Colorful clothes lines are a common site on streets even in big cities like Shanghai.

For those of you who know me well, you know I have what can only be described as a “special” relationship with laundry. As a 30+ year-old, married woman, I would still haul a duffel bag of laundry to my parents house in Connecticut just because I thought my clothes got cleaner in their washer and dryer than any of the laundromats we used in the city. I could also never understand why Nellu resisted doing the same for so long. On the road, one of the nicest things many of our hosts have done for us is help us get our laundry done. There’s really nothing quite as wonderful as clean clothes.

But as we’ve started to make our way around the world, one of the most surprising revelations is that very few places have or use clothes dryers. Everyone hangs their laundry on drying racks or cloths lines. Even when we did our laundry at what we’ve come to refer to as “our mansion in Palermo” (Buenos Aires), our clothes were hung out to dry on drying racks. And in cities all over China, people hang their laundry in trees or makeshift clothes lines just about everywhere.

Even in Australia, our friend Cass told us, they really only use a clothes dryers for special occasions and it surprised her that for us throwing the load in the dryer is what always happens immediately after the washer.

Laundry gives this Shanghai street color.

(I wanted to get you a picture of two loads of our laundry hanging on the balcony of the apartment we stayed in Shanghai but I had to quickly take it in during a torrential downpour.)

Experiences like this just get you thinking. We don’t always have to use the dryer. It’s probably better for a lot clothes if we don’t. Yeah, sometimes its really humid and it takes a few days to dry but you don’t always need your laundry done right away either.

Treehugger.com writes that the average dryer uses 875 kilowatt-hours a year. At the national average cost of electricity of almost 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, cutting back on your usage isn’t going to have a huge impact on your electric bill. It likely costs you about $100 a year to run that dryer. But it is something and if everyone in the U.S. cut back on usage then it could really be something else.

Just because so much of our lives are a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that they don’t warrant a rethink.

~ Molly

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