What To Do With Your Appliances When You Get Over Them

Sharon April 8th, 2008

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone.” - Henry David Thoreau

My kitchen is old fashioned.  I’m not talking about the wooden cabinets, the open shelving of grains and stored foods, the home canned jams, or the lack of a refrigerator in my main cooking space.  I’m talking about the electric stove and the fridge itself.  That is, these appliances are archaic residues of a life in which energy was cheap and abundant and our whole lifestyle was created around that abundance.  These energy sucking appliances may have a place in our future or they may not, but they are fundamentally a product of a day when energy sucking appliances with 5-10 year lifespans could be made, replaced and disposed of.  Those days are as over as the days of the Crimean War, and my kitchen has a growingly retro look to me - I bet yours does too.

A poll of her Crunchy Goodness’s got me thinking about the question of appliances, and the problems they solve - and create.  Her Poultriness  asked which of a host of appliances we felt like we couldn’t live without, and a number of people, me included, mentioned that we really could do without all of them.  Now of course, this was Crunchy’s point too - she was writing about the psychological hold our equipment has on us.  For example, she talked about Greenpa’s fridgelessness, and the way that idea eventually came to seem possible for her.  For us, it was a similar process - we first heard about the unnecessity of the fridge and thought it sounded crazy - but gradually we came over, seduced by the vision of hitting our electricity energy targets.   We honestly haven’t missed our fridge much (although unlike Greenpa, we’re still running a freezer, since we sell our poultry frozen).  It takes a bit, as I wrote in “The Familiarity of an Idea” (although about a different idea, one that Miss Crunch was ahead of me on), to get your mind wrapped around the fact that just because your house has something, it isn’t an inevitability. 

What struck me about this, however, was the number of people who truly were aware that they didn’t need their appliances.  This, I thought, is a heartening thing.  Perhaps even a growing movement.  As it becomes more and more necessary that we reduce our usage of fossil fuels and as more and more people want to live an environmentally sound lifestyle, perhaps we’ll change our kitchens.  But here’s a question - if we do get over the big psychological hump that tells us we desperately need a house full of energy sucking appliances, what do we do (or if we get to the rapidly approaching moment when we can’t afford to run them) what do we do with these houses, built for a world of cheap energy and accessible appliances?  What do we do with the appliances?

Getting to the point of not needing appliance can be hard if you have a cheap-energy house. The truth is that the appliances themselves often create their own necessity.  For example, the poll didn’t even mention the vacuum cleaner - the classic example of an appliance that actually creates more problems than it solves.  In _The Overworked American_ Juliet Schor observes that vacuum cleaners saved women exactly 0 minutes per day on cleaning floors - in fact, peak floor cleaning time was hit in the 1980s, when vacuums had made it to every house.  Because with vacuums came the possibility of wall to wall carpeting, and new, higher standards of floor cleanliness.  And now, if you have one of those houses filled with wall to wall, it really does seem impossible to get buy with a manual carpet cleaner.  And ripping out the carpet and replacing it with something else is vastly more expensive than leaving the nylon, outgassing crap in place and vacuuming it.  So when we say we need our vacuums, in some senses, we’re right - it is damned hard to turn a cheap energy house into a low energy house sometimes.

So while a bunch of us pedants pointed out that we technically could live without things, I understand the perspective that answers “umm…no way” to those questions.  When someone asks you whether you can live without your cooktop, which came with your house and which comes with an energy infrastructure that pipes right out of the wall, in order to change your mind, you have to go looking.  It takes time and research and thought - things we don’t often devote to our kitchens - to figure out how to get a kitchen that actually meets 21st century realities.  The solar oven is a mature technology and a wonderful thing - but people can be forgiven for not knowing they exist, or how to get a hold of one.

 Plus, if you ever finally do get to wanting to/having to live without all this stuff, what do you even do with it?  In a perfect world, we’d all have the money and not need to worry about waste, so we could pull it out and remake our kitchen in the image of the non-electric fantasy kitchens in our head.  In truth, however, by the time most of us get to that point, we’ll have either less money or or less time to worry about how the dishwasher goes with the outdoor masonry oven in the yard. 

But waste not, want not, and no environmentalist wants to haul those appliances to the dump.  So how do you turn the 20th century, cheap oil retro kitchen into a kitchen that meets modern, low energy needs?

Now you can sell your appliances to someone else, or if they are completely unsalvageable, send them to the dump.  But I’m going to assume that you want to do something else with them. 

