I’ll Tell You Everything, But You’ll Never See Dirty Laundry

a dozen or so pairs of blue jeans hanging outside on a clothes line
Image by Patrick Lentz / CC BY

“I only share when I have no unmet needs that I’m trying to fill. I firmly believe that being vulnerable with a larger audience is only a good idea if the healing is tied to the sharing, not to the expectations I might have for the response I get.”

Brené Brown

I Don’t Like to Do Chores in Front of Other People

Like any idiom that’s in common use, the phrase “airing your dirty laundry” means a different thing depending on which person says it. But best I can tell, it means that you shouldn’t discuss private things, and especially not unpleasant ones, in public.

Basically you’re not supposed to wash your dirty clothes while your friends are at your house. They don’t need to see your streaked underwear. Your stained shirts.

And that makes sense to me. I really don’t like to do chores in front of other people period, including any partners I live with. If I can manage it, I prefer to do chores when no one’s watching, like some kind of magical cleaning fairy. Part of this is that I grew up in a house where people would passive-aggressively complete tasks in front of one another, scowling and muttering before blowing up later that they would have liked the help (when they didn’t even ask).

And like many things that happened in my family of origin, I wanted to do things a little differently.

So I’ve always tried to be sneaky about the chores. Putting things away and cleaning up when no one was around to see.

But oftentimes, I’ll still tell people that I’d cleaned later, after the fact. Especially when it’s important or functional. For example, if you organize or rehome clutter, you need to keep a careful record of where you put everything and then when you see them, you can hand them that list. Or if it’s just a few things, you tell them aloud. It’s not washing your dirty laundry in front of them. It’s telling them which drawer you put their clean shirts in.

And you tell them if you noticed anything unusual along the way, if you learned anything important from the mess or the rest of the house when you were paying close attention to things you usually don’t.

It took something like four years for me to be truly comfortable doing so, but these days I will do chores in front of my nesting partner. And if you’re a really close friend or romantic partner, I will load a dishwasher in front of you or fix a mess that I missed while you’re standing there. And if I love you, I’ll even let you come over when my house is messy.

But I’ve never been one to have a problem with the neighbors seeing the clean clothes outside drying on the line.

I’ll Tell You Everything, But You’ll Never See Dirty Laundry

I’m a memoirist, and as such I often write personally in great detail about my life. The ups, the downs. And most importantly, the lessons. It’s always about the lesson I learned, what I took away from me when my life intersected, however briefly, with someone else’s.

But I have a very important rule for myself: I only write about something publicly if I have personal closure on something. I don’t write publicly about something until I’m over it. If I don’t need a response from the people the piece is about or from the people reading about it.

I’ve been extremely open about my life. And I have no plans to change that. I’ll tell you everything, but I’ll never show you my dirty laundry, not until I’ve washed it in my house first, processed deep inside my own emotional life and with a few of my trusted confidants.

You’ll never see my dirty laundry. But you will see my clean clothes drying in the sun on the line.

And if the stains were really unusual, I might even tell you how I got them out.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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