Pressing the bedsheets

I just pressed a flat sheet and two pillowcases. But before you pooh-pooh me as an overachiever, please know that a.) being an overachiever is NOT something that anyone would accuse me of being, and b.) since I’ve had these sheets for years and years, and have never pressed them before, this pressing was quite overdue.

Ironing seems to be one of the lost arts, set aside in the modern hubbub of full-time employment and extracurricular activities. It may not even be truly vital anymore, with the advent of wash-and-wear fabrics and commercially-produced wrinkle-release sprays, but it certainly can put a very tidy finish on something like a 100% cotton flat sheet. Not necessary, but very enjoyable. It’s that added element of enjoyment that tops off the benefits of being ‘home.’

It’s a well-known fact that a clean, orderly home is a happy one. Cheryl Mendelson explains why having a tidy home is necessary in one of my favorite books, Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House. I’ll be brief in paraphrasing Mendelson, but her explanation is well-worth the time it takes to read the introduction and skim through the rest of her book.

Mendelson explains that no matter what our individual housekeeping tastes or techniques may be, a clean and orderly home offers fewer microbes, contaminates and hazards to our health than a messy one, and that our home is where we relax and recharge from our forays into the messy, hazardous world on the other side of our threshold. So in order for us to be as content and healthy as possible, it’s vital that home be a clean and orderly environment which soothes us mentally as well as physically, posing us no additional challenges like an obstacle course of stacked library books, dust mites procreating with abandon in the bedroom, or a search-and-rescue mission for the car keys. In a clean and comfortable atmosphere, we can relax and recuperate from the hazardous outside world to the fullest.

But housekeeping takes time, even with conveniences like precooked meals and vacuum cleaners and disposable dusters; being employed outside the home full-time, we have to pick and choose the elements of housekeeping that are necessary to our health and well being. We may not be able to damp-dust the walls and mopboards every week, but occasional vacuuming of pollen and dirt from the carpets is vital. Likewise, it’s only necessary that the bedding be clean, it’s not really essential that the hems¬† of the sheets be pressed flat.

But having them pressed flat after many years of bare-essential laundering makes me feel better. It’s very gratifying to spray water on a clean sheet, heat the iron up to the linen setting, and then enjoy the tactile experience of smoothing wrinkles from the clean fabric while the scent of heated cotton rises with the steam. Folding that freshly-pressed sheet is also a joy, being able to match all four corners and edges of the sheet and then hearing the weighty, smooth mass of the folds smacking lightly together as I reduce it in size appeals to my sense of order. Finally, it’s done the right way.

When I was very young, my parents suffered from cardio-pulmonary disorders, and it was essential to their health that the house be as clean as possible, so I learned how to clean extremely thoroughly and spent a lot of time and effort doing that on a regular basis. When I left home and began caring for my own dwelling, I rebelled against such stringent measures, and as a result my home became quite filthy. As home became more and more crowded, untidy and dusty, I became more and more unhappy there. Somehow, I found Mendelson’s book, and she explained why I was unhappy in my dirty home–I was scuttling my own nest. The lightbulb lit up, the pieces clicked, and I began to keep house for myself.¬† Home Comforts is a great book, a wonderful guide for those learning how to do it all for the first time, and an invaluable resource for seasoned pros needing to refresh their memories.

So don’t hate me for pressing my flat sheet. Instead, find your own metaphorical flat sheet, and go press it. You’ll feel lots better.

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