Dirty Laundry: Questioning the Have-To’s of Our Lives


One of our cats prefers to hang out in the clean laundry basket. Whatever. I’m so used to cat hair on my clothes I don’t stress too much over the fact that he gets it there before I’ve even had a chance to put them away. 

But the other day he hunkered down in there while I was actually doing the laundry. So it happened that I began to toss clean folded laundry on top of him. Hey, if you’re going to lounge around where I’m working, expect to get buried in stuff. 

He did not move. No matter how many clean clothes I piled on top of him, on he slept. He may have opened a slightly perturbed eye now and then, but he had no plan to get out of that basket anytime soon.

Sitting in Dirty Laundry?

At first, I wondered what to make of this. I mean, wouldn’t a normal human being (read that cat) want to maybe move away if he was being suffocated in stuff? Then I thought about it a bit more. And I wondered how often that was true in my own life. How many times have I sat there while life, or other people, piled things on top of me? I just took them and slept on. When it would make sense to wake up and say, “Hey! Didn’t you notice me in here?” and then get the heck our from underneath all that junk, sometimes I don’t behave any smarter than the cat.


Comfortable Excuses Reasons

There may be lot of crap being piled on top of me, but I am comfortable. Moving is work. Moving means finding a new place to be. It means giving up the known and comfortable basket and making the effort to walk away toward other options.


Raise of hands—how many of you do that consistently? I thought so.

I know so, because I hear it all the time.

  • I’d like more time together at home but I have to take my kid to four practices this week. . .
  • I would hang out but there’s this project at work someone else was supposed to do and now. . .
  • My family expects me to host this big dinner and I can’t take the stress . . .
  • I’m going to feel so guilty if I don’t do this the way my in-laws want it done. . .
  • There are two meetings and an outreach event and a kids’ camp at church this week, and I really should be there . . .
  • It’s my three-year-old’s birthday and I have to make zoo cupcake trains. (Is that even a thing?!)


Did you notice some of the common words in those all-too-real scenarios? Expect. But. Supposed to. Guilt. Should. Have to.

Ask the Questions

There is all kinds of stuff being piled on us all the time, and we accept it because it comes with those magically guilt-inducing words: “have to.” When was the last time you looked at one of those expectations and asked, “Do I really?”


  • Do I really have to put my kid in all those sports, or can I step off that wild ride?
  • Do I really have to complete someone else’s work, or am I just controlling that it has to get done?
  • Do I really have to host a dinner for family, or can we call it a potluck?
  • Do I really have to craft a birthday party that rivals Martha Stewart and Disney combined, or will a family get together with a cake and candles do fine?


What are we afraid is going to happen if we question the have-to’s in our life? .

Hard truth–We put too much blame on what others are throwing on us and take too little responsibility for not moving out from underneath it all. Their laundry is stifling, but at least we know we’re comfortably in control of making others happy. We know we’re needed. We know it will get done right. 

Let’s be honest, more often than not, if we’re sitting under a load of stuff, we have chosen to sit there. We could get out. But we’re afraid to leave the warm security, even if it’s slowly suffocating us.

  • What’s the worst thing that can happen if I say no?
  • What terrible tragedy will take place if I decide to let something go I think I have to control?
  • What world will spin out if I choose to let others be responsible for themselves?

  • Will I still be a worthwhile, loved person if I get out from under the pile?


As Jen Hatmaker writes in For the Love,

“We no longer assess our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough. Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt. Meanwhile, we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived, really enjoyed, really applauded—and it is simpler than we dare hope.”


Jump Out

How simple? Get out of the laundry basket. Decide now that the world will not implode if you don’t please everyone or control the outcome of everything. Start asking yourself the questions: Do I really? What’s the worst that could happen? Will I still matter?


It’s doubt on that last one that kills us. So let’s settle it now. You are a human being made in the image of God. (At least I think you’re human. If you’re not, and you’re reading this blog, pleeeease send me a video.)

That image has never been rescinded. It’s never been recalled. It’s never been contingent on how much you’ve done to earn it. It was a done deal at creation. If someone else wants to doubt that about you, that’s their big ol’ mess of laundry, not yours. Pitch it off.

That’s why we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived. It was wired into us from the beginning. Lived in the sense of knowing all the way through us that it is freer outside of the basket where the air is clear. (Especially if it’s dirty laundry being thrown on us. Eeew.) It only seems scarier just before you jump out.

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