Alternative ways of thinking: laundry and showering.

In my effort to cut down on expenses I got a drying rack a few weeks ago. For years I was in love with the idea that I have my own machines–I don’t just mean that there are machines in the apartment I’m renting, but I own the machines myself. I shouldn’t have to go into the benefits of this. But after I left one of my jobs I was stuck with having to save money every month. The easiest issue to resolve was my electrical bill, and stop using things that I don’t need to that often simply for the matter of convenience. The easiest to let go was the dryer. According to one estimate I heard I would save about twenty bucks a month, according to another I would save over a hundred a year. The ten dollars I spent on the rack pales in comparison to how much I would be saving in the long run.

I haven’t used the rack long enough to see the effects on my electrical bill. However, through Central Maine Power’s website I am able to view how much electricity I use throughout the day with an estimated cost analysis. Last Saturday for whatever reason I still threw one load in the dryer. Going through the website I saw that the energy use at that time spiked dramatically over my average use, costing over a dollar at that time. Okay, so let’s work with a dollar for every load. Usually I have four loads a week (which I’ll get to in a minute). At four dollars a week and four weeks in a month (sometimes five) that’s sixteen dollars (or twenty). My electricity bill is around ten dollars for a certain amount of electricity plus additional charges for whatever I use over that amount. When my electricity bill is usually just over thirty a month this implies that my dryer has indeed been the main expense on that bill.

Even as poor as I am thirty to forty dollars a month isn’t a terrible cost. I never thought of it as a great hindrance. However, I never gave it any thought as to how it could be drastically lowered in this fashion. That’s really what today’s post is about: alternative ways of thinking. I like to think that I engage in that all the time, but I keep getting surprised by how many habits I’m used to from growing up that are unnecessarily costing me money. Let me go on about the drying rack for the sake of another example.

My thoughts on using the rack are mixed. While it’s potentially saving me money, it can be a bit of an inconvenience when I like to do my laundry all in one day a week. It takes some loads forever to dry, especially towels. I’ve taken to doing a load a day for three days, with the least important load last. That way I can leave that last load on the rack throughout the beginning of the work week as it isn’t things that I need right away. I need to re-think which load that is, but the basic idea makes sense. Also, the rack I have is a cheap wooden one I bought at K-Mart and is starting to fall apart more often than I like–there’s really nothing holding together to start with, so I can’t actually say it’s breaking–but that’s all based on the fact that I bought the cheap one first to see how this will work.

Like I said, I have four loads: one of colored (generally, t-shirts, socks, and sheets), one load of jeans (which surprisingly dry quickly), and two loads of towels and underwear. I don’t want to get into why I have two separate loads of towels other than “germophobia.” I already know one of those loads is one I can cut out if I change some personal cleaning habits. But the bath towels, hand towels, and wash clothes–the ones I use for general grooming throughout the week–is a load in of itself, and what I wanted to cut down on. I was looking around online to see if I really need a washcloth when showering, or if I could just use my hands. After all, I don’t use a cloth when washing my hands, I just use them to clean each other.

The general consensus I found was that I would need a washcloth, although I will say I didn’t find any scholarly studies done on the subject. I also knew that the washcloths were the smallest part of the load, but if I could cut down space on the rack even by a little I figured the other towels would dry faster. In the process I stumbled across a site bringing up an idea that never occurred to me: don’t dry off with a towel. When done showering, air dry.

That’s where the alternative way of thinking comes in. I already know that I could be wasteful by the fact that I use a different bath towel every time I shower. It’s something I grew up with, and it does make some sense: I may have just cleaned myself, but probably not completely, and loaded a bunch of bacteria and stuff onto a towel which is now damp. It could become a breeding ground. But what if I just air dried? After all, I shower when I get home from work, so I have the time. I don’t want to walk around my apartment naked, but I could stand in the shower for a few minutes. In the morning before going to work, I also have been using a washcloth to wash my head and armpits, and a hand towel to cry those off. Maybe I would still need the washcloth, but that isn’t such a big area to let dry without the hand towel.

So, if I start taking showers without any cloths or towels at all, there’s one load gone that I don’t have to worry about. The other load of towels I don’t need to have, either. That’s based on other bad habits that I’m addressing, believe me. Cutting out two loads won’t just save electricity and water, but time as well. I’m getting excited by the prospect of just two loads a week. It’s an experiment right now, but one I’m really hoping that works.

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