Daily life

Nicely pressed

10:09 AM

If I had to name one chore I just hate doing it’s ironing, hated it all my life, give me toilet scrubbing anytime over ironing, and don’t ask me why because I have no idea.
The pressing loathing started when I was a teen, my mom who also hates ironing (must be genetics at play) suddenly declared that I was old enough to iron my own clothes when I was 15, like all self respected teenagers I rolled my eye and said “Yeah sure” and figured out that she was bluffing, weeks later my wardrobe was empty and the ironing hamper exploding, and that is when I realised that she wasn’t kidding after all, so I started standing behind the board and press my clothes. That is when I found out it was my hated chore. I soon decided that a lot of my stretch cotton stuff didn’t need to be all flat and pressed, that my sweatshirts didn’t crease, and that jeans had to be in  serious conditions for me to steam them.  When I moved out to live on my own, I would buy stuff that didn’t need much care on purpose, and then made myself a nice cup of tea and put a DVD on the computer to iron my clothes and survive my 30 minutes of personal household hell.

When I moved to India in 2003, I was at first ridiculously unaware that most people gave their clothes for ironing, I bought myself an iron box which most people have around for emergencies as I found out over the years, and then went looking around for an Ironing board. One store at them, tucked in a corner, and when I asked about it the guy told me “You want an ironing board?” on a tone that suggested he was surprised someone would actually buy one (even though he had them in stock). Mind that at that time DH and I were not living together as he was busy in college finishing his MBA course in another city.
I came back home with my loot, and started doing the same as I was doing in Switzerland, with the exception I was also hand washing my clothes because my maid didn’t do it well. And call me crazy if you want, but washing the clothes by hand was less daunting than spending time at the board. And that is when I discovered that ironing salwars is a monstrous pain in the bum, which made it even more hellish, I was wearing salwar suits exclusively back then, cotton that crease and takes forever to make presentable again. 
When DH came to Bangalore at the end of his course to pick me up so we could head to Mumbai, one of his friend’s friend who’ve been living across the street all that time came over to my place to move in because his place was company owned and he just switched job, his first reaction “You have an ironing board??? Why didn’t you ask me, you can give them to a guy down the street for ironing”
Now of course I noticed the guy on his wheel cart with a giant box iron from another era that one fill with hot coal, I just didn’t know how to approach him and figured out that for the 4-5 sets of clothes I owned I could do it myself since I’ve always done my whole life long.
When we lived in Mumbai for 2 months in 2004 DH just gave all our stuff out for ironing, and since we had no washing machine and limited hanging place inside the flat he found a way to have everything washed outside for a fee, problem solved and there was no turning back.
In Chennai we got ourselves a washing machine, but we still gave the clothes out for ironing, and we have been doing it ever since.
My visiting family thought this was an odd thing to do, they also found having a maid that came in daily to wash the dishes and mop the floor puzzling and asked me why I wasn’t doing these things on my own since I’ve been doing them for years back home.
My answer: Because I can do so, it is affordable, it give a person a job, and where is the crime in sparing my sanity just a little bit by sending my clothes out and receiving them back the next morning, creaseless and neatly folded?
I still know how to iron clothes and do household chores, but as long as I can afford to spare myself from a few tasks on my to do list, I will, I still do my share of the work anyway.

