When I was in third or fourth grade and still believed the world was a happy place, I begged my mother to teach me what every young lad wants to know: how does one do laundry? Alright, so I was a pretty weird kid—I knew how to use lemon Pledge and I was always the first one in my house to volunteer to scrub down the shower (some spent their childhood going on adventures with friends while I chose to spend mine examining the mushroom growing out from under the bathroom tile, it’s not a big deal).
Looking back I realized my mother was preparing me to be a self-sufficient adult who doesn’t need any help to get by…or a fifties housewife. Regardless, laundry was the last skill I needed in order to live out my dream of being Mr. Clean (mostly I wanted a creepy theme song that played whenever I surprise-tackled my Jack Russell Terrier, causing him to urinate on our kitchen floor, providing me something to mop up in true Mr. Clean fashion).
I separated my dirty clothes into three piles—whites, dark colors and light colors—and carefully placed each individual load into the washer. When they came out of the dryer, I tightly held them in my arms and embraced them until I had absorbed all of their warmth (I was always looking for a father figure as a child, and clothes hugs are better than no hugs).
Once I had stuffed all of the clean laundry back into the basket, I ran up to my mother with a huge smile on my face. I was a new man. I was victorious. “Hey, mom,” I declared, standing with my shoulders back and chest out, “I don’t need you anymore.” “Yeah, sure, whatever,” she said, “don’t forget to fold.”
At some point over the years being able to see the carpeting on my bedroom floor wasn’t my highest priority in life (trying to get that cute girl in my 9th grade world history class to notice me was; sadly she blew me off, but not before she stole my copy of The Freedom Writers), so I would simply ignore any growing pile of dirty clothes until it inched its way out from the corner and surrounded itself around my bed. I’m not sure when the change occurred, but it started off small: I would casually leave my jacket or a shirt or the crust from a sandwich on the floor, but not too long after that I started finding chip bags underneath my pillows, loose socks wedged in between the books on my bookshelf and cups growing colorful, sometimes odorous moldy forms.
I, like the honey badger, simply did not care.
My mother would barge into my room wearing a knock-off hazmat suit fashioned from her nursing scrubs and plastic wrap (or maybe she was trying to make dinner, I could be wrong). “What happened to you?” she asked, tears streaming down her face. “What happened to my son?”
Even now as a 21-year-old bachelor, I sometimes have to remind myself what “cleaning” means by looking it up in the dictionary every now and again. But I’m the worst when it comes to laundry. Let’s forget the fact that I usually wait until I’m out of underwear to even think about washing clothes; the problem is once those clothes are washed, what am I supposed to do with them? I’ve tried throwing the laundry bag on my bed and cuddling with it like one would a body pillow, but a cold sack of clothes is oddly uncomfortable and no one wants to be friends with someone who has nap time with their freshly laundered socks. So I decided to just dump the clothes on my bed and spread them out, treat them like another layer of bedding I can sweat and drool on in the middle of the night when I’m staring catatonic at my computer screen wondering just how I managed to end up this pathetic. Or, if I felt a little frisky, I’d make a human nest and curl up within layers of jeans and hoodies like a cat (don’t judge me, the Bible tells you not to). For now the only feasible answer, it seems, is to toss the laundry bag in the corner of my room and hope for the best. Sure, I’ll pick out a clean shirt every day (and maybe a clean pair of socks if the mood is just right) but, as time passes, the clothes that once smelled fresh and clean turn stale and gross as they start piling up around my dorm room floor.
But why should I bother putting those clean clothes away to use the laundry bag for dirty clothes when there is homework to be done, a desk cluttered with books I took out of the Library for research about a month ago and still haven’t read, empty liquor bottles blocking the pathway from my bed to the door (there’s no way this is a fire hazard, right?), numerous condoms in my desk that haven’t been used (and probably never will be, ‘cause lesbehonst) and an entire Miley Cyrus album that needs to be listened to and re-listened to?
How can I put away my clean clothes when I can’t even get my life together?