My Great Aunt’s Laundry Trick Makes Coming Back From Vacation Painless

published May 12, 2019
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They say the thing people remember most about you is how you make them feel. This is definitely true of my great aunt, Nanie, who made me feel like a grown up.

When I was in elementary school in San Francisco, Nanie would pick me up from school for one of my twice-weekly ballet lessons, drive me to class, and then drive me home. She always had a special snack for me, usually from Trader Joe’s—back when their lemon thins had the allure of imported goods. The way Nanie would ask me questions, talk to me, and most importantly, the way she listened made me feel special and important.

I loved Nanie and what I learned from her became part of the tapestry of my childhood.

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Nanie was half-Irish and half-Dutch and those Dutch orderliness genes were strong. She also loved to travel. One afternoon, my mother and I sat at the round table in Nanie’s spotless but delightful breakfast room that had white walls covered in green latticework and she said something that brought Nanie’s travel habits and tidiness together. She told me that whenever Nanie got back from a trip (which she must have just done since my mother was commenting on it), she emptied her suitcase right away into the washer and immediately started that load of travel laundry.

That Nanie story must have been told to me 30 years ago, but to this day, when I get home from a trip, my fingers itch to unload my suitcase and throw in that first load of laundry.

Why I Always Start a Load of Laundry the Instant I Return from Travelling

When I do the laundry right away, I don’t get stuck in re-entry inertia with a suitcase clogging up our bedroom for a week or more. Instead, it feels like embracing the good, easy things of being home—like having a washing machine down the hall and a place where I can put my suitcase away rather than live out of it.

Maybe this post-vacation practice was a small, symbolic way of living fully in the present, with neither the nagging of undone tasks or the melancholy of ordinary days clouding right-now life. If vacation re-entry can be this peaceful, Nanie’s example surely was a gift for us all.