For the Love of … Loading the Dishwasher

I recently blogged about my love for laundry, how it feeds some deep-seated compulsion for order and organization, how much I enjoy converting a smelly disorganized hamper-full of dirty clothes into fragrant, neatly folded piles. A few of you called me weird. I get it, that’s cool. But it also sparked a lot of empathy and discussion among readers of the Framingham Patch (where my post also ran.)

And so this brings me to the topic of loading the dishwasher, another contentious topic methinks, especially among married couples. Raise your hand, readers, if you reload the dishwasher after your spouse does. My hand is raised. The Boston Globe even wrote about the marital strife that the dishwasher causes.

Bottom-line, I have a system and it works.

On the top deck:

  • cups and mugs on one side, handles all facing the same direction
  • big drinking glasses on the other side
  • kids drinking glasses in one row
  • bowls, lunch boxes and other random plastic items in the middle –  but arranged to make optimal use of space

On the bottom deck:

  • plates of the same size, stacked all in the same direction
  • silverware sorted by type
  • bowls, dishes, lids, other utensils around them –  but arranged to make optimal use of space

This, my friends, is not rocket science. Note the phrase “optimal use of space.” For the life of me, I cannot understand why some people throw everything haphazardly? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. And while I’m pointing the finger mostly at you, men of the world, the fact is that I also know of some women who are dishwasher-challenged. (You really must check out this funny card on the topic!)

But let’s get back to the enjoyment factor. When the sink is full and the counter is littered with the detritus of dinner, I get deep pleasure from opening the empty dishwasher, assessing the mess and then methodically organizing and loading. It is always a titillating challenge to try to fit as much as humanly possible into the machine, while not overloading it and rendering the cleaning ineffective.

Equally pleasing, though at first mighty annoying, is opening the dishwasher to find that someone has already filled it, kind of. After an initial sigh, the process of reorganizing and reloading ensues and, lo and behold, another 50 percent more stuff can fit in there. And, because there is organization, the unloading and putting away process is equally efficient.

Call me OCD, call me a control freak. And I reassure you I am NO domestic diva. But I have this strong inkling that you get my drift, am I right?

Several months back, I wrote about the importance of teaching your kids resourcefulness (so that ultimately you can get them to do stuff for you.) My goal is to teach my son how to load the dishwasher efficiently. If I do it right, then not only will I have to load the dishwasher less but I’ll be setting him up for future household (and marital) bliss!

For the Love of …. Laundry

This is going to sound warped and you are probably going to think I’m nuts or completely abandoning the mothership and womanhood and all that. But here goes:

I love doing the laundry.

Yup, you read that right. I love doing the laundry.

Sure, I complain about it like everyone else, but that’s just to give off the appearance of being harried and frustrated by the regularity and dullness and domesticity of those large, often pungent, sometimes sticky piles of clothing that are either strewn about or heaped up in dank corners. (Why do they never all make it into the hamper?)

The reality is that I actually relish – yes, that’s right – relish the process of converting the mess, wrinkles and smell into fragrant, smooth and orderly piles.

There’s also a certain OCD element in me that appreciates the anticipation of timing the laundry just right so that I can be one step ahead of someone being out of clean underpants. If I time it right, we can (hopefully) avoid the meltdowns when the batman jammies are not available or someone’s favorite T-shirt can’t be found. Or, heaven forbid, when there are only clean skirts or skorts instead of shorts or pants (guranteed to incite whines and tears from my 5-year old tom boy.) Plus, during the summer months, there’s the extra thrill of ensuring that there’s always a regular supply of clean towels, swim suits and changes of clothes for two kids for camp.

I’ll often secretly inhale from a big of clean clothes, fresh from the drier. That smell, to me, is almost as pleasurable as the buzz I get from that first sip of coffee in the morning.

Next, I’ll turn on the TV and methodically take each laundered item and create piles. Socks, underpants, facecloths in one pile, everything else in the other. And then I’ll fastidiously fold each item and create more piles sorted by kid, by item (shorts in one pile, T-shirts in another). I often finger each item as I handle it, smoothing out the wrinkles and fondly remembering something entertaining or interesting about my son or daughter when last they wore it. As I inspect each item, I muse over how much they’ve grown, calculating how many more wears these pants might get before the eventual holes at the knees , or how many more Marmite/sardine stains her tops can withstand before they must be forced out of commission. I recall the source of each piece of clothing, which store or from whom it was handed down (thank heavens for hand-me-downs!) I think about the upcoming season and whether last Spring’s clothes will fit them come Fall. I hope so, because the hand-me-downs are running low….

