Shame and Laundry

By Marissa Marangoni

There is a lot of misleading messaging out there for people who have kids in their houses—like you can have a white couch, or your bathroom will be cute with all those bath toys in there. On a bigger scale, this sort of messaging often puts us children-having-people in a position of shame. Shame that specifically is brought on us because our houses look lived in. 

We all have those friends — even friends who have kids sometimes — who apologize for their “messes” as we step through their doors to see an open bag of bread on the counter with a few crumbs on the floor and some dirty dishes in one side of the sink. 

There are those people, and then there are the rest of us who live in shame because those messes in those houses are, like, 20 steps above what our houses look like on “clean” days. Here’s the thing, people: I think we should stop feeling ashamed of the states of our houses. It is time to reclaim our dignity, one household disaster at a time. And so, today I bring you my own personal shame: the laundry couch.

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There is a couch in my living room that no one sits on. It’s the laundry couch. I don’t want it to be a laundry couch, I would like it to be a couch for butts like couches should be, but right at this very moment, it is working really hard to support something like six loads of clean laundry that I haven’t gotten around to folding for the last week. The only good thing about the laundry piled on the couch is that its presence on said couch means it has been washed and is, therefore, clean. 

There are a few different reasons for the existence of the laundry couch: desire, time and necessity.

Here’s a secret: I don’t hate folding laundry. I really, truly do not. The assumption that I do is natural to make based on the state of the couch, but that is just not the case. The first reason that the laundry is dumped on the cushions and then does not move for anywhere from 7 to 14 days is the lack of desire to fold. 

While I don’t mind folding laundry, I also don’t have a great desire to do it because I prefer to have certain stars align when I do. If I’m going to fold laundry, I like to be the only person on the first floor of the house. This situation is a rarity, especially since the dawn of our favorite disease. The second thing that I require is a TV show that isn’t too good but not too bad. Balance is crucial. I need to be able to listen without looking and know what’s going on but not be super lost if I get distracted. A lot of the time, the show that fills this requirement is Grey’s Anatomy. If you haven’t watched this show, you’re in for a real treat because there are enough seasons for you to fold years’ worth of laundry to.  

Listen, I am aware that Grey’s isn’t that great of a show. You can only have so many fires and plane crashes at one hospital — but the hits just keep coming, episode after episode, and I can’t give Grey’s up until the writers and producers give it up. I’ve watched since episode one, so I’m too far in to turn back now. 

Another star I require for laundry folding is a good snack. It can’t get my fingers dirty, and it can’t take a lot of time to continuously eat. It also can’t require more than one of my hands for consumption. I suggest candy such as Gobstoppers that aren’t individually wrapped or popcorn that isn’t heavily buttered or salted (which sometimes makes popcorn not worth eating). 

In addition to the show and the snack, to make the laundry couch turn into the people couch it deserves to be, I need at least 90 minutes to complete the whole task, which, for me, doesn’t just include folding the laundry but also requires me to put it in baskets, carry the baskets to the different rooms of the house, and then put everything in its proper place. 

Based on the fact that I have a laundry couch, you wouldn’t think I’d care if underwear gets shoved in a pants drawer or the upstairs bath towels are on the shelves in the downstairs bathroom, but I do. 

The perfect conditions for folding laundry do not arise regularly, so they are a big part of the reason we have a piece of living room furniture dedicated to holding shirts and socks. I need the time and the snacks and the show and the space to fold and put away the laundry, and when I don’t have one of those things, my desire to actually complete the tasks gets smaller. 

Time, however, is probably the biggest reason that we spend about half of each month digging through piles of pants and dish towels to find socks. The weeks when I have more workdays than not, the laundry is in the living room. The weeks when my sleep is suffering, we’re lucky that anything gets washed. And if J is home with me full-time, or if (in the past) we are out doing fun things, well, the laundry couch is alive and well. Obviously, the lack of time to dedicate to this ridiculous production of mine is slim. It’s really a miracle I ever do it at all.

The last reason the laundry couch is the laundry couch, is necessity, or the lack thereof. Here’s the thing: we can live without our laundry put away. It isn’t super fun to dig through mountains of material to find your favorite sweatpants or that one button-up shirt you use for Zoom meetings—but it also isn’t problematic. I mean, it can be if you have a specific thing you need or find yourself getting out of the shower with only a washcloth to dry off, but overall, it is easy to just keep wearing the stuff in your drawers until they’re empty — then you have no choice but to pilfer from the couch piles. 

These days, no one in this house leaves, so finding clothes in the laundry pile is a non-issue when it comes to style. Having pieces that complement each other or that aren’t wrinkled just isn’t important anymore. We don’t see coworkers, hang out with friends, or go to the mall. Beyond style, our outfits don’t even have to make sense now. Can’t find any pants in the pile to go walk the dogs in the cold? That’s OK, just wear the two pairs of pajama pants you can find. 

While the laundry couch is not exactly logical, it is functional. In fact, I went downstairs a few minutes ago to find a sweatshirt to throw on, but after two halfhearted digs through the mess, I gave up and grabbed a delightfully warm reindeer onesie and threw it on over the clothes I am already wearing. Why do I own a reindeer onesie? That doesn’t matter. Why don’t you own a reindeer onesie?

Anyway, the point of this is that laundry couches exist. It’s a fact, and it’s high time we admit to it without embarrassment. I hereby pledge to be proud when I manage to fold and put away laundry but to also take pride in the fact that the laundry couch displays, front and center, the effort that has been made to ensure that my family has clean clothing, towels and bedding. 

Let go of the shame that surrounds your laundry game. Instead of asking yourself, “How in the hell is there so much laundry AGAIN?” when you sit down to start folding, ask yourself if the conditions are perfect for the task. Do you have your best listening show on? Is there a one-handed snack available? Will there be, at a minimum, 90 minutes you can fully dedicate to the chore? If you can answer “yes” to all three, then sit down and get started — and enjoy it! If not, shrug it off and do something else. 

The laundry will always be there. And your couch can support it until you have time to lighten the load. 

Marissa is the co-author of Urine Luck, but sometimes she writes about things other than bathrooms. Marissa has been writing for the Devil Strip since August of 2015.

Photos provided by Marissa Marangoni