Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's the guilt really...

When I first settled in Australia with my husband 8 years ago, we lived in a small flat close to the City. We had no laundry facilities inside our flat itself. Instead, there were communal laundry facilities on each floor of the three floor building. There were top loading washing machines and large clothes dryers just like the ones I was accustomed to back home in the USA. For the first couple of years in that flat, the use of these machines was free. Well, I'm sure it was somehow calculated in our rent, but we didn't have to put coins in the machines or anything. We could just walk into the laundry room and put a load on. So the Handsome Australian and I washed and dried all of our clothes in these machines. We didn't really have much of a choice. We did have a balcony, but there were strict rules about hanging clothes out to dry--this was a bit of an old school chic area and the neighbours--mostly very wealthy widows with lots of time on their hands--weren't afraid to point out the rules to anyone who dare break them.

I was pretty happy with this laundry arrangement. It was a bit inconvenient, not having the machines in our own flat because we'd have to babysit the laundry for fear that it might disappear or some 'helpful' neighbour might chuck all of our fine washables in the dryer (which wasn't always our preference) in a bid to make room for their clothes in the washing machine. For the most part though, it was pretty satisfying. We could do multiple loads at a time (as there were multiple machines) and we could dry most things quickly in the dryers. In a couple of hours, we could knock out all of our laundry for the week.

A few years later, we had a baby. We needed more space. So we bought a little house in the suburbs and moved. Owning our own home was a very exciting prospect--especially the part about having our very own laundry facilities! We would be able to put some wash on and actually leave the house without worrying what would become of it. Yes, these were exciting times!

My mother-in-law and I went shopping for the washer and dryer to fit out my brand new laundry. I was dead set on getting a top loading machine. That's what I'd always known. They were big and easy to use. My mother-in-law had been using a top loader for years and she agreed with me--we both liked their capacity. So off we went to the shops.

We were greeted by a friendly salesman who did nothing but sing the praises of the front loaders. They washed clothes better he told us. They were gentler on your clothes. They were more water and energy efficient. The top loaders seemed clunky dinosaurs in comparison. We were sold. We selected a very pricey front loading machine and then moved on to choosing a dryer.

This is when things got interesting. We had selected a 7 kg capacity washing machine and the salesman suggested I should get a 5kg capacity dryer. Why would I want a dryer that held less than my washing machine I wondered. So I asked. He said I really wouldn't be using the machine that much as I'd put most things on the line so it would only be for smaller items or on a rainy day. Oh really? I'd be putting things on the line would I? Yes, my mother-in-law agreed. That's how she used her dryer--rarely and generally for small items like socks. Well, maybe that's okay for you I thought, but I'm American and I do things differently. I'm going to dry my clothes in the dryer.

Of course, never one for confrontation, I accepted the advice of the salesman and my mother-in-law (hey, can you think of a more powerful combination?) and bought the 5 kg capacity dryer and resolved that what I did in my own home was none of their business and they'd never know if I used the dryer every day or not.

The machines were delivered and I washed and dried to my heart's content. My mother-in-law asked me how the laundry was coming along and I said, "Very well thank you." Then she started to ask me about using my clothesline and telling me how lucky I was to have such a large clothesline already installed in my back garden. Um, yeah, really lucky I thought. That thing was just an eyesore as far as I was concerned.

Then one day she came over and offered to help me with my laundry--I was a lactating new mother and needed all the help I could get. When she took the clean clothes out of the machine she asked me where my clothes pins were for the line. Oh sh*t! The clothes pins. I didn't have any. So I had to come clean. I confessed that I put everything in the dryer. Not a problem, she'd just pick up some clothes pins for me and bring them with her when she visited next. And she did.

I let my mother-in-law hang our laundry on the line when she'd come to help out, but I still used the dryer quite religiously. It wasn't until our little girl began to sit and crawl and loved being outside that I started to consider the clothesline. We were outside all the time and while it was fun playing with my little one, I did feel a bit unproductive. So I started hanging clothes on the line while we were 'hanging out' together outside. Each time I put a load up, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Not to mention all those little baby clothes looked so cute blowing gently in the wind. My little one loved watching the patterns on the fabric and delighted in sitting in my laundry basket. So very cute.

Slowly but surely, I converted to the clothesline and used the dryer less and less and less--except when it was raining and then I dried everything in the dryer. Then the ideas of global warming and climate change started gaining importance and it became clear to me that hanging clothes on the line was really a very practical way to save energy. That's what my grandparents did after all--before everyone owned a clothes dryer. If it was good enough for my grandparents I thought, it should be good enough for me.

If all of these reasons weren't enough to keep me in my clothesline habit, then the State Government started running these ads:

And now every time I think of using the dryer, all I can think of is these black balloons. So I trudge up to my clothesline and hang another load. I do like the idea of the clothesline now, but honestly, it's the guilt from the black balloons that keeps the laziest part of me wearing down the path between the line and the laundry, the laundry and the line.


Laine Moore said...

hey! I just found your blog though Aussie Erin's. Where in Texas are you from? I'm a Texas expat to Australia as well :) (From San Antonio) I loved this post. I might have to do one of my own laundry posts inspired by this one! I haven't fully converted to hanging dry yet, but... getting there.

suzinoz said...

