by Wendy Soberg
Several years ago I found myself in a familiar spot, sitting on the couch in a sea of clean laundry covering the living room furniture. I was folding my 3- and 4-year-old daughters' tiny underwear and balancing them onto a precarious pile. As the pile grew, thoughtful adjustments were needed in how the panties were placed, lest the pile topple and my hard work come undone. Then all of a sudden it hit me: I do not have to fold the panties. Or anyone else's underwear, for that matter.
My mother had always folded our underwear neatly when I was growing up. But, really, why not toss them into the bureau drawer, close it, and be no worse for the wear?
I remember this moment because it marks one of my first conscious decisions to make life simpler after my children came along. The 24/7 nature of caring for the demands of a family, home, and part-time career left little time or energy for serious examination of my routines and habits. Sitting there in the laundry pile, tossing panties into my basket, I felt fantastic. I was buying back precious minutes for things that were more important to me than how neat the girls' underwear drawer looked. I was energized.
Eager to share this news mom-to-mom, I called an old friend and fellow mother of toddlers. "I've decided to stop folding the girls' panties and do things that are more important to me," I said, to which she replied, "You still fold your laundry?"
She and her husband had decided long ago that the family's laundry could go directly from dryer to drawer with no stops in between. While I couldn't commit to her "whole hog" approach to the laundry, I was determined to find other ways I could simplify and make things more manageable.
Soon I found an opportunity. I began to notice myself walking around the house delivering items like toys, hair clips, books, laundry, and mail to places that always seemed to be somewhere other than where I was currently standing. While that is one way rack up steps on a pedometer, I found it irritating. About that time, a certified professional organizer came to our local MOPS group. “Don't try to make your home look like something out of a magazine,” she advised. “Store things where you use them, even if it is less stylish, so you locate things quickly and stop wandering around your house wasting time.”
This time, I was all in. We bought shelves and stored our children's toys right in our living room rather than carrying them back to the "play room" our kids never used. I tossed washcloths and towels (unfolded, of course) in a kitchen drawer to quickly wipe up milk spills and gooey faces. Our desk moved close to the kitchen where we could drop the mail on it easily and pay bills while the kids played. I bought duplicates of cleaning supplies and toiletries to fully stock each bathroom. And, the ubiquitous barrettes and ponytail holders got homes pretty much everywhere, so they could be tossed in and pulled out at the drop of a hat.
To be sure, the rapid transition to family life sometimes catches us by surprise, and our old routines and habits don't always support our new requirements. If the answer to the question "Why am I doing X?" is "that's what my mom did" or "that's what we've always done," it might be time for a change. After all, my grandmother used to iron her sheets. I've just stopped folding the panties.