une tribune



Thanks, Tessa, for the fleurs! I'm beginning to see color all over the house! Oh, and there's Jean-Marc. By the way... 

Meet with Jean-Marc in Orange County, California this coming March 20th or during his 2012 USA wine tour: click here to see all the cities Chief Grape will be visiting


bâcler (bak-lay)

    : to botch up, to do something quickly and badly, or without care

French definition for bâcler:
faire à la va-vite (to do quickly) or finir à la hâte (to finish hastily)

bâclé(e) = sloppily
bâcler sa toilette = to have a quick wash
la fin du livre est bâclée = the end of the book is tied up sloppily
du travail bâclé = a slapdash work

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

Quant au ménage, il vaut mieux une partie faite correctement, que le tout bâclé. As for the housekeeping, better to do a part of it well, than all of it sloppily.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

A Growing Pile of Procrastination

Ever since encountering the French word "bâcler", I have been looking for an opportunity to use it... and then I stumbled over that pile of socks while doing laundry yesterday....

Ce tas de chaussettes! That growing, menacing heap of socks! However was such a monstre created? Ah... oui, it began in the early days, when I first came to France...

As a young mother I would stand outside the école maternelle, waiting for my 3- and 5-year-olds to be let out of class. During the lazy attente I listened to the other mothers who chatted about tout et rien. I will never forget hearing one of the mamans talk about socks:

Mais non! Je ne mélange jamais les chaussettes avec le reste! Et surtout pas avec les sous-vêtements! On ne lave pas les chaussettes avec les slips!

Gosh... I had never thought about that before: not washing socks with the other clothes... especially not with underwear!

That afternoon I looked at my dirty laundry with fresh eyes. Every sock literally stood out, and why shouldn't they? They were caked with dirt! (My family has a bad habit of wearing their socks outside (on the front patio or in the garden). And to think, all this time I had chucked the dirty chaussettes in with the rest, including les culottes. Quelle honte!

Since that time, it never occurred to me to question or disprove the "no-socks-to-be-mixed-with-other-laundry-theory"; besides, the French seemed to excel and to take pride in the business (or "art"?) of laundry--why else would they expertly drape wet clothing outside their windows, tempting tourists to snap photos such as this one:



                 ...and notice: no socks mixed in with these things!

I might have stood by my own laundry ethics, but for bad timing: I had just received a scathing email from a reader who was scandalized to have read my "no-ironing" post (the offensive essay has since been deleted from the blog, but you can read it here). There followed a page-long rant about how the reader cared enough for her own family to iron their sheets AND their underwear... only a mère indigne would do otherwise!

That was that. Plus jamais! That, yes, that must have been the day that my laundry chore got carried away...

...Away to a neatly categorized box called "socks". The problem then was this: there were never enough socks to make up a full load! It eventually dawned on me that I might add other items to the sock pile, so as to grow it faster: Cleaning rags and floor dusters might be added to the mix. I wondered, what would that French mom who never mixed socks with laundry think of this? Was it okay to mix rags with socks? And which were dirtier: the rags or the socks?  Would one not compromise the other? Maybe a new pile should be formed? Would the laundry ever get done? (It was taking long enough to do the chore without a clothes dryer all these years; especially not fun is the chore of hanging up socks one by one by one... dozens of them!)

And on it went, this laundry dilemma, eventually snowballing into that pile of socks for which I could now find a purpose!: if only to employ a humble new French word: bâcler. Yes, it had somehow been bacléed or botched... this job of washing socks!


 Today's question: do you mix your socks in with the rest of your laundry? Or have you other "enlightening" laundry habits to share with us--stuff we've never thought of before, hints or astuces that might turn even the least inspired among us into "laundry artists"? Please share your tips with us here, in the comments corner. (Make my dad, Kip, happy, by including your city next to your name!)

Do you know a laundry-challenged person like myself? Why not forward this edition on to them? There's hope yet!

French Vocabulary

bâcler = to do something quickly and sloppily

le tas = heap, pile

ce tas de chaussettes = this pile of socks

quelle honte! = what a disgrace!

le monstre = monster

l'école (f) maternelle = kindergarten or nursery school

une attente = a wait, waiting

tout et rien = everything and nothing

la maman = mom

Mais non! Je ne mélange jamais les chaussettes avec le reste! Et surtout pas avec les sous-vêtements! On ne lave pas les chaussettes avec les slips! = But, no! I don't ever mix socks with the rest. And certainly never with underclothes! One doesn't wash socks along with underwear!

une mère indigne = an unfit mother

plus jamais = never again


DSC_0019Maybe this post should have been called "Loves chairs and flowers" instead of "sloppy, or to do something quickly and badly". Or I might call it "Caroline's Hat"--which I swiped she gave me, after the harvest.



A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey R. Dokey

Mama Braise says: Smokey! Don't take it so badly. Just because you can't say narcissus five times fast doesn't mean anything, it especially doesn't mean you are one of them.

Smokey: One of them?

Mama Braise: A narcissus, Son

Smokey: A narcissusson?

