Zen and the Art of Laundry

Zen and the Art of Laundry

If I write a book in my lifetime, it may very well have this title.  While speaking to a group of moms last month, the topic of doing laundry came up.  Oddly enough, laundry comes up a lot in my group discussions with parents.  When you think about it, maybe it’s not so odd that laundry is a hot topic as it takes up a lot of our time and, as a result, we have a lot to say about it.  Not only is laundry something that most of us don’t love doing, but it takes on a deeper, symbolic meaning within relationships, families and life in general! 

Who does the laundry in your house?  Does your partner help or share in the responsibilities?  Do your children help out?  Do you have someone who helps you with laundry?  Do you drop it off to be done?  Does the amount of laundry your family generates overwhelm you?

All of these questions can start lengthy and lively conversations amongst parents sitting around a table.  Laundry is no fun.  It’s something we often do at the end of a busy day.  We’re tired.  We’re spent.  We’d definitely rather be doing something else.  Moms who work inside and outside of the house, dads, first-time parents, parents of teenagers, and nannies all weigh in on the politics of laundry.  Some moms take care of it all, some dads take care of it all, some partners share the load (pun intended), some folks get help from outside sources, and there are many scenarios in between.

While who does the laundry in our households vary, the feelings surrounding laundry are even more varied.  At every talk I have given where the topic of laundry has come up, there are a few rare birds who really like doing laundry.  And there is often someone who loves folding … Yes, I’m dead serious!  But more often than not, resentment and frustration tend to be common feelings.  “Why does the responsibility fall ONLY on my shoulders?”  The power dynamics of laundry within a marriage or relationship bring up frustration, anger, confusion, and sadness.  The continued expectation of the woman being the one who takes care of the laundry in some families creates tension and arguments.  When other responsibilities, including bringing in income, are shared, the sharing of laundry duties can get personal and tricky.  With today’s financial pressures and life/work responsibilities, moms and dads struggle with the politics of laundry!

If there is one thing I have come to realize in working with moms and dads is that resentment and frustration are toxic and that we don’t want toxicity in our lives, our relationships and our families.  We can actually begin to reframe doing laundry, reframe how we see our role in doing laundry, and reframe the actual act of doing laundry.  This is essential to our wellbeing and sanity as laundry doers.


Power struggles and power dynamics may not be what first come to mind when you think “laundry.”  But from the many laundry discussions I have been a part of, it certainly plays a central role.  Our ego is the part of us that gets resentful, possessive, jealous, judgmental, and fearful.   Our ego wants desperately to protect us but often does so in a manner that creates defensiveness and judgement.  Ego creates a belief that we need acknowledgment for what we do, that we need to change the people around us, and that we need people to think we are great.  Our egos tell us that we need approval and that we need to be in control.

Transcending our ego allows us to let go of our need for acknowledgment (I wish he/she would understand how much time I spend doing laundry), to be less resentful and defensive (Why am I the only one doing this?), to be less judgmental (While I’m working hard, he/ she’s lounging on the couch), and to let go of control (You didn’t fold that right, my way is best!).  Letting go of ego, bit by bit, frees us from needing acknowledgment and control, and creates more space for lovingness and kindness toward ourselves and our families.


We are often disappointed in our life, in how our life is playing out, or in how our life has ended up.  We can be frustrated, impatient and irritated because we are not doing what we thought we should be doing … or that we are stuck doing three loads of laundry late at night.  Sometimes we don’t realize that we are disappointed; we don’t realize that we had or have certain expectations about our marriage, about having children, and about how our life would play out.  Expectations place so much pressure on us; they set us up for disappointment, frustration and irritability.

If we can let go of some of our expectations, we begin to embrace what is real and present in our lives. While letting go of expectations is extremely helpful, doing it entirely may be unrealistic.  Interestingly enough, when we are able to understand and acknowledge what our expectations are and respond with resiliency, compassion and flexibility when our lives or plans do not end up as expected, we are much happier going about our lives, our tasks, and our days.


Have you heard the sayings, “Find the magic in the mundane,” “Live in the now,” and “Experience each moment with wonder?”  While this can be incredibly hard, the pursuit is so very worthwhile.  There are some who believe our goal in life is to experience each moment with attention and intention.  It’s called mindfulness in everyday life.  The key to being more mindful and present in our everyday tasks (laundry included!) is to approach life with more compassion and kindness  (to ourselves and those around us), to cultivate a non-judgmental attitude, and to embrace acceptance.

SOME SUGGESTIONS for Mindful “Laundry Doing”

  1. Bring intention to your laundry doing. “I am caring for myself and my family.” “I am creating a loving and beautiful home.”
  2. Bring your attention to the task at hand. Feel the textures, the temperature, and the weight of the clothing while you are washing or folding.
  3. Be mindful of how you are sitting or standing. Find a comfortable place and find a comfortable position.
  4. Occasionally check in with your breath. Are you holding your breath, is your chest and diaphragm tight, is you belly soft, is your breath gentle and easy?
  5. Use the quiet time while folding for a moment of inner reflection and gratitude.


Laundry can be a hot topic in families.  Only you have the ability to make doing laundry a mindful, insightful and, quite possibly, an enjoyable experience.  Go forth and fold in peace and with compassion!

photo-for-bio-page-cropped-270pxThe Mommy Tune-up is a blog solely devoted to the busy mom’s pursuit of sanity and good health!

Author Bio

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Dr. Jenn Krebs Rapkin, ND

Dr. Jenn Krebs Rapkin is a naturopathic physician and a mom.  The author of two blogs, she writes about the challenges and benefits of living a healthy and mindful life.  Dr. Rapkin finds insight and humor in the daily experiment we call life, especially in the busy mom’s pursuit of sanity and good health.  If she’s not writing, teaching, or seeing patients, she is feeling equally overwhelmed and overjoyed as the mom of two young children.

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