Every Thursday, I strip the sheets off our bed. If possible, I open the bedroom windows and invite the fresh spring air to waft across the now naked bed. The sheets are tossed into the washer with warm water and a cap-full of Downy Unstoppables.
I gather the towels.
The chocolate bath towels from the master bath, damp after Thursday morning’s preparation to face the world. One from John’s towel bar and two from mine. I grab the matching chocolate hand towels, a toothpaste dotted one from the ring next to his sink and make-up smeared one from the ring by my sink. In the upstairs bathroom, I seize the maroon towel, usually tossed next to the sink. And in the downstairs bath, I find two blue towels, one plaid and one cornflower.
This assembly of towels is added to the collection of washcloths waiting in the laundry room. One last survey reveals the orange and yellow striped dishtowels in the kitchen.
Yes, Thursday is my Linen Day. By the time John returns home from work, there will be clean towels in each bath and fresh sheets on the bed. Linen Day makes me feel skilled as a housekeeper. More significant, it makes me feel nurtured and loved. Is there anything more delicious (and nurturing) than that first night of sleep on clean sheets?
It wasn’t long before I discovered the wisdom of designating Thursday not just as Linen Day, but as Laundry Day.
Thursday means hot water, bleach, and load of thick white undershirts and cotton handkerchiefs. Thursday results include clean workday wear – his polo shirts and my warm weather “uniform” of golf clothes – washed in cold water and Tide Ultra Stain Release (due to my propensity to spill). I round out Laundry Day with one last load. Warm water, Tide Plus Febreze Sport Active Fresh, and those colorful cloth stink magnets: gym shorts, boxer briefs, black socks, and sweatpants.
This litany of laundry may seem too boring, incredibly rigid, and have nothing to do with my creative pursuits. But I share this with you because it helps fuel my creative life. Having a household schedule provides the structure I need to care for my home and doubles as a way to squash the excuse that the pile of laundry is the proof (excuse) that I am “just too busy” to devote time to writing.
Back before the ease of modern washing machines, the traditional day for laundry was Monday. I’m sure the backbreaking task of tending the family’s clothes is why housewives called it “Blue Monday”. It also explains the traditional Monday meal in New Orleans: Red Beans & Rice. An easy dish to put on the stove in the morning for dinner when attention would otherwise diverted.
I know that it sounds easier to do a load of wash a day, thus spreading out the chore. It was the norm during the years I worked in an office, tossing a load in the washer as I left for work and finishing the drying / folding part before bedtime.
For the quality of my daily life, my work life, and yes, my creative life, only doing laundry once or twice a week has actually meant freedom.
Laundry Day has helped free my thoughts. No more trying to remember if there’s a load in the washer waiting or worse a Mount Washmore pile growing daily. And no more wondering if everyone has clean clothes for work. This means I focus my thoughts on what to write in a work blog or which direction I want to take a fictional character.
It’s freed up my time. I remember many sad discoveries of an almost dry wad of clothing in the washer complete with a slightly musty smell, which had to washed a second (or third) time. And rather than needing to make time to do a load each day, a rhythm emerges allowing me to focus on writing or coaching while a load spins and a load dries.
My Thursday Laundry Days have also been a part of freeing up my soul.
During those years of no household schedules, untidy rooms, and mountains of laundry, I felt ashamed of my inability to be a good housekeeper. And there was the guilt, too. Taking time to create rather than tend the mess and piles always was guilt ridden.
Talk about harming your creative soul, guilt and shame do numbers on them.
I’m no longer telling myself little white lies about schedules, either. That’s soul freeing because writing fictional tales is one thing but lying to yourself is another.
As a chronically messy person, I tell myself that clutter is a sign of my own creative genius. Research shows that while this is a common trait of creative genius, I’ve learned that a cluttered environment makes it harder to finish projects. To lie to myself and say that my mess is ok all the time actually harms my ability to focus and makes my thoughts feel cloudier.
We creatives often shy away from structure. We tell ourselves that it will inhibit our artistic expression. We tell ourselves that we want freedom and schedules will make us feel shackled. We tell ourselves that true creative people do not need systems as it will keep us from our ability to be original.
I’ve learned that structure, schedules, and systems are actually a way to protect my creative life.
Imagine (if you will) that I am a happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever with daily visits the local dog park. All those structures are like the fences, and within that safe space, I can let my imagination and creativity run free. My systems keep from running out into proverbial traffic. My routines allow me to play to my heart’s content within the boundaries of my work, and still tend the other important pieces of my life. My schedules open up space for work, play, and dedicated time to create.
I know that having a laundry day is a luxury thanks to my ability to work from home and control my schedule. What isn’t a luxury, though, is how laundry day (and the rest of my household schedule) has come to represent a sense of freedom for my creative life.
Because as wonderful as drifting off to sleep while nestled in fresh laundered sheets feels, it pales in comparison to the reward of guilt-free time for creation. So, yes, thanks to Laundry Day, I have the space to spend more time focused on creative living.
Like spending a random spring morning writing encouraging letters to a friend and love notes to myself in my journal. Freed from the shame of being a poor keeper of my home and released from the guilt of waiting chores. Bathing in pleasure, I dive into the luxurious opportunity to create.
What about YOU? How might a schedule for your household chores or other routine help give you more freedom to create?
About the Author: Debra Smouse
Debra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.