Mama Braise: You know: someone who is plein de soi.

Smokey: Someone who's full of "silk"?

Mama Braise: Oh, never mind! Let's just enjoy the flowers.

Smokey: What are they called?...

Mama Braise: Narciss...--- Oh, forget about it!

*soi = self; plein de soi = full of self
*soie = silk 

Grammar Corner

Thanks, Glenn, for leaving this comment following the previous post:

Question for the French speakers out there: I'm confused regarding Jean-Marc's phrase «Kristin ne pourra venir avec moi...» I would have expected a «pas» after «pourra» to complete the negation. Is this simply a typo or is there yet another rule governing «ne» usage that I'm clueless about (explétif omitted) ?

And thanks to Sarah, Millie, and Nadine (and to anyone I may have missed!) who tried to help answer Glenn's question in the comments box. The answer is as Nadine explained:

NE...PAS : There was NO typo, friends! And it's not a new rule, just an old one... But in literary French it is not only accepted but suggested to delete the "pas" for elegance. When talking about France and the French, you all may have forgotten about their elegance !!!
Be well tout le monde !
nadine, Napa, Californie

By the way, you can contact Nadine if you are looking for French lessons. Just type her email address into your mailbox and send her an inquiry. Here's Nadine's message:

FRANCOPHILES! Française donne cours de Conversation Française par tel - Skype - [email protected]


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Whites go with white's and colored clothes with colored clothes (exception for dark vs. light). Socks can be washed with whites if the socks are white. Clothes are made of mere fabric. If they are clean, they are clean. It doesn't matter where (on the body) they are used!


Well there's a thing! Who would ever come up with washing socks separately? I certainly would never have thought of that!
I love the photos of the daffodils, its my sister's birthday today and when she was 5 or so and asked what she wanted for her birthday, she answered daffodils, so to this day I always associate daffodils (or Jonquilles) with her birthday!


I put dark socks with the "darks" and whites with the towels, but I do have one good tip: the sneaky (or sneakery) socks that like to hide from one another (and the laundress) go in a zippered mesh bag from washer to dryer to sorter and that way they stay together!


I am exasperated to say the laundry here is NEVER complete, either!! I have had to resort to sub-categories in order to even make the piles manageable! Hence, the white socks go with the white-hots, dark socks with the dark-hots. After all, won't hot water with soap AND Borax, stain treat AND and extra rinse kill all the germs? And to think my mother-in-law washes EVERYTHING (and I mean everything!) in cold. But I agree that to wash the socks on their own is a bit much, not to mention a waste of power and time - highly valuable commodities!


While I have no comment about le tas de chaussettes (I'm a single mom and full-time French teacher... I'm just happy when the laundry gets done!), today's word m'a fait sourire! It immediately went up on my board as today's 'mot du jour'! Merci!

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

Ironing bed sheets is not only totally unnecessary, it's often used in fiction as an indication that the character has some sort of OCD-related disturbance.

As for separating laundry — I have never owned enough clothing to make up separate loads of lights, darks, heavy texture, light texture, socks, etc. I've been throwing everything in together and washing it in warm water for decades, and never had any problems.


When we first were married, I thought my husband was just thoughtless about laundry because all his socks were always inside out, so I had to turn them right outside out to fold them. After stewing about this for quite a long time (a year?) I asked him "why". Turns out, since they were all dark, he didn't want the outsides picking up lint! Now, that was sensible!! So, Steve, tell me why, after 43 years of 'mariage' now your WHITE socks are all always inside out in the laundry. :)

William and Lee Mears

Oops! Yes, I wash the socks with the other clothes. In fact darks go in with whites if they are color safe. I get the job done as quickly as I can. Then I can get to the joys of my life like art, gardening, reading, and breathing! Take it from this 80 year old lady from Florida, live your life with joy, peace and love. Lee Mears, Bradenton, Florida.


I was distressed to see that the link that was supposed to lead me to the offensive article on ironing sheets led me to the Amazon site for your book. I have no problem with marketing - it is important if you want to sell your books - but I do not like to be tricked.
Finally, where are the wonderful dogs? I haven't seen them featured lately.
Best, Laurie in Paris

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

I'll never be French because I'm not that fastidious about laundry. I'd never live without a decent dryer and I'll never iron sheets. As for washing, some items just HAVE to be washed in cold. Other than that, whether or not I separate depends on whether or not I have enough to divide. It's down to just two of us at home, so we'd never have enough socks to make a load worth it.

As for your offending laundry post, I'm not sure what was so offensive that it had to be removed. I remember it as an interesting conversation on culture.

