There are some household chores I’d skip altogether if I could. Dusting…scrubbing the floors… I really don’t mind doing laundry, though.
Yes, laundry. There’s something about clean sheets snapping in the breeze, then sleeping on them that night, smelling the wind locked in their fibers. My friend Barbara and I call this “Laundry Therapy.” And to a certain degree, it is a form of therapy for me, I think, partly because it connects me to family members. Simplicity. Outdoors.
When I was a kid, I helped grandma with her laundry. She and grandpa had seven kids, which meant tons of laundry, but by the time I happened on the scene, only two kids remained at home.
Still, she lugged her basket down the basement steps and over to the wringer washer. It was a laborious process – clothes got laundered in one tub, then plopped, soaking wet, in the wringer washer. Grandma stuffed jeans through its rollers, wringing out the excess water. I wasn’t allowed to get my hands near the wringer – apparently, grandma tried that already, with painful results. We headed out to the clothesline and hung up grandpa’s striped railroad overalls, monster undies, sheets, jeans. My job was to hand clothespins to grandma, dug out from a tin coffee can.
After, we’d sometimes, walk over to the neighbor’s. Angeline set out cookies for me, (she pronounced it “cooo-kies” for reasons I never figured out) and she and grandma had a cup of coffee while the laundry dried.
It was much the same at home, minus the wringer washer. I’d help mom by handing clothespins up – jumbled in a plastic ice cream bucket – and watch as she methodically hung wash. She was more orderly than grandma, hanging things largest to smallest – first came dad’s jeans, then hers, then mine, on down the line.
I had tea with Barbara the other day, and one of the first things she asked was if I hung laundry out. “It’s a perfect Laundry Therapy day,” she said. We laughed, and admitted that sometimes on beautiful, sunny days, we’ll scour the house, looking for things that aren’t really, truly dirty, and wash them, simply for the joy of having something flapping on the line. It’s the small things that give each day a little sparkle. And it’s different for everyone – a dear friend is a gardener, and looks forward to spring, when she can get her hands dirty and start the process of helping things grow.
I think it’s something more, too. Rob Bell talks about the disconnect many of us feel in our lives, saying “it’s possible to go days without spending any significant time outside, and it’s still considered ‘living.'”
When was the last time you got outside and really, truly lived?