This Is Not Really About Laundry

By Beck

The first thing I do in the morning is sleepwalk to our laundry room and throw a new load of laundry into the washing machine. It’s automatic now – I’m pretty sure that my kids will have memories when they’re older of the sound of the washer as they ate their breakfast, the steady hum of the dryer. It is part of my morning, as thoughtless and automatic as brushing my teeth and no more resented.

Before we were married, we brought our laundry to the laundromat on Sunday afternoons and spent a few hours hanging out in the greasy spoon next door, feeding quarters into the ancient jukebox with its unchanging selection of old, old songs. The back of the laundromat had a small used book selection, full of battered paperbacks, romance novels where the heroine fell in love with an English lord, who presumably had servants who did his washing. We would fold our laundry together, my not-yet-husband suddenly morphing from his regular, supportive self into The World’s Pickiest Human Being, because I FOLDED EVERYTHING WRONG. See, there are right ways and wrong ways to fold laundry, and I had apparently spent all of my previous life in a woeful state of wrong-foldingness. Oh, how did I manage?

“No, no,” said The English Lord huskily. “You are too delicate and beautiful for such a demeaning and kind of boring task. Let the servants do it.” And then my not-yet-husband would sigh loudly and refold the jeans that I had just folded COMPLETELY INCORRECTLY.

When we got married, my parents gave us a washing machine as a wedding present, and there went our Sunday afternoons at the laundromat, gone and unlamented. I seriously doubt that I fold clothing any better than I did when we were first together, but we’ve changed over our time together and it’s no longer worth any sort of squabble. There were things that mattered a lot then, things where JUST WRONG and that just don’t matter anymore many years of marriage smoothing out a lot of bumps. We have nearly 20 years of shared history now, over half of my life, and now we fold clothing together in the evenings, stacks of little t-shirts to go into drawers, little dresses to go on hangers, little socks to go on small feet, these tasks now just automatic and unthinking, just part of what makes a life together, and we’ve been married for ten years as of today.

Beck also blogs at Frog And Toad Are Still Friends.

45 Responses to This Is Not Really About Laundry
  1. Stephanie
    July 25, 2008 | 12:11 am

    Happy Anniversary! And my hubby still prefers to fold his own laundry. Hates how I do it and once I thought he was going to have a heart attack because I rolled his socks together… !


  2. Iva
    July 25, 2008 | 8:05 am

    Happy Anniversary.

    There is comfort in the routine and expected. This is the conclusion I’ve come to after 11 years of marriage.

  3. Megan
    July 25, 2008 | 9:28 am

    We’ve only been married 5 years and Al isn’t allowed to fold laundry because HE does it all wrong. I look forward to the smoothing of the bumps over the next 5 years (and on and on, into eternity, sigh). Happy Anniversary to you! Maybe you should celebrate at a greasy spoon over battered paperbacks?

  4. Nowheymama
    July 25, 2008 | 9:29 am

    Our big newlywed issue was Christmas lights (white vs. color). We now decorate our tree with strings of white AND colored lights, although neither of us really cares anymore.

  5. Steph
    July 25, 2008 | 9:40 am

    Happy Anniversary! My husband still says he doesn’t think I fold his shirts “correctly” but he has gotten to the point where he appreciates that it’s done and doesn’t quip about it anymore. Isn’t it nice to find comfort in the familiarity of your relationship? We still have bumps to be smoothed with time, but are getting better at picking our battles wisely and enjoying each other for who we are.

  6. Janet
    July 25, 2008 | 9:47 am

    Congratulations! We used to squabble constantly about who did more around the house. Of course, when I say “we” I really mean “me.” Swapping my demanding full time job for demanding full time parenting ended that debate. We all know that I do more, but I don’t resent it any longer because I’ve had the good fortune of spending the last 7 years at home with my kids.

  7. Tiffanie
    July 25, 2008 | 9:53 am

    Laundry folding was a biggie in our home too. But these days, if hubby is willing to give me a hand with the task, I’m willing to take what I can I can get, shirts folded inside-out, towels that are come out looking ten times larger than my neat stacks in the closet and all. There truly is more to worry about, and who really looks into our drawers anyway?

  8. Jamie (Ohbecareful!)
    July 25, 2008 | 10:16 am

    Happy Anniversary! You’re a year ahead of us: hubs and I celebrated 9 years yesterday. 🙂

    I remember laundromats from the earliest days of our marriage too, and although I was the one who was picky about the way things were folded, neither of us missed having to haul all of our clothing back and forth every week when we finally got a washer/dryer.

    We still do laundry together frequently; I don’t mind sorting and washing so much, but I hate putting it up, and my husband is always great about making an entire basket of clean laundry disappear. Poof!

  9. De
    July 25, 2008 | 10:20 am

    It’s been 18 years since we first moved into that tiny second floor apartment. I don’t have a single memory of actually doing laundry, though I know we must have gone to the laundromat on Green Road. We definitely did it together, as we shared all household chores then and mostly still do now, with the exception of cleaning the bathroom, which my husband has never, never, ever done.

    I can still get a little frustrated because my husband never finishes a job. He’ll vacuum the house and leave the vacuum out. He’ll leave the clean, dry pans on the stove. He’ll leave folded laundry piled on beds. I think he develops these quirks deliberately, so I’ll have many “fond” remembrances of him.

    Congratulations on your anniversary.

  10. hyperactivelu
    July 25, 2008 | 10:38 am

    Happy Anniversary!

  11. PastormacsAnn
    July 25, 2008 | 10:49 am

    The laundry was happily handed over to me immediately after we got married nearly 19 years ago. He could not care less about how things are folded.

  12. Kyla
    July 25, 2008 | 11:09 am

    I remember those days at the laundromat. But we just tossed all our crap into a basket and folded it at home. Heh.

  13. Cristan
    July 25, 2008 | 11:17 am

    Congratulations on 10 years! My husband used to tell me I “lost” all of his clothes. So now he puts his own clothing away. Win/win for both of us!

  14. Chantal
    July 25, 2008 | 11:41 am

    Funny how we all soften our rough edges as we grow together.

  15. Becky
    July 25, 2008 | 12:14 pm

    A happy, happy anniversary to you both! Congratulations!

    We have been married for 27 1/2 years. And yes, there are things that do not matter anymore, like whether or not I have a car at my disposal, or whether he eats meat, potatoes, and 1 vegetable every night at 5:30 p.m.

    We have never been squabblers. We are both very easily emotionally exhausted so we do not bother with things that will tire us too quickly. Like squabbling. But … I do remember a largely hormone-induced (mine, not his) panic just before we tied the knot, when I was crying and he did not have any tissues in his car. Can you even imagine? NO TISSUES! That was rectified straigh-away and has not been a bone of contention since.

    I think being married changes a lot of things. But being parents changes more things. That is my expert opinion after more than a QUARTER OF A CENTURY of wedded bliss.

    For example. I no longer fret over the fact that there are used glasses next to the computer that are not mine, or that someone did not pick up any of his dirty clothes before he threw all of his clean clothes on the floor right on top of them and now he must smell them to see if they are worthy of wearing.

    I just close the door. Parenting is more of the challenge for us.

    Y’all just have a WONDERFUL day.

  16. Charlotte
    July 25, 2008 | 1:12 pm

    Happy Anniversary Stephanie! I hope that you have a wonderful day too!

  17. chickadee
    July 25, 2008 | 1:17 pm

    congratulations! i’m not sure my husband has ever folded anything, but if he did it would be WRONG

  18. Anita Jo
    July 25, 2008 | 1:45 pm

    Happy anniversary! My husband and I will celebrate 13 (13!!??) years next month. Overall, as I think about this, I’m a little surprised and ashamed at how much STILL matters and how many rough edges we still have after all these years. We are both passionate & stubborn about certain things, I guess. (Okay, me especially.)

