Last year I met Kim Votry at the Write On The Sound Writer’s Conference. Kim and I ended up in several workshops together. I appreciated her friendly smile and thoughtful comments. By the end of lunch on the first day, I felt like I’d known her for a long time. In the last seven months, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Kim over cups of coffee, a glass of wine and at our monthly Women Write Night sessions. I was thankful for her encouragement during NaNoWriMo and enjoy hearing about the progress on her novel. Thank you, Kim, for sharing tips on laundry and much more. I’m so glad for your friendship.
On the day I began my 40th year, January 15, 2001, I was suffering not only from early menopausal symptoms, but from a severe reluctance to begin the New Year.
I put off organizing and scheduling my workshop calendar. I looked with horror at the following week on the calendar, with multiple entries on each day. I just wanted to stay home with my kids, then aged 4 and 7, playing with new toys, cooking, writing, taking winter walks along the beach.
I described the reluctance to my husband. As usual, he not only sympathized, he diagnosed. “Maybe you’re going through MillenniumPause,” he offered.
I’m used to paying attention to the pace and energies of the changing seasons. I guess I was unprepared for the deeply reflective energy of the turning millennium.
That was the same winter I decided to change my views about laundry. With a plumber husband and two young kids, the hamper was always full. Between the three of them, I could decipher each day’s activities (and menu) by the compound stains on their clothing.
As fast as I could wash and fold, it seemed, they had the hamper full again. The cycle never ended and I was burdened by the sense that household chores were keeping me from doing the things I really wanted to be doing.
Maybe it was the energy of the millennium, but one day I had enough of the futility of it all. I changed my approach. Laundry and other chores are part of life; shouldn’t they be treated with the respect we give other pleasant activities?
I wrote this list ten years ago, in response to the millennium call to awareness. I call it “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in the Laundry Room.”
- Set Realistic Goals: I realize that getting all the laundry done is going to take many hours, woven through my day. I don’t try to pretend I can finish it before breakfast. That’s basically like reminding myself that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” or “you get 18 years to raise a child.” Relax.
- Prioritize and Then Stay Flexible: I don’t like to start a load I can’t finish. But at the same time, being with my kids takes priority over doing a task. I used to think multi-tasking was proof of how amazing I was. Now I think the opposite. Don’t be governed by a to-do list; listen carefully to who or what needs your focus each moment.
- Remain Conscious and Aware at all Times: I am careful to check pockets before putting clothes in the washer. The havoc one pen or tissue can wreak is so depressing. Pay attention to the small stuff.
- All Things Are Not Created Equal: I treat gentle things gently. I allow myself to do an extra load of gentle garments, even if there are only a couple. Yes, it’s more work, but it’s the right thing to do. Take special care with the gentle garments in your life.
- Involve the Kids: As with all chores, if your goal is to get them done so you can go live your real life, you’re missing the boat. This is your real life. I have had some of the funniest conversations with my kids as we sort laundry. My daughter liked playing “whose shirt is this?” and sorting by color. My son loved spraying the stain remover. Chores give kids the sense of responsibility and purpose. It tightens the weave of our family fabric.
These are some of the principles I put into action during my 40th year. Now, ten years later, laundry doesn’t dominate my awareness. But I was happy to re-discover this list recently. It reminds me where I was ten years ago, and gives me perspective to see how these principles have shaped our lives. They have helped me stay focused on what is most important to me.
Joy can be found in any activity. Wishing for no more laundry is like wishing to not grow older: the alternative is death. They both measure time, growth, and wisdom.
My advice is this: appreciate the chores of everyday life by approaching them with awareness. If you love all the moments of your day, your heart will sing with gratitude.