Fortunately, my side job as the Design Consultant at the fine magazine _Better Homesteads and Rat Holes_ gives me every qualification to offer suggestions for how to make use of those old appliances, now that you’ve shaken off the past and moved on to the low-energy future.  So here are some suggestions for post-electric uses for common appliances. 

 Dryer: We actually bought one of these about 5 years ago, because my husband’s grandmother insisted.  And it was used, mostly by her, until her death, and once in a great while by me until we started Rioting.  Now it is sitting in my laundry room, waiting to be pulled out and put in the garage as permanent storage for apples or potatoes (pulling it out involves removing the washer and some other stuff, and I’m a slug).  With a small piece of wire over the dryer vent, it will be rodent proof, provide a nice surface to set things on, and a measure of insulation on the coldest nights.  Other possible uses: manual compost tumbler (would require a bit of adaptation, but I bet there are some handy folks out there with ideas).

Washer: I have heard several people mention the possibility of hooking a regular washing machine up to a bicycle to power it.  I’ve not found plans for this, but it is a compelling idea for me, since I’m still dealing with two kids using cloth diapers some of the time.  In the meantime, I have one of those small, no power washers that can handle a couple of shirts, and I do some laundry with the soak and hang method described in _The Plain Reader_.  If I couldn’t bicycle power my washer, I might still fill and hand agitate it for washing wool if/when we get sheep. I once met a small farmer who used his for washing large quantities of greens for sale.  But I’m leaning towards the bicycle method, if I can find a set of plans that are moron proof enough for me.

Electric/Gas Stove and Oven: If you already have a flat top cookstove, you’ve got a perfect counter, and it isn’t worth messing with.  For gas ranges, a piece of sheet metal or thick butcher block cut to fit would probably serve the same purpose. Most of us home cooks and gardeners never have enough counter space, so I’d keep the stovetop for that.  We have two electric stoves in our house - one was for the grandparents, and since we’re not using that kitchen, we’ve unplugged it.  The oven, it turns out, makes a large, superb bread box - it is airtight enough to keep baked goods remarkably fresh for a good long time.  So we use it for that. 

Dishwasher: Now there is a case to be made for not getting over the dishwasher.  People who hand wash generally use more water than a dishwasher will - and in water scarce areas, this is a real virtue.  Of course, they also use more electricity, since hand washers can usually use cold water.  Depending on where you live, it might be better to use the dishwasher to save water, or to hand wash to save electricity - for me, electricity is by far the bigger concern.  So what to do with the dishwasher -like the oven, the odds are you can’t take it out without creating an unsightly mess.

Well, you could do what we used to do with it - use it to hide the dirty dishes - most dishwashers are right next to the sink, and they work fine as mess concealment, even when you haven’t run it.  Or you could use the racks as storage for clean dishes, freeing up your cabinet to hold food or your collection of canning jars.  Or, use them for the canning jars. 

Refrigerator: Right now, we use our fridge about 7 months a year as an ice box.  Because we still have a freezer, what we do is freeze several large jugs of water and ice packs, and simply rotate them in the fridge. I put the jugs in, and when they are wholly melted, take them out and replace them with other ones and put them back in the freezer.  This keep us with a functional refrigerator, maybe not quite as cold as a regular fridge, but cold enough that you can feel it if you open the door.  Keeps food just fine.  The other 5 months a year, we don’t bother with this because we have natural refrigeration outside. 

So one possibility is simply to convert your fridge to an icebox, particularly if you were thinking of keeping a freezer.  They also make decent storage for jars and tools - those bins and things would work very well.  The most creative use I’ve seen for both old fridges and even better, chest freezers, is to dig a big hole in the ground, bury them, and use them as a root cellar.

Freezer: This is the next appliance we’re going to look into - the problem is that we do sell meat off the farm, and customers want it frozen.  And there are some foods we like to store in there - greens, for example, are better frozen than dehydrated. But they are better still season extended and fresh, and we’re planning on putting up a hoophouse in order to achieve that, so we may yet be able to lose the freezer.

Old freezers make great root cellars either buried as above, or simply set in a place that stays cold over winter.  The other possibility is that if you need a fridge, you could turn your chest freezer into one.  There are plans all over the web for converting chest freezers into low-energy fridges, and they work quite well.  My own take on this is that if I have to have one device (and I manifestly do not) I’d rather have the freezer, which effectively also gives me refrigeration.

