The Drudgery of Helping the Environment

Last week we had our first snowstorm, and the laundry drying on the line got nicely frozen.

Of course, it was ultimately fine. It stayed out there for another day or so until it defrosted and dried off.

But here’s the thing: I hate putting laundry on the line. I hate taking it off. I always have. No amount of people trilling about how fresh the clothes smell can change my mind.

I do it, but I do it out of environmental guilt, with a vague eye to the electricity bills. I knew the snow was coming. Yet, the laundry stayed out there.

These are the ramblings of a reluctant “home engineer”. As I tell my husband crabbily, I signed up to be a mother, not a housewife. But I do care, deeply, about our family’s effect on the environment, and regularly scan our energy use, our appliance use, our consumption of plastic, water and gasoline. I recycle and try to make those little environmentally-conscious decisions that might make a difference.

But…as I race through my daily obligations, I notice that I have an unrelenting undertow that wishes otherwise. Why? Because doing things in an eco-conscious way takes more effort.

You can argue that it’s not that much more effort. You can argue that I’m overprivileged and whiny. I won’t argue back. But I can also tell you that on a busy day, which is most days, to find the inner fortitude to take an extra 15 minutes — less if it’s sheets, more if it’s underwear and socks — to hang out the laundry is harder to come by than you might think. Especially with that hussy, the dryer, sitting right there as tempting as a bowl of cocoa-dusted truffles.

A lot of these types of decisions have these undertow-laden downsides.

Turning down the slow-to-respond radiant heat in our home means uncomfortably cold mornings.

Washing and reusing plastic bags, is a fiddly, maddening business and they are impossible to get totally dry.

Combining runs into town to save gas means lots of wasted time for someone (read: Mom) while all family members get their lives and events done.

Recycling means more consciousness while sorting, rinsing out and disposing of trash – plus the accompanying guilt when I don’t bother. I realize now what an obscene luxury it has been most of my life to just throw away everything and walk away.

I have spent plenty of time trying out ways to change my attitude because taking these relatively simple steps are the very least I can do.

I have heaped guilt upon myself by remembering that I do not have to wash our clothes outdoors and by hand.

I have tried to trip out on the joy of doing my small part to save our beautiful earth.

I have tried to take deep pride in being a woman whose elemental job it is to nurture the planet.

I have tried to radiate intense love for each beloved family member whose clothes I am folding.

I have tried to flip it all around and be grateful that I still have some freedom every day to use my education and abilities when generations of women before me could not.

The result? I still resent those shirt sleeves flapping tauntingly on the line like a bunch of stranded trapeze artists.

Did I mention I hate housework? Anything that requires me to take longer doing it, I resist.

So, generally I grit my teeth, buckle down and think subversive thoughts. But I’ve made a deal with the Universe. If I use the laundry line most of the time, then I get to use the dryer for the underwear-and-sock loads. So far, the Universe hasn’t gotten back to me. I’ll keep you posted.

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