I found myself disagreeing somewhat with one of Craig Ballantyne’s daily Early to Rise articles this week. In Operation "2X Your Life" he recommends delegating chores in order to double our accomplishments in life. This was fresh in my mind as I folded laundry in my sunny upstairs laundry room, transferred the clean, wet load to the dryer (so sad to be without my laundry-hanging balcony as a result of home renovations), and ironed 2 of Ryan’s wet shirts (a trick I learned in Montreal from my friend, Heather).
There is joy to be found in doing chores. For one thing, we all need breaks. It is a scientifically proven fact that our brains perform better when they are given a rest, particularly if our break involves physical movement and a change of environment. Living as an import to the west coast of Canada, I try to match my chores to the sun. Seriously! The sun was pouring into my laundry room. I had been working since about 5 am. I was able to soak in some sunlight (I’m not sure if I can manufacture Vitamin D through glass, but sunlight entering the eyes during the day is equally important for manufacturing melatonin while we sleep at night), give my brain a rest, and stay on top of the looming laundry backlog, all at the same time. This was actually Operation “3X My Life.”
Many chores involve serving others. Laundry and ironing definitely fall into this category. If we share our home with someone else, this is true of almost everything we do to maintain our home: cooking, cleaning, gardening, and yes, laundry. And of course, when we serve others, we are serving God. “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40
Our favourite chores become rituals. I remember learning to iron from my Grandpa. My sisters and I spent many wonderful holidays at my paternal grandparents’ home in Huntsville, Ontario. It was bliss. Grandpa was retired, always helped with the laundry, and did most of the ironing. My laundry room is based on those memories. Their washing machine was located in the back porch, a beautiful unheated summer room. It was fully enclosed, with many windows. In fact, there was an adorable little window that could open between the dining room and back porch.
A door led to this summer dining area from the kitchen and there was also an outside entrance with cement steps, on the street-side. Aside from the almost alfresco dining which took place here all summer long, the second most spectacular thing about that room was the window which opened to the clothesline, stretching across the back yard. As you pulled clean, wet clothes from the wringer washer, you could hang them out to dry! My father remembers doing this as a young boy with his baby sister’s diapers. Because they had no dryer, the diapers were often frozen stiff when he brought them in.
We designed something similar into our log home. We have a second-floor laundry room with a balcony out front. We are currently renovating the balcony, complete with new flooring, a special moisture-diverting system underneath, and cleaned, reinstalled railings. So while I could not take advantage of yesterday’s wonderful sunshine and fresh autumn breezes, I could still bask in the memory of my grandfather ironing in that beautiful sun porch in Huntsville, as warmth from the sun spilled through my laundry room windows onto my back.
Finally, chores give us an opportunity to be mindful, to revel in the simplicity of the moment, which, in my experience, almost always fosters creativity. Here are some of the ideas I had yesterday in the laundry room:
1. Use Nana’s ironing board in my office to set stuff on. I possess such nostalgia for ironing, that I still possess my maternal grandmother’s narrow old wooden ironing board (not to mention galvanized wash tubs and wooden stand). It is not very practical; covers are no longer made for its dimensions, for example, and it is really too low for me. It is currently standing upright, upstairs, but it would be very cool if I transferred it to my office and used it for assembling handout-packages we are printing for events, for example. Its narrowness would be a bonus, for this purpose. I actually can’t wait to try this.
2. Have a fold-down ironing board in our next home. We are preparing to sell our dear log home, which is too large for almost empty nesters. Ryan built me a fold-down ironing board for our laundry room in Maryland when he was captain of the Washington Capitals. Sadly, I was unable to use it for long. We were married in June and Ryan was traded in September - welcome to the NHL! I don’t think I have had a fold-down ironing board since, although those days in Montreal, with the 4 babies born over the course of 6 years, are a little foggy.
3. Blog about this! In stark contrast to what I had just read in Early to Rise, in my experience, chores are not the enemy of productiveness. They can, in fact, spark it!