Microwave: This is a point of some pride to me - I probably am not the first person ever to come up with this idea, but as far as I can find, I might be, and I am a little proud of it.   I turn black microwaves into solar ovens.  Now depending on your perspective, microwaves are either great energy saving tools or nutrient destroyers. I’m kind of agnostic on this subject - I’ve read some research for, some against, and I occasionally use the microwave we inherited from Eric’s grandmother to warm something up - once in a great while my kind MIL brings us take-out Thai from New York City, and the microwave has its uses for that.  But if you don’t want a microwave, or run into a cheapie old one at a yard sale, my best use for it is to hack the cord off, make a set of reflectors out of tinfoil and cardboard, cover up the vents, and point the thing at the sun.  It won’t heat up as well as a commercial oven, or even the best of the homemade ones, but it is perfectly adequate for heating water, cooking beans and rice, etc…

Vacuum Cleaner: Ok, you got me.  I have no idea what to do with this when you don’t need it anymore. 

I recently got a copy of this year’s _Old Farmer’s Almanac_ and it had a discussion of future technological advances that we can expect any day now in our houses.  My favorite was a toilet that umm…measures your output and tests it for health problems, then discusses it with  you.  Ignoring the larger question of who in the Holy Name of George Washington Carver would ever want such a thing, all I can say is that they clearly have no idea what the new hot appliance trends of the 21st century really are - composting toilets, hand pumps in the kitchen, and the hot new appliance - the wood cookstove ;-).  The other stuff is just so last century!


36 Responses to “What To Do With Your Appliances When You Get Over Them”

  1. MEAon 08 Apr 2008 at 10:13 am

    You can grow amazing large amounts of sprouts (as in, you want to feed the entire block lo mein) in a washing machine. For those of us considering opening PO outdoor Chinese take-away, this might be an option.

  2. Lisaon 08 Apr 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Hi there, I don’t know if you’ve already written about this elsewhere, but I think a discussion is warranted about how many sustainable activities take more time when appliances/tools are not used and/or when you do it yourself: washing clothes by hand and hanging them to dry, grinding grain manually, cooking everything from scratch and manually chopping, grating etc., gathering and chopping wood. I don’t want to start a rant about those who work away from the home versus those at home, really. I know for myself, my personal resource that’s the most precious/maxed out is time at home; I happen to work outside the home. I find I make trade-offs between using my energy/time versus gas/electric energy. (I realize that in the future this choice may no longer be an option.) While I can get organized enough to line-dry my clothes, I use the washing machine instead of hand washing. I purchase freshly ground flour from my CSA instead of manually grinding my own. I wash dishes and compost vegetable peelings (I don’t own a dishwasher or a garbage disposal) but I do use the microwave. I use my bread machine to mix and kneed whole wheat bread dough instead of taking the time to kneed it by hand. Could I live without all these tools? Absolutely, I could, we all could, instead we will have different energy and resource issues: our own time and energy.


  3. Rosaon 08 Apr 2008 at 1:20 pm

    The problem with bike-power tinkerers, as with Linux programmers (I live with both; in fact, I used to live with 2 people who were each both) is that they generally don’t excel at technical writing.

    Also, they seem to not think about things like how to keep little fingers out of drive chains. Amazingly, people doing primary childcare for toddlers don’t seem to post bike-driven appliance plans on the web ;)

    I’ve been asking for a bike-powered blender & wash machine for years (also an infant roll-cage, for safely hauling really little ones in a bike trailer), and the bike-builders in my life seem to think tallbikes and bike-powered laptops are more fun.

    Anyway, I’m a big fan of the directions posted here, where the rear tire is replaced with a belt that runs the tumbler (but remember, I haven’t actually built one):
    A front load washing machine should be easier to convert than a blender, because you keep the same direction of rotation.

    There are some categories of “things you will need after the meltdown” that we’re well stocked up on - playing cards, camping gear, and extra bike parts, for sure.

  4. Emilyon 08 Apr 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I hear you, Lisa. One of the reasons I use a microwave is so I can make several lunches - whole-grain, local, free-range, yadda yadda - and freeze them. If I don’t do this - or at least have dinner leftovers for lunch - the quality of food I eat quickly tanks. Then I’m tempted to go out for lunch. I’d rather have the means to keep healthy, home-grown and -cooked foods available, if possible.

    Of course, if a crash comes, I’ll be home every day, harvesting greens from the lawn and cooking every meal from scratch!

