Ten years ago I did laundry about once every three weeks (which, yes, means I had at least 20+ pairs of underwear that I wore in increasingly levels of skanky-ness as the bottom of the pile neared). Buying clothes was more of a fun day out at the mall than an exercise in organization and frugality. Today, between kid’s clothes, baby clothes, adult clothes, cloth diapers, towels and sheets, I do it almost every day. It’s far from my least favorite household chore (hello, bathroom cleaning) but not exactly infused with domestic glory. And our local children’s consignment sale is coming up in about a month, which means I need to block out about four hours (no joke) to devote to going through the clothes, shoes, jackets and swim suits that we have, and make a list of what we need for the summer.
All that to say, this struck home today.
Laundry is a work of providential care; mending is restorative or healing; ironing is an act of perfecting. Even so seemingly nontranscendent an act as putting clothing away can be a gesture of memory or of hope. We put laundry away in drawers and closets in the expectation that another day or season will come when we need these things again. We pack away baby clothes… We save articles of clothing that belonged to a loved one who has died…
Alongside all of this, of course, lies the reality of clothing as a simple necessity and the act of clothing others as a work of mercy. Pople have bodies, and our bodies need clothes. Our households thus need routines and practices that provide for these needs and for the needs of the house itself; routines rooted in the recognition that… as we do such work, we are engaged in the essentials of life in the body and life in community.
from Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson