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Redux: The Zen of Laundry

From time to time, and as a thin guise to cover up the days between new posts, I’m going to reprint some older posts that I liked. I originally posted “Zen of Laundry” April 13, 2004. Enjoy!

zenlaundry.JPGThere are times when I truly enjoy the Zen-like experience of laundry: ┬áthe process, the patience for cycles to complete, the rhythmic appliance pulse, the joy of folding. Now, lest you think this makes me desirably domesticated, I confess that although I enjoy the peace and simplicity of the process, I adhere to the bachelor’s art of sorting clothes…namely none! Like the lawn I think should drink naturally from the heavens, so goes my simplistic approach to washing: they’re clothes, they’re all dirty, and they can all come clean together. Fortunately, a wondrous, man-saving product exists called color sheets that prevent sparkling white dainties from being unduly influenced by purple jogging shorts. Modern science solving real-world problems.

There’s something soothing about the washer humming harmonically alongside buttons and zipper pulls clinking randomly in the dryer. And in the winter there’s no better place than the laundry room, with it’s warmed air and sweet, fresh chemical scents made possible by scientists from faceless detergent conglomerates who selfishly pollute their own backyards so that our socks and jocks can be sparkly clean. Over the years, thankfully, I’ve been able to buy cleaning products with reduced dyes, perfumes, bleaches, radioactive chemicals, and other assorted wonders of chemistry we’re safer simply not knowing about. It’s frightening enough knowing residues of these concoctions get intimate daily with our birthday suits. I try to use free-everything products whenever I can, but it isn’t possible to always be pure. A Zen Laundry Master abiding by the “just do it” mantra can’t get hung up on how much phosphorus this one has, or which FDA-approved dye that one has. Life’s too short to worry about such things.

In my early bachelor days, washing clothes at the apartment’s community laundromat seemed like a covert way to meet girls, which of course was both naive and stupid. How friendly can ladies be as they fill washing machines with their dirty unmentionables? What possible sex appeal could exist (ignoring what Madison-Avenue-produced commercials foist on us) between two people chit-chatting over dirty socks and other stark revelations of one’s true nature (i.e., for guys, revealing one’s lack-of-fashion sense)? The only time I remember any girl ever showing the slightest interest in guys at these laundromats was when they ran out of change. It was merely coincidence that I always took my COMPLETE change jar when doing laundry. After all, I never knew when I’d have to rerun those jeans 10 or 12 times…it might happen.

As years passed and the threat of wisdom teased my bachelor mind, the appeal of having my own washer and dryer seemed more practical that the lost hopes of laundromat love. I did notice that women’s interest perked up once word got out that I, a mere guy, had my own washer and dryer. As though some invisible mark of maturity, the mere ownership of the two ugliest appliances ever bestowed on man counted for something in the love war. Maybe they recognized this bold move as the first sign of domestication, and thus raised me one notch higher up the food chain over the wild, free-ranging male with his laundromat-limited habitat. Had I understood this basic principle back then, I might have invested in a top-loading deep freeze. Talk about a chick magnet!

I taught my 18-year-old son the laundry way last year in an honest display of fatherly love to pass on my laundry wisdom. To say he was thrilled to learn this knowledge would be, well, lying. I’m proud to say, however, that he’ll now carry on that fine tradition of male-patterned, laundry-sorting, color blindness. But to my dismay, he’s adopted his own, creative manner of clean laundry folding…or rather, clean laundry STUFFING. He’s content to take his pile of unfolded, unsorted&emdash;but clean&emdash;clothes out of the dryer and upstairs to his room, whereupon he immediately STUFFS the whole pile in one cabinet. How he finds clean clothes to wear, or can discern between dirty and clean is one of those mysterious teenage skills. Somehow, someway, teenagers grow up into responsible adults, one of those mysteries of life yet to be fully explained.

Ultimately, in the true spirit of Zen laundry, each of us has to find his/her own way and simply “just do it.” The details are not important. What’s important is tradition, and I’ve done my part to pass on my male wisdom in this area. When he finally moves away, it will be up to my son to discover the secret of appliance ownership and its chick potential that can be his for just a little bit a month. After all, why should I share all my secrets? I just might have to recycle and reuse them again someday.

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