  5. Crunchy Chickenon 08 Apr 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Crikey! Now I know what to do with that piece o’ shit microwave that died on me. I was going to build a solar oven, but now all I need is some foil.

  6. Ameliaon 08 Apr 2008 at 2:51 pm


    May I suggest another option with regards to disposal of two appliances? Rocky Mountain Power runs a program called “See Ya Later, Refrigerator”: they will pick up a used fridge or freezer for free and take it to a company that recovers the freon and disassembles the unit for recycling — they’re able to get about 90% of the material back — AND they’ll give you a check for $30 and two CFLs (along with a list of locations for safe disposal of same).

    We’ve gotten rid of two fridges this way: one that came with the house, the other when the compressor was failing and we’d found a small Energy Star-rated 2006 model on craigslist to replace it.

    Readers outside of Utah and Idaho might want to check with their electric utility company to see if they offer a similar program. (We’re also on their waiting list for the solar energy incentives: the funding went fast.)

  7. Sharonon 08 Apr 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Emily and Lisa - My claim is not that no one should have any appliances - I’m not giving my washer up if I don’t have to. I admit, I’m really glad, Lisa, that you didn’t make this a “but I work” thing ;-) - whenever people do that I get competetive about how little time I have, and that’s the kind of conversation that gets boring fast ;-). But I do know what you mean - I do things with powered equipment to save time too - note that I am not writing this longhand ;-).

    In many cases, however, I think the time saving merits of appliances are simply overstated - but that is something that is hard to tell if you don’t have practice doing things without them. For example, I don’t know about you, but back when I had a bread machine, I did some experimenting with time - I found that it took me about 5 minutes to add ingredients to the bread machine and wash the machine afterwards. And it took about 12 minutes to mix ingredients, knead and shape a loaf of bread and clean up the bowl and spoon - but I could do up to four at once, whereas the bread machine can only do one at a time. Even assuming you don’t go through bread as fast as we do, or have a freezer to freeze bread, making two loaves at once means that the difference is…2 minutes. Now maybe you have a different bread maker or a different experience, but I think it does sometimes pay to get into practice at doing these things and then actually clock it.

    It takes no more of my time to warm up leftovers in a solar oven than in a microwave - you put them in and leave them alone - the difference is that instead of doing it two minutes before you eat, you do it in the morning before you leave for work. The first couple of times it takes practice getting the positioning right, but then it gets to be second nature. The learning curve might take an hour or so, but the actual time difference is nil. The time to transfer ice packs from my freezer to fridge is probably a minute a day.

    Same with the soak and hang method of laundry doing - now I don’t do most of my laundry by hand. I like my washer just fine - but if I found it hard to pay the electric bill, or decided to prioritize my energy usage differently, or if my machine broke and I didn’t have enough money to replace it (all possible scenarios) I also think it is important to know that I could do without it - not in some magical future when I had nothing else to do, but tomorrow - even if I had to keep my jobs, homeschool and run my farm at the same time. Not being dependent on it matters to me personally. The soak and hang method of laundry that I describe is pretty much the same as loading a washer - except you load a tub or bucket and add different stuff. Actual scrub time is about 15 seconds per item - I can do the equivalent of a load of laundry in about 10 minutes, including the adding stuff time. So it takes about 8 minutes more than a load of wash - even imagining you do as many loads as I do (6-8 a week), that’s no more than an hour a week doing laundry. Now I can imagine that you might have uses for that hour, and that’s understandable - but an hour a week is doable for most people who don’t work 2 jobs or aren’t single parents.

    The thing is, while I’m sure that this doesn’t apply to anyone here, but the average American watches almost 20 hours of television a week, spends 6 1/2 hours a week shopping for non-food items, and does a host of other things. So many people could find time for these things - now I’m sure I have readers who simply can’t find 10 minutes in a day - and that’s why this post wasn’t entitled “give up your appliances or die” ;-). But I suspect a lot of people could find time for at least some of these things.


  8. Barton 08 Apr 2008 at 3:46 pm

    One thing I like about the Shakers is that they designed their domestic arrangements so as to minimize housekeeping.

    (Maybe because the Shaker religion was started by a woman and women were very powerful within the movement.)

    Traditional patterns of life are often energy- and time-efficient. A few necessary things kept in convenient places.

  9. Barton 08 Apr 2008 at 3:48 pm

    One thing I like about the Shakers is that they designed their domestic arrangements so as to minimize housekeeping.

