Blessed Burdens

Laundry peace

Living off-grid means every scrap of laundry gets hung on a line, but if you think because the clothes dry more slowly I would be able to stay ahead of the folding, you’d be wrong.  

I can wash and hang three hampers full of biohazard-quality laundry in a single day, but the to-be-folded pile only grows.  I usually tackle it before Google Earth registers it as a new land mass, and I rarely mind the activity.  The rhythm of the sorting always stimulates meditation.  

Last Saturday, it stimulated something else.

Hoping to disrupt the strange biorhythms that, only on weekends as soon as I sit down before dawn to write, rouse my children and send them searching for snuggles and cereal, I’ve fled to the nearby country store to work before heading to Hubbard Hall, to help with the tech side of a blogging class.  The class has provided plausible cover for my morning escapes, and each afternoon I’ve come home thinking I couldn’t be more thankful for anything else that day than I was for a little grown-up time.

This last Saturday I came home to a different kind of grown-up time. A neighbor phoned looking for computer help.  I glanced around our kitchen/great room and at the laundry pile and said, “Come on over!”  He would be here in a few hours.  

Folding sessions usually occur after bedtime (the biorhythms only manifest when Mom is doing something fun), but  with impending company, I made an exception and began my folding dance, aided by my iPod and earbuds.  

The couch and table were soon dotted with neat multi-colored piles.  My antics immediately drove thirteen-year-old Jack to his room to study.  Seven-year-old Thing2, however, remained, quietly dancing over from the TV area.  

I sorted and thought about writing and chores.  I didn’t really think about the folding aside from which things should go to Goodwill.  Thing2 interrupted my ruminations, wrapping his arms around my waist as I was in mid-fold.

“Mommy, can I help?”  he asked.

“You really want to fold clothes?”  I asked.  

“No,” he said.  “But I want to help.”  He released me and spun around the living room.  Then he returned for another hug.  “Maybe I can play some music for you,” he suggested.  He sat down at the nearby piano and plunked out “Do-Re-Mi”.  

I took out my earphones so I could listen.  I kept folding, but there was no rhythm now.  Thing2 sang softly with the piano.  Too small items rotated out of inventory, sometimes taking with them a last tangible souvenir of this family vacation or that event.  Jack’s old shirts went into Thing2’s piles.  The piles grew and so did the memories.  

Well before the to-fold pile was gone and the folded clothes packed into baskets, the task ceased being a burden.  It was a reminder of the things that make a life worthwhile.  And, for once, I didn’t just make the best of the laundry pile. I was thankful for it.

Less and More

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There are few events in a life that engrave themselves on a memory as getting married or becoming a parent. That was true for me, and, while getting married was memorable, it was wasn’t as life-altering as the second part. For us, getting married was like continuing a really, long fun date. Becoming a parent, while just as fun, was fun too, but it was a lot more work. For me, becoming the parent of one and then two was memorable for another reason, and I did something yesterday that brought it all back. I cleaned.

Right before each of my boys was born, I was seized with an overwhelming urge to clean. Despite being on ordered bed rest, I could not contain the need to clean tubs and toilets, sweep and make beds. Fortunately, giving birth helped moderate – suffocate, actually – that desire. I do clean, but it’s usually prompted by impending company or the inability to reach the kids’ bunk without first checking for my health insurance card.

Yesterday, however, the cleaning bug bit. It’s been stalking me for the last few weeks.

We’re planning a train trip out west later this summer, and, after learning we couldn’t check luggage, I decided to take another look at carry-on strategies. I googled a few packing list ideas and found tons of people who have learned to leave the tonnage at home.

Most of our trips in the last decade have been by car, and the last train trip we took was when Jack, our twelve-year-old, was small enough to ride on my back. While our cargo rarely includes a separate case for makeup or shoes (we’re not that stylish), anyone who’s road-tripped with kids knows the packing list needed to accommodate the extra towels and toys and clothes required for even a small trip expands to fit the exact cubic footage in any vehicle you buy. Jack now dwarfs me, and his six-year-old brother, Superdude is catching up. Fortunately, the increase in height is indirectly proportionate to the number of toys needed to occupy them on a journey, and packing light seemed not only sensible but possible.

My pursuit of a smaller, more-flexible packing list coincided with my annual rotation of hand-me-downs. The hand-me-down rotation spawned a bigger-than-usual mountain of laundry as I got old clothes ready for the donation bin. We live off the grid, so every scrap of clothing dries on a clothes line, and most of it’s put there by yours truly. I was in the middle of a midnight folding marathon when it hit me – we need to start living lighter.

I spent most of the rest of the night folding and sorting and excavating my and the kids’ clothes, ruthlessly tossing in the bin items that had were too small or too worn or simply too unused. The sorting went on with other loads for a few days until yesterday when the building momentum turned into a housewide cleaning frenzy.

I started at the west end of the house and am now working my way east, adopting a scorched earth policy with baggage of all types. By the end of the day, I had four bags for the donation bin and three for the dump. In one room I could see more floor than stuff, and I could see the back wall of my closet.

I’ve lost a dress size in the last few weeks, and I know other clothes will fill some of the void if the weight loss continues. Jack will also need knew clothes by the end of the summer. When I go to buy again, however, I’m hoping I’ll remember the mountain I sorted down to a mole hill. It was not just an outgrowth of an epiphany prompted by a desire to clean less (that would be practically impossible). It was a desire to get more out of the little cleaning I do.



Thing2 is chattering happily about his latest superhero discovery.  I’m trying to keep the sorted piles of laundry on the couch from ending up right back in the hamper again as he demonstrates his version of the Spiderman perch.  Everything begins and ends with these piles.

I don’t know why I let the folding pile get so big, but it usually takes an event to get it all folded and put away in one sitting.  This week it’s the impending arrival of our Thanksgiving crowd.  One of my guest rooms doubles as our indoor laundry hanging area, and I need it cleared and ready (along with the other cleaning) before the mad rush of cutting and cooking begins.

Somewhere in this, I’ve committed myself to two posts a day, figuring if I can maintain my quota during the one time of the year when I clean on a daily basis, I will have broken through some literary ceiling I can’t see.  Unlike the laundry, the writing will hopefully be a ray, each met goal a point on a rising line.

But to follow that ray; to clean and cook, first the piles must be sorted and folded and put away.  And when the crowds disperse after the celebration, I’ll travel the next segment on the infinite laundry line, hoping the ray that runs beside it stays close enough to let me travel both.