Laundry is tough. It takes time and effort. It’s necessary, but often a struggle. It seems endless and limiting, but the joy of freshly laundered sheets or pajamas is incomparable.
Relationships are equally tough. They are filled with drama and strife. Often we feel the other is insane. She wants what? He won’t do what? That’s important to her? That’s not important to him? It’s a constant challenge to appreciate when we do something because we understand, because we agree, or simply because we love and respect our partner and something matters to them.
I’ve never been particularly good at maintaining the order necessary for running a satisfactory household. My counters are clean but cluttered. My laundry is washed, and occasionally folded, but can mostly be found piled on a chair or in the bean’s crib.
I grew up in household where my mom frequently bleached the whites. They were perfectly clean and lovingly folded while warm. Perfect piles of perfect laundry.
When I visited my maternal grandmother, she’d add a few drops of bluing to her whites and when the piles of white sheets and towels came out of the dryer, she would painstakingly iron each until folded perfectly in a clean crisp pile.
A visit to my mother-in-law includes the magic of her linen closet. A perfectly stocked cupboard, with piles of neatly stacked, matching, perfectly white towels and wash cloths. The first time I saw the linen closet I remember saying to my then boyfriend, it’s like visiting a spa, it’s perfect.
I was raised in, these women were raised in, homes where white laundry was white. The reasons for such care in the maintenance probably differed. Perhaps, the white things in the home were of the most valued? Perhaps, the white things in the home were the ones most likely to be seen by guests? Perhaps, the white things in the home were the ones that provided the most comfort, but needed to last the longest? Petticoats, bed sheets, christening gowns, table cloths, hankies, etc. I suspect the common thread was simply a, probably misplaced, idea that the homes with the whitest of laundry were those that cared the most.
White sheets and white towels give me a sense of accomplishment. It’s funny how that has lingered. I’m terrible at folding. I rarely iron. I’m a bit of a granola when it comes to my choice of laundry products. I use a biodegradable, non toxic, hypoallergenic, no sls or sles, no gmo, chlorine free, phosphate free, dye free, non toxic, paraben free, formaldehyde free, ammonia free and fragrance free laundry soap. The unofficial product title is “Your Whites Will Never be That White Again.” Truly, it’s a battle just to maintain
“good enough white” and letting go of the fact that “yup, that’s totally WHITE” will never be achievable again.
My best strategy, so far, for securing my white laundry fix, has been the purchase of a sectioned laundry hamper. I divide our laundry out into darks, brights, and lights each night before bed. Carefully sorting through, and catching the stray blue sock, or red dish cloth that my husband or offspring moved or accidentally tossed into the wrong section earlier in the day.
As previously discussed baby bean wears cloth diapers. We have the diapers laundered by a service, but are responsible for maintaining the diaper covers ourselves. Each of the adorably bright diaper covers is edged by a white elastic along the leg holes. This white trim challenges me. When they are white, I feel like a good mom. I change beans diaper and am proud that I’m obviously holding my crap together. This is the white laundry of a mom that cares for her bean, that takes that extra few minutes to sort out the laundry, that shows he’s wearing something clean, freshly laundered just for him. When the strip is grey and dingy, I often feel deflated. Did I accidentally forget to sort the laundry? Did I forget to add brightener? Did I miss washing this diaper cover? I feel less like a good mom, and instead feel irrationally lazy.
So, here’s the thing. I get it. It’s just laundry. No one but me is going to see it. It’s trivial. It just needs to be washed. I get that being a good mom is about hugs and love, singing together and reading each and every book that we encounter together. I get that being a good mom is about celebrating bean’s accomplishment and challenging him to reach for extraordinary things.
It’s complicated though. It’s wrapped up in all of the women that have loved me, taught me, and inspired me before. It’s wrapped up in how I feel crawling into a perfectly made bed with luxurious white linens on my honeymoon. It’s wrapped up in an expression of love I’ve seen my entire life.
So, when my husband throws the diaper covers in with the dark laundry and expresses his only interest is getting the necessary house work done. I get it. He’s right. And my pouting over the potential for dingy elastics is unnecessary and absurdly trivial.
It only takes entering the search term “white laundry” into google to embrace how important the quest for clean laundry continues to be with the top three Amazon.ca books showing up as: Talking Dirty Laundry With The Queen Of Clean, 1,001+ Housewife How-To’s: Household Hints to Help Homebodies Cook, Clean, Get Organized, Do Laundry, Save Money and More!, and Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens. There are blogs about laundry, youTube videos about laundry, parodies about laundry, stories with titles like “For a happy home!”, “The perfect housewife solution!” and “The ultimate mom’s secret to perfect white laundry!”.
So, here’s the deal. I can embrace dingy. I just got to break through years and years of memories filled with hardworking women caring very deeply about their white laundry. If it’s the difference between a happy me or a happy family, I’ll have to side with the team that embraces dingy whites, but finds time for laughter and each other.
Love Calls Us to the Things of This World by Richard Wilbur.