Keep Calm and Stop Ironing


736477a3650f9966976cb4cf527ededfThere are a lot of similarities between Americans and Brits, but there is one glaring exception.


I didn’t know ironing was a thing until I met my mother-in-law. She told me, with a straight-face, that she liked to put on music and work her way through a pile, nay mountain of ironing which included, but was not limited to: boxer shorts, socks, pillow cases, sheets, duvet covers, tea-towels (that’s dish towels in Yank speak), towels, and the cat. Ok, not the cat, but definitely the towel the cat slept on.

Growing up I remember my mother sometimes ironing my father’s shirts, though more often than not…not. Otherwise she ironed on an as needed basis. I use my iron on an as needed basis too. Mostly I use it to melt those little plastic bead things my kids like to make. Occasionally I iron the two items of clothing I own that are linen. Otherwise my iron comes out approximately ten times a year.

I figured ironing for hours a day was a generational thing. There was less polyester blend in the 50s and 60s. I figured it was something quaint, like ringing your clothes through one of those machines that used to regularly maul people. Maybe it was a hold over from the age when housewifery was an art form. Lest we not forget those were also the days when it was common place to drink martinis, smoke, and pop a few Valium. So imagine my surprise when I found out that some of you Brits still spend huge chunks of your day ironing.

Some claim to enjoy it. They find a peaceful, meditative quality to it. If I try really, really hard and practice some willing suspension of disbelief I can almost understand that. The monotonous action, the fleeting sense of achievement. To you I say this: If you truly find a sense of zen by ironing your pillowcases, go for it. I also say you’re weird, but hey, whatever floats your wrinkle-free boat.

But I suspect that for the majority, it’s not enjoyment of ironing as much as a perceived notion of that’s the way it’s done, a deeply ingrained sense of must-ness which surrounds so many things British.

My table manners must be impeccable lest the Queen pop by for tea.
My house must be show-worthy clean lest the Queen comes by for a visit
My sheets and tea towels must be ironed lest…I don’t know, the Queen comes over and dries your dishes?


Don’t get me wrong. Your former colonists take the housewife games seriously enough. I mean, we have whole reality television shows devoted to cleaning. We probably out-bleach you by a decent amount. But you guys. You guys! You’ve got the ironing thing down. If there were an Olympic event for ironing, you would be gold medalists every time. Brits are the Usain Bolts of ironing.

Others swear they don’t mind the ironing because they do it while they enjoy a bit of guilty-pleasure television. Somehow the chore justifies the pleasure. The sense of guilt which comes from binge- watching Orange is the New Black on a Thursday afternoon is, in my experience, limited to the female sex. I’ve yet to meet a man who feels remorseful about stretching out on the couch and watching television in the middle of the day.

To you I say: Watch the damn television show anyway. You don’t need to justify it and your kids aren’t going to suffer if their sweat pants aren’t ironed. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee your kids aren’t going to care let alone notice if their creases are sharp. And if they are of an age when they can recognize the sharpness of creases and complain about it? They’re old enough to iron their own damn clothes.

Ask yourself, who are you ironing for? If you get a deep sense of pleasure and satisfaction from ironing a giant mountain of clothes, by all means, keep calm and carry on pressing. But if you loathe it, stop and think about why you’re doing it. There are lots of chores which are necessary evils. But ironing everything? Pretty far down on the list. Maybe it’s nice, but it’s not necessary.

And in the space between nice and necessary, there’s a lot of room for other things.

Consider this a housewifery intervention. For the love of all that is creased, stop ironing everything.

184ab372117617e8a072bba547ef7c20I don’t expect you to go cold turkey. Start with the tea towels. Seriously. No one needs to iron tea towels. Then the kids’ stuff. Tee shirts do not need to be ironed. Your kids are going to look like depression era dust bowl waifs by the time they get to the school gate anyway. Next up? Boxer shorts. It’s highly unlikely the Queen is going to visit and if she does, she’s probably not going to ask your husband to drop trou to make sure his boxers are ironed.

The standards you set yourself, just like the settings on your iron, can be adjusted. Throw off the yoke of must-ness, of that’s the way it’s done. Watch television without justification. Allow yourself the freedom to explore other pursuits which bring you a sense of satisfaction and joy. Reading a book, exercising, binge watching Game of Thrones. Anything. There’s a world of a difference between should and need and that world filled with so many things better than ironing.