Thanks for stopping by Laine. I'm from El Paso originally, but spent my last five years in the USA in San Antonio (actually went to Uni there). Good luck with your laundry--I'm ignoring mine at the moment. =)

Lisa in Oz said...

How funny - I'm almost the complete opposite of you!

I did the clothesline thing (with no dryer whatsoever) for over 7 years after I moved here. We recently got a dryer and OH MY GOD. I forgot how wonderful they are. We still use our clothesline occasionally for stuff like sheets, but our clothes? 100% in the dryer.

I can't tell you how awesome it is not having to hang them up all over the house for 4 days to dry during the winter because it's been raining for a week straight. I do occasionally feel guilty when I use it, and I might go back to the clothesline again more once the novelty wears off (and when it's nice and sunny during the summer), but for now I am *loving* my dryer. I'm bad, I know. :-P

UmbroTX said...

The balloons should have been red. Now I have the Blonde song stuck in my head:(We are so 80s)

"Ninety-nine red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, it's red alert
There's something here from somewhere else"

As for the clothesline, I have fond memories of playing through the hung sheets and watching my grandmother hang the clothes.

Hope all is well.


Juli Ryan said...

In most places that I lived in the US, hanging washing out on the line was considered an eyesore. I wonder if a similar energy-saving ad campaign will be launched over there.

Laine Moore said...

ohh ok I lived in El Paso when I was very young. Lots of cacti! What did you study at uni if you don't mind my asking?

about the clothes- I've always dried most of my clothes on an indoor hanging thingy just because it's much easier on the clothing but for some reason hanging towels, etc freaked me out a bit at first!

suzinoz said...

@ Lisa--Yes, I wouldn't want to live completely without the dryer. It's nice to have for really rainy periods or in an emergency. I can't believe you did it for 7 years. Amazing!

@ Paul--Hey mate, thanks for stopping by. Go get yourself a clothesline. You can be one of the early adapters in the USA! =)

@ Juli--Don't know if there will be a similar campaign in the US, but I do think people there could take a serious look at how they use energy. Living here for so many years and visiting there annually, it's easy to spot the differences and see where improvements could be made.

@ Laine--What didn't I study? A little bit of everything really. Liberal Arts Colleges are like that. After it was all said and done I ended up as a secondary school teacher.

Rita said...

I still stuck in US mode when it comes to laundry. I don't have a hills hoist, so I have an excuse right? Plus I hate winter dried clothes. They don't dry and stay wet! My work hours make it impossible for me not to use my dryer.

suzinoz said...

Rita-No hills hoist? And you call yourself Australian? Honestly. The black balloons are coming for you...=)

Annelise said...

OH hell nooooo. No clothes line for this girl balloon ads would not sway me!
The best I can say is that when I buy a new washer and dryer I will get the energy efficient front loaders but that is all i will do! lol
My abuelita and nana did have a clothesline in the States but I believe we converted her to the dryer!

suzinoz said...

@ Annelise- Theoretically, you should love a clothesline because it is high maintenance. Ah Abuelita and Nana--they knew what they were doing!

~ Jan ~ said...

Haha! Cracked me up. I LOVE USA dryers...so big and you can get away without ironing. Since being back in OZ I haven't used my Hills Hoist once! I still use the dryer & a 'clothes-horse' over our ducted heating vent. I too think of those black balloons...but I'm an awesome garbage recycler...and make up for something that I found was patchy in the USA, depending where you lived. Great post...cheers. :)

Becca said...

Over time, I have come to love clothes dried on the line. I share one with my neighbor currently, but never really do put it to much use (bad me - I know) but my son & his dad complain about how their clothes turn out. Personally I like it! But it is a little more time consuming than the dryer. There are some times when I am doing laundry through the night and can't hang them up either. I grew up with a clothes line and, as you know, in El Paso - as soon as you hang the last item - the first is dry! I really do need to put the line to more use! If it stays as dry & hot here as it has been - maybe I will give it a shot this weekend! The black balloons are a little eerie.

suzinoz said...

Yes Becca! Everyone in El Paso should have a line. Clothes would probably dry faster outside than in the dryer.

Nathalie said...

I've been at my sisters apartment for a week and I already miss hanging my clothes outside...nothing beats fresh air...the clothes smell and feel so much better. I've never had a dryer and my parents dryer was only ever used if it rained for a few days. I guess it's what you are used to.

Jennifer said...

Hi! I stumbled on your blog from the Pioneer Woman's site...I'm a TexPat, too. But I'm also an Army wife & we're stationed in Korea for the next 3 years.

Anyway...I wanted to say hi & thank you for explaining the black balloon thing. You see, Koreans have a commercial that's starts off in English saying "Bake Out"...which proceeds to Korean I can't make heads or tails of and ends with these freakin' black balloons flying off in the distanct. Makes total sense now!

Thanks again - Best wishes from an overseas Army wife,


suzinoz said...

@ Jennifer-Thanks for stopping by. I like that term, 'TexPat'. I'm going to remember that! =)