Posts Tagged ‘ironing’


January 16, 2011

Multitasking is a concept designed to make us feel inadequate. Like scholar-athletes or Angelina Jolie.

The idea that we can perform several tasks simultaneously is unrealistic. Neuroscientists have spent a lot of time demonstrating this, because people who insist that they’re capable of doing two or three things at once require scientific proof before they can be convinced otherwise. (For the rest of us, common sense tends to suffice.)

I believe the neuroscientists, although I think they overlooked one important thing: They didn’t consider the laundry.

Laundry is the ideal multitasking component. As long as the clothes are in the washer or the dryer, you’re free to participate in another activity content in the knowledge that you are successfully “doing” two things at once—even if the second thing is talking on the phone, watching TV or napping. This should be foolproof, but sometimes it’s possible to mess it up.

Today I’m planning to engage in my own form of multitasking—ironing and watching television. Yes, this is the same ironing I’ve been contemplating for nearly a week. I feel, however, that conditions are finally right for experimentation. Alert the scientific community.


Save Our Suds

January 10, 2011

It was a snowy Friday afternoon (optimum conditions for laundry) when I made my way to the laundry room with a load of delicates. Ideally, I should have been washing sheets and towels so that I could have enjoyed the added pleasure of folding warm terrycloth fresh from the dryer as I watched the fluffy, wet snow fall outside, but the whites weren’t due for a washing and the delicates were. So, down to the basement I went, laundry bag in one hand and Woolite in the other.

Who should I discover there but Pencil—so named because she’s skinny and angular, and in certain light the cast of her complexion is a vaguely unhealthy yellow. Pencil had the laundry room all to herself. And when I say all, I mean all: She’d commandeered all five washers.

Two possibilities could have occasioned this. 1) Pencil had sorted her laundry with scientific precision, using one washer for each of the four possible settings—Normal Hot, Normal Warm, Delicates Cold, and Permanent Press—plus the fifth double loader for blankets or other bulky items. Or, 2) Pencil had not done her laundry in a very, very long time.

I’m all for saving things: money, rubber bands, whales; but as I contemplate the tower of ironing on my chair, I’m not so sure that saving up your laundry is such a good idea.

A Wrinkle in Time

March 31, 2010

I know two people who love to wash dishes. “Give me rubber gloves and I’ll wash them all,” says my friend with the perfect manicure. She finds it soothing to soak her hands in soapy water, scrub, and rinse. It’s the quietest moment in her very busy day; the only time when her mind is free to wander and when she’s sure she won’t be interrupted. When it’s time for dish duty everyone else steers clear.

Some people find the same satisfaction weeding their gardens or raking leaves. Some like to lose themselves in the hum of the vacuum cleaner or the scent of cleanser sprinkled on the bathroom fixtures before they’re wiped to a sparkle.

Washing dishes is not a chore I enjoy. (Yes, I believe it is possible to enjoy a chore, but you have probably figured that out already.) I don’t have a garden, and I’ll vacuum or clean the bathroom because it needs to be done but not because I enjoy it. My chore of choice is ironing.

Ironing is methodical. It doesn’t require active thought or decision-making.

Ironing shows tangible results. It’s easy to gauge your progress.

Ironing is solitary. It doesn’t demand help from anyone else.

Ironing is serene. Except for the occasional gurgle of steam from the iron, it’s quiet. It doesn’t disrupt.

Ironing is housework’s answer to meditation. When I’m feeling particularly out of sorts I’ve even been known to iron the sheets and pillowcases. I always feel better when I’m done.

I ironed my first shirt during my freshman year of college, when button-down Oxford-cloth shirts were all that I wore and I wanted mine to look neat. The girl who lived across the hall from me in the dorm taught me how to do it. She’d been handling all the laundry chores for her father and her brothers since she was a kid, and she was understandably surprised when I told her I simply didn’t know how to press my shirts. So she showed me and I learned: Collar first, then the shoulders; right side; back; left side; and finally the sleeves and cuffs.

I think of her every time I set up the ironing board and fill the iron with the cool water it uses to make steam. It’s a pleasant memory that she and I share, whether she remembers it or not.

Blue Monday

March 29, 2010

This is a Blue Monday. Things aren’t going my way—the way I’d like, the way I’d anticipated—and in this case it’s not really down to me; it’s due to circumstances beyond my control.

Believe it or not, the term Blue Monday has its roots in the laundry room. Women traditionally did the laundry on Monday: soaking garments, scrubbing them, rinsing them, wringing them out, and hanging them to dry. That was followed by ironing, which was started on Tuesday if you were lucky. The process took days to complete.

The “blue” part of Blue Monday referred to bluing, a laundry additive of iron powder mixed with water that was designed to whiten white fabrics. Maybe you remember the perplexing commercials for Lever Brothers’ Final Touch fabric softener “with bluing for extra whiteness.” Now you know what they were talking about. (Another laundry mystery solved.) You can still buy bluing to make your whites whiter, if you really want to wash old school. But we’re not fanatics here.

The term “Blue Monday” has been co-opted by public relations people to describe a particular day—the third Monday in January—on which the weather, debts left over from Christmas spending, and other factors combine to create a perfect storm of blah.

Fats Domino sang about how much he hated Blue Monday. New Order had their own take on the subject, which had nothing to do with laundry—or Monday for that matter—but was a downer nonetheless. (Immensely successful for the band, but still a downer.)

In his song, “Blue Monday” Fats says, “Monday is a mess,” and with regard to this particular Monday I’d have to agree.

I think it’s time to do a load of laundry. I’ll determine when, where, what, and how much laundry is done. No one needs to be consulted; no one needs to sign off. Some things are beyond my control, but laundry is not one of them.