Friday, October 23, 2009

The personal (and the political?) - laundry

My last "personal and political" post made sense to me as being an issue that spanned both realms, but how many of us think of laundry as being a political issue?

Well, it turns out it most certainly is in this article about bans on clotheslines. Just one more reason why I wouldn't want to live in a managed community, but it does make me wonder. Is how you wash your clothes a sign of poverty? Is there a class issue at play here? (I expect there is). There is definitely an environmental impact.

Here is how I do laundry now:

I do not sort by color anymore. Too much work for me, and I don't see my clothes all turning pink or anything, so it seems OK. There is one laundry basket in each bedroom and one in the laundry room, and I am just always running whatever is looking full.

  • I wash everything in cold water only, with environmentally friendly detergent. I have an energy star, front-loading (water efficient) washing machine.

  • In the summer I have a retractable clothesline across the yard, and a folding laundry rack that I set out on the patio. This usually means I don't use the dryer at all in the summer. In the winter I use the clothes rack indoors. The only place it fits is in our living room, so some folks have said things like "that's so country of you" which I interpret as a slight. Oh well, whatever. To keep up with the flow of dirty laundry, I do have to use the dryer in the winter. We don't have an energy star, but we do have a fairly new and fairly efficient dryer, and I keep it vacuumed out so it will run with more efficiency.

  • I fold on top of the dryer, and then I carry the piles to everyone's room. Every now and then I get the kids to help me fold, but mostly I am the only one who does. I put everything away in the drawers also, for everyone. (I know I should be getting more help, but my husband is a hopeless case and the kids are still struggling to open their own drawers).

  • Socks go into a shoebox on a shelf above the dryer, and later I will sit and match socks. Ironing goes into a basket and waits for once a week ironing, and anything that needs mending goes into another basket.

  • I iron all my husband's shirts for him. He doesn't know how to iron (crazy - how do you not learn growing up?) whereas I grew up ironing my father's shirts as one of my chores. My husband's preference would be to take his shirts to the cleaners, but he would need me to do that for him. I would rather iron than run extra errands, actually.

  • Most of my mending comes from Carbon, who is rough on his clothes. I darn his socks and sew patches (lots of patches) on his pants.
  • And I have a very few things that need drycleaning, so I get that stuff cleaned about twice a year. My love of cashmere sweaters is my undoing, and I am aware of how bad drycleaning chemicals are for the environment. We have one place in town that advertises itself as "organic and environmentally friendly" and that's where I go.

Laundry is a daily chore for me. I am always just trying to keep up with it so it doesn't overwhelm and then require more dryer use. My goal is to keep my family dressed decently on the minimum possible amount of energy, water, and consumables.

1 comment:

  1. I think saving energy by line drying becomes a bit ironic when you have a 3500 square foot home with heated bathroom tiles, so I suppose those people are at least being consistent.

    I think your husband never learned how to iron for the same reason that you ironed your father's shirts growing up. You're just much nicer than I am and don't say things to your husband like "You need to learn how to iron because I'm not doing that for you." ;)