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Many freelancers dish about the upsides of working from home: “I can work in my pajamas!” “I don’t have to commute!” All great perks. But the one that makes me scratch my head: “I can do laundry during the day!”

Resource | Public | Article | Essays | Comments: 0 | 13 July 2023 | Modified 15 June 2024

Laundry Breaks

For me personally, that is not a perk. Sure, at first glance, doing laundry during the day might seem like a no-brainer. Throw in a load of laundry before sitting down. When you get up for your break, throw it in the dryer or hang it on the line to dry. Then, fold and put it away. One more evening or weekend chore to cross off the list, right?

But is that really a perk? It might be if you work for someone else. After all, you’re getting paid to take a break during your workday to throw the laundry in the washer. Or you’re getting paid to do it while simultaneously discussing a project while on the phone with a co-worker. But as a business owner—and all freelancers are business owners, whether they acknowledge it or not—let me make a case for NOT doing your laundry as a “break” or part of your workday.

Why Laundry and Being Self-Employed Don’t Mix

There are lots of reasons I’m not a fan of freelancers looking at laundry (and other chores) as great options for daytime work breaks.

First, as a freelancer, you only get paid for time spent producing indexes. When you throw in a load of laundry, you’re not getting paid. And if you’re like me, I only have so many daytime hours that can be filled with paid indexing work.

Yes, you need to take breaks when indexing, but should laundry be one of your breaks? I’d rather stretch, walk my dogs, or even fit in some puttering in the garden (think sunshine, more stretching, nature!). Shouldn’t your break be something that nourishes you rather than completing something from your household to-do list? You work from home as a freelancer. You’re not working for your home.

Also, laundry is one of those tasks that require commitment. Once you put that load into the washer, you are now committed to transferring it to the dryer or the line within a couple of hours. And then, if you want to avoid wrinkles, it really needs to be taken out of the dryer in a timely manner. Using a clothesline gives you more time, but you also need to make sure you take the laundry off at the end of the day and watch out for rain. And then, you need to fold the clothes. And don’t forget the time it takes to put them away! So, from the moment you start sorting your laundry, you are committing to four additional steps that definitely take more than a minute or two.

When observed from this vantage point, laundry is more than just a one-and-done, unpaid task that you’re trying to fit into your workday. It’s a commitment that can often stretch into after-work hours. Wouldn’t that time be better spent taking real, enjoyable breaks that you can put aside completely when you’re ready to return to your desk for more indexing? The last thing a work break should be is a nagging distraction from your actual work.

When Should You Do Laundry, Then?

Time-saving is great, and I understand the impulse to batch tasks together or to multitask. But don’t you think laundry is better paired with other household tasks like vacuuming or paying bills? Strip the beds of their linens while a clothing load is in the washer. How about tidying up your bedroom or the kitchen while the clothes are in the dryer? Or maybe fit in a quick walk or yoga session? The point is, you’re keeping all your chores together in the same time frame, instead of letting them distract and interfere during your income-generating hours.

I find that I like to do my laundry on Saturday. I can do other household cleaning tasks when my laundry is swirling in the washer or the dryer. By grouping cleaning tasks together, I’m able to get into the “cleaning mindset” where one task leads to another—unlike pairing it with work, when I could get distracted by the laundry or frustrated when I see that it piles up, taking my mind off of my indexing project and refocusing it on the state of my house. Maybe it’s just me, but thinking about things being clean or dirty doesn’t keep me in the work mindset. In fact, it hurts my work productivity for the day.

To put it in plain terms: a break from work should be a “break from work.” That means all work, even household or yard work (unless you really, really find those things refreshing). Relax, recharge, refuel, then resume your indexing. Don’t make household work your break because then you’re just switching from paid work to housework– and that’s not the kind of break you deserve!

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Michelle Guiliano | Line by Line Indexing

Indexer from Etna, New Hampshire | USA
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