What your laundry pile says about your life

‘I hate housework!’ American comedian Joan Rivers once said. ‘You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.’ That’s life.

Laundry pile

Taking care of your home

Breath is a marvelous thing. Tomorrow morning when you wake up, I invite you to spend a few minutes observing yourself breathe in and out and realizing that if you were in charge of organizing this, like me, you wouldn’t have the first idea how to do it.

We all know that lungs are involved and air has to go into the body, oxygen has to be extracted, and waste products exhaled. But how the heck is that done? I know that left to my own devices, I wouldn’t even remember to breathe. And yet my body faithfully does this for me all the days of my life, even while I’m sleeping.

Put me in charge of running my own digestive system and I’d be even more stumped. I know that food goes in at one end, something happens on the way through to break it down and extract nutrients, and the rest is excreted, but I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to do all the steps involved myself. It’s utterly beyond me. I just live in a body that does it all for me.

Then there’s how to move my limbs. How to speak. How to see, hear, touch, taste and smell. How does it all work? I can develop these aspects by exercising my body to become fitter, cultivating vocal skills, improving my senses, and so on, but my contribution to these accomplishments is trivial compared to the multi-faceted everyday miracles of what the organism I inhabit can do by itself.

Where I’m going with this is that our bodily functions are automatically maintained by the body itself. But it’s a very different matter when it comes to taking care of the external environment of our home.

Essential maintenance

If you get undressed at the end of the day and drop your clothes on the bedroom floor, unless you are lucky enough to have someone who tidies up after you, there they will stay until you pick them up and put them in the laundry basket. And unless you have someone who does your laundry for you, there they will remain until you take them out, wash them, dry them, iron them if necessary, and put them back in your closet, ready to be worn again.

Like breathing and digesting, it’s a repetitive cycle, but one that you have to do for yourself. If you miss a few days, your bedroom will look messy. Miss a few weeks, and you suddenly have a floordrobe. Miss a few months and you’ll be sleeping amid mountains of unsavoury smelling garments with nothing clean left to wear.

Another essential area to maintain is the kitchen. Fail to wash up one day and you’ll have a few dishes in your sink. Extend that to weeks and every surface will be covered. Continue for months and your kitchen will become insanitary and unusable.

Then there’s dusting, vacuuming, repairing, and all the other aspects of running a home. It doesn’t take care of itself. And just as the health of your body breaks down if it’s not regularly cleansed and purified, so your home will not function well if it is not regularly cleaned and maintained. And when your home does not function well, it has an impact on your life.

Your laundry pile

The state of your laundry pile, in particular, is a pretty reliable indicator of how well your life is working. When it’s up to date, you’re likely to find a natural ease and flow in your life as well. When the process is random and a backlog builds up, life can turn into an uphill battle you never seem to win.

Don’t be tempted, by the way, to go out and buy new clothes if you ever run out of clean ones to wear. This quick fix strategy may get you out of trouble for a few days but can have dire consequences down the track. You’ll have more laundry than ever to do, and if you do manage to catch up, you’ll have the added problem of trying to find places to put all the new things away.

In my work with clients who are overwhelmed by clutter, I’ve noticed that a sure sign someone is on the road to recovery is when they take control of their laundry, kitchen and other repetitive household tasks. For some it’s a matter of creating new habits and perhaps streamlining some methods. For others, completely new skill sets need to be learned. But in both cases it begins with the realization that a home doesn’t clean or look after itself. Maybe one day we’ll have robots to do it all for us, but until then, it’s a constant process of cleansing and purifying our external environment, just as our body cleanses and purifies us internally.

Why this article?

Some of you reading this article will wonder what all the fuss is about. You are the people who naturally have personal structure and/or whose parents or caregivers taught you the basics of taking care of yourself and your environment when you were growing up. You may not particularly enjoy household chores, but you have systems in place and never let things get too out of hand.

This article is for those readers who are not so fortunate. Perhaps your caregivers did not have the structure or skills themselves. Perhaps you were cossetted and taken care of by a doting mother who did everything for you. Maybe – dare I suggest it? – you have “spoiled-brat syndrome” as a result of weak parenting, and think it’s your right to slob out and do as you please.

Whatever the case, the important thing to understand is that taking care of your home, by extension, is taking care of yourself. And a good place to begin is by taking control of your laundry, which will help you to feel significantly more in control of your life.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2015, updated 2021


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Why keeping a laundry bin in the bedroom is a feng shui no-no
To fold or not to fold? That is the question.

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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11 Responses to What your laundry pile says about your life

  1. Sometimes executive function/mental health issues can cause problems in doing these seemingly simple tasks. If people get buried under other commitments it can end up overwhelming you.

    I used to be very bad at all of these things.I didn’t feel very capable. I’ve improved and am more willing to ask for help (or pay for it). I’m getting better at planning ahead so I can do some batch cooking/washing-up/cleaning as I go.

  2. Your articles are always an inspiration, Karen, and good reminders, too. Thanks for what you’re doing. Very supportive. – Christina

  3. Wonderful article Karen.

    I pride myself that I always keep on top of my laundry, in fact sometimes I wonder if I spent too MUCH time on this area of my life but it just feels so important. Thank you for helping me understand why.

    Best wishes for Christmas one and all,
    Craig
    x

  4. I think it’s important that people do their housework and streamline the techniques even if they can afford to pay for it to be done by someone else – because housework indicates how much clutter people have. The less clutter, the easier the housework. I have Lumiere number of everything, so my clothes and dishes have to get washed to be available for use. My rule of thumb for clothes is enough for 10 days to 2 weeks and for dishes enough for 1.5 days.

  5. So very, very true. Another issue I find with people in emotional trouble is that they neglect to brush their teeth on a regular basis. I see laundry as being a parallel track. When teeth are brushed and laundry is routinely done, you are back on the road to well-being.

  6. I totally agree with Karen, usually every week i have 3-4 laundry and i do it and tidy it on time. Well at one point was not feeling very well and let my sink full and the laundry undone and it doesn’t help. Now I love the clean and tidy place i have I am not overdoing it either. I feel like I am deserving to live in a clean and tidy environment.

  7. Even my laundry sorter is out of hand. Sigh. I totally get what Karen is saying. When I finally do get control over my cleaning regimens, I feel SO GOOD. It just doesn’t last. But I’m glad for the reminder to stay focused!

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