The ironing

(179:  Wednesday morning at the board of ironing.)

My second favorite household chore is ironing.  My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.

~ Erma Bombeck

I’m not feeling well today.  I don’t think I can manage the heavy housework I ought to be doing, but I’m not unwell enough to spend the day in bed or curled up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, sipping tea, and reading a good book (as tempting as either option happens to be right now).

So I decided I will concentrate on the laundry.  For only two people, M and I manage to accumulate a lot of dirty laundry over a short period of  time.  Just when I think I have caught up with it, another load or two is brought down to the laundry room and somehow, when I’m not looking, it multiplies, breeding vast piles of shirts, socks, towels, and other assorted and sundry items.  I wish there was a way to neuter my laundry so it would stop doing that.

I buried a lot of my ironing in the backyard.

I’m eighteen years behind in my ironing.

~ Phyllis Diller

And then there is the ironing.

Ironing.  Ugh.  I’ve spent a lot of time and voice protesting the ironing.  When I put it on a to-do list, it usually starts as “contemplate the ironing.”  Sometimes contemplating is all I can do when it comes to the ironing.

I walk by, I contemplate, I turn away and find something else to do.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “I’d rather clean bathrooms than do the ironing.”  It’s not the truth, but when I say it I think it is the truth.  I put it off, put it off, and put it off.  Like Phyllis Diller, I want to bury the ironing in the backyard (except that digging the hole would be more work than actually doing the ironing!).

There eventually comes a time when I have to stop contemplating ironing and just do it.  That is when I wonder why I put it off.

Ironing is one of those chores that forces me to be here, now.  I can’t go wandering off into the past or the future.  Stress, anger, pain, sadness, happiness, joy, love… whatever I’m feeling at the time comes with me into the ironing.

And somehow, it’s transformed.  It becomes me ironing.  And that’s all.  It’s the scent of hot, steamed cotton.  The feel of the wet heat rising.  The wsssshing sound of the iron as it moves across the soft, hot material of the shirt, the hissing of the steam.  With my feet firmly planted on the floor, my arms and hands are in motion as one hand holds and positions the shirt and the other moves the iron.

Ironing brings me into the right now.  Into my body.  Into my senses.  Allowing my mind to wander off could mean a burnt article of clothing or a burnt hand or finger (something I know from experience).  The meditative quality of ironing permits my busy (monkey) mind to settle down and clear.  All worries effortlessly drift away when I reach the point of being truly present in the moment.

Don’t get me wrong.  Ironing is not about to become my new favorite hobby and I won’t be going into the ironing (or laundry) business.  Today’s appreciation is likely to be tomorrow’s procrastination.  But it is nice, every once in a while, to enjoy the work I do and to take the time to appreciate an aspect of the job I’ve chosen.

(Yesterday’s view of the pond at sunset.)


16 Comments on “The ironing”

  1. jenna says:

    You should find Degas’ pastel drawings of laundresses. He was very much intrigued by how the job affected the body and mind.

  2. kel says:

    hmm, ironing as meditation . . . nah
    i am not a fan of ironing
    although it’s always nice to have a wardrobe full of freshly ironed clothes

  3. Norm says:

    Your thoughts on the subject remind me of the state of mind that raking leaves produces in me. Not a big fan of the job itself but it brings me into ‘the now’ of it and assauges worry.
    (Though I resent having to clean up leaves that continue to blow in from neighbours yards after my yard is all cleaned up. Buggers.)

    • Robin says:

      Norm: Raking leaves is one of my favorite activities. I miss it. We don’t rake them out here in the country mostly because there is no point to it. The leaves get composted back into the lawn when M runs the garden tractor around to mow. Plus, this being Breezy Acres, the wind carries a lot of the leaves off to the woods or the fields or wherever.

      But yes, same principle. 🙂

  4. Marcie says:

    Your photo takes ordinary ironing..and transforms it into ‘art’. Wonderful light!!!

  5. ybonesy says:

    I love this post, Robin. The photo is great, such wonderful light and color. But also your descriptions of ironing. So vivid!

    My mother must have hated ironing as much as you (or maybe Phyllis Diller). She kept a basket of clothes to be ironed, and usually a second one. The baskets spilled onto the carpet. She kept the ironing board and the baskets in her bedroom in a corner. We kids would have to dig through the baskets to find clean clothes, and they’d be so wrinkled that you couldn’t iron out the creases.

    I don’t iron now. I might iron about once every three months. We have a built-in ironing board in a roomy laundry room, but I just don’t do it. The girls and Jim and I all wear our wrinkles. It’s a look. 8)

    • Robin says:

      Thank you, Ybonesy. It was the light coming through the window that drew me to take the photo.

      My mother had a basket of ironing like that. I don’t think she liked ironing either.

      We should start a fad — wearing one’s wrinkles. Sounds like a good look to me. And it’s green! No electricity wasted doing the ironing. 😉

  6. anhinga says:

    Just getting to this great post. Seems many of us are ambivalent about ironing. I have to be pulled like a stubborn donkey to the ironing board. That doesn’t usually happen until I MUST wear a certain item and it must be presentable. But once that steam is doing its job and transforming a wadded rag into a smooth, creased garment another part of me takes over. I am a frigging artist, transforming these pieces of cloth into things of beauty. Each pass of the iron shows real, definable results of my work. I don’t think I can say that about most household chores. So, at those times I decide to do just one more piece, and then another and another. I end up with a closet of Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes which I am loath to take off the hanger. You know why. They are so beautiful hanging there and it hastens the day I start this routine all over again.

    • Robin says:

      I like that Anhinga — being “a frigging artist, transforming these pieces of cloth into things of beauty.” And you’re right. Ironing is one of the few chores in which you see real results right away.

  7. […] not going to blog about ironing again.  I just couldn’t think of a better title.  And it really is a good day for doing the […]

  8. […] written quite a few posts about laundry including Laundry Day and The Ironing.  Prior to the Laundry Day post there were (more than) a few posts regarding my competition with […]

  9. Eliza Waters says:

    One thing I have given up! And I don’t mean for Lent. 😉 It has to be a very important social occasion like a wedding, to get me to the board to iron. Thankfully, I have a lot of company. 🙂

    • Robin says:

      lol, Eliza! I wish I could give it up. My husband insists on 100% cotton shirts (can’t blame him — so do I) for his work shirts and they must be ironed. Although he knows how to iron them himself, I do it since I’m no longer working outside of th ehome. Thankfully he wears the occasional polo shirt to work so not everything has to be ironed and I can usually get away with not ironing for a couple of weeks.


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