    (Maybe because the Shaker religion was started by a woman and women were very powerful within the movement.)

    Traditional patterns of life are often energy- and time-efficient. A few necessary things kept in convenient places.

  10. Ameliaon 08 Apr 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Bart, I live in a 1912 Craftsman bungalow; a lot of the same design strictures apply, as a response to women leaving domestic service to work in factories: if you couldn’t get the help, you had to do it yourself, and most women didn’t want to spend all day on it.

    Right now my place is a wreck because the back bedroom is being redone and most of the furniture from that space is now in the dining room, but normally I spend 10 minutes a week cleaning the public areas and that’s it.

    (Of course I’m not dealing with small children any more and there are three adults sharing 1200 square feet: things get picked up or life rapidly becomes unbearable.)

  11. Judithon 08 Apr 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for reminding me of this very cool book from 1910 that’s available free for download online. It’s got all kinds of low-energy ideas, including one for a pedal-powered washing machine on this page:


  12. emeeathomeon 08 Apr 2008 at 6:01 pm

    We lived in central Victoria (Australia) for ten years, with no electricity while we built/lived in a mud brick house. This was in the ’70’s when alternative electricity generation was non-existant or extraordinarily expensive. The temperature in summer was frequently over 100F, and in winter we occasionally had snow.

    I would have given my eye teeth for refrigeration of any sort. Our goat’s milk was consumed instantly or turned into cheese and eaten the same day. The occasional chicken was butchered (by me) and eaten the same day (not by me). We constructed a Coolgardie safe which kept the butter from melting right away, and kept the milk from souring for 12 hours. I dreamt of ice cubes constantly.

    Funny story - When we were reducing our stock of geese not long before we left, we gave the offspring to a neighbour who was to butcher them and give us one back as payment. About a week later we couldn’t work out what the terrible smell hanging about the house was. It got worse and worse and we hunted high and low for the source. Two weeks later I opened the kerosene fridge carcass where we stored tools and there it was -a beautifully dressed, but putrid goose. We hadn’t been home when the neighbour had brought the goose, so he popped it in the “fridge”.

  13. Lisa Zon 08 Apr 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Judith, I loved that book link! Thanks. Lisa in Minnesota

  14. Liz in Australiaon 08 Apr 2008 at 7:50 pm

    We recently turned off our fridge and started doing the same thing with the ice bricks in the deep freeze. Even though our deep freeze is in the garage, which isn’t accessible through the house, the time it takes out of our day is minimal (it probably took me longer to write this comment one-handed around a sleeping baby than the three changes per day take me!). We actually decided to use the top freezer section as our cooler and the fridge section as a temperature-stable storage cupboard, and it’s amazing the variety of veges we discovered are quite happy in there. We haven’t figured out the effect on our electricity bottom line yet but it’s been such a hassle-free transition that we’re not planning on turning it back on any time soon. Thanks for the inspiration :-)

  15. Anonymouson 08 Apr 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Can you describe the soak and hang method of doing laundry? I’d like to try it.


  16. SCMon 09 Apr 2008 at 1:10 am

    Regarding using the freezer to provide refrigeration via ice bricks -

    I don’t think this would save energy. The freezer will be working extra hard to freeze all that water. It will be having to rid itself of just as much heat energy (that the water gives off on freezing) as the ice will remove from the fridge when it melts.

    If you achieved the same level of refrigeration via ice blocks as you did when using it as an electric fridge then I doubt you would gain anything, in fact given that it is harder (eg less energy efficient) to maintain the lower temp of a freezer than a fridge i suspect the odds are against you. On the other hand freezers may have better insulation which could balance things up.

    if you do manage to save energy it will be because your particular freezer is more efficient that your fridge and/or you are accepting a poorer level of refigeration with the ice-block setup. Either way I would do a careful measurement over a few days of the power usage to see if it is worth it.

    (OK so I’m a physicist).

  17. Liz in Australiaon 09 Apr 2008 at 1:35 am

    Chest freezers = most efficient when full + don’t lose the cold air when the lid is opened, unlike a fridge door. If you already have a full freezer then the amount of energy being used to freeze the ice bricks is minimal. Of course if one buys a freezer expressly to freeze ice bricks so one can turn off one’s refrigerator then you are probably correct about relative efficiencies, but that would be silly :)

  18. Sue in the Western Great Basinon 09 Apr 2008 at 1:37 am

    I had the microwave-to-solar oven idea as well (and I didn’t invent it either but read it somewhere, so the idea is floating around out there). I even retrieved a dead microwave from the dump with plans to do just that. Never got around to it, bought a Global Sun Oven instead. Eventually, R used the microwave as part of building a very creative “mailbox” for a neighbor.

