Laundry Problems

Nonfiction by | November 27, 2016

What could be more mundane than doing laundry? You wear clothes because you have to. They get dirty. You wash them. Day after day. Rinse. Repeat.

Sometimes, a full life is measured by how large a pile of laundry one accumulates.

I am rushing to and fro, ignoring the growing pile. There are just too many busy days. There are children to take care of and a house to clean. There are canvases to fill up, deadlines to meet, and mountains to climb.

One day it happens. The pile of laundry refuses to be ignored much longer. So I make time, pushing everyone’s schedules around. I need an afternoon, a day, maybe three days at the most because that’s how much laundry my family has sometimes.

I inspect this growing monster with equal measure of determination and despair. There is no running away from it. It has to be done.


More than once, I ask myself if I should go back to my mother’s house. She has a dozen helpers there who can relieve me of this task. I shake my head and dump this monstrous stack on unclean clothes in the middle of the floor. I start sorting whites from colored ones. There are a lot of blues. There are a lot of reds. I start enjoying this process only because I like color.

Our washing machine is broken. But I have a number of basins and laundry tubs ready. Our cisterns are full of rain water. The pack of laundry powder is sulking in the corner from being neglected too long. I dive in.

I tackle the whites first. Soak. Scrub. Rinse. Squeeze. Dunk. Rinse.

The smell of bleach reminds me of my time in the varsity swimming team. I take a deep breath and silently gather every bit of learned endurance from my two years of training. But this challenge I am facing today requires a different kind of endurance. Not the kind where the spirit pushes the body beyond its physical limits, but the kind that pushes the mind beyond the boundaries of boredom, mundane chores, and day-to-day grind.

In my mind, I am diving into an Olympic-sized pool. In reality, the pool of chlorinated water before me is only 3 inches deep and two feet wide.

I am now elbows deep in soapy suds. In my mind’s eye, I see flashes of David Medalla’s kinetic sculpture at a 1960 gallery in the U.S., where he installed a washing machine in the hallowed temple of high art. He switched it on, and it made soapsuds throughout the show.

I am back in the laundry room. I am wet with suds. There are mosquitoes biting my skin, and I am still facing a basin full of dirty clothes.

Soak. Scrub. Rinse. Squeeze. Dunk. Rinse.

My back hurts. I am tired and bored.

Some stains really stick to the clothes, you know?

I am starting to hate those TV commercials where laundrywomen smile, sing and dance, as they try to sell me their brand of soap, fabric softener, or bleach. What a bunch of fakes. That’s not how laundry gets done. It requires a lot of muscle power, sweat, and tears – and maybe even a bit of anger and resentment too.

I need to tell the kids to stop sliding down the mountain by the seat of their pants. I need to stop them from playing in the mud. But how can I ask children to stop being children?

Later, I will hang their clothes out to dry. Iron. Fold. Rinse, Repeat.

Born and raised in Cagayan de Oro, Kelly Ramos is a full time artist whose works have been showcased in various museums all over the country. During her spare time, she writes about her craft, her cat, and the beautiful mountain landscape where she now lives with her kids.

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