Mums, I need you to listen to me on this one. I’m telling you, kindly, with your best interests at heart, that you need to stop doing everyone’s washing. At least for a while.
Let’s face it, you never get on top of it anyway (apart from in those halcyon heatwave days where you can wash and dry, like, five loads a day). I last saw the bottom of my laundry basket in June 2018 (I was out of the country for the crazy 2019 weather). And I have made peace with that.
I used to prioritise the washing and the washing up. In a life where I often feel I have no control and simply blunder around from one bout of chaos to the next, the laundry was something I could control.
Sorting whites from coloureds from darks from stripes from towels from bedding. Folding little pants and socks and vests and t-shirts. Making nice neat piles of everyone’s clean clothes. It made me feel like I was practical. I was useful. I was contributing to the household now I no longer earned a wage.
These menial tasks took priority and while I had two small children under my feet I was spending lots of time in the house. I wanted it to be neat and ordered.
Before I knew it though, the children grew a little and started school and nursery. I had grand plans to write and maybe earn some of my own money again. But the laundry kept coming. It was getting in my way and alongside cooking and washing up, it was taking up nearly all my child-free time, leaving me anxious and unfulfilled.
That’s when I realised it was a metaphor for my life.
Putting the washing at the top of my to-do list was replicating the way I put myself at the bottom of the pile every day. Leaving my desires to ebb away and turning my into a shell of myself. Who was I? What did I want? What did I like? How could I do or achieve anything when I wasn’t giving myself the chance to meet my needs and stoke my soul fire?
Boundaries needed to be set. With myself, I hasten to add.
I announced I was no longer going to be doing washing, washing-up or cooking on my days off. No one else cared. However, I had to learn to be uncomfortable with a little more mess and chaos. I had to learn to see that my need to be creative and to write and take on projects was worth more than an empty washing basket.
As I write this, there are dirty dishes festering by the sink. If I did them, I would not be able to tap this out. And so, like my last post about not having to do all the things, I need you to stop putting those crumpled t-shirts and stained jeans above what you want and need to do. Set aside some time to do enough laundry that everyone has clean essentials but all the clothes do not need to be clean all the time. (Which will also positively impact the environment, so pat yourself on the back for being more eco).
One more time, in case you’re missing what I am saying. This isn’t just my story.
Your worth is not tied up in how clean your house is.
You do not have to do everyone’s washing, every day, for time immemorial.
It’s OK to want and need things.
It’s OK to go after these things and invite them into your life at the expense of order and cleanliness.
If you put the order and cleanliness first, I can quite confidently say you will never lead a life you are happy with and your dreams will remain exactly that. There will be no time for YOU.
Put the washing basket down and go and walk in the woods or write your blog or listen to music or read a book. That is not wasted time.
If you light yourself up from the inside, you will be the calm among the chaos that you crave.