    Here are some other ideas for ex-appliances:

    Fridge: Remove door, lay on back in the yard, fill with hay, blankets, etc, cover opening with window glass = haybox cooker

    Smallish Fridge: turn into solar oven same as with microwave (might need to paint the outside black)

    I also used a defunct fridge as a fairly even-temperature pantry, since I was in a house that was really hot most of the time (4 weeks of sizzling summer heat, 48 weeks of cranked-up woodstove). Spices, olive oil, soaps, anything I didn’t want to get hot or to fluctuate much in temperature, went in there.

    Washing machine: On at least two instances R used the drum from a washing machine for other purposes. One was as a collecting basin at the bottom of the hand-dug well. The other was in construction of a springbox. I think the combination of the perforations together with it being made of stainless steel just make it perfect for those keep-clean-water-clean uses.

    Basically, any appliance that died on us (or that we saw at the dump that wasn’t trashed) went into the boneyard, where its future role could simmer and be revealed to us over time. Sometimes the item was “repurposed” whole, other times it was taken apart and the pieces used separately. Occasionally we’d bring the remains of something *back* to the dump, having kept the useful bits.

    Sue in the Western Great Basin

  19. SCMon 09 Apr 2008 at 6:46 am

    Hi Liz

    I just noticed that you mentioned your fridge had a small freezer built in which you are no longer using and this *would* save a slab of energy as the wee freezer would be really inefficient. However for anyone else considering doing this they may want to consider the following:

    It takes a certain amount of energy for your freezer to cool and freeze water because your freezer expends energy in moving heat energy from the water to the outside of the freezer (eg in order to maintain its set temperature). It doesn’t matter how efficient, well insulated or well packed your freezer is, freezing the water still requires a certain energy input (an inefficient freezer will just use even more!).

    If you have the same amount of fridge cooling with your ice bricks as you did with electricity then by and large all you are doing is moving the cooling effort from you fridge’s refrigeration unit to your freezer’s. You need to be pretty sure the freezer was more efficient than your fridge to be sure of a benefit. But you will still be suffering from the deficiencies of your fridge - eg poor insulation or losing cool air when you open the door - as it will melt the ice faster hence causing you to freeze more water in your freezer.

    You might be able to win much more in energy terms by accepting a much more modest volume of refrigeration - eg making a large and *very* well insulated cooly box or eski into your new fridge that is just big enough to hold your minimal refrigeration needs plus an ice block or two. Probably not as convenient as the upright fridge format though.



  20. Tameson O'Brienon 09 Apr 2008 at 8:41 am

    Sharon, two things…the first is that there are only 2 things in the world that are totally rat proof, one is glass and the other dead microwaves. We had a massive rat infestation a few years back and we went to the swap shop and picked up a couple old microwaves and used them to keep things like bread and olive oil (I hate it that even high end makers of condiments use plastic bottles) and stuff like that.
    the second thing - rethink the whole washer agitation with wool thing. You’ll end up with a big ball of felt. Never, never, never agitate wool. You’d be better off with net bags because the only part of a washing machine that is beneficial to fleece washing is the spin cycle which you won’t have without power. It’s better to wash in net bags and then spin them over your head like a derranged lasso.

  21. anna marieon 09 Apr 2008 at 1:51 pm

    To save time on breadmaking, take a look at a book called Artisanal Bread in 5 minutes. There is no kneading, the dough stores in the refrigerator (or whatever cooling devise you have), and the result is very, very good. It is faster than a bread machine and better tasting.

  22. MEAon 10 Apr 2008 at 8:00 am

    Really gross true confessions — at our a fair amount of laundry gets done in the tub by the person who is bathing.

  23. gail_don 10 Apr 2008 at 8:33 am

    Regarding the soak and hang method–here’s a link to a Dollar Stretcher article on same.


    I was able to find a small used wringer on eBay, as the author of the article did. And I’ve got the empty cat litter buckets, too, but I haven’t quite implemented my plan to try this yet.

  24. WNC Observeron 10 Apr 2008 at 10:07 am

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) I know someone who lives in a small apartment, and uses their clothes dryer as a mini root cellar when not in use for clothes drying. It really does work quite well.