Mandy in Brooklyn

I don't mind doing laundry, but when I got married, my husband needed his own chores around the house - so i wasn't doing everything, haha - and the one he had experience with was laundry, so now he does all of it (except handwashing). besides separating whites and darks, i couldn't care less about socks! i did care when he washed our doormat with the towels (1.it's had our BOOTS wiped on it! ew! 2. it's bright blue, and now some of my dish towels have a bluish tinge). mais, c'est la vie, vrai?? he's learned for next time :)

Candy, Minneapolis

A mon avis, les chaussettes peuvent être lavé avec les jeans et les tshirts. C'est simple. :-)


Karen Wilson

Hi Kristin,
I have to say I never iron anything unless we are off to a wedding or something. Gosh, life is far too short! and I mix socks, rags everything together in the washing machine, and we go around in clothes that have lovely hints of other colours in them. I know my French friends think I am a disaster, but I prefer to paint, and walk my dog and spend time with my friends. You should do what you do best and that is write and one day you will be able to pay others to iron and wash things for you.
Lots of love from Karen and thank you again for all your wonderful writing

Tamara Jones in sunny Virginia Beach, VA

I was darks with darks and lights with lights, but a few years ago I had a friend tell me that one should never wash towels with sheets... I'd never heard that before and felt like a terrible housekeeper!

Lana Stephens

Kristin dear, I am offended that someone, who obviously has some serious head issues, would write you an email so nasty it made you remove a post. This is YOUR blog and you can say what you like. If someone doesn't like it then they don't need to read it. Anyone who irons sheets and underware needs to get a life. I feel sorry for her husband and kids.

I wash socks, which are mostly black, with all my other black things. What bothers me about laundry is when my husband does it and can't see the harm in throwing in white towels with my black pants. What a mess! The towels are now dingy gray and the pants are covered with white fuzz.

Petra Douma

I had an American friend whose French husband insisted she iron his pajamas! I'm definitely anti-ironing and do as little as possible. Furthermore, I wash by colour, socks included.
Petra from Ancaster, Canada


I have never heard that one should wash socks alone? My mother always thought she failed me when she would look at my clothes line and not see all towels in a row or all undies next to each other..............what would the neighbours think ?
When she did see a lovely line of clothes would say"that woman was taught well"
My thought if they get washed that in itself is a feat!!!!!


What does this mean eliminate the "pas" so no more n'est pas? are we trying to do the 18th century elegant french in that case I sugguest you read the poetry or prose of the American writer Natalie Clifford Barney who wrote in 18th century french...
As for your dad, we do not wear socks with our shoes in Florida unless you are cutting sugar cane or driving a tractor. So I only wear socks when it is too cold in Feb. or I go to New York for a few days in winter.

Maureen, Germany

In Germany it used to be quite de rigeur (and is still the case in many households)to BOIL all your white washing: sheets, towels, y-fronts, knickers and socks. Like you, Kristin, I squirmed and felt like a grubby Neanderthaler when I was told this was how you did the washing. Darks at 60°C or 40° depending on the soiling. NOW - as the natives here (back then) only bathed once a week, I felt that that was their problem if they only changed their knickers once a week as well and HAD to boil them to remove the (ahem) skidmarks..... We - from the Land Down Under - shower at least once a day and change our underwear as frequently, so I consider boiling cotton items to be barbaric and totally unnecessary. But, to answer your question, I do wash socks with the rest - like most here, whites and darks separately....


I do tend to wash my socks separately from my underwear. I usually wash them with my jeans and T-shirts. But I also don't wear my socks outside the house without shoes on. I really love the Japanese custom of having indoor shoes and outdoor shoes.

Lisa Teed-Florida

If you wear house shoes a.k.a. slippers over the socks, there should be no problem washing with other garments with them. If they are really dirty, wash with like-colored towels. I do think it unusual for the French to iron underwear and sheets in this day and age (My Aunt in Canada does this,too). Who has that kind of time?

Sophie Day

Bonjour Kristin, Not being french, myself, I consider laundry a chore, not an art. I launder all clothing together and I iron as little as possible. Thank God for casual Friday when we can be at work looking our worst! So glad to see that Jean-Marc will be in Boston next Friday. Looking forward to finally tasting some of your wines! Sophie


Fabric and color dictate my choices of what goes in together, what temperature, and cycle. Great Grandmother would be so jealous! In my mother-in-law's laundry behind the garage of their 1940s era home there was an "historic" washboard hanging as a decoration and a reminder of how life used to be!

mhwebb in NM, USA

There are those little zippered bags that are meant for lingerie, but they work well for keeping socks together. Don't use those little plastic rings that are supposed to keep socks together. They don't do the job, plus the dryer eats them so that they clog up the dryer vent! And forget ironing! From what I have seen lately, the wrinkled look is in!


I purposely wash mes chausettes avec me.s culottes, because they I consider them to be the dirtiest clothes. Sometimes I wash them with the towels, as I can wash them all with l'eau chaude on the "heavy-duty" cycle. And I cannot imagine doing all that ironing. I only iron on occasion and that's for work clothes only! My husband would rather hang out with me than have me ironing all his clothes.


The flip side of French elegance and savoir-faire is this kind of betise. I'm with the school that says that the point of laundry is that everything comes out clean, and there are more important things to worry about. What the soap doesn't get, the heat of the dryer will. Ne t'en fais pas!

