I’ve always kept my laundry room door tightly closed and off limits to visitors. Friends and neighbors must think I’m attempting to conceal some dirty, little secret, but it’s where I hide my ugly washer and dryer and other cleaning accessories.
In some houses, the laundry area is relegated to the basement, squeezed into an abandoned coat closet, or cleverly tucked into space beneath the staircase. The allotted room in my condo is a cozy 6’x6’, which means I often have to back out when carrying an armload of dry laundry.
The Urge to Redecorate the Laundry Room
When I told my family I was redecorating the laundry room, they scoffed at the idea, insinuated that I might have too much time on my hands, and suggested I look into classes at the community college, like scrapbooking or square dancing.
I brushed them off, as mothers learn to do when dealing with their grownup children, and went on with my plan to transform my bland laundry space into a luxurious laundry spa. I was inspired by an outfit in New York, that offers a pickup laundry service with your items washed, dried and ironed, sorted by type, shrink wrapped and delivered to your door in a canvas tote.
What’s more, they offer lime or lavender aromatherapy options. I was convinced that with an appliance upgrade, a few coats of paint, and a spritz of Febreeze, I could turn my laundry pit into a pleasant oasis.
I started by disposing of all the near-empty cleaning products and those I hadn’t used for a decade. (I’m sure the honest reader would agree that one’s cleaning standards change over time.) What a surprise when I found an old iron, put aside years ago when I purchased a new model. It was like running onto an ex-lover you never expected to see again.
Memories of “Hotsy”
What warm memories I had of Hotsy, the affectionate nickname for my old soul mate. All those years of surfing the ironing board. True, Hotsy had a few bad habits, like his inclination to leave scorch marks on collars and belch water the temperature of hot lava. Even so, we rendezvoused each Tuesday in the family room, and spent long hours clenched hand and handle. Hotsy provided the steam; I brought the rolled, dampened laundry, because that’s the way he liked it.
Yes, we were young and nimble then, able to spend hours together ironing sheets, baby diapers, tee-shirts, doilies, pajamas, and underwear. What fools we were. Other, lesser models came along—cheap plastic likenesses—that snapped after hitting the floor one time too many. The survivors—those with the taped handles and chipped carcasses—I sent off with each of my college-bound children. The kids returned, but the irons stayed on to ornament other dorm rooms.
Goodbye Iron Age
My current iron languishes in its original container. It’s a multitasking dandy, promising to lift stains, spray on light starch, clip stray threads, reattach loose buttons, and vaporize a bedroom.
Even so, we are strangers who seldom meet. Actually, I prefer it that way. For old time’s sake, I cleaned up Hotsy and swaddled him in a soft towel before returning him to the far recesses of my laundry cabinet. Perhaps when my granddaughter goes off to college, we’ll meet again ….
I turned next to my washer and dryer. They had to go. When your appliances start showing up in the Smithsonian Hall of Yesteryears, you know it’s time for a change. In a moment of household zealotry, I replaced them with an elegant, medium gray two-some with chrome gadgets, and softly gyrating parts. Now when my washer fills with water, it has the sound of a babbling brook and my dryer emits the hushed murmur of a gentle breeze.
Adjusting to the New Laundry Rules
But I had trouble accepting the water and detergent levels mandated by the manufacturer. Why should they butt into what my washer and I agree upon in the confines of our laundry room? Pollyanna that I am, I told myself that, at least, the bulky rotator blade was gone from the new machine, leaving a giant maw big enough to wash a duvet, beach towel, and sleeping bag at the same time without getting off-balance or making ugly groans.
While my new dryer offers a sleek, trim exterior, it operates at such low temperatures that it takes two cycles to dry a bed sheet. I’ve tried to console myself for getting rid of my old reliables simply because the current models offer greater economy and elegance. Though my new washer and dryer are definitely not workaholics, at least, they provide the chic look I want for my personal laundry spa.
A Face Lift for the Laundry Room
Next, I painted the cabinets a shade called Amazing Gray and transformed them further with designer hardware I found in the sale bin at Knobby Lobby. Then, the six-foot-long soffit cried out for a face lift. I added a border print, one that the sales clerk at Home Depot said would give my laundry room the tranquility of a Tibetan monastery.
Later a kid working at World Bazaar suggested putting a two-foot tall Buddha atop my dryer to give it a Zen-like feeling. When I pointed out that my space limitations barely allowed for an arm load of laundry going in and out of the room, he suggested a wall hanging, featuring a wise quotation painted in calligraphy with “energetic brush strokes.”
“It’s very pretty,” I said. “Can you translate it? I’d like to know what it says before I put it on my wall.”
He studied the piece for a while. “It’s hard to say,” he responded with a bit of a chuckle.
“Well, give it your best take,” I said.
“It’s something like, ‘May the Bluebird of Happiness put Twinkies in your eyes.”
“Twinkies?” I asked. “Twinkies in my eyes?”
“No, no, sorry for my poor English. It is ‘twinkles’ in your eyes. You know, like starbursts.”
“I think I like Twinkies better,” I said. He didn’t seem old enough to remember the 1965 top-selling tune by Little Jimmy Dickens about the bird of paradise. So I sang him the chorus:
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose
May an elephant caress you with his toes
May your wife be plagued with runners in her hose
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.
He said the bluebird only brought happiness and suggested I not associate the calligraphy with the old tune. I purchased the lovely, hand-drawn inscription with the “energetic brush strokes” and hung it on my wall, though I don’t have the slightest idea what it really says. Each time I look at it I laugh and think of Twinkies, so perhaps the Bluebird of Happiness is doing his job.
An Artful Conclusion
My final challenge was the awkward ironing board that exceeded the space-to-usage ratio of my room. The only reason I had kept it was because one of the burn marks on the cover bore a striking resemblance to the outstretched arms in Michelangelo’s Creation and I thought it might be worth a few dollars on e-Bay at some point.
Even so, I took an online tutorial from a skilled homemaker, who fashioned her own ironing board covers from artsy fabrics and changed them from time to time just for the thrill of it. Her makeovers cost less than three dollars, but not being a seamstress, I figured that acquiring the needed items would cost me $69, plus labor, so I stuck with Michelangelo.
I purchased a rack at the hardware store, hung the ironing board on the back of the door, thereby, getting it out of sight and gaining a few more inches of floor space. I leave the laundry room door open now, so as to enjoy the transformation each time I walk down the hall. I may even take up ironing again. But then, there’s that class at the community college on how to turn your ironing board into a surf board that sounds even more appealing. . . .