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Essays by Karen Anderson: Mindless Tasks

Illustration by Kacie Brown

In the middle of writing an essay, I hear the buzzer that signals my clothes are dry. Gratefully, I leave the task of writing to take up the task of folding laundry.

Folding laundry requires minimal skills and causes no stress. Thank goodness for mindless tasks, I think. They buffer me against the other tasks, like writing, which requires maximal skills, skills that sometimes seem to vanish in the middle of a paragraph.

Not only are mindless tasks a welcome interruption, they actually seem to enhance my performance when I return to mindful ones. Walking to the basement to collect my laundry, I collect my thoughts as well.

It was a mysterious thing, how I could sit in front of my computer searching for the right word and not find it until I sorted socks. It certainly wasn’t the message my parents had taught me. Nobody ever said, “If at first you don’t succeed, go fold laundry.”

I had to discover it for myself, this necessary rhythm of mindful and mindless activity. By the time the shirts are folded, my mind has unfolded. The words are tumbling out like clean clothes from the dryer right into my basket. Warm and fresh and ready to wear.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.