    What we’ve definitely gotten better at, though, is doing the “dance of responsibilities.” We’ve come a long way in figuring out who is more invested in which tasks, and who is more likely to actually complete them, and–on my part especially–how to best motivate and support the other person in doing his part. (Hint: Less nagging and criticizing how it’s done, and more leading by example.) It’s amazing to me that if I empty the dishwasher and put in a load of laundry in the morning, I am likely to find the dishes from the day put in the dishwasher, and the load of laundry dried–if not folded–by the evening. But if I’d asked for those things to be done, but done nothing myself, they likely wouldn’t be done. (I work full-time, and my husband is a home-schooling at-home dad, so the “dance of responsibilities” is extra complicated for us, I think.)

    Anyway, happy anniversary, and thanks for the thought-provoking post. (By the way, my husband is still not allowed to fold laundry–he does it completely, ridiculously backwards and inside-out. See, it still matters.) {Sigh}

  19. Hannah
    July 25, 2008 | 2:27 pm

    My husband and I (married 11 years) fold laundry together in the evening too, making little stacks that sound an awful lot like your stacks. It’s unbearably romantic. 😉

  20. Alison
    July 25, 2008 | 2:42 pm

    Amazing how ten years and some little people can make all the things that seemed so irritating and WRONG not matter as much (at least for us!) I never love my husband more than when he helps with household tasks.

  21. Cyndi
    July 25, 2008 | 2:58 pm

    Happy Anniversary! I used to nag my husband about doing things the “right” way- folding clothes, loading the dishwasher, where to put things- but now I am just grateful that he is so willing to help unlike some men. I just keep my mouth shut and let him do it his own way.

  22. bren j.
    July 25, 2008 | 3:16 pm

    Happy Anniversary, Beck!

  23. Omaha Mama
    July 25, 2008 | 4:33 pm

    Hey there. Congrats on a decade, that’s so great. We’re seven years into marriage and have known each other for eight. A lot of stupid things still matter, unfortunately. One improvement is that I am definitely less emotional. I don’t use tears to try to get my way any more and I forgive pretty much everything without “the talk”. The love is always there and I no longer fear it dissolving into air like I used to.

  24. Tina
    July 25, 2008 | 4:35 pm

    Love this little comfortable slice of life you’ve written about here. We will celebrate our 10th this fall. My husband thinks folding laundry is an exercise in oragami. Even if you are going to fold something “wrong” at least be consistent and do them all wrong.

  25. Kristen Laurence
    July 25, 2008 | 6:26 pm

    Happy, Anniversary, sweet Beck! Congratulations.

    As far as how many and what kinds of preferences my husband and I have relaxed on in the last 11 years of marriage….where do I start??

    It really is the beauty of matrimony – to be free of our selfish idiosyncrasies. Life is so much more relaxed and fun.

  26. Katie
    July 25, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    I think over our 11 years, we’ve both come to the silent and comfortable understanding that if we don’t like the way the other person does something, we’ll do the task ourselves. And while I beat myself up about not being the ‘perfect’ wife, homemaker, or homeschool teacher, my husband — bless him — is happy to have a wife who loves and supports him and is willing to love his children from his first marriage as much as I love the children from our marriage. Keep a picture perfect home, I can’t do. Make a huge dinner every Sunday night so all eight of the kids (ages 1-21) and their friends can hang out — now that’s my type of homemaking. 🙂 Soooo lucky to have a guy who feels that’s the important stuff.

  27. Riley
    July 25, 2008 | 7:24 pm

    Happy anniversary! Maybe you should celebrate with a trip to the greasy spoon (or would that turn into one of those “it’s our ten year anniversary and you want to go where?!!!” kinds of discussions?)

  28. edj
    July 25, 2008 | 7:52 pm

    HAPPY HAPPY Anniversary!

