I do my own laundry at home. So I expected to do my laundry here in Brazil. I’ll admit I was tempted to “go missionary” and see if we could hire some help. As we’ve settled here, I’ve been doing some of my laundry with Darla handling the lion share of it all. The kids have been great at helping.

Laundry is different here. The painstaking nature of clothespins and drying lines – washing sheets every other day. Do you know how much time it takes to sort a small load and hang it on a line? Socks are the worst! They are so small. Fortunately we wear flip-flops everyday but on rare occasion.

I wonder, shouldn’t I be doing something more valuable with my time? Something more grand? Leading someone, changing something, making a moment? Weren’t dryers invented for a reason?

I recently finished Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs. In one section, Jobs describes his favorite technology purchase as a German engineered washer and dryer. He talks about weeks of family discussion about the trade-offs in different brands, features, designs, etc. In the end, the German washer and dryer were selected because of several features. They used less water, clothes lasted longer and they came out softer. There was a trade-off however. Each load took about 30-40 minutes longer.

I wonder about the trade-offs I’ve made with a set of jumbo Whirlpool and LG appliances in my garage. I even asked the kids if we should install laundry-drying lines at out house. They were all for it!

With a dryer we use more energy (gas & electricity) but it saves time (my own energy). With a line, it takes a lot of my time and energy to sort, hang, clothespin but saves energy. With a dryer my clothes come out softer. With a line they last a lot longer and smell amazing! With a dryer it is so easy. With a line, I tend to wash my clothes less, appreciate what is still clean and what is actually dirty.

With a dryer laundry is quick. Set it and forget it! With a line, it is slow. I wonder about the trade-off. Maybe the relaxed, familial, friendly Brazilian way is in part created by a life that is slowed down. Slowed down by laundry. In pace with clothespins and laundry lines. Set in a way that provides rhythm to the madness that normally surrounds us.

I don’t know, maybe the kids are on to something. If you show up to my house and see laundry lines in the backyard, don’t be too surprised. It might be less about the energy and more about the power that comes in slowing down.


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