Thursday, May 22, 2014

Restoring order

I recently discovered that there are few things as relaxing (big disclaimer - FOR ME!) than folding laundry.  This came as much as a surprise to me as it might be to all of you who are now wondering if I'm serious and/or sane.  I've always pretty much enjoyed doing laundry (as in, loading the machine - pretty hands-free compared to lots of other homemaking chores).  But for most of my laundry-doing life, I would take everything out of the dryer or off the line and pile up 4 or 5 clean loads in the baskets, which would then sit upstairs for several days until I got really sick of Justin asking me every morning if I had seen the X colored polo shirt.

A few months ago, I realized that I could improve the process by imposing on myself a rule that I must fold things directly out of the dryer.  I am therefore incentivized to fold it because I have natural incentive to empty the laundry machine in order to start the next load (which therefore reduces the dirty pile on the floor).

And somewhere in adopting this practice, I've fallen in love with the folding.  I noticed one evening, as I made neat little stacks of dish towels and cloth napkins (my favorite things to fold are those of which we have many consistently sized things) and a lot of my stress seemed to melt away.  As soon as I noticed, I started analyzing and wondering why such a repetitive task was relaxing.  It's not a particularly rushed (or rush-able) process.  And it restores order.  You start with a smelly, wet pile of dish rags and towels, and a run through two machines and you're making neat little stacks that are clean and fresh-smelling.

It's probably just me who feels a sense of relaxation looking at a nice stack of freshly-laundered t-shirts.
(and teeny-tiny toddler training pants!)

I was also recently struck with the realization that my daily routine (organize/clean something, organize/clean whatever Anna got into while I was organizing the first thing, repeat) fits pretty well with this whole "finding former glory" thing.  But I haven't been treating it that way.  I view "cleaning" as a fairly negative chore that I theoretically want done but don't practically enjoy.  But we all know that I LOVE taking something messy/broken/ugly and making it better.  So I've just stopped calling it "cleaning."  For the past few days, I've gone about my day thinking about my job as "restoring order to our home."  I'm making our rooms beautiful again when I clear away the clutter and the dirt.

Maybe if you're not me (aka, an overly analytical person who spends the majority of her day with someone still learning to speak in multiple word phrases) this just seems like silly semantics, but it has made a big difference to me.  "Restoring order" feels like a less rushed process, and it seems like something that is a more noble goal than focusing on "cleaning."  I can easily connect wanting to have an ordered home with our family goals, but just chasing cleanliness somehow feels more frivolous or worldly.  I'm struggling to find the words to explain the difference, and it probably just has to do with the definitions I conjure up for each of those phrases.  Either way, the point is that calling my work something that is in line with my goals and wishes for our family is a lot more effective in inspiring me to do it, to do it well, and to find the joy in the process.

I've also realized that I (surprisingly) enjoy spending an hour or two picking up and cleaning up - and restoring order - in the evening after Anna goes to bed.  I used to think of this time as my "off time" when I deserved to be doing something relaxing, but I'm often too tired to do the sewing or reading I think I want to do, and instead find myself frustrated at the time I'm spending online.  Somehow, within the last week, an evening of leisurely (light) housework has become my preferred way of spending an evening, and having taken some downtime in the afternoon instead, I'm up for the work (although still not for a more thinking-heavy activity like sewing).  Perhaps its the feeling of having the house back to a (mostly) ordered state when we come downstairs in the morning, but more likely it's the freedom of doing the tasks at a moderate pace, without the knowledge that other work is being created in the meantime.

Example 1: Why laundry is more relaxing at night.
Since we only use the downstairs shower when we have guests, it is a bit of a storage closet otherwise.
Someone found (and discovered how to open) the Easter bin that was stashed there earlier this week.

We can probably chalk this post up to late-night ramblings of an over-thinker, but perhaps there's someone else up there who needs the nudge to know it's OK to redefine your work, to think of it in other terms or in ways that are motivating and inspiring, and to give yourself the freedom to redefine what you consider the "norms" of when and how to do things.  Or maybe you just want to call me crazy for admitting to the Internet how much I like stacks of folded shirts.

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