    Hmm…things that no longer matter. There are a lot, actually. We’re to the point where we tend to do things OUR way, rather than the way our families of origin did them.
    However, he still does tend to use dish towels as hot pads. No really he does. That is still an issue.

  29. Guinevere Meadow
    July 25, 2008 | 8:04 pm

    For us, it’s dishes. He thinks the dishwasher just doesn’t get the dishes clean. We used to have huge fights about it. After 4 years, we don’t fight about it anymore– every so often I’ll wash the dishes my hand (I like to call it “throwing him a bone,” and every once in awhile he’ll empty the dishwasher for me.

    Here is the lesson that saved my marriage:

    I love my husband. I don’t try to explain him.

    And since I have embraced that reality, things have gone much better.

  30. Heather
    July 25, 2008 | 8:38 pm

    Ugh I had a boyfriend that was very particular about his jeans…no creases, folded JUST SO. Gawd I’m so glad we broke up.

    My husband is just happy that he has clean clothes to wear.

    Happy anniversary!

  31. womaninawindow
    July 25, 2008 | 8:40 pm

    Such a great post. I can imagine you guys there in that Laundromat with your long legs hanging down over the side of a washing machine and a novel with a battered cover in your hand.

    Happy times! Are you taking that can of peas to a very expensive hotel, by chance?

  32. Laura
    July 25, 2008 | 8:41 pm

    LOL, what is it about laundry?! Our first “argument” was that my new hubby expected me to put away his laundry. He grew up with mom always folding and putting away his laundry and apparently expected his new bride to do the same. Well… I missed that in the marriage agreement 🙂 We, of course, talked it out and came to an understanding. He now helps put laundry away, although sometimes I spoil him and put it away for him 😉

  33. Peanut Butter and Jelly Boats
    July 25, 2008 | 11:25 pm

    Happy Anniversary! We have issues with Ironing. Evidently, I suck at it.

  34. Fairly Odd Mother
    July 26, 2008 | 7:40 am

    Sweet post that really is much more than about laundry!

    For me, a little thing I had to let go was regarding my cooking. I used to get upset if my husband didn’t love everything I made. Now, I try new things, listen to his comments and move on. Trying not to sweat the small stuff.

    Of, but what is this ironing thing of which PB&J Boats speaks? That is my husband’s job.

  35. Kathryn
    July 26, 2008 | 8:35 am

    The couple that folds together stays together. Or something like that. Happy Anniversary!

  36. Kelly
    July 26, 2008 | 11:57 pm

    Congratulations Beck! This post captures such a sweet and intimate portrait of married life. There’s something simple about folding the laundry for your family that says volumes about your relationship.

  37. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    July 27, 2008 | 3:17 am


    My husband and I have been married for 8 years, but I don’t think we are quite as in tune as you two… I love the image of you two working together folding your laundry. Maybe we need to fold laundry together more often. LOL

  38. Kathryn Scheibmeir
    July 27, 2008 | 1:00 pm

    Congratulations on ten years!!! That is awesome! Our squabbles that have been smoothed out consisted of his clothes, dropped, not in, but very close to the laundry basket. Easter, do we hunt eggs and baskets, or just eggs with baskets set out on the table? Are generic brownies equal to name brand brownies? I laugh now, but somedays I’m not laughing when those clothes are still close but not IN the basket *smile*

  39. Jennifer, Snapshot
    July 27, 2008 | 7:37 pm

    Happy anniversary!

    We’ve managed to survive 15 years with me folding wrong and loading the dishwasher incorrectly, so apparently there’s more to marriage than housework.

  40. Michelle & Kayla
    July 27, 2008 | 11:44 pm

    Joe leaves his clothes on the floor in front of the closet where the hamper is – I don’t let that bother me anymore 🙂

  41. chelle
    July 29, 2008 | 8:00 pm

    Before we were married my husband had “right socks” and “left socks” (no kidding)! Yeah now he is lucky if he has clean socks at all!!

    Happiness does strange things!

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