July 25, 2011

Stone-Washed Jeans (Day 3 - July 25, 2011)

That Poverty Guy's basin
and "Laundry Stone".
What a gong show!  I consider myself a man of the world and, with a couple of university degrees to my credit, reasonably educated.  However, despite all of that, it took me well over an hour to hand wash a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a pair of socks, and one pair of undies.  Let me tell ya . . . it's harder than you would think!

First, I had to figure out how I was going to get the deed done.  I had no detergent or soap at my disposal, and, of course, no laundry machine.  While I recalled watching women in both Africa and Central America taking their laundry down to the river and beating the wet clothes over rocks, the thought of starting an environmental disaster by washing my undies in the nearby creek quickly vanquished that idea.  Ultimately, I decided I needed to find a basin for water and a large rock upon which I could scrub my clothes.

After scavenging for the necessary materials, which included "borrowing" a rock from my wife's flower garden (. . . sorry, honey), and filling the basin I found with the cold water at my disposal, I finally got down to what I thought would be a relatively simple task.  Wrong, wrong . . . very wrong.  
  • Complication #1 - It is very difficult to fit a pair of jeans into a wash basin and still have water left over for anything else.  Thus, multiple trips to refill water.
  • Complication #2 - After only a few seconds of having my hands in the cold water, I developed what I can best describe as "brain freeze" in my fingers.  I am humbled by memories of seeing women in the highlands of Guatemala breaking ice covering water in troughs in order to wash clothes . . . they didn't even blink while I was almost delusional with hand pain.
  • Complication #3 - I had no idea what I was doing!  Do you rub the clothes on the rock hard or gentle?  If you rub the clothes too hard on the rock will they get holes?  Why in the world am I rubbing my clothes on this rock???
Eventually, I established a system - get all the clothes wet; rub them on the rock (supposedly to loosen dirt); rinse them in fresh water; and finally wring them out before hanging them in the sun to dry (sunshine kills bacteria in absence of soap . . . I think?).  HOWEVER . . . have you ever had the pleasure of wringing water from a soaking pair of jeans?  Unless you have the forearms of Popeye, this is a tremendously strenuous and cumbersome task.  The primary thought in my head as I wrestled with my wet jeans was, "Boy, Grandma must have been one tough cookie!"

At one point in the wringing fiasco, it occurred to me that a washing machine spins very fast in order to draw the water from the clothing.  Accordingly, if you drove past me at approximately 10:30 this morning you would have been treated to the sight of a grown man spinning in circles with a pair of wet jeans looking like a helicopter trying to take off.  Well, I didn't take off, nor did the jeans lose any water in the "spin cycle" and so I was back to wringing them out.  In due course, all the clothing was hanging to dry in the sunshine . . . and I am pleased to report that my clothes are now daisy fresh.  I'm so proud!

Before closing, I should share two of my "poverty learnings" today (other than how to wash clothes):

1.   Living without much stuff changes your priorities.  Whereas normally my work would trump laundry in a second, the need for sunlight to dry the clothes meant I had shelf my work in order to get the laundry done in the morning . . . and get it done today since it is forecast to rain tomorrow.  I was really glad that I didn't have to walk for miles to get to water like many in the world do, otherwise laundry would have been a full day affair and I would have gotten absolutely no other work done.

2.  It is difficult to be very productive when you do not have the proper tools with which to work.  Chores that should take minutes can take an hour . . . work that should be easy can become very hard.  One can work twice as hard as someone who has the proper tools, and yet get only half as much done.

Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.


  1. Sean - it sounds like you are getting used to homelessness. I mentioned to you on Sunday about my plans to hike 5 months with only the 12 pounds or so I can carry on my back. I am truly wanting to change my priorities about possessions. Life could be so much simpler, and I believe simplicity can be learnes. Blessings to you - Virginia

  2. It was great talking to you on Sunday, Virginia. I applaud your plans to live simply. I'm starting to get used to my lifestyle, but there are lots of ups and downs. You'll probably encounter that on your journey, too. Blessings to you!

  3. Thanks for your blog. I found your experience here to be hilarious! I couldn't stop giggling :D Did you really try to emulate a spin cycle. *snort*

  4. Yes . . . (big sigh) . . . I did. As I think back on it, I find it pretty hilarious, too. I wonder if anybody was watching me do it?