top of page

Keep Your Pants to Yourself


Tips on doing laundry...

Three hours into my work shift, I left my desk for a cup of tea. As I walked the hallway toward the office kitchen, I casually stuck a hand inside my pants right pocket. I was surprised to feel how deep, into the pocket, my arm dropped. Literally, my pants pocket swallowed a significant portion of my arm, just below my elbow. I laughed at the situation. I never knew these pockets could be so deep! By the time I made it back to my desk, giggling, I realized that I was actually wearing my son's pants.

Laughing wholeheartedly, I shared the revelation with my co-workers. How could this even happen? I surmised that when doing laundry a few days prior, I had mixed up Adam’s navy blue pants with my own dark blue pants. And today, in my usual morning haste, I neglected to check myself in the mirror.

Sometimes, when we mix laundry, things can get a little messy. Neutrals can take on different hues, garments can end up in someone else’s closet or drawers. We can even end up in someone else's pants.

This got me thinking about other potential mix-ups. For example, when connecting with one another and lending an ear to another's problems, we might also end up mixing their laundry (problems) with our own. We could end up carting somebody's heavy load.

I spend a lot of time listening to friends and family, as they sift through problems or dilemmas. I typically don’t mind lending support or giving advice. But I deliberately arm myself with boundaries and make a cognizant effort not to take on the other person’s problems. I try to keep my laundry separate.

There are ways to listen, empathize, discern, comfort and give advice to friends - without taking on their loads. Unfortunately, not everyone observes laundry room etiquette. You may have experienced this yourself. There are some who overlook boundaries and blur the wash. And such folks might not hesitate mixing their blues with yours.

A friend recently shared a quote from writer Octavia Raheem:

Folks who don’t have, honor or maintain their own boundaries have no capacity to respect yours. They haven’t built that inner muscle. If we are not mindful, the lack of boundaries spills into interactions – tries to become a force, banging up against your sanity integrity, relationship…all the things.

Raheem says that when she observes someone leaking out, unconsciously or consciously, offering their mess, she bares witness, acknowledges what’s going on and doesn’t make anyone good, bad, worse or better. She inhales, exhales and quietly says to herself, “None of that leakage is mine or will become mine.”

In other words, don’t take ownership of another person's problems. Protect your peace. Having said that, there may be times when you're stirred to do a little more to lighten someone's load. It's all about balance.

For her second birthday, my daughter Gabby was quick to pick out one of her favorite party gifts. Her aunt Blanca gave Gabby a shopping cart with make-believe groceries. During the party, Gabby joyfully pushed the tiny shopping cart around the yard. But at one point, Gabby hit a crack in the driveway. Her shopping cart got stuck and wouldn’t make it over the hump. I watched, curious to see how long it would take Gabby to backup the cart and go around the buckled cement. Uncle Peter happened to be walking by and quickly lifted the shopping cart and placed it away from the cracked cement. Gabby went on her merry way. Peter looked at me with a questioning gesture. Peter intervened; and I chose to be an observant cheerleader.

Who was right in this situation, Peter or me? Maybe the right answer is somewhere in between. In being there for others, maybe we can provide advice in the form of a question, “I wonder what would happen if you pulled the cart back a little?” Or perhaps we can provide information that can empower the person and motivate them to find his or her own way through the haze.

We can be there for others, support, give counsel, without taking on their load. Remember , it's important to keep enough fuel in your own tank. Boundaries can help keep our own laundry a bit more tidy.

190 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Rosa Valle-Lopez
Rosa Valle-Lopez
Feb 18, 2021

Thank you. I just now noticed your comment. I miss your writing.


Very insightful and an entertaining way to make very important points.

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page