Kristin Espinasse

Larry, I enjoyed your--and others here--no nonsense approach to washing clothes! Thank you!

Bruce, I laughed out loud about the characterization (in books) of those who do their laundry this way.

Laurie, no need to buy the book to read this article. The link I included will bring you to the essay in question. Simply click on the link, then use the search inside another edition of this book option (youll find this message below the book cover). You can then type iron into the search box, where you will find the essay on page 162 (it may begin one page before). Also, the dogs were in todays post. I need to get them into more posts. Thanks for the vote to do so!

Mandy, keep him! Lucky you--except for that doormat incident...

Thanks, Julie!

Tamara, oh gosh--I did not hear that no towels with sheets. Here comes another bout of self-doubt--and another pile!

Lana, aw, thanks! Yes, I am practicing saying what I want to say. Re removing the post: I did it not because of the upsetting email, but because I was asked to by the publisher--when the essay was chosen for the book! There was a happy ending, afterall, to this incident!

Hampton, I think it safe to say that the pas is eliminated in conversation. I doubt Chief Grape was being literary -- though he is a wonderful writer!

Thanks to all these thoughts on laundry, I can now go out and play. As many of you have said: there are more interesting things in life to focus on! Merci beaucoup!!

Linda R.

Towels are separate (all the linty stuff), sheets are separate (easier to sort and get the beds made), the clothes are all washed together ... except for those years when my very fastidious teenage daughters laundered their own clothes - heaven forbid that anyone else's clothes be mixed with theirs.

A lovely photo of the daffodils - I love to turn my calendar over to March. Daffodils ...the promise of spring ... Dr. Seuss' birthday today. Hoping we all fixed ourselves some green eggs and ham.

Edie Kilgour

I sort by how the stuff goes into the dryer...low heat, medium, etc. Hard to hang things out in Maine in the winter. Sometimes I use color protect sheets if I worry about colors . Never had a problem. There are never enough socks for a load but I'd never put cleaning rags in with clothes. Berk!
Bonne journée.
Edie Kilgour in Brunswick, Maine

Debra Amrein-Boyes

The comments about "correct" laundry practices made me smile, however the French have nothing on the Swiss! As a young Canadian wife living in Switzerland, I learned that there are certain ways one does things, including hanging up laundry (no clothes dryers here either). I had blithely pegged up the wash, joining the first piece with the second, the second with the third etc, when a neighbour came by and said in a slightly correcting voice, "Is that how you hang up laundry in Canada??" So I learned that each piece of laundry should have its OWN 2 pegs, NOT share with the previous or next piece. Who knew there was a correct way? :P Debra Amrein-Boyes, Agassiz, BC Canada

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

I enjoyed eaves-dropping on the Mama Braise and Smokey chat today.

Could this be the start of a new Abbott and Costello type series for world’s dog lovers? It might have great appeal! Maybe even a new book…..How about “Barking in Provence” as a title?

À bientôt

mhwebb in NM, USA

Now that I have eaten breakfast, I see that I merely reaffirmed Janice's suggestion about the zippered bag. As I sip tea, it occurs to me that the woman that washed socks separately probably doesn't maintain a website with thousands of subscribers from all over the world nor does she have two published books, as you do. Some things must be sacrificed. Throw those socks in a zippered bag in with the rest of the laundry so that you have time to write for us. We love you!

Mary in New Mexico, USA


Oh,that is easy. If the socks are very dirty rinse them out first with a little soap in the sink and then put them in the white or dark load. As for ironing sheets I do like to iron my linen fancy pillow cases. It takes a few minutes if they are removed from the wash damp and not allowed to dry completely before you put the iron to them.Sheets? Why? I sleep with a husband and a dog.

Kristin Espinasse

Debra, thats too funny -- thanks for sharing the reflection, made to the young Canadian bride :-).

Herm, Barking in Provence... wonderful title!

Mary, I may even forego the zippered bag--for that totally relaxed new laundry style. Getting there...

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Bonjour Kristin,

Life is very short, and the point of laundry is to get it clean. That is it. Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy your life, kids, dogs.


Faye in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.


just a small error, it should be :"la fin du livre est baclee".
le reste est super! and I am headed to Sylver Lake pour acheter un "Mistral Red" .
Odile in Eagle Rock LA

Janine Cortell

Chere Kristin:
My mother was French and washed everything together. I have followed in her footsteps.
My first husband chewed me out for ironing his underwear. Needless to say I never continued on that route. My current husband really doesn't care how I wash or iron the clothes. Le mari parfait. Amities, Janine

Amy Kortuem - Mankato, Minnesota

Funny! A good idea if you wear a lot of socks. If not, you'll always be out of them!

If we ever get together sometime (like WHEN I move to France!) and are having wine (or something stronger), remind me to tell you about saving out my ex-fiance's underwear to wash in a separate load...

Amy Kortuem - Mankato, Minnesota

(yeah, I did say "ex" fiance!)





