Cleaning Out – Laundry Guy Patric Richardson Brings Joy to the World By Washing and Wearing

Patric Richardson. Photo by Darin Kamnetz
Patric Richardson. Photo by Darin Kamnetz

It’s late morning on a Saturday in January 2023, and I’m lost in the Mall of America. I paced past stores, their windows and signs shouting at me voicelessly, each insisting that that store’s things–designer clothes and designer candy, bamboo cases and novelty mirrors, fancy onesies and frilly unmentionables–are just the things just for me.

I won’t be distracted. My sole purpose is to find out what motivates a full-grown adult to call himself, ahem, the Laundry Guy. Was cable television star Patric Richardson exposed to a dose of radioactive detergent and, through the miracle of comic book science, blessed with its innate characteristics as a super-power? Does he ply his trade for the love of money, for the love of fame, or for the love of something else?  Why is Patric Richardson the Laundry Guy?  There’s little doubt that that’s who the Saint Paul resident is these days, as evidenced by his series on HGTV and Discovery + through which he has been seen all around the world under that nom de propre.

Whatever the reason behind it, Richardson’s Laundry Guy-ing began, unnamed as such, at the beginning—not of his career but of his life. In response to a precocious interest in sartorial splendor, little Patric received, at the downright-Mozartian age of three, a toy laundry machine for Christmas. In junior high, Richardson was voted best-dressed student. In college, Richardson studied merchandising apparel and textiles. 

I finally arrive at a retail businessoccupying a coyly twinkly, come-hither Mall space, a clothes store called Mona Williams. Its owner stands in its center, greeting me with a smile that beams, “As seen on TV.” Before long, Patric Richardson and I are nestled in the quietest corner of a chaotic coffee shop, shrieks and shrills and merciless grind-shwoosh-grinds springing and sproinging from every direction with uneven, tag-team constancy. 

My mission begins in earnest…with exposure to a scintillating new perspective. “I think a lot of times, when we want to show people we love them by cooking them a really great dinner,” Richardson recounts, “but we can also show them we love them by washing the dishes and ironing their shirts and giving them a house.”  

The Laundry Guy appellation first came into focus when Mona Williams served as the base of operations for sold-out Laundry Camps. Where de-defiling textiles is concerned, Patric Richardson shared his techniques and his tricks…but he shared his joy, too. “You can find joy in anything at all,” Richardson insists, “if you just decide it’s joyous.”

This joy is one aspect of capturing something larger that, according to Richardson, has been sacrificed on the altar of modernity. “I’m kind of nostalgic for the idea of home,” Richardson confesses. “We’ve all gotten so busy. You go out to dinner because you don’t want to cook at home. You send your clothes out because you don’t have time to wash them.” 

As Richardson sees it, modern folk suffer from a sense of perennial alienation…within their own houses and flats. “We’ve gone away from the idea of home care and home making, so I’m nostalgic for the desire to take care of our things,” Richardson laments. “I’m nostalgic for the idea of us having things that we care for.”

Such care can be easily, understandably misunderstood. “People think it’s materialistic to love your things, and I don’t love my things—well, I don’t love most of my things—more than people, but I don’t think that’s materialistic at all,” Richardson asserts. “I think it’s completely acceptable to enjoy your domicile and your belongings.”

That domicile-wide scope serves as the impetus for a sophomore foray into authorship, a kind of sequel to his 2021 manual, co-written with Karin B. Miller, Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore. “I have a second book coming,” Patric Richardson announces in a Lavender Magazine exclusive. “It’s been scheduled by Harper Collins for the Winter of 2023. It’s about cleaning your house. We assume the new book will be entitled House Love, but at this point, we don’t know for sure.” 

Something Richardson did know for sure from an early age was his sexuality…and upon reaching adulthood, he made sure the world knew, too, coming out as gay after leaving high school. “I never thought about being in,” he laughs.  Indulging in one of his signature eyerolls, he adds, “Anyway, it wouldn’t have worked.” 

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

That not-in-ness might have served as a kind of training for the fame that his television appearances have wrought. “I’m lucky enough that people recognize me in many places,” he affirms. “When I was walking through the streets of New York, someone was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love your show, my wife searched out soaps so we could wash my childhood teddy bear.’”

Richardson smiles at the memory of a stranger’s life, a stranger’s love-of-stuff, improved by the Laundry Guy’s hard-won insights.  I recognize the same expression that greeted me at Mona Williams, and in that moment, I instantly, finally, totally get it—I know why Patric Richardson is the Laundry Guy: because doing the laundry isn’t about cleaning, not really—where Patric Richardson is concerned, doing laundry is about caring

I’m surrounded by four stories of things that might be bought and sold, sure…but those same things might eventually end up cared about and cared for, and, above all else, Patric Richardson cares—bigly, boldly, and without qualification.  Richardson declares: “I consider myself incredibly lucky that I could have the experience of knowing that you saw something I did, and it made your life better. That makes me so happy. That was awesome!”

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