The word ‘chore’ even sounds laborious. When you say it out loud it almost immediately makes your shoulders slump with a huge disgruntled sigh. Although most of us would agree that doing household chores is much less desirable than watching a movie and much less glamorous than going to a restaurant for dinner, I also know that I get quite a large chunk of peace from some chores.
What’s that old zen proverb? ‘Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.’ Simply, there can be beauty and presence in the utterly mundane. Now I don’t own an axe and have little need to chop wood but I get the sentiment as I have a favourite little mundane chore that makes me feel good.
I would change the proverb to ‘Before peace and calm, do the laundry and fold clothes; after peace and calm do the laundry and fold clothes.’ Doing the laundry really floats my boat and has become an unexpected moment of total calm for me.
This is how bathtime in our house goes. I beg Rex to get in the shower on average twenty times (I wish I was exaggerating) before he acquiesces, while Honey is in the bath playing with her dolls. I know I have an allotted time where I can make sense of my day and run through a mental list whilst they’re both washing and playing. It’s a short chunk of time before the chaos of bedtime reading and begging both kids to go to sleep, yet it is long enough to experience a little clarity.
Laundry is my gateway to this mental peace. I sit on the floor of my bedroom, which is next door to the bathroom the kids are in. I get everything out of the basket that holds crumpled, strewn about clean clothes that have come out of the tumble dryer. Separated socks, Honey’s PJ top tangled up with Rex’s sports shorts, my knickers in an actual twist. One by one, out they come, as I fold each item and create piles that relate to each family member. Each pile can then be easily carried to the correct bedroom so it can be put away. Whilst folding each garment, and pairing each sock, my mind quietens down.
This simple task weirdly needs more brain power than one would expect. The piles cultivate a feeling of order and serenity, like I’m making sense of the day and getting my ducks in a row (or pants). All the emails I know I haven’t replied to, all the writing deadlines I’ve overrun on, all the text messages that have gone unanswered, feel a lot less relevant in that moment of simple folding and organising. It’s as if I’m folding my mind into tiny, neat origami shapes that are much less overwhelming than the usual chaos in my tangled brain.
It’s the small victories that count and this nightly mission is certainly one that gives me great satisfaction and a much quieter head. It may be temporary as the bedtime circus ensues moments later but it’s a chore I’m definitely sticking with.