uniform and they will somehow have all their friend’s clothes too. They will also just change so many times that no one, including them, has any clue what is actually dirty, anymore, anyway. I’m certain that by their teenage years, the dirty laundry will have increased so much that your sanity will have declined its way into sub-zero status which is clearly the equivalent of Laundry-Hell.  

Your only chance at this point is to teach them what it means to do laundry and then send them off to college one day in hopes that they will have a clue how to sort, wash, dry, fold and put away. Your reality, however, is that they believe all socks and underwear belong in one basket, and that basket usually sits on the couch or at the foot of the bed. But don’t worry momma, they won’t be afraid of that basket, and they probably won’t wash their clothes often enough to fill it anyway! 

PS: I want to apologize to all the true math genii who are appalled and offended by the incorrect usage of their beloved mathematical terms, most of which I have not actually used since college, and I no longer have any clue what they mean.
PSS: No prime numbers were hurt in the making of this post. 
Jaime Mitchell
Jaime was born and raised in Monroe, LA where she studied Biology/Chemistry at the University of Louisiana. After graduating in 2004, she headed to NOLA where she didn’t know a single soul! Soon after, she met her husband Sonny and together they are biological, foster, and adoptive parents to 3 (or more) amazing human beings. She recently graduated with her Masters, works in Sales & Marketing and serves as a Chaplain for the JPSO. In addition to love for her family and those who are grieving, Jaime gets pretty excited about foster/adoption, photography, cooking, podcasts and camping road-trips with her family. 


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