Finally, in front of me, roughly eight orderly, uniform towers of neatly folded and sorted clean clothes. Then begins the process of putting them away, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, making sure that the rotation of yet-to-be-worn clothes takes place.

This complete, detailed and yes, maniacal, process happens at least once a week. It’s fantastic!

Woe betide he who messes with the process.

Actually, the truth is my husband willingly folds laundry. Except he folds it differently from me. Which causes this whole internal battle in me in which I have to talk myself into accepting that the folding is not being done my way. Gratefully accept the assistance. Get over myself, in general. It works most of the time, though I do admit to often checking in the kids’ closets and drawers after he’s done putting their clothes away and reorganizing stuff.

Any men reading this probably think I am a lunatic. Or maybe they recognize this behavior and witness it in their own homes. But, my fellow Moms, I bet I am not alone here. Maybe you are not as controlling as me about the laundry. Maybe you are. Maybe it’s some other aspect of household management?

Tell me …. do you enjoy doing the laundry as much as me?

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I’m a Control Freak: Resistance is (Almost) Futile

This past week’s vacation opened my eyes to the fact that I am a control freak. Not necessarily controlling of people, but very much controlling of my surroundings and the order of things. This may come as a surprise to you. Or maybe not?

The first realization came when I decided to totally disconnect from work: the definition of a vacation, surely? Handing off control of the day-to-day management of my accounts to my teams was a relatively easy step – they kick ass, after all. Every aspect of each client’s work was detailed and delegated. The stuff I could control, that is. The fact is that, working in PR, you are only ever in control of maybe 50 percent of your day. Events can take a turn in a nanosecond. So abdicating that which might happen and which I couldn’t control while lying poolside required a leap of faith. Not that I don’t trust my teams to do great work; more the realization that I wouldn’t be part of the process and, quite frankly, they could get it done with out me.

Next, pre-vacation organization, akin to a military operation. Making sure everyone is equipped with sufficient clothes, toys, sunscreen and so on was the easy part. Packing even was straightforward. It’s all the household management stuff that gets complex. Ensuring we had just enough groceries to feed us the days up to our vacation but not so much that it would spoil while we were away. And making sure there were basics in the cupboards for immediate consumption upon our we return. Ditto for laundry. Ensuring all the items needed for vacation were clean and dry in time and making sure there were sufficient clean clothes to come home to. It’s all in the details, the planning. General Patraeus would be proud of me.

Vacation travel: I must be in charge of the passports and travel documentation, always.

At the hotel: the immediate urge to unpack and arrange our stuff. Order must be established and maintained, especially if we are all sharing the same living space. And while I’m not overly OCD about hygiene, hotel bathrooms skeeve me out big time. Sharing hotel bathrooms with kids and a husband who tend to deposit damp towels and toothpaste lids on to the floor makes my skin crawl. Sand on bathroom and bedroom floors drive me nuts. Crushed chips and Cheerios on my bed push me over the edge.

And then there’s the topic of routine. I love routine. I’m addicted to routine. Just like a child, it gives me structure, predictability and yes, control. But a vacation is all about relinquishing routine, letting go, que sera sera and all that. While I’m first to admit that my main priority for this vacation was to sit my the pool and do nothing, the reality was I was not alone. We all needed feeding, clothing, bathing. entertaining. In short, we needed a vacation routine, but one much more flexible and fun than the home routine, of course. I was happy to oblige, to lay the groundwork, think ahead, plan out the details.

Coming home is, in truth, a control freak’s nirvana. Because order and routine needs re-establishing. Cases need unpacking, things need putting away, clothes need laundering, the empty fridge needs re-stocking. Ahhhh! This has been my day today and I’ve enjoyed every single second of it. Don’t tell anyone, but I was even looking forward to it.

So while I’m certainly no Christian Gray, I am self-aware and I realize that letting go and letting be is just not in my DNA. If I don’t think of and manage these things, who will?  To quote Adrian Monk, “it’s a gift …. and a curse.”

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