I fold the towels the way I always do: in half lengthwise, twice, then in thirds, so that the folded edges stack pleasantly when stored in the linen closet. I like my towels layered in color coordinated columns, fluffy and scented and waiting to be used.
I tell my family, however, that there is no wrong way to fold laundry. I say this to encourage their participation in the folding of their innumerable pairs of socks.
I am lying when I say this, because there is absolutely a right way, and it is mine.
I pick up the dirty socks from the living room floor, because that is apparently where they go when they are not clean and being folded by the people who wear them. I tidy up the colored pencils and the textbooks and the snack dishes that someone forgot to remove to the kitchen.
Then I vacuum the floor, starting in one corner, moving around the big blue chairs, around the fireplace, and toward the other side of the room. I make the same arc every time I perform this job. Because that is how I know I got the whole of the hardwood floor.
There is no wrong way to vacuum, I tell my children. But I am lying. There is a right way, and it is mine.
A good portion of my life is domestic, it has occurred to me lately, and I’m mostly fine with this. Like most women, I wouldn’t mind a little more help here and there. Pick up your damned socks every once in a while and I think I’d edge closer back toward sanity.
I find that when chaos rules the linen closet, I tend to also have some kind of chaos in the real parts of my life. When the dishes are piled high in the sink and a three week old coffee spill inertly drips on the wall, I probably have not only to address the spill but some spill in my inner life.
In other words, I think the state of my household often reflects the state of my heart.
As I vacuumed today, in my jammies and before I had my coffee, I saw it.
Lent is a time to prepare, to prepare in a much different way than at other times in the Christian calendar. I have the chance to sweep the dirt out of my head and heart, to throw away the towels that have long since given up their usefulness, to empty the cupboards of items we no longer need, that weigh us down, take up space, get in the way.
There is no wrong way to do this. It simply must be done.