Year for the Planet Year 2 Week 13: Adventures with a Washing Machine

Year for the Planet is a campaign to make better choices for the planet. 2017 was when I fixed my eating habits. This year, 2018, is where I deal with my clothing choices.

I’m in Vienna right now for an art residency, and one thing that always holds my interest when living in another country is their washing machine, for the simple reason that I usually have to take some time to figure out how it works because of the language. What starts out as a simple chore becomes an adventure in Google Translate, or asking fellow residents who have already figured it out.

The good thing with having less clothing, not just with my epic decluttering but simply because I came to Austria with one suitcase, is it is a lot easier to manage the care of these possessions. I put the few dresses I have on delicate wash and my everyday clothing on a regular wash. Gone are the nightmares of figuring out how to fit a mountain of clothing in the machine, as I remember doing during my years in New York, where the stress and grime of the city usually meant less mindfulness about how I took care of my stuff. Having less equals taking better care of these items, ensuring longevity and less to worry about.

Something about me that may make this fascination with appliances have a lot more sense: It’s not something I’m proud of, but I grew up with help. It was typical of where I grew up. And so I was 21 years old when I first operated a washing machine. I confess laundry is probably my favorite chore, because there is something very therapeutic when you see dirty stinky clothes come out all clean and smelling nice. Ironing is also astonishing. I was so excited when I bought my first travel iron. It’s a cute one, with a foldable top for easier packing. To see wrinkles iron out into vanishment feels like a metaphor for all the problems I want to fix. It’s a useful meditation.

Here’s a thing about sustainability—we can’t build a better world if there are some basic life skills we don’t have. And in this case, one cannot have a planet-friendly wardrobe if one cannot even take care of it. I vividly recall my twenties as a time when I had to unlearn everything I took for granted—an occupational hazard of one who is living in her eighth country and who keeps getting categorized as a “Questioner” in Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Test means that I am skeptical of and adapt to everything. Saving the planet doesn’t take a miracle; it takes fixing ourselves, one nasty entitled habit at a time.


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