It’s 6:30 in the morning and the whir and bump of the washer is already filling the house with vibration and energy. While the kids are still in their beds, stocking up their own energy to get through another day of back yard adventures , the dogs are curled up at my side, softly snoozing, waiting for me to get up and start moving. Paul is already at work, probably finishing up his morning meeting and heading out to the factory floor to make the world a better place, one batch of plastic car parts at a time. And here I lay cozy in my bed, bracing myself for the day ahead. Looking past the laptop screen before me is no less than three stacks of laundry that need to be folded and put away.
When we moved into our house nearly nine years ago it seemed like I was drowning in a sea of boxes. We were a smaller crew then. Benny hadn’t been born and we didn’t have any pets. But our little family of three moved into this 1200 square feet and began unboxing our lives. As we moved the boxes into our house, we sorted according to how necessary they were likely to be in the immediate future. Our garage and the extra bedroom became the storage rooms, the place where we shoved the boxes that either didn’t seem necessary right away or were full of stuff that honestly wasn’t that important at all. Despite the massive yard sale that we had before undertaking a move, despite the weeks of sorting and pitching that I did while packing up our previous home, we still moved in with a lot of unnecessary crap. Our little family of three was bursting at the seams in our 1200 square feet.
A couple of years after we moved in, I decided I was tired of wondering if we had X or if I should go buy one. I was tired of venturing into the garage to dig through boxes when I needed a tool, or wanted to find a specific book that I was sure I owned. It was beyond time to start sorting through the piles. I started tackling unopened and partially opened boxes, the boxes that were stuffed into corners of closets, shoved carelessly into the garage. I was on a mission to take control of the boxes and the nonsense. When my husband asked what I was doing, I said I was cleaning out our life. Fast forward nine years, add two dogs, two cats and one kid to the 1200 square feet, and you will find in addition to all of the trappings that accompany those additional mouths to feed, at least two boxes in the garage that accompanied us from our previous house. Our house, our life still isn’t cleaned out. If anything, even with the removal of the boxes, even with things being placed in a logical location, or in some cases just pitched, our lives are messier than ever.
We have added more than heartbeats and mouths to feed to this house in the past nine years. We have added more than birthday presents and new curtains. Living a laundry lifestyle in 1200 square feet has brought with it the very stuff that we wade through every single day. We have added medical diagnoses, worry, arguments, anxiety, stress, successes, failures, physical and occupational therapy, mental health counseling, grief, love, college classes, pre-school classes, graduate school classes, homework fights, boy scout projects, envy, apathy, stomach aches, dental surgeries, training wheels, art projects, spelling tests, home offices, garden patches, neighbor kids, grand-people and a thousand other things have come and gone through the doors of this house in nine years. And all of those things bear with them artifacts, to remind us that they were here, and sometimes still linger. So, I continue sorting through the piles, trying to make sense of what to keep and what to toss, what has a place on a shelf, what needs pitched into a can, what needs shoved back into a box to deal with on another day. I reload the washer, and shift the wet stuff to the dryer, and stare down the three piles of laundry at the foot of my bed. Those piles are more than t-shirts that are getting wrinkled in a basket. They are evidence of jam-packed days and exhausted nights. They are artifacts signifying the impracticality of stretching human-sized arms around all of the piles and boxes that come with life in a little house. Those unmatched socks, those wadded up dishcloths aren’t forgotten piles of wasted fabric. They are banners that wave before this small army of dog walking, library book reading, pedal-car racing, laundry shifting humans.
We still have boxes in the garage. We still have laundry in our baskets. But we still have a lot of years to sort through all of these piles that life keeps throwing at us. For today, I’ve still got about three loads of laundry to sort and at least two more to wash.