Monday, April 13, 2015

Laundry: how times have changed

As I folded the fourth load of laundry today of six loads, I pondered how laundry has changed over time from a energy-consuming chore to a time-consuming chore.

I put a load of similar laundry in the washer, drop bit of detergent in, twist a couple dials, flip a switch, and walk away.  When the washer beeps and I am good and ready, I come down, move the laundry from one machine to another, put in a drier sheet, twist a couple of dials, and push a button.  If I am so inclined, I will start another load in the washer.

After less than an hour, the clothes in the drier are ready for folding.  After putting those clothes in a basket, I’ll repeat some of the previous steps.  I’ll bring the dry clothes upstairs, fold them, and put them away.

Today I have six loads, including washing my chain saw chaps.  It’s only a bit more work than going downstairs for another snack.

When we were first married, it was a slightly different story.  We only had a wringer-washer.  After each load was washed and rinsed in the tub, we had to put each piece of clothing through the wringer.  (We was generally my wife and only occasionally me.)  Then we had to hang everything on a line in the back yard or in the basement.

But even that work was a “piece of cake” compared to what many, almost always women, suffered in the nineteenth century and even now.  In “Mina Drömmars Staden” (“City of my dreams”) by Wilhelm Möberg, one of the protagonists did laundry out on the ice.  I vaguely remember that she died doing laundry for others; if not died, it severely impacted her health.

Imagine taking every piece of clothing, getting it wet, soaping it up, beating it on a rock or the ice, rinsing it multiple times, and then finding a place to get it dry.  All on a subsistence wage, if that.

Unfortunately, there are still women all over the world that have to clean their families clothes this way.

I don’t think we should “count our blessings” as much we should appreciate that our complaints of how tough we have it are petty compared to others in other places and in other times.