Jan 17, 2011

How To Do Less Laundry

Are you wasting energy, time, water, electricity, detergent, and dryer sheets because you're washing clothes too often? Are you wearing clothes out in the washing machine? And when it comes to clothes washing, how often is too often, anyway? These are questions I've been pondering lately, as my pile of laundry reduces far too slowly.

Back before their were automatic washers and dryers, people washed their clothes a lot less often. It was simply too much work to do the laundry more than once a week. This does not mean, however, they walked around in filthy clothes. So how did the housewife of old - who probably had more kids than you do and whose work and life was messier because of lack of modern conveniences - manage to wash so infrequently?

For one thing, everyone had just five different types of clothes:

* School or work clothes
* Play clothes
* Church or special occasion clothes
* Night clothes
* Underwear

The average middle class family might have two or three outfits in each category, tops. So, obviously, there were fewer clothes to launder.

But it was the way they wore these clothes that saved the most labor and money. Kids wore school clothes only to school. When they came home from school, they removed their school clothes and hung them to air out. Then they put on their play clothes. They often had only one set of "good" church clothes, and they were worn only while at church or on special occasions, like weddings. This outfit was washed infrequently. Nightgowns or pajamas were worn every night for a week before they were washed. Adults handled their wardrobe similarly.

In addition, women (and sometimes men) wore aprons while working.

Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting you and your family have such limited wardrobes (although cutting back on clothes is probably a great idea). And I'm not suggesting you weara clothes that are visibly dirty or smelly. But I am suggesting that we don't generally need to wash clothes that have been worn for only a few hours. To do so, frankly, shows how spoiled we are. What a waste of resources, time, energy, and money!

So here's my challenge for you this week: See how few clothes you can reasonably wash. Wear an apron while cooking - and perhaps even while housekeeping or doing garden chores. Change from good clothes into play clothes as soon as possible. Wear your nightclothes repeatedly.

I think you'll find your life is less stressful and more simple. And you'll be a better steward.

Let me know how it goes!

1 comment:

  1. I've been sort-of practicing this for a while. It's tough with the kids, and my husband is still resistant, but if I've been indoors all day, and the baby hasn't spit up on me or I haven't splattered all over myself in the course of cooking, I wear my jeans two, even three days. I should probably use an apron, but every time I see one, I think of my grandmother, whom I adore, but is the only person I know who uses an apron!

    I also air dry especially my heavier clothes (jeans, canvas totes/coats) and am considering doing the same with most everything else. Maybe not in the humid summers, but in the winter it'll help humidify the house, even just a little. Nice side benefit. :)

    Good tips.