Carol McFarland, Arcata, CA

The narrative on socks cracked me up! I'll never look at my socks, nestled in a little net bag to keep them from getting lost, in the same way. Since my lucky socks only see the insides of my shoes or slippers,they get to slosh along with everything else in the washer. Thanks, Kristin, for lightening my morning -- and for a new perspective on socks.

Carol (in Redwood Country, Arcata, CA)

Jennifer Sherrill

HA! My mom made ironing a science..jeans socks, sheets, paper money etc... As a result, I haven't ironed since leaving home 16 years ago and I have still led a happy productive life. ...as are you ;)

Bill Facker - Kauai, HI

Simple solution to washing socks ... live in Hawaii and don't wear them :)

GwenEllyn, the Brain Geek

I don't care about the socks - please send us some of that sunny weather!

William and Lee Mears

I agree 100% with Herme in Phoenix. Loved the conversation between Braise and Smokey. I adore those lovely "people" and always look to see if you've posted a new photo of them. Think seriously about a book about them with all those wonderful photos and stories you have written about them. I know photos make a book more expensive, but what joy for those of us are animal lovers. I promise to buy a copy. Lee Mears, Bradenton, FL

Scott Brotherton

I do mix socks - but I am very much a 'color sorter' - Whites, blues & grays, geens/khakis & reds & such...oh, & I'm a guy, that is how my Mother taught me. I iron only shirts & the rare pair of pants, nothing more...!

Scott Brotherton

If the French are indeed ironing their sheets, they should well know it is waste of time - if they are 'using' them properly...








Yikes, who cares about laundry to that degree. Whites with whites, colors with colors and that's the end of it. Life is way too short to engage in the "nuttiness" of socks. I'm thinking the "ecole maternelle" mother of years ago had entirely too much free time on her hands. Writing a blog is soooo much better for building self-esteem and making those who read it so very happy. Skip the socks dilemna, Kristin, you're perfect as you are.


Coucou Kristin: My comment in the last post did not imply you were wrong, Kristin. I was just saying you omitted the "Pas" while JM l’a bien prononcé, which caused the confusion for those who are learning French and who listen to JM’s audio while looking at your text.
As for NE PAS, in talking, the “Ne” is sometimes omitted, like “Fais pas ça” And for “PAS”, I remember my French professeur once telling us, in some cases, it is possible to omit the "PAS". Just think of COPS pour Cesser. Oser, Pouvoir et Savoir comme par exemple, il ne cesse de pleuvoir; nerveuse, je n'ose parler en public; elle ne peut venir avec moi; je ne sais qui a raison?
I have such a busy life that, pour moi, to do laundry, c’est toujours du travail bâclé. I do sort the dirty clothes by colors though. As for socks , my husband’s chaussettes are never that dirty that need to be washed separately. Besides, he does not have that many to make it a separate load.
Finally, l'école maternelle se traduit par Kindergarten or nursery; Elementary school is école élémentaire de douzième à septième.

Bonne journée!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Mille, no worries -- your comment helped me to realize that there was not a mistake in the ne (sans pas) construction. Jean-Marc wrote the text and I was on my way to fix it (to add the pas) when Nadines comment came in. Up until then, I only knew that pas could be omitted in conversation. I did not realize it is sometimes omitted in written French. 

Lets see... there is another correction I need to get to... Ah, yes, Odiles note about
la fin du livre est baclee. Thanks Odile and Millie and all who send in corrections. Off to fix things now.... Such a glamorous and exciting Friday night in the South of France, typos, grammatical errors and all ;-)

Pat Cargill

To Bill Facker: You, Sir, have written the most insightful, logical comment today...Hawaii, here I come! (Wish, wish.) Smokey my dear and lovely angel Braise, bisous, bisous! What a marvey March treat to see you two posing by the jonquils. Beautiness everywhere! If I ever iron sheets, btw, I hope someone will cart me off to SunnyVale Rest Home, cause surely I would have gone bonkers and need to be put where I couldn't hurt myself or others! Ha, ha, ha. Blogs are like standing on a corner and watching people go by, only better, because you get to hear what they think and wowsa, it's a parade of humanity! A good thing. Especially when we can appreciate, without judgment, all our goofy differences.

Kristin Espinasse

P.S. Millie -- thanks for the handy and helpful acronym COPS -- and for the translation for école maternelle. Off to fix that one, too!

Judy Newsom

My goodness & at 70 I thought I had heard all the laundry no-no's! I always separated according to color just as I was taught. I do remember the day, though, here in the south when my mother ironed her sheets and carefully pressed even the lace on our undies! Those were the days!

Birmingham Alabama

Elaine Wilson

Kristen, My socks are full of color and patterns and are never white, so I put them in with my dark clothes. Unlike your family's socks, mine are only worn with shoes and are never caked with mud...however, if my socks were caked with mud, I'd put them in with a load of "work clothes" (gardening, etc.) I love colorful socks.

