Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to do Laundry Once a Month

What, and How Much, to Bring

Obviously we don't have 8 weeks worth of clothes.  We also weren't going to have either the time or the desire to visit a laundromat with any frequency while we were on the road.  The solution - wear the same clothes multiple days in a row.

This modern American habit of a new outfit for every day (and sometimes multiple outfits for every day if you have a preteen or teenage girl in your house) is really not a necessity from a cleanliness standpoint, unless maybe you're under three years old, or you're a particularly sweaty person.  We change daily because of the strong social conventions that make us either 1) worry about what others will think, or 2) feel uncomfortable because we're breaking a taboo.

Now that I've returned home, this practice feels wasteful from an environmental standpoint.  Since I work in an air conditioned building where my physical work is very limited, there is no practical reason to need a new outfit daily.  And yet, if I practiced the same habits in my professional life that I do when traveling I'd be a social pariah.  Don't get me wrong- cleanliness is a good thing.  I don't want us all to start having to carry nosegays and have to burn incense in church since we can't handle the stench, but we could probably stand to waste a little bit less water and electricity by increasing the number of times we wear an outfit before it lands in the dirty laundry.  We could also stand to reduce the overall amount of clothing we own.  I don't know about your family, but even though most of my kid's clothes are hand me downs they both have more than either of them need.  I'm guilty too - both my closet and dresser are over packed.  We could stand to consume less.

However, when you're traveling with your family cross country, and no one else knows you, you can break these mores without worry.  We averaged about three days for a shirt, and five to seven days for shorts.  Pants and sweatshirts could last for several weeks since they were usually only worn in the early morning and later evening.  East of the Mississippi (where humidity rules supreme) we had to change more frequently.  Underwear and socks got changed daily - we did have some standards.

Everyone also had hiking socks, a rain jacket, a baseball cap, a warm hat, a fleece, long underwear, two pairs of p.j.s , two extra pairs of long pants, two long sleeve shirts, and one nicer outfit.

For shoes everyone had tenners, hiking boots, flip flops and heavy duty sandals (Chacos or Tevas).


Everyone had a small bag for underwear, socks and jammies - since those items would be needed every day.

Warm clothes, and nicer clothes got packed together in a separate compartment since we wouldn't need to get to them very often.

All of the other clothes were rolled.  If you're not rolling your clothes when you pack them, you're wasting space.  Rolled clothes fit better in your bag, or storage compartment, and they don't wrinkle.  

Clothes were grouped by type (shirts together, shorts together) in bags and compartments.

Odds and Ends

Because of these practices we only did laundry three times from the middle of June to the end of August - twice on the road (once at a commercial campground and once at a laundromat), and once at home in between being out West and heading to the beach.

When planning your trip think about stops where it might be convenient to do laundry.  It's wise to plan to stay at a commercial campground in that time frame, or schedule extra time in an area where you know there will be a laundromat.

Carry quarters:  we took $20 worth of quarters, and still had to pull $20 more before we returned home.  You'll need quarters for laundromats, showers and sometimes tolls (not all states use the same auto toll readers for toll roads).

You may feel a little uncomfortable if you're headed out of the wilderness and into a city or other place where most of the tourists are staying in hotels.  We often chose new outfits for those days.

Let go of your hygiene squeamishness.  In all likelihood, when you show off your vacation pictures, no one will notice that you're in the same clothes multiple days in a row.  And, when you're on the road, no one will know you - so who cares?  If you have elementary or middle school boys in your group they may think this is the best plan in the world.  The Boy loved the lack of frequent showers and clean clothes - hmm... boys.

Happy Packing!

Three Different Days - Same Clothes

We don't look too bad do we?

OK - to be fair, you can only see what The Boy is wearing, but I promise that since we're in Colorado here no Park Service personnel or other visitors were harmed by being in close proximity with our unwashed, three day clothes wearing selves.  Also, I think The Girl snuck in an extra clothes change that day - she's tricky like that.

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