Stems and All

My journey to buy less, consume smart, use what's there.

Doing less laundry: how a broken washing machine started our transition


Recently, our washing machine stopped working mid-cycle. From the living room, I heard what sounded like gravel grinding the bottom of the machine. This did not bode well. Sure enough, the washing machine was flashing an ‘error’ signal, and completely stopped working or even responding to anything I tried.

The next day, I called every appliance repair service company with a decent review. The earliest any of them could look at the machine was 6 days out.

6 days without a washing machine? Is that possible? And I already had a load of darks in the queue. Was I going to have to resort to visiting a laundry mat?

“We can make this work”, I said with confidence. At least I thought so…

washing machine findings

I started to become a little more conservative in terms of what went into the ‘wash me’ pile. I only wore those jeans once – can I wear them again? Or the yoga pants that I didn’t actually break a sweat in. How about those – can I wear those again?

The answer, in many cases, was yes, the clothing item could be worn again without any negative consequence or disheveled appearance. After all, Europeans have been re-wearing clothes forever.

I also realized that doing less laundry was environmentally friendly as well:
– Every load of laundry done in a home takes anywhere from 16 – 40 gallons of water. High efficiency washing machines are best (using on average 40 – 60% less water).
– Washing (and drying) clothes creates a lot of ‘wear and tear’, which breaks down clothing items with each wash. The more you wash and dry an item, the faster it will literally ‘break down’, and the sooner items will need to be replaced.

With a little bit of smart thinking and very little effort, we managed to survive the near week, and the back-log laundry ended up being less that I anticipated.

At the appointed day and hour, the washing machine repair man arrived. Within 25 minutes, he uncovered the problem: some build up of items in the motor. $2.32 in coins, several screws, twist tie, and a screw. And the mysterious disappearance of my pink bathing suit strap was solved.

Author: Jane Newcomb

“Stems and All” is my personal journey to become a more environmentally responsible human, live a more sustainable life, and practice sustainable consuming habits.

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