Diane Young

Whites go with linens or perm press depending on thickness and/or soil of socks. Darks go with cold water wash, which is always perm press cycle. However, I'm 75 year old widow so socks aren't very dirty. Stockings (knee highs) go in net bag and are washed with cold water clothes. Bras go in net bags and are washed with other light colored perma press.underwear pants go in perma press without net bag. It was so long it kept twisting into a whirlwind so I just let the panties fend for themselves.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

A lot of fun to be had around the laundry basket/comment’s corner today! I most enjoyed the truly enlightened “laundry” tips of those who said, “Life is too short”!!! I’d rather be biking, in the garden or out walking the dog! Separate socks? I do separate delicates and rags (in separate loads of course!) and that’s about the extent of it.

I purchased a large part of a vintage linen collection from an amazingly meticulous woman. Every item came freshly pressed and lovingly wrapped to the point I was afraid to use them. A friend pointed out I’d best enjoy their beauty rather than keep them locked away in perfect condition in the closet. Let’s just say they are now lovingly enjoyed and will never again see an iron as long as under my roof! :)

Thanks for the tip on where to locate the banished essay on ironing, or rather lack of. I’m off to reread it as I watch the laundry, and everything else, pile up around here. I’ve been down with a horrible cold the past few days. Blessings from the still-snowed in little farm in the mountains where the temps are predicted to reach 60 tomorrow.

Carol from Lebanon, PA

I do not wash my socks separately. I put whites with whites, etc. However, I do knit most of our socks. Do the French knit socks? As for using a dryer, I try my best not to. I load everything in for about 10 minutes then hang out what I can. I love the scent of sheets and clothing after it's been flying in the wind. Putting the in the dryer for 10 minutes, especially towels, keeps everything from becoming a potential exfolient! I'm from Amish country where hanging out clothes is common place.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

That is what I learned in conversational French class in the 1990s - pas omitted in conversation sometimes. I never learned that rule of COPS. See if it sticks!

Very interesting, the dialogue and the post that inspired it today.

Leslie Sorensen-Jolink

Tell us about the two gorgeous Golden Retrievers pictured in today's post. Especially if they are French Goldens!

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Hello Kristi and Smokey and Braise as well!

How lovely to see two of my favorite pooches in today's post. Like my own two dogs, Lady and Rory, they really make my day. I hope I'm able to meet them someday when we visit you.

I spend as little time as possible doing laundry. I mix almost everything together and usually use cold water which is the most environmental thing to do. I agree with Jeri who said that whatever the soap doesn't get, the dryer will! I would rather spend my time doing other things like reading French Word a Day!


Hi, Kristin--
I so enjoyed seeing Smokey and Braise today. I've missed them.
About the laundry. White socks go with whites. Colored or dark socks go with other items of those colors. It's just logical and avoids things getting tinges of other colors transferred during washing. BUT, what I'm really wondering about is who is this person who has made up all these hard and fast rules about how you must do laundry and ironing? Is there a Reine de la Laverie position in France?? Seems like everyone should be allowed to pick the system that works best for him/her. I truly think there's no reason to feel like your laundry is bacle. All it needs to be is clean!
I have been checking Jean-Marc's Rouge Bleu site faithfully to see where he was going to be in San Francisco. I was so bummed today to see that there's no stop in SF this time. My husband and I were looking forward to tasting his wine and meeting him.Guess we'll just have to come visit the winery!

jan greene

I agree with all the other good folks and will only share a small story. Our French 'daughter' (student who came for many summers when she was 16...and is now 42)...had me wash her clothes long before I knew the 'rules' of French washing. Happily I tossed it all into the dryer. Sadly, on gathering it out, at least one of her tops looked small for a toddler! She has yet to recover and we still laugh at dryer making her "tops tiny". We will share it again in April in Paris when we visit!

Lori Di Betta, Medford, OR

I was amazed upon our last visit to France, to watch my husband's cousine spend half a day on Saturday (after a full work week as a Psychologist)ironing her entire family's laundry. (Sheets! Underwear!) She had this amazingly, HUGE iron. I never mentioned to her that I didn't even know where my iron could be found in our house, and that if something had wrinkles, I usually stuck it in the dryer for a few minutes with a wet washrag. (Sheepish grin)

I have never heard before that I shouldn't be mixing socks with other laundry. I guess the French Cowboy didn't either because I've just managed to convince him to separate the colors when he does the laundry, instead of just throwing everything into the washer together!

Audrey Wilson

Depends on the socks . Cotton , white or light coloured in with white wash . Dark coloured cotton in with the dark wash. Both washes done at 40°,in my Miele plus Ariel . No problems! If they are woollen- in the wool wash at 30°
I have a good tip for ironing. My man says women can't iron trousers or shirts properly l don't argue !!! So we have a nice split on the ironing pile.
I don't have a dryer either ; In my book you can't beat the smell of clothes dried in the fresh air !

Della - Reformed laundry slave from: Snowed yesterday, sunny today, Colorado

C'est moi! La mère indigne!

Early marriage: Load washer Sunday evening. Start as soon as alarm goes off on Monday. Whites, hot water. Darks, cold water. Iron all the dress shirts, slacks, and use up the remaining heat as the iron cooled on underwear to dry. Hang up everything to air dry. Use the dryer as little as possible.

