Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life Without a Dryer

When we became house-renters, we hit a hiccup that never bothered us in our apartment: we didn't own a washer and dryer. After our several-thousand-dollar move cross-country, we found ourselves in need.

For the first few months, I went to the laundromat. I rather enjoyed it. The nearest was 15 minutes away in a poorer neighborhood, the type with a lot of lonely elderly people and overworked moms whose kids who have an unusual sense of personal space. I suppose that makes some people uncomfortable, but I like elderly people and children (over the age of 4), and I like mixing with people when it's not awkward to do so. It was great for people-watching.

The laundromat was fun. Always fresh-smelling, the multi-generational family that owned it kept it swept and clean. But it was a longish drive every ten days. We had one car thanks to our horrendous car accident. Plus my husband didn't like that I was across the street from the sort of boarded-up, unidentifiable store where one pictures drug deals going down.

(I imagine the lower-income families living there were unhappy about it too. Poorer neighborhoods get the shorter end of the stick in this regard. Now THAT'S a post for another time.)

We visited Sears' discount section, where returned washers and dryers were significantly marked down. No two units matched, but we found a washer in a good price range. With the help of our very new church friends, we brought it home.

The washer is louder than a buffalo with an upset stomach (probably why someone returned it). But it washes. I began drying everything on a rack, hangers, banisters, and any surface I could spare. It's amazing how much space laundry takes when flat.

We kept saying we'd get a dryer--or rather, Nic said this. I think he pitied me (laundry is my chore). But I was instantly sold on the idea of being both energy-efficient and money-saving.

How often do you need your clothes dry in an hour? Almost never. For emergencies, I discovered how to dry anything in 20 minutes using a hanger and a box fan. When snow kept our outer clothes perpetually damp, we simply put up with it. Who cares if your third and most outer pair of pants has wet knees?

It takes awhile to hang the laundry up to dry, far more time than loading everything haphazardly into a machine. But once it's laid out, you're done. When dry, I simply move the pre-hanger-ed shirts to the closet. Underwear and socks are thrown into their drawers; I stopped believing in folding long ago. (Carpe diem! YOLO!) Time spent hanging things to dry is equal to the time I spent putting things away out of the dryer.

I now eschew the idea of a dryer. We've lived over a year this way and we don't need one. The eco-friendly fire in me is satisfied, and my German penny-saver genes are content.

So much household tech came out of the 40s and 50s. Some was a real timesaver (or skin-of-your-hands-saver). I'm sure the desperate housewives of the 50s were in love, and there was the whole novelty of the thing. But the longer I live, the more things I learn to live without.

We don't need an oven. The house has one but we haven't used it, preferring our toaster-oven. We never use more than two burners on the stove. Our teensy freezer is packed, but the small fridge gets so empty that I have to stuff it with water-filled tupperwares to conserve energy.

Life works just fine when it's simple. When we have tons of stuff, we just end up paying the power bill on things we don't use. We have to clean and maintain and find space for stuff that shouldn't be here.

When I got married, I was given four platters the size of Rhode Island--four! There's a punch bowl someone told me was an absolute necessity. All it does is make for a heavy box we have to cart with us when we move and find storage for. Moving here, I discovered my husband had 9 old pairs of pants with irreparably ripped seams, and I still had a bag of clothes I meant to donate ages ago.

How did this stuff get here? Do the Clutter Gnomes come in while we're sleeping and fill our house with crap? I'm always getting rid of stuff, fighting for the space to live. Sometimes I wonder if it will end. Someone called our house Zen--lots of empty space and room to breathe. I was touched and also wry. If only you knew about those boxes in the closet.

The boxes are there because "one day I'll want this." And sometimes I do. As a getting-rid-of guru, I occasionally get rid of too much and need it later. But that's rare. For the most part, I know what I need. I'll never wear the black blouses that collected in my closet. I don't want that hideous gift picture frame. I'll never need that punch bowl.

If on some off-chance the day arises where I do, I'll just go out and buy a cheap one for the occasion.

Once, I needed a dryer. When my family visited, I washed all the sheets and towels we own to have enough. It took several days because we didn't have enough surfaces to hang-dry everything. It got down to the final load of sheets. My family's flight was touching down soon and I wanted the housework finished.

I ran to my laundromat with my sopping load of laundry. Thirty minutes and $1.25 later, I was heading home with mission accomplished.

We don't need a dryer. We don't need a punch bowl. And if we do, the store is down the street.

Word count: 973.