A simple chore, yet a burden from my past. At 20, it was my foe. I lived alone, depressed, drowning in an ocean of unwashed clothes. Not just a week's worth but an endless tide. I bought new clothes instead of facing the growing pile. A pile as large as my bed, a mountain of mess in my room. I felt stuck, unable to deal with it.
Despite living alone for years, my mom came to my house and banged on the door until I relented. She gathered all my laundry in trash bags and took me to the laundromat. We washed, folded, and stored it all away for two hours. It was a transformation. I felt like a new person. I vowed never to let laundry pile up again. That episode still sits with me, even today.
Fast forward to my 40s, with a nanny in my house for four years. She did more than expected. She would handle all the dirty laundry, never leaving it undone. I learned to value having clean clothes. It brought me peace, ordered my environment, and allowed me to think clearly. No loose threads tugging at my attention.
But life has a way of changing plans.
I lost my job, endured three months of turmoil, then found a new opportunity. My income was the same, but my family's financial circumstances had shifted. We couldn't afford the nanny anymore. In June, we let her go. My wife, Crystal, took on the role of house manager.
From a film and TV background as a designer, Crystal has a different view of household chores. She's a once-a-week laundry person. She gathers the week's dirty laundry, turns on the TV, and powers through it. This new rhythm hurts me. I don't want to dictate how Crystal should manage the house, but ignoring my need for a clean, orderly environment is a struggle.
When laundry piles up, it's hard.
And I'm afraid it's going to get worse.
My fear with the once-a-week laundry approach is the risk of it slipping to twice a week or, worse, forgotten at the bottom of the to-do list. Our home situation compounds this fear.
Crystal's clothes live in a large closet in the third-floor guest room, while mine occupy a small closet in our second-floor bedroom. She often allows clothes to accumulate into a mountain in the guest room, a scene all too familiar from my younger days. I've worked hard to overlook it, but the prospect of this disorder spreading throughout the house as Crystal assumes the house manager role is terrifying.
Another point of worry is the third-floor office. I work on the second floor, and Crystal has her space upstairs. But now, her office is a mess, looking like a junkyard. Despite its sorry state, it doesn't get cleaned up like the guest room when visitors come. Simply shut the door, and the problem is out of sight.
But the state of her office does make me fearful. Can she manage the entire house if her personal spaces are in chaos? It's a harsh thought, I know, and it feels like a judgment. Crystal does her best. But her best, given her ADHD, often feels short of what I need. I'm still trying to figure out how to handle this situation.
Also, we've lost the small but significant touches our nanny brought to our home, like the meal plan. Monday meant chicken, Tuesday pasta, and so on. The plan not only guided our meals but also helped pre-empt meal preparation. Come dinner time, the focus was not on deciding what to make but on making it. Now, the absence of this schedule, combined with my mental exhaustion from work, results in decision fatigue, an extra layer of strain I'd prefer to avoid.
It feels terrible that mundane tasks have become a wedge between us. I'm unsure how to resolve it, but it's something we must address.
Do I accept the new chaotic reality? Or do I step in, take care of the laundry, and uphold the standard I've come to value? Tension fills our home. Crystal feels judged. I assure her it's not the case. I respect her approach but struggle with the change.
This struggle is not about apportioning blame but coming to terms with a new normal. We're amid a shift, finding our feet in a changed landscape. I don't have a solution yet, but sharing this, and putting my struggle into words, somehow lightens the load.
I don't have the answers, but there may be solace in knowing that we're doing our best in this situation, day by day.