But back home my Grand ma’s generation were to embody the ideal housewife in the 50’s, looking neat, with glossy hairs and perfectly starched apron at their waist. They were what is still considered today the ultimate domestic goddess sending their husband out the door in the morning and spending their mornings dusting, cleaning vacuuming and cooking the perfect lunch for their husband to come home to (yes people did came back home for Lunch in Switzerland), spent the afternoon making preserves and baking cakes, the long after their husband came home tired from his office day, the 50’s housewife was still busy in the kitchen whipping up a dinner and a drink for their dearest half.
My mother who was a kid in the late 50’s and 60’s told me that school still had home economy classes during which the girls had cooking and sewing classes, and boys had welding and woodworking. During the sewing class they all learned the perfect art of patching up socks and trousers and how to master starching and pressing a man’s shirt. In the cooking class they learnt how to make the most of their pantry, and how to cook a stew in the crock pot that will let them clean the windows and not loose time (all in all how to be the perfect multitasker). My Grand ma says her home-ec classes were more intense than the one my mom had and I believe her. A woman back then had to take pride in her work at home and iron her man’s jammies with a smile.
My generation got lucky in the home-ec department, feminism prevailed in the 70’s (Switzerland is the last country in Europe to give its women the right to vote, in 72!) I had sewing classes and woodwork classes, boys and girls both attended each, we made fun cushion and bags in the sewing class, and boomerangs and boxes in the woodwork class, gone were the sexist roles imposed by the 50’s and 60’s. Women became career women in the 80’s, so household chores were a necessary evil (and still are) but no longer something to just take pride in. I am fairly sure my Grand ma would still do everything in her home even if she had the luxury of hired help she could afford, her generation made women feel like they were nothing if not the picture of household perfection. My mom’s generation would probably entertain the idea but wonder what their mom would think, and I am pretty sure that should having someone press your clothes at an affordable rate back home my generation would just jump on it, the alternative most find to it being to buy stretch fabric outfits and jeans that are low maintenance.

Oh and the box iron I bought 8.5 years ago is still working, and I still have it, we use it for emergencies like most do around here. The board? I left it with our friend in Bangalore.

6 comments

  1. My MIL has an iron for emergencies also, but it never gets used. She once told me the fellow on the street does it cheaper and better, so why do it at home!

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  2. yep exactly my reasoning, why bother when someone can do it for me better and cheaper :)
    The monthly amount for all of our clothes to get ironed is always around 450-500 rupees, that includes all of DH's office shirts, my daughter's clothes and the bedsheets as pressed bedsheets takes much less space in my closet than the one I just folded myself off the drying rack. 3 rupees a piece of ironing isn't going to break the bank, but it sure spares my sanity :)
    I think in the past year I used the box iron we keep home 2-3 times max.

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  3. You find ironing worse than cleaning the bathroom ? Wow! I cannot understand how that is possible :)

    When I got married, and started looking for a suitable iron board (mind you - as an emergency and not really as something that I would use on a weekly basis), I had to climb four stores to find one that was appealing to me - alas!, it had crooked legs that would shake with the weight of the iron when I tried to iron my clothes!! A fight with the shop keeper to return that board and one more store later, we got an iron board which works, but we use it as a stand to pile up clothes that need to be folded but we are too tired to do so in the evening !!

    Even though almost all Indians have an iron at home for emergencies, very few Indians own an iron board - my mom's first reaction when she came over to my place was "Why do you need a board to iron your clothes during emergencies?"

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  4. Navya, I know! I must be nut but I really hate ironing, I have no idea what makes it less appealing than scrubbing the bathroom clean really.
    I got lucky on the first store back in the days but the ironing board was half the size of the one I had in Geneva. Found it in a kitchen ware and appliance shop in Jayanagar :)

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  5. kaleroni3:38 AM

    Thank you so much for this post! I'm moving to Mumbai in July and have been contemplating whether or not to include my ironing board in my home shipment. I haven't ironed anything myself in over a decade and just assumed my maid in Mumbai would do the same tasks as my maid here. But if it's cheaper and better to outsource it...thanks for the tip!

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  6.  You are welcome :)
    Definitely outsource the thing, they are more reliable than most maid to begin with and will do a better job. It might even come down cheaper for you, maids in Mumbai generally charge 500 rupees per chore you ask them to do, the ironing service charges 3 rupees per clothes, I've never ever been above 500 a month, it's generally around 450 for me, we give all the clothes and the bedsheets to be pressed.

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