Throwing away an old laundry hamper helped me embrace my new and unfolding role in motherhood.
I imagine your first thought is, “what does letting go of a laundry hamper have to do with embracing motherhood?” Believe me, I am just as shocked as you are. However, after musing over this connection lately, there is surprisingly a lot!
It all started with my quest to have one room in our house “finished.” Meaning one room that is fully functional, organized, and in no need of an upgrade. Being a new mom, I felt like if I could just contain the chaos and have control over one area, I would have something I could hang my hat on (literally and figuratively).
Setting the bar low, or so I thought, I chose the smallest “room” in the house: our bedroom closet. Even though it’s a small room, I had big ideas: new paint, light fixtures, organized bins, and clothes color coordinated by the rainbow (hi, @thehomeedit).
Time to Get Real
Six months into this project, I had to have a talk with myself. I was a full-time mom to a rambunctious two-year old with very few support resources available to me. There was not going to be one amazing weekend dedicated to completely revamping our closet. I dusted off my project management hat and decided to break down the closet overhaul into smaller projects.
I was drawn to start with this weird little boxy cut-out in the closet that is a result of previous home renovations. Enter stage right: The Laundry Hamper. This hamper has been perfectly placed in this little cut out for the past four years. However, my relationship with this hamper has spanned more than a decade.
I first purchased this laundry hamper in college from my then-place of employment, Wegmans. (For those who don’t know, Wegmans is a regional east-coast grocery chain. For those of you who do know…you know!) Although this wasn’t a Wegmans-branded item, it still carried the sentimental value of being from Wegmans and was colloquially known around our house as “My Wegmans Hamper.”
Further, this was no ordinary hamper. It had four fabric totes to neatly separate out our laundry and had the added convenience of tote mobility to carry clothes to the laundry. To complete the look, these totes neatly hung on a modern and sleek oiled bronze frame. Basically, this wasn’t an ordinary laundry hamper, it was a home décor statement piece.
This hamper and I have seen the country together over the course of over seven moves spanning from the east to west coast, down and up California, and ultimately settling in the Rockies. Letting go of this hamper was never a thought that crossed my mind, although it was suggested multiple times by my husband who was tired of breaking it down and putting it together again.
Changing My Mind
However, something changed this past week as I was looking at this space my hamper was occupying. A shift in perspective, so to speak. This hamper was taking up a significant portion of closet space and if I was being honest, I wasn’t really using it. I largely just ended up piling my clothes on the floor because I simply didn’t have the time to separate them out by color and toss them neatly into the individual totes. Further, having left my career over a year ago, I really didn’t wear any clothes that were delicate enough to need to be separated out to wash on special cycles. Finally, as a mom, I just no longer had the time to run four separate loads of laundry just for myself.
When I embarked on my effort to organize and clean out my closet, I made a list of guiding questions to help me decide what to keep versus give away. Inconveniently, as I look around my desk, I cannot find this list, as it likely ended up in the hands of my daughter and used as coloring paper. But, one key question did stand out in my mind:
Does this item support your life as it exists today?
I sat there looking at my hamper, at the pile of clothes on the floor, at the hours I spent separating out and washing separate loads of my laundry. As hard as it was, I had to be honest, and my answer was, “no.” It just no longer made sense to hold onto something that took up so much space and time.
But I wasn’t just saying “no” to the hamper, I was saying “no” to my former life. My life pre-baby, my life pre-COVID, my life living in big cities, my life going into the office and seeing clients, my life traveling, my life going out on the town, date nights, my life where I could binge-watch Netflix and do what I wanted when I wanted. I realized that by holding onto this hamper, I was holding onto the hope that one day, my life would “go back to normal.”
Old and New Hope
I realized, as long as I held onto that hope, I could never fully step into and embrace my fantastic and thrilling life as a mother. With that, my decision was made – this is where my hamper and I would part ways. I asked my husband for some Allen wrenches, and it was time for me to go to work. As I took apart my hamper, I was forced to take a close look at all its pieces, and I noticed details I hadn’t seen before.
First, it was very wobbly. Over the course of several moves, it just got less sturdy each time. Then, I noticed the screws were rusty! How long have I had rusty screws here? And how did they get rusty in the first place? Next, the sexy bronze metal frame was covered in knicks and dents and sticky residue from moving tape and stickers. It had lost a lot of its luster. Finally, I looked at the totes. They were hanging on by threads. And they were dirty! Like, really disgusting with dust and miscellaneous debris collected over the years from the floor and the laundry room. I couldn’t help but wonder, “how had I not noticed this before?”
I came to a realization that I never thought I’d have on my closet floor: I’m hanging onto a lot of old, beat up, useless parts of my life that are no longer serving my current life as a mother. I wondered, “What else am I hanging onto just because it’s always been there?” I’m not just talking about physical possessions, but also habits, thoughts, beliefs, and relationships that have grown rusty and unstable over time. Without critically thinking about them, I’m unconscious of how they’re dragging me down in ways that I’m not even aware.
With my hamper completely disassembled, it didn’t feel right to just throw it away. I remembered Marie Kondo’s signature practice of thanking an article of clothing before giving it away. And that’s what I did. I thanked my hamper for being with me all those years and for holding and carrying my clothes. Showing my hamper gratitude gave me the closure I needed to let go.
With my hamper in parts and pieces in the trash, I looked at this space with a whole new lens of potential and opportunity. I feel energized and excited for the possibilities.
Before writing this piece, I wondered if I should wait to tell this story until my space was complete – so I had a success story to share and a final product. Then, I realized, the success wasn’t in the completion of the space, the success was taking those first steps. The first steps of questioning my set-up, process, possessions, etc. and then answering hard questions about my current reality. The lesson was taking action today based on a belief of a better tomorrow. I hope my story will inspire you to think about what you’re holding onto that may be holding you back from embracing your life of today.
2 thoughts on “Embrace the Unfolding: Some Dirty Laundry”
What a beautiful piece, Kristen. This line slayed me: “I wasn’t just saying “no” to the hamper, I was saying “no” to my former life.” That is so true of so much of our “stuff.” Thanks for sharing your story and your wisdom–and giving me permission to take a look at some of my “dirty laundry!”
Thanks Kristen. This is giving me an extra gentle push to look at all that climbing equipment I stopped using 18 years ago, and a host of other things that have taken up residence in “the nook” (aka the space that could be used for, say, an electric piano, but is full of boxes that have not moved since I moved in). Lots of stuff there from a previous version of my life! I am now going to go to register for https://www.freecycle.org/ as a first step in moving some of the more useful items to good homes. 25-year-old Aiwa stereo, anyone? Double cassette decks!