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Change the Way You Look at Laundry Forever

At Home
June 8, 2012

By Amy Shearn

1. My mother used to have this card hanging in the laundry room on which a friend of hers had scrawled a quote from a poem:

"Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

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"Who wrote that?" I asked her once.
She squinted at it and shrugged. "Someone who didn't do a lot of laundry, I'd guess."

2. Laundry is one of those household tasks that's so mundane, so repetitive and unedifying and, particularly if you have kids, so unending, that it's hard to find any joy in it. Cooking has gotten a bit sexed-up, what with food blogs featuring glamour shots of daily dinners. Getting organized looks awfully fun and pretty on Pinterest. But laundry? Laundry is just...laundry.

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And yet, the blog Four Deer Oak has a nice post on laundry this week. Blogger Anna Camille writes, "I don't mind doing the laundry. It sounds like a rather odd thing for a 21st century feminist to say, but I've realized this year that I like doing the laundry for my family. It's a chore, sure, and a necessary one, but who doesn't like to have clean, fresh-smelling clothes. I don't mind doing it and as I fold the cleaned laundry, I think of my loved ones and the blessings we have."

Wait, I think she made a mistake there. I think she misspelled "as I fold the cleaned laundry I grumble about how little my family appreciates all the work I do around the house." Oops!

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3. Still, I have to admit that my laundry situation has recently changed in a way that has made life much, much easier. As I take the warm clothes from the shiny new dryer, I actually am able to appreciate (almost all the time) how this is something I can do for the people I love, and how lucky I am that there are these nifty machines that do all the work for me, that the hardest part of the task is the soothing work of folding everything while watching mindless television. "Let there be nothing on earth but laundry" indeed!

4. So I was doing the laundry in this nice clean new laundry space and suddenly those words from my mother's laundry room came floating up into my head. I abandoned the almost-folded pile to google the poem.

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5. Here it is: Love Calls Us to the Things of This World, by Richard Wilbur. It's just the thing for those moments when you are doing laundry or any mundane task at all and need a jolt of inspiration, a peek out of yourself, a reminder of the beauty of the every day, of the small journeys your soul can make while the rest of you is half-asleep, the joy of that stinking always-full basket... how "outside the open window/The morning air is all awash with angels."

(Whether or not Richard Wilbur did his own laundry, of course, is still up for debate.)

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