    2) Sharon mentioned bicycle power, but another possibility to explore is treadmill power. A century or two ago there were all types of household and farm devices that would be powered by a dog walking on a small treadmill. Butter churns were one typical application, I would guess that ice cream churns and grain mills would be a couple of other things that would lend themselves to this type of power.

    3) As to powering washing machines by bicycle (or treadmill), what you really want is one of the old-fashioned wringer washers. These have the motor mounted on the outside, and it would be a very simple matter to hook up drive belts to provide power in its place. Lehman’s still carries these, and I suspect that one can occasionally find them at auctions, etc.

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  26. Loganon 10 Apr 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Sharon,

    I have not had a chance to read all the comments yet but I found a Multipurpose bike that won “runner-up” in a the specialized bicycle and google sponsored “innovate or die” challenge.

    Here is the link to the inventor’s site: http://www.mayapedal.org/bicimaquinas_in.html

    He has a bike “washer” prototype you may find interesting :)


  27. STEVE BANYAIon 10 Apr 2008 at 10:33 pm


  28. deweyon 11 Apr 2008 at 11:04 am

    Sharon - You are spot on about the increased housekeeping demands on women that came with availability of vacuum cleaners (it has also been observed that the electric light contributed, by making the schmutz in the corners more conspicuous - unless you are a slob like me who lets the cat hair build up until there’s enough to crochet a second cat). The same is true of the washer and dryer. Like me, you’re probably just old enough to remember the snarky “Ring around the Collar!” commercials that taught women that their husbands would fall in the dominance hierarchy unless their shirts looked perfectly new every day. In the past, people often wore the same shirt or dress several days between washings. I do my own little part to return to sanity by wearing shirts typically two to three days (at the end of each wear day putting them back on the hanger buttoned one button lower, so I can keep track of how much use they’ve gotten). Don’t ask how long the pants get worn. Or towels. Or sheets. I guess I’m just a pig, come to think of it, but an energy-saving pig.

  29. deweyon 11 Apr 2008 at 11:06 am

    Oh, I meant to remark for the people who want to use a dead fridge for food storage - there is something about that closed environment that is very conducive to mold growth, if you allow any spillage whatsoever. I once turned off a fridge and freezer before thoroughly cleaning it and came back a week later to find a huge, fully sporulating toxic mold forest.

  30. Sharonon 11 Apr 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Dewey, you aren’t the only pig ;-). You should see the jeans I garden in - stand up on their own isn’t even sufficient to describe it ;-).

    Low Impact Pigs Unite!


  31. Anonymouson 12 Apr 2008 at 11:58 am

    Vacuum cleaner– I can think of uses for the hose! Aquaduct, irrigation, garden edging, …

  32. Beanyon 14 Apr 2008 at 11:56 am

    I’m inspired to try going without our fridge this summer. I’m waiting for my husband to finish up the last bit of meat currently stored in the fridge. We rent, and our fridge is an old model and a pig on electric consumption.

    I’ve begun storing things on the counter top instead of defaulting to placing it in the fridge. Things like various condiments, dough for various meals and some other dishes that can be finished in a day.

    I can wash clothes without a washer which would save a ton of water…I’ll discuss this option with my husband.

  33. Meryn Stolon 15 Apr 2008 at 9:25 am

    What do we do with a whole world built for cars?
    I foresee beautiful empty highways. Yes, even highways can be beautiful.
    As for the cars, I think we should just melt the metal and do something useful with it.
    Some cars, especially the SUVs can go to a museum, as fossil evidence of a time long gone.

    The problems of reusing the carbon-hydrates in plastics will be solved in due time by science.

  34. Pat in Olatheon 16 Apr 2008 at 9:30 am

    While I haven’t read all responses, I did read the original article, all I can say is, you’re either a bunch of nuts or burned out old hippies.

  35. Sharonon 17 Apr 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Well, I don’t think I’m old (35), burned out or a hippie (that was my parents. So I guess I’m a bunch of nuts ;-).


  36. Chileon 18 Apr 2008 at 9:11 am

    Sharon, I blogged about pedal-power a while back. In the post are links to washing machine options. We picked up an old wringer washer that now works with the electric motor. My sweetie will be converting it to pedal power at some point. Once we get in our own place, we’ll pick up a dead standard washing machine to set up a pedal-powered spinner.

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