Lessons From The Laundry Pile


172. That’s how many individual items composed the mountain of laundry. 172 shirts and pants and socks and towels and sheets and pairs of under-oos that needed folding and ironing and put-away-ing. Every time I looked at the massive pile I did a double-take to make sure the clothes weren’t actually multiplying before my eyes. I mean, seriously. There was so. Much. Laundry.

I wasn’t quite sure how to begin tackling Mt. Laundry, so I just sat and stared at it for a moment before digging in. I needed to formulate a game plan. As I contemplated the massive chore that lay before me, though, a funny thing happened. Not “haha funny”, but ironic funny. As I sat there trying to avoid the tedious task that lay before me, I felt an overwhelming surge of gratefulness. Let me explain.

You see, that pile of laundry was sitting there because I have laundry to do.

Each shirt, each pair of pants, each mismatched sock represents clothing that my family owns and wears every day. We have beautiful clothes that fit us properly. We have warm clothes for when it is cold outside, we have swimsuits for when we play in the water, we have rain gear to wear out in a storm. We chose our clothes from a store or received them as gifts or were given them as hand-me-downs (sorry, little brother, but this is your destiny for all eternity…or until you can start buying your own clothes). We have so many clothes that we regularly have to sort through our dressers and our closets to pick out clothes we no longer wear so we can make room for new clothes. We have so much, and I am grateful.

The sheets and towels in the pile represented extra beds that were filled in our house the last couple of weeks. Guests that traveled from faraway, exotic places (like Seattle) to visit us. Friends and family that went out of their way to spend time with us. Adventures that we shared together while they were here. We have amazing friends and family, and I am grateful.

The dress shirts I got to iron (I’m going to say “got to” instead of “had to” here because I’m on a roll. But don’t get me wrong. I despise ironing with a fiery passion.) were so my husband can look presentable at his job. His job that he loves and, I am convinced, was created to do. His job that provides so fully for our family that I do not have to work outside of our home. His job that allows me to wear yoga pants every day instead of dress shirts (can I get an Amen?). Our needs are provided for, and I am grateful.

The fact that I have clean, dry laundry points to the fact that I have a washing machine and a dryer. IN MY HOUSE. Does that not boggle your mind? I have my very own machines that do all the hard work for me. I don’t have to walk down to a river or draw water from a well, scrub clothes on a board with soap that I made with my own two hands, or even wait for my clothes to dry in nature’s time. It’s not even like my college days when I had to walk down to the basement in my dorm to put quarters in a machine or my Ireland-days when I had to walk through the rain and the mud to get laundry out of our garden shed. I have every convenience at my fingertips, and I am grateful.

But here’s the real kicker. 172 pieces of laundry means that there are people in this house that I get to love and care for each day. There are children who call me Mom and a husband who calls me Helper. And I GET to serve them every time I do a seemingly tedious task…like the laundry.

And even though meaningless tasks consume most of my days, I will be grateful. The pile of laundry that needs folding or the floor that needs vacuuming or the toilet that needs scrubbing or those mouths that need feeding represent more than the task at hand: they represent the people and the privilege behind them. Some day I may not have meaningless tasks to do or people to do them for so, in this moment, I choose to be grateful.

Exhausted, perhaps, but grateful.

8 thoughts on “Lessons From The Laundry Pile

  1. donna says:

    Start with the sheets and towels….it gets big stuff out of the pile and the mountain looks smaller right away….then take out all of Johns shirts and hang them someplace….you’re almost done. I know you weren’t looking for advice….loved this…thanks for the reminder….now, can the same principle apply to mount dishes at my house? I think so… 🙂


  2. Allison says:

    Haha! Thanks, Donna, you’re a true friend. I’m all about disguising the mess–and, as for the dishes, piling them in the sink and covering the whole thing with an over-sink cutting board works miracles 😉


  3. debra peterson says:

    I remember all of the stages of our laundry, as newlyweds, both working outside the home, as the children grew, and the need to do a load or more ebbed and flowed. Huge piles as small children, changing piles as they grew ( MOM that needs to be hand washed!!), a duffle bag filled so full that the seams were ready to split. I always looked forward to that duffle bag, it meant he still needed me. The giant bag was sent back to college with laundry clean, folded, ironed. Then something happened, one married, one moved out to be independent, and my laundry pile shrank. Our laundry now for the week, is one small basket unless it’s sheets and towels day. I miss the old days. But just one thing, I’ve always loved to iron! It must be the dressmaker in me. So save it for when I visit!!


  4. Elizabeth says:

    I totally hear you on how awesome having a washer and dryer in the house is. For a month before Elise was born I had to drag our laundry to another building and down a huge flight of stairs at Stanford. I don’t even care that my washer is in the kitchen and dryer in the hall now. But I actually love doing laundry.


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