Lessons from the Washing Machine

file000292787551Our washing machine recently broke, so I have been learning some things in the time we went without. I am not trying to be overly dramatic here, so keep your #firstworldproblems to yourself.

I was going to name this post “What I Learned From Going Without a Washing Machine,” but that makes it sound like I actually had to go without one for a long time. The time we went without was less than two weeks. Keep in mind, in the words of my high school English teacher, I have always been a little flippant.*

While there is obviously a laundromat in my town, we did not use it. There wasn’t anything stopping us from washing clothes, we just knew we could survive the time between our washing machine breaking and the arrival of the new washing machine. Clearly this whole experience taught us we would be great candidates to win Survivor.**

Now I went to college, so I am used to community washing machine rooms and occasionally not washing things when life gets busy. So obviously I knew it would be no problem for me to go without for a little while. Still, the experience did make me recognize a few things.

1. It’s important to have friends who will tell you like it is.

I sat down on the couch and my cat starting the sniffing motion. Clearly I know cats cannot talk, so I knew she would not answer when I said, “Alle, do I smell? Why are you sniffing?” When you have not washed clothes in a while, it’s important to have people in your life who are willing to tell you the truth if you smell.

My roommate in college was great at calling me out on my ridiculousness. I would have a breakdown or text her about something about which I was freaking out, and she would always tell me, “Stop, Annie. You are being ridiculous.” We need these people in our lives. They help us from going outside wearing mismatched outfits, and they also should let us know Mismatch Wednesday is a bad idea. They are the ones who will be real with us if we have something in our teeth. It is obvious that certain people who try out for American Idol do not have these people in their lives.

Ideally just having these friends in our life helps us rest easy.

2. Tim Gunn was right when he said, “Make it work.”

I used to be an avid watcher of Project Runway, and my favorite moments were always anything to do with Tim Gunn. He is pretty well-known for telling the designers to “make it work.”

In a conference call promoting Project Runway Season 8, Tim Gunn shares the “Make it Work” Origin story, while teaching a fashion design class at Parsons The New School for Design:

This was the senior year class and the course I was teaching was Concept Development, and it works in tandem with a course in which the students actually execute their collection. I had a student who— It was March; she was going to throw the entire collection away, literally and metaphorically, and start a new one. I said, “We are presenting these collections in four weeks. You’re looking at five months of work, and you’re saying you’re going to get rid of it and start all over again?” I said, “You’re not.”

I said, “You’re going to look at the situation at hand, offer up a diagnosis for what’s wrong, a prescription, and then a prescription for how to make it work. You’ve got to make this work. You’re not going to start all over again. Period.” This was many years ago this happened, I find that with student that they then end up having this incredible resource within themselves for how to problem solve as they move forward as opposed to just starting all over again. And okay it works, but do you know why? So it’s a very useful lesson.

I thought it would be no problem not to wash clothes for a little while, but in an effort to simplify my life, I really only wear a couple pairs of jeans. Sometimes you just need to make it work. Maybe this means I wore really weird outfits at home (one of the advantages of working from home most days) to save my jeans for times I would actually be in public. I’ve learned the woman who works in the Post Office will give me some grace when I come in looking like I have been riding the struggle bus all morning.

You need to embrace creativity. Making it work helps realize that when we can’t change the picture, we might be able to change the frame.

3. Know the difference between convenience and necessity.

Point three was originally going to be about how often we forget how blessed we are. While that’s true, I feel like even I’ve said it so much it’s become cliche. Not that this point is new and never before been said, but it’s whatever, guys.

In 2010, there was a study from Pew Research on how necessary different household devices are to our lives and whether or not respondents consider them to be luxuries. They were to answer the question: “Do you pretty much think of this [item] as a necessity or pretty much think of it as a luxury you could do without?” This is the graphic displaying the results:

762-1So, yes, I notice that washing machine is not on the list. I also air dry most of my clothes, so in my opinion, a washing machine is more useful than a dryer. I can see how living in the part of the country where I live, a car would be considered a necessity. Perhaps the number for the landline phone would decrease now that pretty much everyone and his or her mom has a cell phone. Many people I know have phased out their landlines. Also, fun fact: I know several people who do not have microwaves. There is a difference between luxury and necessity.

We can go without more than we think we can. There is a difference between convenience/luxury and necessity. We really can survive more than we think. If we have the basic food and water combo, we are really set. Everything else is kinda like icing on the cake (which, by the way, both icing and cake are luxuries). And, yes, we have so much for which to be grateful.

*Dear English Teacher, thank you for expanding my vocabulary, but no thank you for giving me a C on that assignment.

**Except Survivor requires that you have the ability to swim. This is an ability I do not possess. This is unfortunate because there are so many other things about me that screams I would be a great Survivor.

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