Soon after my husband and I were married, we discovered we had been raised in two different schools of thought regarding an issue that affected our daily living: how to fold towels. He thought towels should be folded in thirds. I believed that the correct and aesthetically pleasing way to fold towels was in quarter sections. Each of us was certain the other was doing it wrong.
However, we had taken to heart the communication sessions during our premarital counseling. (Thank you Father W. and Reverend Bill. Yep, we had two, but that’s another story.) So as we dealt with our laundry in those early days of our marriage, we calmly worked to discern the reason for our folding discrepancy.
Dear husband thought towels should be folded in thirds because that was how his mother did it. I thought towels should be folded in quarter sections because that was my mother’s method. Both our mothers were wise women, so I pondered why they didn’t fold towels the same way. (Dear husband didn’t much care, but humored me anyway.)
My mother folded towels in quarter sections for a simple reason — because a stack of quarter folded towels would fit in the bathroom cabinet. As dear husband thought more about the issue, he realized that towels folded in thirds fit neatly on the shelf in his family’s home. In both cases it seemed necessity indeed was the reason for our mothers’ invention. Each method made sense to us and neither was worth arguing about.
In all the years since, we have folded both ways: thirds for bath towels and quarter sections for hand towels and dishtowels, based on what fits best on the shelf or in the drawer. This has been our approach to most issues in our marriage — deciding what’s worth an argument and what isn’t, and doing what makes sense. This approach has served us well for 29 years and we anticipate it will work for quite a few more.
We’ve been using the neighbors’ clothesline for 20 years. My husband and I are clothesline people. Nothing compares to the sweet smell of clean clothes hung on the line, particularly bed sheets, pillow cases, T-shirts, and towels.
For some items I draw the line. I do not hang up socks or underwear. That’s too much work and nobody needs to see that much of our business.
We had our own clothesline on our little Iowa farmette in the early 1990s and we used it year-round. Blue jeans and cloth diapers can be hung out to dry, even on cold winter days. They’ll dry eventually.
When we moved to town it was to a little house that was not clothesline equipped. However, our gentlemanly next-door neighbor had a four-line clothesline in his backyard, right next to our garage. It was solidly constructed — two iron T posts set deep in the ground some 26 feet apart. We asked him if we could use it. We said we didn’t mean to impose; we were just wondering if we could use it until we could put up a clothesline of our own. He replied that we could use it as long as we wanted, since no one had used it for several years, not since his wife had died. So use it we did, for the next 10 years until after he died and his house was sold.
When the new neighbors, an elderly couple, moved in, we explained our previous neighborly clothesline arrangement and we inquired about their clothesline intentions. They said they weren’t planning to air their laundry, so we could continue to use the clothesline.
Hanging clothes on the line appeals to me, partly from an energy saving perspective, but more so because of my rural heritage. There is a rhythm to it that satisfies. Take the clean, damp clothes out of the washing machine and put them in a clothes basket. Haul the basket up the basement stairs and through the kitchen. Grab the bag of clothespins from the hook on the back porch wall and head to the back yard. One by one hang the items on the line. Be sure to stagger the sheets so they don’t get tangled in each other as the wind blows.
Our neighbors have been talking about downsizing to a smaller place. If and when that comes to pass, I hope we can make another deal with the next set of neighbors. Or else we’ll finally have to build a clothesline of our own.
Call me a good enough housekeeper — and that’s high praise I may not deserve. I dust on occasion and I vacuum once a week, just enough to keep up with the accumulating dog hair. And by each Saturday afternoon there is a brief, shining moment when all the laundry is done. Overall, my end result is a house that is slightly cleaner than it was before.
My mother was a far better housekeeper than I am. Or maybe I’ve just placed her on a clean and shiny pedestal. In any case, she kept a clean house. And she taught me how to clean: tasks like how to work a dust rag and run a vacuum cleaner, make a bed and sweep a floor, wash dishes and do laundry.
Following her lead, I taught my kids how to clean. Our Saturday morning ritual was to clean their bedroom and pick up toys in the playroom. They sat and watched me work about as much as they picked up their stuff themselves, but like sponges they did soak up the philosophy that an individual is responsible for cleaning up after him or herself. Now young adults, they’ve thanked me for those Saturday morning cleaning lessons that they are putting into practice in their own apartments.
My Mom, by far, had a tougher job keeping her big farm house clean than I have had with my little house in town. She had to deal with farm dirt, hay chaff, and manure — keeping the mess and the odor contained to the back entrance and out of the rest of the house. My husband does lawn and yard work for a living, so the worst raw materials I have to contend with are grass clippings, mulch, sand, and dirt clods shaking loose from the soles of his work boots. That and the dog hair.
When it comes to household cleanliness, I have far lower standards than my mother had. It’s just easier that way. As long as the health inspector doesn’t shut us down, we’re OK. Nothing but “clean enough” for my family.