Sunday, April 27, 2014

Waste Not: Laundry

My bible study is currently embracing that one book I've told you about two or three hundred times (7 by Jen Hatmaker, which is about creating margin and the concept of the biblical fast but is somehow simultaneously hilarious), which means that each week, following along with Jen, we find a way to create a personal fast around that chapter's topic.  The first week I only ate 7 foods.  It was hell.  The second week I only wore 7 clothes.  It felt embarrassingly easy, given how hard the Foods week was, although I was cold a lot.  The third week I abstained from social media (although I did have a couple scheduled blog posts), which was harder than I thought it would be- I learned some hard lessons that week.  So now, here we are, Week 4: Waste.  Reducing waste in your life, understanding that taking care of God's creation isn't just for hippies, etc, etc.

The thing is?  I'm already good at this.  I'm struggling to figure out what I'm supposed to learn from this week.  I know, I know there are further ways to reduce waste within our family, but I'm having trouble identifying them.

This is not because I'm just so, so awesome.  We are a frugal family who lives on a budget, and that more or less forces you to eliminate as much waste from your life as possible.  It's not hard for me to pare down on wasted trips to the store when our van gets 16 miles per gallon.  It's easy to tell our kids to put another layer of clothing on instead of turning up the thermostat, because heating costs are expensive, especially in a winter like the one we just survived.

I've been thinking about writing a series of posts on this, the topic of waste, for quite some time now; what you'll find below is actually a draft of a post I wrote back in December (I think I entitled the series Frugal in '14, which I still can't decide if I want to find that embarrassing or clever).  I got three posts done in the series, reviewed them, decided that THIS ALL SUCKS, EVERYTHING I WRITE IS PURE CRAP, which I do a whole lot of the time but post it anyway, but for some reason for this I decided to shelve the series.  Anyway, given the discussions my friends and I have been having on reducing waste, I thought I'd go ahead and post the drafts, crap or not, plus write fresh posts, finishing out the series.

HERE'S WHERE YOU COME IN.  I'm seriously having trouble figuring out how to reduce waste in our household.  I know there are things we're not doing, but I can't seem to identify them.  So if you know of some trick corresponding to that day's topic, could you please, please, please, let me in on your secrets?  Please?

[Frugal in '14, Draft]

Ah, laundry.

I have three small children.  I do lots of laundry, which often includes re-washing the same load because there were M&M's/rabbit poop/ladybugs/crayons in their pockets.  (I check their pockets, okay?  I do.  But at some point children's clothing designers decided it would be a fantastic idea to put right around ten million pockets on little boys' pants, probably because they hate me.  I sometimes miss a pocket or two.  Obviously.)

I don't even know how people who live on a ranch/farm/anywhere near sand do it.  I'm pretty sure I'd give up the laundry ghost.  

But because so much of my life is spent doing laundry right now, I have spent considerable time considering all the ways to save money doing so.  Here's the list:

  • Only wash full loads of laundry.  It's the most efficient, which is code for 'saves money.'  P.S.  I'm a little jealous if you only have enough laundry to do a partial load.  And by "a little jealous" I mean "trying not to hate you."

  • We regularly receive a little pamphlet from our energy provider (which I'll go on and on about ad nauseum tomorrow- who's excited?!); one month it told me that the average dryer cycle costs around $0.50 to run.  This, of course, was all the incentive I needed to air dry as much of our laundry as I can.  4 loads of laundry this morning currently drying on the drying racks = $2 in my pocket.  $0.50/load may not seem like much until you look at how much laundry you do every week and multiply it times 52 weeks per year.  In the winter, this obviously takes longer because I'm drying everything inside on the drying racks, but when it gets anywhere above 50 degrees F, I put those racks on the back deck to dry in the sun.  It's amazing how fast a load will dry in the middle of summer.  I'd love to have a clothes line in the backyard, or possibly one of these beauties one day:

It's an indoor clothes line!  I found it at

  • If you're dead set on drying your clothes in the dryer (my family has threatened to revolt the times I didn't dry their towels in the dryer; something about "cardboard" and "sandpaper."  My insistence of "feels like money saved!" fell on deaf ears), make sure you're drying a full load as often as possible; it's the most efficient.  You're also supposed to try and dry one load after another, capitalizing on the fact that the dryer's already hot, so it doesn't have to waste energy reheating every time you put a new load in there.

  • Make your own laundry detergent.  This is the one where people usually start to say things like, "Funny, you don't look like a hippie," and "Oh, so you're one of those people."  It's true.  I make my own laundry detergent.  And I am not ashamed.  It's easy, relatively quick (takes me about half an hour to make a batch that lasts around six months), and is ridiculously inexpensive.  I use the Duggars' recipe (you know, the Duggars?  Live in Arkansas?  Have a million kids?  Or 19, anyway?  See, you do know who I'm talking about!), which I found in one of their books but you can also find on their website (which I've so helpfully provided via that linky-thing back there).  I find all three ingredients- Fels Naptha soap bar, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, and Borax in the laundry soap aisle at Wal-Mart, all for around 7 or 8 bucks, and you're not going to need to buy new boxes of Washing Soda (NOT the same as Baking Soda, trust me on this one) and Borax for a long, long time.

  • As for dryer sheets- I don't use them.  We have certain friends, ahem, who claim to have static cling problems (that was hilarious conversation, let me tell you), but as I hang-dry most of our clothes, this isn't a problem.  As for softness, I've found a little vinegar in place of fabric softener in the washing machine works just as well, and no, does not leave a smell.  I do know people who swear by those dryer balls; Derek's parents have some, I tried and liked them, but just haven't remembered to hunt them up at Wal-Mart yet.

Okay, Laundry Divas (ugh.  Do me a favor and please don't ever call me that.), how can I reduce or even eliminate waste in the laundering areas of my life?  What am I forgetting?  


  1. umm....maybe you could air dry your towels and then stick them in the dryer for like 10 minutes to get rid of the crunchiness. and if everyone did the only-seven-clothing-items thing, less laundry? but more often, i suppose, since each of those seven-items-each would get so filthydirty.

    and maybe it's gross, but i hardly ever wash the kids' jeans. yeah, they get dirty and grass-stained, but that's the case regardless of how often i wash. so every month or so i might empty their jeans drawer and do a load, or if a random pair gets peed in or something i'll wash it, but really, just assume that their pants are dirty whenever you see them.

  2. I had to wait until somebody else commented first, because I am not qualified. I am a complete waster. When it comes to wasting, I do.

    I am in awe that you are studying this book. I would not be able to eat only 7 foods (well maybe I would, as long as one of them was chocolate) or wear only 7 pieces of clothes (i have to wear more than 7 pieces of clothes at one time because I get cold). Does a pair of socks count as one or two?

    Perhaps the only meaningful thing I have done to reduce laundry waste is this: When I met him, my husband used a bath towel ONCE and then it had to be washed. His mother taught him this, but I cured him of this wasteful habit.

    I also save energy on laundry by never ironing. It is one of my life rules: I will not iron. I even hated ironing those iron-on Brownie badges. I preferred to sew them.

    Okay, that's enough from this waster.


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