Labandera (Laundrywoman) (poem and painting)


Labandera (Laundrywoman)
watercolour on paper

humble maid at a humble job

weary, weakened and hunched

haunched over her task

taking care all she can

taking time so spare her tired hands

a kink in the hose

the water stops flowing

but that doesn’t stop her

there’s no time for resting


© Cindy Lapeña, 2011


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365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 10: Getting Those Chores Done


10. Getting Those Chores Done

No, I’m not a neat freak and no, I didn’t say I look forward to doing chores. I don’t hate them with a passion, but I don’t really look forward to them, either, so I guess that makes me somewhat neutral. I’ll do them because nobody else will, and if I forget about them, well one or two or three or more days without doing chores is a semi state of bliss.

But they need to get done.

When we were still children, my mother assigned chores to everyone and we’d switch them around every week. I guess that was her strategy for getting chores done, although they didn’t always get done thoroughly or quickly. Being a perfectionist, I’m pretty sure she cringed when there were dust spots left on the dark brown staircase. Still, I’m sure she believed we needed to know how to do housework as a life skill. So for  one day each week, we got to do dishes or cleaning. And, because I was the girl, I had the bonus of having to help out with the laundry or the ironing and folding. I didn’t mind back then, except when my brothers got in the way, usually on purpose. I had a horrible tendency to be neat, orderly, and organized, and if I didn’t watch out, I might have become obsessive about it. My sister did. So, as you can see, we were introduced quite early to chores and hence, I do not see them as a huge negative concept. I don’t know what my brothers and sister think or feel about them.

After several years of having my own places to live and being the one in charge, I have developed my own strategies to keep chores to a minimum and to keep the minor chores from from becoming major chores. Here’s how.

Sometimes, I just put used dishes and utensils in the sink and soak them until they pile up and I run out of forks and spoons and knives and plates to use. So I’m forced to do the dishes, and that is one hugely unsavoury chore. I always tell myself to clean everything as I go—and usually I’m pretty good at getting things I used all washed and cleaned right after I use them, so my sink is pretty much always empty. Then one day, I might decide to stage a mini cookfest and churn up a fancy meal (which, to me, basically means something not microwaved or eaten straight out of the fridge or a box or a can). I might even decide to do a bit of baking and launch into a mini bakefest as well. Then things pile up and the cleaning becomes a humongous chore. But I know I need to slug through it or the remnants of cooking will be stuck so hard on my pots and pans and the stove and the kitchen counter top and the sink then I’ll have to soak them much longer and scrape and scrub much harder. Moreover, the pile of used kitchen ware pretty much fills up the sink right away and sometimes twice over, so I really need to get it done right after.

It really doesn’t make sense to do the laundry more than once a week, since I don’t generate a lot of dirty clothing. While dumping everything into the washing machine then transferring them to the dryer isn’t a pain at all, getting them all folded up neatly and put away, and I must add neatly as well, is a chore. Thank goodness for wash-and-wear and more casual fashions that don’t require starching and pressing. I do have an ironing board, but very rarely use it. I have found that if you take clothes out of the dryer right away and hang them up or fold them neatly while they’re still warm, they won’t show any creases! As much as possible, I do not buy clothing that needs ironing. So I never really have to worry about it. And I fold my laundry while watching TV. So it becomes time well-spent and before you know it, the folding is all done.

House cleaning? Oh, don’t get me started about house cleaning, because I have reduced mine to a quick dusting, a thorough sweep of all places accessible by broomstick, and a superficial mopping to get stains and remaining surface dust off. Still, that’ll take the better part of an hour. More, if I pace myself and get distracted by sorting something out or putting some books away in the middle of it. Thankfully, I live in a place where there is very little dust, so I don’t really need to do it too often–about once a month is really satisfactory.

Again, living alone has its benefits. Because I am the only person who moves around in my apartment, where footwear generally doesn’t leave the immediate area of the front door, most of what I have to sweep up is debris from crafts work or cooking, and hair. It’s the downside of having long hair. So a good sweep once a week usually suffices to keep the floor clean, and the mopping is as needed, or once a month, just to pick up dust and hair in corners that broom couldn’t reach.

That leaves the bathroom. Again, judicious rinsing of the walls and the tub every day while in the shower is enough to keep the bath area clean. A mild scrub every two or three days with a scrub brush or a sponge scrubber is enough to keep the bath area smooth and clear. And the toilet and sink are quick and easy to do, again, because I am the only person who uses them. A good rinse after each use and a light scrubbing after brushing my teeth and the sink is shiny and spotless.

As you can see, I don’t have too many chores to do. I have pretty much designed my living so I have very few chores to do. Still, chores are chores and they’re a bore, and if I could avoid them I would. I can always think of a million better things to do than chores, including just lazing about. So it’s always a great relief and a great satisfaction when I get that major once-a-week hoe-down with the broom and mop and duster and get all those chores done!


365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 8: Random Acts of Kindness


8. Random Acts of Kindness

I know I perform random acts of kindness whenever an opportunity presents itself, and these range anywhere from giving strangers a big smile to helping someone cross the street or giving away store coupons to the next person in line who has a huge purchase and no coupons. But I have not, to my knowledge, personally been the recipient of a random act of kindness. Until today.

It being Sunday and a day off from work, I decided to make it my laundry day as well. I had kept track of the wash cycle time and went down to the basement to transfer my laundry to the dryers, which would take 45 minutes to an hour. Back in my apartment, I continued browsing through magazines, to look for inspiration for my next painting.

As expected, I completely lost track of the time. I forgot what time I put my laundry in the dryers, so I estimated that I should be able to take it out around half past one. But I was in my book room, which was also my art supply room and just-about-anything-else room, which had a clock that I kept on “normal” time. (Every other clock in the apartment was on Daylight Savings Time.)

What else should happen, but I started nodding off as I browsed through old magazines. By the time I’d shaken the heaviness from my eyelids and looked up at the clock, it was nearly two, so I hustled to the to the basement, hoping I wasn’t keeping anyone from using the machines. I could hear the dryers still spinning, but it sounded like they were near the end of their cycle, or someone else had started laundry. Wasn’t I surprised to find all my laundry from one dryer neatly placed in my basket, and the sheets and other beddings from the other dryer folded and neatly piled on top of the dryer, waiting for me.

This was a really pleasant surprise, and I have to say that it has made my day!

It also made me wonder who would have done it….I have a guess, but I can’t be totally sure. I know that on the rare occasions someone got to my laundry before I did and took it out of the dryer so they could use it, they’d just taken it out and piled it up on the dryer…it seemed the usual practice in the building, and what I would also do, every time someone left their laundry in the washer or dryer (and didn’t move or claim it for at least 15 minutes of waiting). But to actually fold someone else’s laundry! I know I’ve been tempted to do it myself, but I’d always been careful about doing that, because I was wary of handling other people’s laundry, in case they felt it was a violation of their privacy or they didn’t want people they didn’t really know handling their clothes. So with being politic as an excuse, I never really did it.

It has made me think twice about how I deal with other people’s overstaying laundry. If I did it, though, I’d probably always be doing it…and it takes a good deal of time, and they might just get used to it!

Still, I think it was a lovely gesture. The first thing I wanted to do was to write a little thank you note and slip it down before the good-deed-doer’s laundry was done, but have decided against it. Simply because doing that would ruin the magic of randomness and unexpected kindness.