What is it about the five loads of laundry that plagues me every week? I don’t even hate doing laundry. Maybe it's just an issue of volume? Or maybe no matter how much or how little I accomplish in any given week, every Sunday there it is waiting for me. A not-so-gentle reminder that my life has transitioned from a high-powered television executive to a stay-at-home mom/writer/producer. Have I simply traded piles of scripts waiting to be read for piles of dirty socks waiting to be washed?
I probably make it harder on myself because I am very meticulous about doing laundry. I don’t just separate the darks from the whites. I separate the delicates from the regular wash. I hang dry ALL of the sports clothes… and there are a lot of sports clothes. I could let my husband and daughter do the laundry, but that would mean everything would get washed together and promptly dried together. I suppose that would be ok, except that the dryer would destroy about half the clothing we own. Anything white would either turn pink or gray. So, I just accept that this is one of those household chores that I do because I want it done right. Yes, that is the statement of a control freak with a little hint of OCD. Mea culpa.
So when my teenage daughter sheepishly asked me if I had seen her gym shorts this morning, I could feel a sense of mild irritation bubbling up. I suggested that I go in her room and look for them, but she warned me not to do that. I said, “Why?” She said, “Because you might start yelling.” As I headed towards her bedroom, I laughed and said, “Why would I yell? I haven’t raised my voice in over a month. Look at my Yell Jar, it’s empty.”
But when I entered her room, it looked like it had been ransacked and burglarized. All of her dresser drawers were open and overflowing with clothing. Her clothes weren’t just bursting out of the drawers. The jeans were mixed in with underwear. The pajamas were mixed in with athletic wear. The socks were with the sweatshirts. A bunch of clothing had been turned inside out. Clearly, she had been searching for the aforementioned “gym shorts” for a while, but to no avail. I wasn’t upset that she couldn’t find her gym shorts, as much as I was unnerved by the crime scene in her bedroom.
It would be one thing if I didn’t spend hours and hours every weekend sorting dirty laundry. Washing them exactly as recommended by the manufacturer. Meticulously hanging dry all the delicates and athletic wear. Folding them all into neat little piles. Delivering the neat little piles to the bedrooms, so that they are easy to put away with like items… maybe I wouldn’t have been so crazy when I saw the chaos that was her entire wardrobe stuffed into six drawers. Maybe.
I proceed to hunt through every drawer looking for the requisite gym shorts. Now I am on a mission. I know that I washed the PE uniform and I am determined to find them and then teach my daughter the lesson of putting things away properly. But I comb through every article of clothing to no avail. I even check the laundry room again. I go back to her room and start looking through backpacks, volleyball bags, and that’s when I notice a random sweatshirt on top of her tennis bag.
I pick up the sweatshirt and underneath it I discover a freshly folded batch of laundry. Apparently, when I washed her gym clothes and delivered a neatly folded pile to her room, it never made it to the “drawers from hell.” This small stack (with the gym shorts) got covered up by a sweatshirt and forgotten about days earlier.
For a brief moment, I feel a great sense of relief and accomplishment. I race back to the kitchen with the “prize” gym shorts in my hand like I had just crossed the finish line of “The Amazing Race.” Unfortunately, that fleeting moment of satisfaction quickly turns to anger when I realize I have just been through a completely unnecessary fire drill. This is when I start to yell. “Why don’t you keep your drawers organized? Why don’t you hang up your clothes? Why didn’t you put away your clean laundry? Why didn’t you look under the sweatshirt?”
She has a million excuses for this: Her drawers are too small. Her clothes are too bulky. She didn’t have time to put things away. It’s much easier to just shove them into the drawers. Hanging clothes in the closet is simply too much trouble. (Seriously?) She claims that she usually has no trouble finding anything. She likes the treasure hunt of finding something “new” by having the items randomly placed in the drawers.
This kind of logic (and behavior) is like gasoline on the fire to a “neatnik” like me. The world is chaotic and my mind is a busy (and messy) place. Organization, lists, and routines are how I keep my sanity. Being organized has always been my superpower and I believe it is, in large part, the reason for my success. So I spend a lot of time reinforcing this habit with my kids. I believe that they will have more control in their lives by being organized. Yes, I am one of those people who think a messy room = a messy mind. But at this moment, my philosophy is lost on my daughter, because the clock is ticking and she is about to be late for school.
She just looks at me and says, “Oh, by the way, you are yelling.”
But I was prepared for that. I had a quarter in my hand and promptly placed it into the Yell Jar. I said, “I know. It was worth the 25 cents.” I, then, handed her the gym shorts and somehow we still managed to make it to school on time.
But now I have to fight the temptation to reorganize all of her clothes myself while she is at school. It would definitely make me feel better and would have the added bonus of helping me procrastinate from working. But that will not benefit anyone. She will not learn the lesson, and her room will return to utter chaos in mere minutes upon her return… which might end up costing me another quarter in the Yell Jar.