Laundry Mountain by Melissa Norris

Sharon February 22nd, 2008

I call it Laundry Mountain. With four teens, a husband who works in construction, and a country lifestyle, one thing I am very well acquainted with is dirty laundry. Wow, is there a lot of it! Anyone have teenage girls? Anyone have three of them? Do you know how many towels three teenage girls can use in one day? You would be shocked.I am teasing a bit as I have tried to train my children to be frugal in their laundry habits. First of all we don’t use a dryer, ever. We don’t own one. We used to and we tried not to use it, but it sat there in the laundry room tempting us with its seductive heat and potential fluffiness. One day I unplugged it and took it completely out of the room. The kids all proclaimed, “What if there is an emergency?!?!?!” An emergency? What kind of laundry emergency could possibly happen? I figured they would learn to cope and they have.

Now here in SE Ohio, we have good drying conditions in the summer. Some days we have rain, but so far it has always quit. Some days it is humid and that makes for bad drying conditions. However the vast majority of days it is nice to dry laundry. Along with the benefit of saving on the electric bill, we know we are helping the planet. I tell people with a completely straight face that I have a solar-powered dryer. Some people get it! I read somewhere that if every family in America would hang just four loads of laundry a week rather than dry it in the dryer, we would save the amount of electricity generated by thirteen nuclear power plants.

When the weather turns cooler we hang our laundry inside to dry. We use clotheslines strung across our laundry room, and some wooden clothesracks. I have one of the large ones from Lehman’s Hardware that my Mom gave me for my birthday. I can honestly say it is one of the best gifts I have ever received. We have the advantage of wood heat, so clothes can be hung in front of the wood-stove for quicker trying. That takes care of ‘emergencies’ for the most part.We are three years into our no dryer experiment. Our electric bill dropped about $40 a month and the kids are almost resigned to not having one. My son Brady who is thirteen would really like to have a dryer. I explained to him about saving money and saving the earth. He looked at me and proclaimed, “You are only one person, you can’t make that much of a difference!” I looked straight back at him and said, “One person can make a difference, the world changes one person at a time.”

Maybe you think it would be too difficult to hang all of your laundry to dry. I still don’t love to hang white clothes, so many of them and so many small pieces, but I do it anyways. Sometimes being an adult means you do things you would rather not do. I guess if you have something you dislike doing you can put it off, or you can just make yourself do it quickly and get it out of the way. Even if you hang only one or two loads a week that would be a good start. If using the dryer is something you would rather not give up, maybe you can make other changes. Use only cold water to wash in the lowest amount possible. Use less laundry soap, bleach, and softeners. Often you can use just 1/4 of the amount called for in the product instructions. Remember their goal is to sell more product, your goal is to get by with as little as possible. Instead of using dryer sheets in your dryer to control static, try a ball of aluminum foil. You can reuse it indefinitely and it really works. Teach your family to wear their clothing until it is actually dirty. A shirt that has fallen on the floor can be hung back up again without being washed. Towels can air dry and be reused for several days. We had a problem with our kids bringing so much laundry to the laundry room that I knew had never been worn, we decided that they would all be in charge of washing their own clothes. They used to have a load or two every single day, now they have a load once a week. Our water bill went down 20% after the kids were responsible for their own washing.

When you are approaching Laundry Mountain, try to consider ways in which you can make more frugal choices and you can have less impact on the environment. Some other time I will discuss topics like detergent alternatives, gray-water systems, the benefits of a wringer washer, and other washing ideas.

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