Saturday, June 28, 2008

Simple Pleasures: Folding Clothes and Washing Dishes

I am a lover of simple domestic life, and two of its common chores are favorites of mine: folding clothes and washing dishes. Interestingly, I am not particularly good at either one of them. I regularly discover—or more embarrassingly, someone else discovers—smudges on glasses and bits of dried food on plates that I am supposed to have cleaned. When I am folding, oddly shaped clothes, undergarments, and smaller items often resist my efforts to flatten them.

Over the years, I have known two women who were very skilled folders. In their hands, piles of t-shirts looked like neatly stacked playing cards, and laundry that was naturally inclined toward chaos and entropy was soon molded into cloth monuments to order and efficiency. One of these women taught me how to fold one of the the laundry worker’s biggest problems: the fitted sheet. I stand in genuine admiration of people who show such masterful command over clean laundry. I have tried, but I am unable to match their skills.

Particularly in light of my meager abilities, it is curious that I like these activities as much as I do. I can think of several reasons. First, they are domestic chores. Daily chores. Small parts of the business of making a home. When you live—or, at least, eat—with others, these chores also represent service to another, which can be very gratifying. In addition, dish washing and folding have something in common. They both involve dipping your hands into something warm and clean: dry—and often warm—clothes from the dryer and wet, sudsy water in the sink. These are very pleasant sensations for me. Finally, both these chores are most often done alone, which allows the worker to recede into his or her own thoughts while engaged in a mantra-like, repetitive task. If there is a window at the sink, the dish washer’s contemplations are accompanied by scenery.

My habit of daydreaming while washing and folding is undoubtedly part of the explanation of my poor performance. If I gave greater attention to the job at hand, I might produce cleaner dishes and more neatly folded clothes. True enough. But I am not likely to change. Daydreaming is a large part of the appeal, and I am unwilling to give it up.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I fully validate your opinion here! Both of these chores allow me to do something productive, while also allowing me to daydream or philosophize or problem solve. Sometimes it becomes meditative, and when I finish, it is like waking up refreshed. All that, and I am productively using time at home? Talk about an easy win. Add to it the happiness when sincerely helping friends or family with theirs!
Now if I can only translate that into the rest of my chores/work...