Around the Bend: Laundry proves to be a monster task

Occasionally, such as when I am cooped up inside for most of the month of January, I get an uncontrollable urge to clean. Usually, if I just take a few deep breaths, the feeling passes in a minute or two. But sometimes I can’t help myself. This past weekend, for instance, I cleaned out the laundry room.
My inspiration? The Sasquatch standing in the corner.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Do Sasquatches even exist? And if they do exist, don’t they favor the heavily wooded wilderness of the Pacific Northwest rather than some lint-filled laundry room?
Good points. But (a) I screamed anyway and (b) it wasn’t a Sasquatch. In reality I had been startled by a seven-foot-tall pile of hand-washing that, in the low winter light and out of the corner of my eye, looked just like a Bigfoot. Maybe not so much in its features, but more in the shy and secretive way it leaned against the ironing board. The pile had been growing for who knows how long but until that moment — as with most housework I don’t want to deal with — I had managed to block it entirely out of my consciousness.
I’m not a huge stickler for rules about cleaning, but something I once read in “Hints from Heloise” came rushing back to me: When you mistake your own dirty laundry for a reclusive and probably nonexistent long-armed humanoid primate, it’s time to do some washing. That Heloise knows her stuff.
The hand-wash pile in the laundry room is reserved for delicate or wool items that can’t take the pounding dished out by our high-tech washer and dryer, which I use exclusively for shredding our jeans and fading our cottons. I try to take care of the hand-wash pile every week or so. But something more urgent, such as snacking, always seems to come up.
I figured the pile had been there several weeks, maybe a month. But as I started to sort through it, the contents revealed a much longer time frame. Near the top was a rayon dress from this summer, worn once before I had spilled coffee all down the front. Under that lay a silk-blend cardigan from this spring, worn once before I had spilled coffee all down the front. (It’s kind of my signature move.) The bulk of the clothes were heavy sweaters I forgot I even owned. I could have really used those a week ago.
As I pulled each article off the pile I found myself lost in memories. Here was a sequined dress from two Christmases ago, followed by a hand-knit fisherman’s sweater I had worn long ago to a football game (with hot chocolate all down the front, for a fun change of pace). Near the bottom I found a lacy satin negligee from a phase during which I decided to sleep in something more romantic than my husband’s old cotton T-shirts. To his dismay, the phase lasted one night; lace itches.
Technically, there was no need for a hand-wash pile: Our fancy high-efficiency front loader had a hand-wash setting right there on the control panel.
But our fancy front loader is a liar.
I found out the hard way one time when I selected “hand wash” for a cabled pullover it had taken me two months to knit. Forty minutes later, a tea cozy came out. Hand washing, almost by definition, requires hands.
And I know how that goes. A bulky wool sweater soaked in water weighs 80 pounds and cannot be wrung out without the wringer’s hands developing acute-onset carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s why I avoid the hand-washing pile: better to never again wear a beloved item than to risk nerve damage to get it back into the wardrobe rotation.
I lugged the towering pile of clothes, in a series of trips, to the bathroom and contemplated the wet, messy and arthritis-inducing job about to commence in the tub. Then I went downstairs, made a bowl of popcorn and sat down to watch some Netflix. Mental preparation is everything.
Soon my husband came home from work and headed upstairs for a shower. I had forgotten about the Sasquatch-size pile in the bathroom until I heard a squawk of alarm.
“Don’t worry,” I yelled up to him through a mouthful of popcorn. “It’s more afraid of you than you are of it.”

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