Creative Thinking: Handling life’s laundry one pile at a time

January 5, 2014 

I heard the bell from the other room. I decided to ignore it, knowing it would ring to remind me again in a few minutes.

I walked into our laundry room and stood in front of the clothes dryer. I waited a second to take in that fresh smell of fabric softener when it has been heated up in the drying process.

I opened the dryer door and reached in to retrieve the freshly washed and dried towels that filled up the entire space in a wadded up bundle.

I tried to grab all the towels at once but couldn’t. Some were all tangled together while others had completely separated from the rest.

As I pulled out the main clump of them, I accidentally left some in the dryer and dropped a few on the floor. I sighed.

Except for the intoxicating smell of freshly washed and dried towels, I’ve never been a fan of dealing with them except to grab one on my way to the shower. But, I was raised to do my part and it was my time to do the laundry.

Trying to look over the mound of towels I held in my arms, I stumbled into the nearest bedroom and actually leaned over with the towels to make sure all -- or at least most -- made it onto the bed. I then went back to grab the ones still in the dryer and the few strays that had fallen along the way.

By the time I got back to the bed filled with the mass of disheveled towels and wash cloths, our little dog, Georgie, had beat me there. Perched in the middle of them with a smile on his face that indicated total bliss, he seemed to dare me to touch them.

It doesn’t matter where he is or what he’s doing in the house when the dryer’s bell goes off, he knows a warm and comforting place soon awaits him and heads straight for that room.

I usually give him a minute or two to bask in the warmth of the towels. Georgie feathers his terrycloth nest and burrows deep down into them causing them to become an even more disordered mess. Sometimes I forget about him and the towels for a while before remembering I still have to fold them.

I actually don’t really forget, I just dread dealing with his eviction order for relocation and really don’t enjoy sorting them out and folding them anyway. After all, they aren’t going to wrinkle like some of the other laundry does.

After Georgie reluctantly -- and with an attitude -- abandons his luxurious tower of cloth, I begin to make sense of the mound of towels and wash cloths in front of me.

The other day, I stared at them and marveled at the fact that once I had folded and organized them they would fit neatly onto one shelf in our linen closet. Looking at the state they were in, I knew I couldn’t even force them into that space.

As I stood there, I thought how similar these disorganized towels were too many parts of our lives. To make all the parts of our lives fit, we must first get them organized, folded and properly put where they need to be.

Going into this new year, one of my goals is to become more organized and orderly. I make this pledge to myself at the beginning of every year, but sometimes I slip back into old habits.

The older I become, the more I realize that neatness and order help relieve stress and anxiety.

I personally know that when I’m not focused and prepared, my daily life doesn’t run as smoothly as it should. It’s a fact. Just like a well-tuned car performs better, so do we.

Looking back at the mound of towels that were still piled in front of me, I knew I had to begin in order to finish. I had to start the folding process before I could put them away. Just like tackling problems that creep into our daily lives, we can’t be overwhelmed by the jumbled up mess but instead handle one piece of the pile at a time.

With every towel I folded and stacked, the pile began to slowly dwindle away and, before I knew it, that intertwined mess of towels and wash cloths was transformed into neatly folded stacks, making it very easy to put them out of sight in a closet.

One by one, I had solved a problem and then was able to direct my attention to other things.

With this new year comes a whole new set of issues we’ll have to deal with. Some will be good, others more taxing. Many will seem overwhelming, but we can’t be intimidated by them. We have to assess the situation, tackle issues one at a time and solve the problems the best way we know how.

After all, it’s not really about the jumbled up problems we face in life. What it’s really about is how we choose to approach and handle them. I’m keeping this in mind as I travel through 2014 and I hope you do the same. I’m going to fold up my problems one at a time and then put them out of sight.

More with Mark

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