Our dryer broke a few weeks ago. It still spins, but the heat doesn't work, so it takes things the whole day to dry. The repair people can't come until Thursday, and we were drowning in dirty laundry. It finally (after a week or so) occurred to me that we could put up a clothes line outside and dry our things the old fashioned way. Dan put the clothesline up for me on Saturday, and even though he was feeling sick, he did several loads of laundry for me. I took over at the end of the day. When I first went outside and started undoing the clothespins, a wonderful happy nostalgia came over me. When I was a missionary in the Philippines, many, many years ago, I spent about a year hand washing my own clothes, sheets and towels with water that I had to draw up from a well with a bucket. I poured the bucket of water into a big plastic washtub on the cement patio in our back yard, squatted down, and washed each article by hand. On good weather days, I could hang my wash to dry outside and it would be done in just an hour or two. The rest of the time, when it was rainy or super humid, we hung our clothes inside and pointed our fans at them to try to get them dry. It could take days, and they would often get a moldy smell if we couldn't keep the air moving enough.
It has been so many years since that time in my life, I had almost forgotten that I ever did laundry without a washer and dryer. Going out to the clothesline Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and again today, has been the nicest feeling. Granted, the weather has been perfect for doing laundry--sunny, breezy, not too hot, not too cold. It feels so good to take a piece of wet laundry from the basket and attach it to the line with two clothespins, one at each corner, stretching it just right so that it will dry quickly but without leaving the item misshapen. It feels good to move on to other work, knowing that the sun and wind are drying my laundry. It feels good to come back find that each item is has dried, and remove it from the line, and then start over again with the next load.
I'm glad my dryer is broken. I'm glad for this reminder that the sun and the wind can dry our laundry, and for the pleasant feeling of this form of work. I'm grateful for the memories the clothesline and clothespins bring me of a time in my life when I felt a deep connection to my ancestors as I brought water up from the ground, poured it into a tub, scrubbed my things, and hung them out to dry.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I read a book recently called The Joy of Less by Francine Jay. Of all the things she suggested, the one I took away is this:
Instead of searching through your possessions for things you are willing to get rid of, select the treasures that you absolutely would not want to live without. Then get rid of everything else. I tried this on one bookcase in my living room a few weeks ago. My first time through the books, I looked for those that I was ready to part with, and came away with three titles. The second time though, I selected my absolute favorite books and set them aside--there were fifteen to twenty titles in that pile. As I looked at what was left on the bookcase, I realized that I wouldn't really miss any of it. I cleared two big boxes of books out of my house that day, instead of the initial three volumes. That experience really opened my eyes. I was surprised at what a difference it made to identify treasures instead of trying to pick the things that I didn't need or want anymore.
Francine Jay insists that you must physically clear the entire space you are trying to sort through before making your choices, and then only return the things you love to that space. I have not tried that yet--I'm pretty sure I would dump everything on the floor, where it would stay for another year or two, unsorted and trodden upon. Jay says that when you clear a space and see how lovely it looks empty, it is harder to put things in it that you don't really love. When the space is full, it is easier to believe that everything in it belongs and deserves to be there.
When I go on vacation, I typically pack 5 outfits, a few books, and a few toys for each child. I am amazed at how easy it is to do laundry, to gather our things, to tidy our room, when we have so few possessions. Then when I get home I wonder why we have so many clothes and books and toys that we can obviously live very happily without. When I'm packing, I tend to choose my favorite things. I think Jay's method of living with less is similar to packing for a trip--choose your favorite things and then get the rest out of your house and out of your life.
I leave you with this statement by William Morris, a nineteenth century British craftsman, designer, poet, and Socialist, who was the father of the Arts and Crafts movement:
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
Posted by An at 12:07 AM