Life is like laundry

posted in: homemaker 4

We might want life to be like a box of chocolates, but in reality, it’s a lot more like laundry.

Follow me here, because I promise I’m not trying to depress you.

In fact, a great source of our frustration, despondency, and fussiness about our life at home is due to unrealistic expectations – false ideas about what it’s “supposed” to be like.

We usually think about goals, tasks, and success in terms of accomplishments – things that are done and done well.

So things that are done well and then undone feel like a tease, a problem, a cruel joke.

Maybe laundry itself feels like that sometimes. But, when it does, we can recognize the problem is not with the laundry, but with us.

Wanting the laundry to be done once and for all is to want laundry to be some other thing than what it is. By its very nature it must be done regularly, over and over.

If we’re working hard with the goal of “finishing” laundry, then there is no hope. We can only be frustrated because laundry will always return, and that rather quickly.

Instead, laundry must be one of those things we just keep plugging away at. Sometimes there is more, sometimes there is less, sometimes we’re keeping up, and sometimes we aren’t. After we aren’t, it takes extra time to do some extra “catch up” loads until we get our groove and our laundry-generation rate aligned again.

Nor does the same laundry plan always work for us. The routines and habits that worked in the newly married state are not the same as those in the newborn phase which are not the same as those in the passel of children state. Perhaps there is farm dirt. Perhaps there is oil and mechanical grime. Perhaps there are many collared shirts to iron. The laundry to be done reflects and supports the rest of our lives.

That is how, through laundry, we can understand life better, can understand the nature of all the rest of our work at home for our families and for the maintenance of family life.

Those jeans come again through the laundering pile two days later not because something is wrong or because you didn’t clean them well enough before, but because life rolls ever on. The work to be done was done and now it’s time to clean up from it again.

The same is true with dishes. The dirty plates and pots reflect a family who eats: a mundane, happy truth. There is no home routine magic that will make the dishes done once and for all. If that’s the goal then it would be best to stop feeding others and eating. One of these goals is reasonable and the work associated with it good. The other is selfish and obviously wrongheaded, its means horrifying.

The same is true with dirty floors, with dust on the shelves, with fingerprints on the windows, with clutter on the counters.

We look for solutions that will make the problems go away when what we actually need are solutions that will keep us consistently, repetitively doing the work needed.

But just like the goal of the laundry is not to have all the laundry be complete, so the goal of any other housekeeping job is also not for it to be complete.

Just like the laundry, dishes, and dusting are ongoing work that we continue to do because they continue to accrue, so repentance is a life-long, continuous practice.

Too often we work to try to attain a certain state, to self-develop and self-help our way to “figure this out” so we can move forward.

Sure, learning and growing is a good thing, and practice does increase our skill, but we can’t postpone doing our duties until we’ve achieved some state where we feel ready and pulled together. That state feels like a moving, unachievable target because it is not because you’re doing it wrong.

As we continually clean up the mess in our home, we can learn that we also must continually clean up the mess in our hearts, which won’t be static and stay clean until Jesus returns.

Laundry teaches us about ourselves and about life.

On April 26, I did a free workshop on this topic, digging deep into what it means to continue the Repent 💜Rejoice 💜Repeat cycle:

4 Responses

  1. Kaylene Feiger
    | Reply

    Love this post! So VERY true. Thank you for sharing your gifts and insights to encourage us. One note: not sure if you can edit it but the first sentence has a typo; like is used instead of life. Using my gifts to encourage yours. :)

    God bless!

  2. Allane Cutillo
    | Reply

    Timely words, thank you!

  3. Elisabeth
    | Reply

    YES.

  4. Avril
    | Reply

    Mystie, this post and your recent email were exactly what I needed this week. I have three kids aged 1-6 (two are boys, and the messes are just endless!) Oh and my husband, who is definitely the better half when it comes to cleaning, is currently deployed to the Middle East. In the midst of the crazy I have been trying to get our house figured out. I have never been a strong housekeeper, so the anger and resentment have built up many times as I have looked enviously at my friends’ clean homes, rolled my eyes at my children and at my husband’s job, and wished for the work to just be DONE. But then I read this:

    ‘Chores are less about the state of the house and more about the state of our hearts – and that cuts both ways.

    If the state of the house is spotless, but inside we are an angry hot mess – our clean house counts for nothing.

    If the state of the house is atrocious, but it’s because of hard providences we’re faithfully trusting God through – our messy house counts for nothing.’

    Wow! As it happens, due to a new cleaning routine that we started this week, the house looks the best it has in the two years we’ve lived here. But more importantly, my heart is at peace, and my attitude towards my three little mess-makers is gradually shifting to one of more patience and grace. It helps that when my attitude towards chores is a happy one, the kids are more likely to want to join me in caring for our home. And finally, I am remembering to give myself a bit of grace as well if I just don’t have time to get to everything every single week during this difficult season. So thank you!
    Here’s to our Maker who is so faithful to continue in the work of our sanctification.

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