The Gift of Laundry

Dry, starched shirts, ready to iron!
Laundry symbol hand wash
Hand wash only!

Did a bit of pioneering work today, and it was a fun challenge.

Basically, I had to haul water in a bucket to do laundry.

Oh, it’s not like it sounds. We have city water piped into our house and a faucet near the washing machine. But the hot water tank that feeds the washer goes out, now and then, and we find ourselves without hot water, back there, at inopportune times.

If we want to shower—our bath being connected to the laundry—we can use the guest bath, which has its own hot water. In fact, that bathroom is the only hot water source in the house during down times like this.

If I want to wash dishes, since the kitchen also is connected to the laundry, and I cannot use the dishwasher, I must haul hot water, from that other bathroom, to fill the sink and do dishes by hand. I was using a one-gallon pitcher. It takes about 2 ½ gallons to fill the sink nicely. It’s okay to rinse in cold.

However, I wanted to do laundry, so I found an old plastic scrub bucket that holds 2 gallons. That cut the trips in half. At first I thought of skipping laundry until tomorrow, but later, I asked myself, “How hard can it be? Millions of women have hauled water to do laundry, and that was uphill wearing long skirts.” I could do this.

The first trip across the house with a full bucket of hot water taught me balance. Heh heh.

When I dumped it into the washer, it all trickled to the space under the perforated drum that holds the clothing. What little bit that rose above that level quickly soaked into the clothes in the washer. It would take a lot more water.

I made about 8 trips with that bucket, across tiled and laminated floors. It was hard to feel patient and joyful, until I would remember those pioneer women and their long skirts, meandering trails, rocky paths strewn with slick leaves. Most of them were hauling cold water, too, that would need heating, next.

At least mine was already hot. At least mine was across a level surface. At least I did not have to wear all those billows of clothing.

After hauling the water I was in no hurry to drain it away. So I left the lid up and soaked that clothing for a while. I’m glad I did, for I got to thinking: That water was still hot and not dirty. If I could wring out the clothes in it, I could reuse it for the next load.

A familiar-looking basket of wrung-out clothing soon stood by my feet, and the next load was chugging along before I realized I was doing laundry the way my grandmother did before she got her wringer. I watched her when I was tiny, but I’d almost lost the memory.

Eventually I washed three small loads of clothing in one small load of hot water. What would have been sixty gallons of soapy water became only 20 or so.

I saw something, during this trial, namely, why my grandmother reused the water during laundry times. Even after all her laundry was done, there were still flower beds to water, and a porch to scrub.

She remembered hauling it up hill.

Read a great story that complements this idea, here.


Image via wikipedia

Published by Katharine

Katharine is a writer, speaker, women's counselor, and professional mom. Happily married over 50 years to the same gorgeous guy. She loves cooking amazing homegrown food, celebrating grandbabies, her golden-egg-laying hennies, and watching old movies with popcorn. Her writing appears at Medium, Arkansas Women Bloggers, Contently, The Testimony Train, Taste Arkansas, Only in Arkansas, and in several professional magazines and one anthology.

16 thoughts on “The Gift of Laundry

    1. Thanks, Kate!
      Yes, I do take for granted the press of a button to haul my water, heat it, slosh the clothing, drain it, wring (spin) it, haul more water, slosh more, drain more, and wring some more. All that for a few seconds of selecting which setting I want.
      Then push another button and it all dries really soft, instead of hanging it here and there throughout the house on such a cold, damp day, and then having it hard and scratchy.
      It is a trade, though, and I have thought of that a lot.

  1. I admire your hard work and determination…even the resourcefulness. I used to do this in the past when there was no water. It’s no joke but then we had to do it, right. It’s amazing how much time and effort saved with machines but then we do lose that self reliance because everything is made easy. Although I don’t mind easy…. ha, ha,ha. A very enjoyable post. thank You. Merry Christmas to you and your family. best wishes ….

    1. Thanks for this comment, Traveler!
      Yes, we lose a lot when we rely on machines: independence, huge amounts of water, and also, I believe we lose muscle mass and other things necessary for survival. We lose the ability to survive.
      And sometimes, such as in the case of slow Internet or slow dishwasher, we do not even gain time, but rather, lose it, also.
      Thanks for all your good wishes, too. May your life be blessed, along with your family.

  2. I love this! Some people think we live in a cave because we ‘only have one bathroom’. Wow. It is too easy to get distracted by the convenience of our lives. We forget or do not know how many people go WITHOUT clean water to even drink in the world today. simplify. go with the flow (or lack there of) we are goofing up. You are right above; my grandmother would have loved to laundry our way. I tell my son all the time about ‘what life was like in the olden days’ before microwaves and phones without cords. This post makes me appreciate even more what we do have. thank you AGAIN .

    XXXOOO Jen

    1. Hi, Jen! You’re welcome!
      And thank YOU for this comment! You are so right–we get distracted by convenience.
      And my favorite tale about the olden days involved my children’s reaction to an LP record: “Wow, Mom, where’d you get that giant CD?!
      But, really, was it olden days before cordless phones?
      Hmm. 🙂

  3. As you probably know, I live in an RV. Sometimes we have water, sometimes, not so much. 😀 The more I’ve pared things down, the more pleasure seems to stream in. Thank you for this fun, if exhausting post, friend!

    1. Oh, Debbie! Did I exhaust you?! So sorry. 😀
      I know, I know the pleasure from paring way down. I do.
      One of the simply happiest, most liberating times I ever spent was in an 8-wide trailer get-away belonging to my in-laws, where the kitchen was entirely at my fingertips, literally, like a cockpit. It was there I re-invented baking biscuits on a pizza pan (I thought I needed a cookie sheet but, alas! there were none!!) Ha.
      Amazing what we don’t need.
      I have since learned you can bake biscuits in a fry pan on a stove top and turn them once to make a lovely sort of bread. Don’t even need an oven! Imagine! And you can peel an apple with a huge chef’s knife. Really. Amazing.

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