By Beth Buck
Sometime around February or March 2016, our clothes dryer broke. Due to our circumstances at the time, we were unable to go out and purchase a new one. We live in an area full of poor college students and young families, so finding a used dryer proved just as difficult. What with one thing and another, we were compelled to carry on without a clothes dryer until that December.
Several people of my acquaintance expressed shock that we could even live without a dryer. How can one survive in the modern world without this appliance? And with a bunch of kids, too! Well, we managed. I had a drying rack on hand and I dried our laundry in the backyard in the sun during the summer months, and in the basement with a fan blowing on them when the weather turned cold. It wasn’t the best system; since we only had one drying rack, I could only complete one load of laundry per day. If I skipped days, laundry piled up quickly. I don’t look back on those months with annoyance or sadness, though, because I learned a lot from the experience. Such as:
1) A broken dryer is a first-world problem. Listing this is kind of cheating because I already knew that before I started. We take clothes dryers for granted in America because we no longer have a culture of clotheslines (if there is such a thing). Many people around the world don’t have access to a clothes dryer, and yet somehow they muddle through. During my college semester abroad to North Africa, the apartment I rented lacked a dryer and I did just fine. Granted, I was not doing the laundry of six human beings at that time, but the principle was the same. Almost everyone in that city hung their laundry on clothes lines that hung over their balconies.
2) Efficiency and consistency are virtues. As I mentioned previously, I had to be very consistent with doing my laundry or I’d wind up with a mountain of laundry. The drying rack had limited space, so I needed to learn the most efficient way to lay out a whole load at once. This led me to appreciate efficiency with my laundry routine when it once again involved a clothes dryer.
3) You really can get used to anything. When some people looked at us with open mouths when I mentioned that we didn’t have a dryer, I found myself quickly explaining that it wasn’t a big deal. And it wasn’t. After a couple of weeks, the extra work of putting clothes on the drying rack became second nature.
4) Plan ahead. I could not afford to waste a laundry day, so I tried to make sure I always had laundry drying on my drying rack. This was not always convenient, but it taught me the importance of organizing my day. Time management has often been a personal weakness, and this experienced helped me to work towards overcoming it.
5) Confidence. Even though living without a dryer was not a difficult thing for me, I felt tough and resilient for doing something that other people thought was unbearable. I know that if future circumstances dictated that I had to live without a clothes dryer again, I will be able to cope with minimal disruption in my daily life.
6) There is much to appreciate about modern conveniences. When we finally did get a new dryer, I thought I’d struck it rich! Not only was I able to do more than one load of laundry per day, but I also found myself with loads of extra time since I didn’t have to fuss over that dumb drying rack any more. Towards the end, the rack kept breaking and it started to lean precariously to one side. We did not share a tearful goodbye. I also started looking at all my other large appliances in a different way. What would happen if our dishwasher broke? Or our fridge? How would we manage without them? I make more of an effort not to take these modern conveniences for granted.
It’s always interesting, the things we find we can live without when we don’t have them anymore. If we lost another one of our large appliances, I’m sure we’d be able to cope. It wouldn’t be a huge disaster. But I really hope we won’t have to live without a dryer again!
Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.