Go forth and find them. The Queen would be proud.


Your wrinkled former colonist

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Expatorama says:

    Loathe ironing – I am a Brit that prefers the ‘tumble dry, shake and fold method’ – except for tea towels. they actually fit in the drawer better if they are ironed. I agree though that many of my compatriots do have strange fondness for iron and board.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      I’m just the fold. Most of the time I don’t bother with the shake. There does seem to be a bizarre love of all things ironing amongst the Brits. Perhaps creased pants kept the Empire running for all those years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh gosh, I can’t stand ironing and most of the things I try to iron come out way worse than they were to begin with. Now I have a steamer which is much easier. I highly recommend it.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      I’m the same. It’s not even so much I hate it as it just never occurred to me to even do it in the first place! I hang in the steam of the shower, that usually gets the worst of it out!


      1. Funny, I’ve tried that but never had a lot of luck. Maybe I need to make the water hotter…ha, ha!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Elyse says:

    I knew that my childhood best friend and I were not going to last when I found her one day ironing her underpants. She became a crazed Christian and I am sure that tendency has something to do with steam.

    But I think the Brits iron so much because of those TINY washers and dryers they use where everything comes out looking like a used Kleenex.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      Ha. I have one of those tiny washers and I still don’t iron. Mostly because I don’t care! I can think of 100,000 things I could do in the time it would take me to iron my underwear!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Elyse says:

        Well, I will admit that I didn’t iron when I had one either. But at least that is an excuse for doing it. Other than insanity!

        I don’t care either. Wrinkles Are Me.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. renxkyoko says:

    * a bit embarrassed * I happen to like ironing. I feel a sense of great satisfaction looking at the beautifully ironed clothes and the pile of ironed bedsheets and pillows. * don’t judge me * lol


    1. Dina Honour says:

      Lol, I would never ;-). Some people liken it to running. I feel a fleeting sense of satisfaction when my house is organized and clean–but I guess the desire NOT to live in a hovel outweighs the dislike of cleaning. I guess I just feel that ironing–most things anyway–is done more for other people. But by all means, iron away!


  5. rossmurray1 says:

    I (yes I) used to iron when I started my current job and had to dress in proper shirt and tie (formerly journalist — no tie necessary). I quickly learned to never buy cotton.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      As much as I hate to admit it, there are some things that do look better ironed. You’ll never convince me though the time it takes to iron sheet, pillow cases and dish towels makes up for the thirty seconds of satisfaction seeing them wrinkle free gives you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sarah M says:

    This is so true you know. I know so many women (and it is always women) who claim to love ironing. My mother would iron everything including tea towels because it ‘looked nicer’. Well I don’t iron. Ever. If I want to sit and watch crap TV I just do it; don’t need to iron as an excuse


    1. Dina Honour says:

      There seems to me a disconnect about the whole loving to iron thing. Most of it is that I don’t understand ‘why’, which is where it goes back to the idea of being judged (by others) and holding (yourself) to impossibly high, let alone time consuming, standards. I understand the idea of liking the finished product (I feel the same way about running. I hate running, but I like the way I feel afterward, mostly because I’m DONE). So in that sense, no one likes ironing, they like having a pile of ironed clothes. It just seems like the ultimate time suck and there is a small, teeny part of the feminist in me who balks at the idea of yet another time-sucking constraint put into place to keep women from achieving full potential.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. pinklightsabre says:

    I’m too impatient. When I was working, I paid to have things dry cleaned. Most things look better ironed, though. After nine months in Europe, I just strive to not wear things with holes (that are visible). But my mother-in-law, of the Donna Reed generation, irons everything — including bedding, and labels each set with a safety pin and a handwritten note in cursive, so she can tell what each set is on the shelf rather than pull it out, unfold it, etc.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      She sounds like she would surely medal in the housewife Olympics. I’m never even going to make the qualifiers–I gave up a long time ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre says:

        I’m entering the field now.


  8. Alice says:

    The day I iron a dish towel is the day I need to be taken directly–and I’m talking Do Not Pass Go! Do Not Collect $200! DIRECTLY–to the ER. Brain aneurysms require immediate care.


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