After 32 years: Laundry when there are no more underwear/socks. Darks and lights separate if convienient. All cold water. Use the dryer if you feel like it. If something needed- wash everything dirty togther regardless. Don't iron unless going to a funeral. Avoid anything that needs ironing.

Jan in Monument, Colorado

I just came back upstairs after putting a load of laundry into the washer. Never have I agonized so much about doing the laundry! Dark socks with dark load, white socks with the bleach load--I like to keep it simple! Now that I've discovered Color Catcher fabric sheets that soak up dye that might get into the water, sorting is even easier. When I was growing up, the measure of a good wife was the quality of the wash she put on the line. I sure am glad those days are over! Or maybe it was just a New England thing. I remember my poor mother hanging the wash outdoors in the blustery coastal Massachusetts winter--she had painful cracks in her fingers to show for it! I'll take my dryer, thanks! As for the French woman who dictated that you should iron everything, how do you say "Get a life?" in French? The discussion on omitting the "pas" made me wish Newforest were still a contributor to your blog. She would have been right there with the complete etymology and there would have been no doubt of the proper usage. I do recall, as Millie said, that the pas could be omitted only with certain words. I knew pouvoir was one and, in checking the Internet, found the ones Millie gave plus vouloir. Great review of my ancient French! The French isn't ancient, I am! Also sorry to see that J-M won't be in Phoenix during his USA tour. We'll be in that area visiting friends in March. Guess I'll just have to wait until he adds Colorado to his itinerary!

Anna Lewis

I DID iron my underwear once, but that was in search of warmth when living in Scotland one winter. I quickly gave this up when I melted (!?) the lace, which I had assumed to be cotton.
I find a flick and a smooth does fine.
So happy to read so many like minded comments.
I am loving following the blog, and learning whilst I smile

Anna (mum to 3, ironer to none)

Jennifer in OR

I agree with Bruce -- ironing sheets is for the mentally ill!! Haha... Never have ironed a sheet in my life, though I'm not saying I'm totally stable. ;-)

Like many commenters, I just put white socks with the whites and bleach them all. Dark socks with other dark laundry. And I love the mesh bag idea, I used to do this for delicate items like hosiery but I rarely wear hose any more.

À bientô!

Karen Stoeckley

Kristen, Basically the very most important part of laundry is cleaning the dryer filter so the house doesn't burn down! Other than that detergent and water and dryer hear solve the other problems except possibly olive oil spots on dark tops! No need to have self doubt....look at all you do so well.
Karen in Missouri

Lee Isbell

Since I only launder for one, there is the lighter load and the darker load, except that I don't put towels in with dark, so dark towels get saved for their own bath. If either load has an iffy color range, it gets a Color Catcher for good measure. It's amazing how much color those sometimes catch! I do experience a yuck factor in contemplating putting rags in with clothing but I'm pretty sure I'd live through it if someone else did it without my knowledge.

Jim Herlan

I'd like to comment on the pronunciation given for "bâcler." You wrote it as "bak-lay." Please forgive me for my narrow focus, but the correct form is "ba-klay." Unlike English, French is an open-syllable language, where a syllable ends in a vowel whenever possible. Most Americans fail to pronounce "he is" correctly in French. A native speaker always says "ee-lay" but most Anglophones say "eel-ay" which is incorrect. I know I sound like a cranky retired French prof, but I do think the basic linguistic distinction is important. Thanks, Jim Herlan

Susan Carter, Westminster, CA

I am so excited to see that Jean Marc is finally coming to Orange County --I can't wait, but your post says the 15th & the itinerary says the 20th. I wash socks with other clothes and never thought of separating them. It seems to me it wuld be very impractical because a weeks worth of socks would be an awfully small load unless you had a huge family. Glad to see Smokey & Braise back with a story -they are missed and need to be included more often. c

Dad Kip in Indian Wells, CA

Tell Max and Jax they are not to wear socks outside; that is what sandals are for!

Barbara Lambert

I never even considered the possibility of washing socks separately until you mentioned it! So, it was food for thought today- should I be doing that and am I a bad mom if I don't!? Finally decided that since my family's socks are not as dirty as yours seem to be, I'd just keep on washing them with everything else. And ps: wouldn't put rags in with the socks, just in case there's something worse on them! I'd just do 2 smaller loads! Cincinnati OHIO

Martine NYC

I am in the "life is short" school of laundry-doing. I feel amazed and proud when I do it at all! And I never iron. Ironed sheets are a luxury I have enjoyed elsewhere, but not something I am up to. The only people I know who enjoy ironing are single, gay men. What I do is mist a wrinkled dress or shirt with a spray bottle and let it hang overnight from the shower rod. In the morning, no more wrinkles. This works well when traveling,too.

Linda Frederick

Bonjour Kristin

Amazing. I know my college French is beyond rusty, and my cooking's nowhere near haute cuisine levels. But I never realized I couldn't even pass the basic laundry test for living in la belle France! So much for that daydream.

