Tiny Salutations

Tiny Salutations

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tiny (off grid) laundry!

As things begin to settle into a new normal around here, we have turned our minds to our micro house.  We have such a strong drive to have a place to call our own.  This will happen for us at some point.  BUT, before living in your tiny house, you can, and should, live tiny wherever you are.  In our house we have made changes to live tiny even before being able to move into our micro house (which by the way has stayed totally weatherproof!)

One question that comes up for us often is "How would you do laundry in a tiny house?"

Our manual washing machine and our homemade laundry soap (in a recycled bottle)


Personally, I don't see much of an issue here to begin with.  Most of my adult life I have lived in rental houses or apartments that didn't have laundry machines.  So what did I do then?  I took my laundry to the laundromat.  In fact, our times at the Laundromat are some of my favorite memories.  My husband and I would get take out and eat it in the back of the truck, or read a book together, or just talk and end up having real meaningful conversations injected with hearty laughter, while waiting for our laundry to finish each week.  In fact, I even did a significant amount of grading there (when I was teaching biology).  So the laundromat is not a bad place.  It does take all of your quarters though, which becomes more of a money sink than you realize.  And it doesn't sound quite as fun with a three year old.  Three year olds aren't great waiters. 

Other than laudromats, you can opt for in-home laundry.  This is what most Americans are used to.  Well in an off grid tiny house, you have to think about each item that may use electricity and whether or not you want to accommodate that item.  I think this is great.  Every time anyone uses electricity, you should think about it.  When your house is hooked up to the main electric grid, you flip a switch and use electricity.  There is not generally a thought as to what has to be done to make that electricity to get to you.  When you make your own energy, you are forced to think about it each time you use electricity.  I think we ought to all think about resources this way.  Anyways, many people that want to live tiny ask about laundry, because often they want an easy answer.  The thing is that chores must get done with some kind of energy, whether it be fossil fuel based, solar, or human power.  We have solar power for the micro house, but it is precious.  I have to decide what I think is important enough to warrant using our solar power since we don't have a lot of panels.  As a side note, this is one of our issues with moving into our micro house- I have to use a BiPAP at night to breathe due to illness, which takes more energy than our solar power theoretically can handle.

So the answer to tiny laundry is that you can have a regular laundry machine (which they make small ones or combination ones) or you can do it by hand.  A lot of people think doing laundry by hand sounds like punishment, but it isn't. I have severe arthritis in my hands and even I can do it!  So our decision has been to do laundry by hand.  We have started this in our not-as-tiny rental house.  It is totally electricity free, unless you want to boil the water, in which case it would use whatever energy you use to heat water.  I generally use cool water, unless it is bed sheets (my son is allergic to dust mites) or it is really dirty (think potty training here). 

So how do we do laundry by hand?  Well I must admit, I have a few tools to help.  Namely, a manual washing machine.  You load the machine with water, homemade soap, and clothes.  Then, you spin it by turning the crank for about 3 minutes.  Three minutes! There are a few ways you can go after this step.  Personally, I like to throw all of the laundry into a tub of cool clean water and rinse them well.  Then ring them out.  Finally, I put them on the clothes rack or line to dry- I've used both. The only thing that I intend to change is the wringing part.  I wring them by hand, no tools, and that does get to my arthritis badly.  All I need is to buy a wringer (think pioneer style), but unfortunately they are a little expensive so I haven't gotten one yet (expensive to me at least).  This process doesn't take as long as a  conventional washing machine, but you do have to be present and active.  The sun drying process takes several hours, longer if it is raining outside and you have to hang your clothes indoors.  I usually try to do the laundry in the morning and then let it dry outside until evening when I collect them.  You can do laundry by hand without the machine or wringer, but I think using these tools helps to make this a long term commitment. 

This is our manual washing machine

Here it is in use- cranking the handle to spin it

This is actually a fun way to get kids involved in chores.  I think many kids would find this fun.

This is the rinsing- I used the bathtub I our rental house, but plan to use our storage box shower/bath in the micro house.

The wringing step by hand

Drying on the drying rack

Drying on the clothes line- another fun thing for kids. Layne loved running back and forth through the laundry. 


I hope I have inspired someone to go electricity-free with their laundry.  Even more than that, I hope this makes people think about every time they choose to use electricity.  Everything using electricity in your house is a choice to consume resources, so make sure those are choices you want to make.  Remember, one act can make an impact.  So if you do laundry by hand once a week, or part time, or even once a month, you are making an impact.  You don't have to do all or nothing to be part of the solution.  The important thing to do is to think about it and make conscious choices.  In my case, I chose that laundry was not important enough to warrant using electricity, but instead to use our bit of electricity for laptops and cellphones... and hopefully my BiPAP. 

Who knew I had so much to say about laundry?