Laundry - A Personal Reflection on My Least Favourite Task

I was commiserating with some friends via Facebook comments over our disdain for laundry.  It's one of those topics like coffee, wine, Target and The Bachelor - most everyone can either relate or knows someone who can. I'm into none of those things but I had plenty to say on the subject of laundry. I even it linked it to original sin (if we were all still clothes to wash). Yes, I was all up in my domestic feels that day and I was thankful for the outlet. I can probably speak for the other laundry lamenters when I say we know this a a petty complaint. However, I cannot deny that I now relate to all laundry memes.  I currently have a tablecloth and two table mats in the dryer that I have ignored for a few days now. My ability to achieve new heights of laundry-related procrastination is approaching the supernatural.

There is no reason these items should not be put away. No reason.

  Ever since I aired my dirty laundry about my dirty laundry, I've waxed existential on the topic. What does it symbolize, why is it such a thing, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? After many a shower-time contemplation I have a few thoughts. These dirty pieces of clothes symbolize life and living, monotonous routine, transitions and letting go, not letting go. It's in the washing and drying and folding and the ironing that we come face to holey underwear or pit-stained shirt with those we love and with ourselves. Remember when you swapped out your college hoodie and sweats for professional attire, taking extra care to hang that knit sweater just so? Probably not. I do all I can to ferry my mind away from folding baby clothes or matching endless pairs of my own sushi and hot-dog themed socks. 

But if I took the time to be present in my laundry room what would it show me? It would show me the transition from professional attire to maternity clothes to straight up pajamas. I would see my children getting taller, myself getting wider and how I hate the feel of the lint catcher beneath my fingers - cringestastic. I'd see the pieces of our grandparents that have made their way into our washer and dryer because we want to hold them close to ourselves for as long as possible.

Sometimes I think back to my childhood where there were no machines to help with the washing and the drying. There were only people and the sun and the fresh mountaintop breeze. Oh and rainy season. On a rare occasion my cousin and I played inside we would be roused by my great aunt's sing-song voice to quickly get the clothes before the rain. "Unuh mek 'ase an pick up di clothes dem off ah di line!" We would dash outside as the raindrops ping-pinged a few warning shots on the zinc roof. She and I excitedly darted between the tall and not-so-gently-swaying coconut trees, deftly pulling wooden clothespins and swiftly dragging items off the thin wire line. As the air got cool and electric, I knew for a fact I would be struck by lightning (or one of those green coconuts) if I didn't "make haste." But what is your child-life worth if your hand-washed, sun-dried clothes got re-wet? Not much, but we always made it with dry clothes and our lives. My children's clothes have never been dried by the sun. How strange this new world. They will never know what it's like to dry their school socks behind the refrigerator or have their nappies (cloth diapers) dried in the oven during hurricane season. They have sweet orange essential oil drops instead of the scent from the tangerine tree and mint bush that scented my clothes. Completely different laundry experiences and I'm lucky to be a part of both. However, is my duty to pass on the skill of the scrupsie-scrupsie sound of hand-washing (lest I shame my ancestors!)
If you squint you can see the clothesline in the background. My pretty cousin, Joleen.

On a trip home to Jamaica early last year, I found my grandmother's clothes still hanging in her closet many years after her death. Her laundry no longer hangs on her clothesline that ran (and still runs) between her house and the chicken coop in front of the outhouse. Another hung along her carefully tended vertical garden where anthuriums and orchids thrived beyond reason against a porus rockface. Her clothes are no longer pressed by her housekeeper sending the most pleasant-smelling steam into the back room that used to be my mother's. No cans of Niagara spray starch stand at attention. The dead do not have laundry. I took one of her sweaters - pink and white stripes, pearl buttons, small hole near the shoulder. It's now part of my laundry. The same laundry I gripe and moan about and, frankly, will continue to until my laundry no longer tumbles about in a dryer. 
This is the sweater!

I wonder what your laundry calls to mind. I am by no means suggesting we stop and take stock of our dirty clothes or overflowing kitchen sink everyday, or even at all. I understand it's not that deep. But honestly, sometimes it helps me to take a deeper look at the mundane things in my life. 

Tomorrow I tackle the darks.  

Fun fact, one of the restaurants I have on my bucket list is The French Laundry. Harhar.


  1. Great thoughts----the dead do not have laundry---I just may hang that above my dryer!!

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