Then again, if anyone in my house gets their socks caked in mud, they'd better be prepared to wash them for themselves, or throw them out! Always assuming I let them live. I'm sure the fashion gendarmes would have a stroke, but you do know they sell Crocs and similar plastic garden clogs for playing in the muck? Wellies too, if you're a traditionalist. And ironing? When my partner retired, so did the iron. Mes amis, life's not only too short for such silliness, but as a friend of mine says, "A clean house is the sign of a wasted life!" Do we really want people standing around our graves, sharing memories of how fastidious we were about our housework? Count me out! Leave 'em laughing and gossiping, I say.

Lazily yours,
Linda Frederick, Columbus Ohio

Eileen deCamp, Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
I just throw all my clothes in together unless they are really dirty from the garden and then I wash them separately. I just separate colors. Delicates go by themselves.
Have you ever seen this comedy routine by Jerry Seinfeld? Really funny...

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Eileen, for the Seinfeld link. I have tears in my eyes I laughed so hard!


I'm just glad to hear that someone else has offended others with their laundry habits! (though that doesn't sound very nice does it? :-7) I've had serious debates with family about how they feel my laundry is done 'wrong' but I stick to my guns and refuse to make it an even larger chore than it already it! I work full time and have a small child. So, I also don't iron anything, I take things out of a hot dryer, shake, and hang them, they may not look as crisp but there are no wrinkles. By the time fitted sheets are pulled over the mattress they are flat anyway and the top sheet never gets seen under the blankets. Why waste all that precious time?!

Jessica- Madison, WI

I think washing socks separate from the laundry is perhaps not necessary but I am intrigued by the idea. I personally wash everything on cold--I learned this from my mother whose wardrobe has always contained a variety of delicate fabrics. (I also must confess to having seen my boyfriend's mom shrink a lot of his clothes by tossing everything in on warm.) I suppose if all of your clothes are made of synthetic fibers then you don't have to worry as much.
Having lived several stints in France has taught me that dryers are not essential--my ideal laundry session would be a small load, washed in on delicate and then hang-dried. As a foreign exchange student, I lived in a dorm with only one washer and one dryer to two-hundred residents (And around 4 euro per load!) I washed all of my socks in the sink that year and let them dry in the window sill.
If we believe that life is short then I say we may as well perform these inescapable daily tasks with care. It probably doesn't scientifically make a difference but if knowing that your private-parts-protectors have been washed separate from your foot-sheaths adds to your quality of life, then pourquoi pas? I think the quote from Kristin's article makes a good point, "Quant au ménage, il vaut mieux une partie faite correctement, que le tout bâclé."

p.s. I think the laundry bag for socks is genius, I can never understand how patterned pairs get separated into different loads!!


This is so funny! I wash socks with jeans and rags! That is exactly how I do it. As there is never a shortage of dirty jeans because my husband's work has him in the vineyards almost every day, I am able to do at least one load a week with no problem. Frances, Napa, California, USA


Barking in Provence--I love it!! Please write it, Mama Braise!

I had a roommate who ironed her jeans. Definitely OCD.


Clarification on Jean-Marc's post:
"gentillement" is usually spelled "gentiment". It is not listed in the Dictionnaire de la Langue Française Informatisé.
Jacqueline de Brisbane, où l'automne vient de commencer...

Nancy Rial

Like others above- I separate whites from colors, but not particular items (then again, I am not walking outside in red soil- I have bare feet for that!) I do remember one summer spent in Chateauneuf d'Gadagna washing my children's white diapers, and hanging them in the sun. By the time I finished them all up, the first one's were dry! Incredible heat-the fastest dryer I ever had!
(from Cambridge- hope to get across the river into Boston for Friday night)

Ginny McCann

As the mother of seven, we probably had enough socks to wash them in a separate batch. Hmmm, I wonder if I still would have ended up with sock orphins. We had many piles, heavy darks, lightweight darks, lights, whites and heavy weight whites and lights with towels and sheets. At one point, when the second child turned 12, I decided that I would teach them how to do their own laundry as a twelfth birthday. The downside was that I never had that lovely feeling of knowing that everything in the house was clean for a few minutes. However, it certainly saved me a LOT of work.


OMG! I cannot do laundry now without thinking of you, Kristen, and everyone who commented. I'm guilty! And still living and doing the same thing after 80 years (well, only 60 of doing laundry.) and, there was a period of time, I had to do it all by hand on a washboard! I am a survivor!

Kathy Waeny

A colleague forwarded this blog, and I found the one on Doing Laundry "right on." I was raised by a Swiss mother, and we always hung our launddry on the line with two pins for EACH pieace (not shared pins!) As for ironing the sheets, I still iron the tops--guess that was something that stayed with me. And I just love to iron! I also wash my socks separately. Gosh! I didn't know that I did these things differently from everyone else. Somethings we learn early on never go away...

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Jacqueline. Ill fix the spelling mistake now. So helpful!

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