Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Blog: Mastering the Art of Laundry and Other Lessons on "Growing Up"

Today I am so excited and proud to present Emily Lieber as our guest blogger. Emily is really a phenomenal writer (she is also a writer-by-profession) and I have been hinting to her for the past few months how honored I would be to have her as a guest blogger. Well, Merry Christmas to me, because this morning, in my inbox was this little jewel of a piece. It is so spot on our theme of adulthood, and so insightful, funny, and poignant, especially during this holiday season when many of us will be going back to our parents house for celebrations. I hope you will enjoy this one as much as I did. The best part is, Emily promises it as part of a series, so we will have more to come from this talented lady.

Enjoy it! Show her some comment love! What kinds of social norms exist when you go back home? Do you still live by the "house rules"? How has your relationship with your parents changed/grown/evolved (pick any, or others, that apply) since adulthood? We will all be expecting riveting stories in the comments after the holidays are over (because we know we will all have lots to share after 4 days of family bonding.) I look forward to our discussion! And, of course, may your yuletide days be merry and bright!

So, ::drumroll:: without further ado:

Part I: Mastering the Art of Laundry and Other Lessons on "Growing Up"

By Emily Lieber

My husband and I are in the process of buying and renovating our first home. With escrow, permitting delays, cracked slab fixes, and other hidden problems, the process has taken more than twice as long as we thought it would. In the meantime, the house we were renting sold and escrow closed. We would have been searching for a month-to-month rental had it not been for my generous parents, who have opened their home to us and our two dogs until our new house is move-in ready.

We moved out of our old house and into my parents home, the one I grew up in, in one, long day. It has been good thing for all of us that my parents have a granny flat of sorts, complete with a restroom, bedroom, and living area separated by a door from the main house. We do have privacy and space so that we are not underfoot, but we still must venture into my parents’ space for meals, shows recorded on the DVR, and laundry. We spend most of the evenings eating dinner and sitting by the fire in the main house, so there is plenty of time to discuss healthcare reform, watch shows like the Sing-Off, and play board games.

There have been primarily positive things about our temporary living arrangement. For example, I no longer have to worry about making dinner. My mom works part-time and is a great cook, so she is fairly content handling that area. My mom has also taken over the daily task of walking our dogs at lunch, something I used to run home from work to do every day, making my life fairly harried and rushed. More importantly, I think my husband and I get along pretty well with my parents. We enjoy spending time with them and get to do a lot of that right now.

But this is real life, and with the good comes the “less-than-pleasant” things that come with sharing living spaces (in my life that has included parents and siblings, roommates, and my spouse, and all have come with very different, but still “less-than-pleasant” things). In my current living situation, the main issue that has arisen is the laundry situation. My mom has a knack for cleaning, sanitizing, and organizing, and laundry is one of her favorite things to do. Seriously. Not favorite cleaning task to do, favorite thing to do. I, on the other hand, absolutely despise doing laundry. When I had the luxury of my own washer and dryer, I would stuff them as full as I possibly could to get the as much laundry washed and dried as quickly as possible. I don’t like the process of moving wet things from the washer to the dryer, the process of folding piles of clothes and towels, or the process of hanging damp clothes to dry on hangers. Somehow, I have still managed to do this task weekly for the 9 years I have lived on my own since I left for college at age 18.

Despite my many years of experience in this area, I failed to realize when I put in my first load in at my parents’ house that my process was quite deficient. I stuffed a couple of blankets in the load (and maybe some towels) and went out to run a quick errand. When I returned, my mom and a little girl she watches from time to time were waiting triumphantly to tell me how my too-full load had caused the washing machine to jiggle out of its place all the way across the laundry room floor (or so they say). The washing machine had already been returned to its rightful place, and my load had been pulled out, divided into thirds, and restarted by the time I had returned with plans to transfer it all to the dryer. I really do think that part of the issue is that my mom has super high-tech machines that require more delicate handling. I will admit that another part is that I definitely push the limits of how much can fit in one load. I accepted their joking at my expense and promised to run smaller loads in the future.

I tried to continue doing laundry as the weeks progressed, but I soon realized that it was best for all of us if I simply dumped our dirty clothes, the doggie beds, our towels, bedding, and blankets onto the laundry room floor for my mother to sort, wash, dry, hang, and fold as she sees fit. I simply am not capable of doing laundry to the standard that my mom does it. I wash blacks and navy blues with light blues and reds. I throw all whites, regardless of fabric type, into the wash at once and douse the whole load with bleach. I throw in tennis shoes to dry on air dry instead of using the special drying rack. I pretty much always use the normal cycle, failing to use the special options like “sanitize,” “wrinkle care,” and “delicate.” Based on all of this, you might think my husband and I look like ragamuffins. Maybe we do, but if you ask me, our clothes always come out clean and seem to last as long as ordinary clothes should. Yet, I am confident that my mom still has a mental checklist of things that I do “wrong” in the laundry room.

Sometimes when you grow up and move out you think you have accomplished something. You think, okay, I’ve learned to do my own laundry, make my own meals, and plan my own day-to-day activities. Well, if your head is getting a little bit big regarding the accomplishments you have achieved in adulthood by living on your own, you might want to spend a weekend at my parent’s house. My mom will reeducate you on what temperature to cook things at and how long to microwave them, how to properly wash dishes, when you should bake cookies (not at 9:30 p.m.) and for how long, and when you should go on runs (not after dark). You will quickly learn two things: (1) what you thought you knew about the domestic realm is not enough; and (2) while you toyed with a false sense of independence for a time, you likely need to be retrained in the art of running your own life.

(Photo by Anne Taintor)


  1. I definitely have to be reacquainted with house rules when I'm back home. I might conduct my life without any oversight 350 days of the year, but as soon as I'm home I need to let my parents know where I'll be and when I'll be back. Having my cellphone on silent past 11pm and missing texts and calls from my mom is as close to a death sentence as I care to get.

    I tried folding towels once on this visit, but made the mistake of making rectangles instead of squares, then foolishly forgot to arrange the colors correctly. It's obvious they should go peach-white-blue-then back to peach, or so I'm told.

  2. Very funny post!!

    My mother continues to tell everyone what a terrible cook I am. In fact, as a recent wedding gift she signed me up for a cooking class called "How to boil water". I'm not kidding!!! The weird thing is that my mother and I haven't lived in the same state since I was 18. I'm not even sure that she's actually tasted any of my home-cooking.

  3. ha ha! Funny post and funny comments. I'm with y'all.