I despise doing laundry. Sure, like everybody, I get joy from having clean clothes. And there’s nothing inherently awful about using a washing machine or dryer. It’s the folding part that brings on thoughts of suicide. Ultimately, when I do my own laundry, my folded clothes come out of the dryer and I turn them into clean, folded, terribly wrinkled clothes. I put on these clothes and it looks like I just rolled out of bed. I hate that look.
I’ve always considered myself a capable guy and able to acquire any skill. The truth is, I can acquire any skill EXCEPT neat folding. Also, I’m not very good at reading instructions before I try to use new technology. I can read them after I become terribly frustrated, but I can’t bring myself to read them first.
Though I do my best to avoid the laundry, I have to do it on occasion. Today, when putting a bunch of towels in the dryer, I had an epiphany.
There is a single, harmless, pure joy in the world, and that is clearing the dryer filter of lint. That and puppies, but this blog isn’t about puppies.
Isn’t he cute eating his own foot while the other shows us his butt? Now ignore the picture as it has nothing to do with this post.
I have asked many people and the anecdotal evidence is clear: Everyone loves removing the lint from the filter. The lint comes off in one piece, is minimally dirty, and it leaves the filter virtually spotless. Since everything in the dryer was cleaned in the washer first, it even smells pleasantly like your fabric softener. And it’s necessary, so you are doing something useful by getting rid of it. Cleaning it is fast and efficient. The only downside is after the process is finished, when you realize that mankind has not measurably improved by your act.
Something about cleaning the filter meshes perfectly with the natural anal retentiveness of the human mind. It is the same joy as staring at the freshly removed Bioré strip, but much less disgusting than the impurities that were on your nose. Where does our fascination with making something perfectly clean originate? When you smear on the white wax on a car in careful little circles, then use a clean towel to get rid of the residue, you leave behind a sparkling paint job. No white circles remain after you are done. It’s not the applying of the wax that give true pleasure, but its removal. The feeling of removing Elmer’s glue from your fingers in long perfect strips is satisfying. But Why?
This is how I imagine a Bioré strip looks up close. Ugh.
This is especially apparent when something is peeled off. Using paint remover and rubbing away a stray drop is one thing, but to peel off that dried drop of paint is much better. I don’t know why this is so, but I’ve recognized this since I was a kid playing with arts and crafts.
When in our evolution did it become useful to give us pleasure from peeling away a layer? Of course, bacteria and all other sorts of nasty things are left behind, but we don’t see them anymore and ancient men had no idea of their existence. I doubt a caveman was ever able to create the clean conditions left behind that we experience after wax or glue has been removed. Was it removing the skin of a banana to get at the fruit inside? This seems unlikely. Of what assistance to his survival was this odd source of elation?
There is much less satisfaction in picking up things off a floor than there is in the perfect clean removal of something dirty. Does it come from some animal desire to clean our wounds? Or is it just a bit of OCD from the modern era? I say it dates back much farther than the Elmer company. The pleasure in peeling away is too universal. It brings a visceral happiness.
Without easy answers, I find these questions highly unsatisfying. Truth is, in looking too deeply into this, I have discovered I no longer care what makes me (and everyone else) tick this way. Maybe some future sociologist or biologist or anthropologist or psychiatrist can answer this question for their doctoral thesis, but it no longer holds my interest. When they do publish it, I won’t read it (unless it creates a scandal, then I will definitely read it). Instead, I’m going to go pull a perfect rug of lint off the dryer’s filter and dump it in the trash.
As I have no answers for you, the least I can do is leave you with a quote on housekeeping from Mark Twain.
“Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not a piece of advice, it is merely a custom.”