Simple Living vs. Intentional Living


This post has been lingering in draft mode, but I feel compelled to share it today because I just read Kate Goonight's post on Naj Haus called Doing Justice to Complexity. It resonated with me because she writes about how complexity and intention help us understand ourselves better. Thank you Kate for articulating so beautifully why we do difficult things that help us examine our intentions and get better at figuring ourselves out!

Someone dear to me recently pointed out that my so-called simple lifestyle isn’t always convenient – or even simple, for that matter. And he has a good point. In my attempt to simplify there are many things I’ve added into my life. Several of them actually make my daily life more complex.

For instance, I because I do not have access to laundry facilities where I live I make a trip to the Belmont Eco Laundry every week or so. This entails the following actions:

1)   Filling either my 35 or 50 liter backpack with laundry (depending on whether or not I’m washing bedding)

2)   Biking 15 minutes to the Laundromat (or bussing on rainy days)

3)   Running a load of laundry through the washer and dryer

4)   Loading my backpack back up

5)   Biking or bussing home

6)   Putting my clothes away

The trip takes me about an hour and 15 minutes. On rainy days it takes an hour and a half unless I time the bus really well. During this time I cannot make myself a lunch or tidy up my Home Sweet Yurt. However, there is free wifi at the Belmont Eco Laundry so I often catch up on emails, do research, or prep a blog post. (I’d also like to point out that the only steps unique to my laundry set up are steps 2 and 5 when I’m transporting myself and my laundry to and from a washing machine and dryer, though since I'm not home my multi-tasking ability is limited.)

There are weeks that I cram too much into my days and do not allocate an hour and a half for my laundry so I get behind on it. And although I haven’t quite pared down to a minimalist wardrobe, I do not own enough clothing to go very long without doing my laundry. Getting behind makes life more complex because it’s harder to transport two loads of laundry by bike or bus.

Would it be simpler to just do laundry in the comfort of my own home? Absolutely!

So maybe it’s a misnomer to call this simple living. Perhaps it would be better to call it intentional living or mindful living. I have become more mindful of my living space and more intentional about my daily activities because of living in a tiny house. When I fetch water or fill up propane tanks I’m more conscientious about my resource consumption. If I ever catch myself feeling sorry for myself when doing my chores I remember that people the world over work much harder than me to do their laundry, acquire their water, and heat their homes. I find that living the way I do puts the inconvenience into perspective. It helps me remember that unlimited hot running water, in-home laundry facilities, and central heat are luxuries available to only a small fraction of the people on the planet.

I’m not saying that those of us who have access need to deprive ourselves of conveniences. After all, many appliances and technologies were originally designed to simplify life. But I do think we should be mindful of how we use these tools since many of them have also added complication and waste. We can be more creative about using resources efficiently and sharing more of them. When I had my very own washing machine in my 2-bedroom bungalow I could do laundry without going out in the rain or getting out of my jammies. But my fancy frontloading Energy Star washing machine only ran 2-3 hours a week. The rest of the time it sat there, waiting for me. It was convenient. But it certainly wasn’t efficient.

Now I share a washing machine with hundreds of other people. We’re participating in the sharing economy by using the Laundromat. We aren’t responsible for owning the machines, but we make good use of them. The owner of the facility presumably makes a decent living by providing this service to us.

I Love My Laundromat, but I’ll admit that it would be really nice to have laundry facilities even closer to home. This is one of the reasons I like the idea of living in a Tiny House Community (especially Tiny Cohousing). I love the idea of sharing a washer and dryer, a full-sized oven, and a hot tub with other like-minded people. I like the notion of continuing to be mindful of living space, resource consumption, and daily activities while also participating in community and having access to technologies that make life simple and convenient.

There are people all across America trying to get tiny house communities started. Are you part of one of these efforts? If so, what tools and facilities you plan to share amongst the members?

I Love My Laundromat

When I was five years old we lived in a triplex on Fremont Avenue in Seattle and went to the Laundromat on the corner every week. It was one of my very favorite places. It had a warm, clean smell and squeaky yellow linoleum floors. My sister and I loved taking turns pushing each other around in the wheeled laundry baskets, playing tag, and climbing inside the dryers and the extractor. In retrospect, I’m amazed we didn’t get kicked out of the place!

So even if I wasn’t a Whedonite and a fan of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, I’d still have a soft spot for Laundromats. Laundry facilities were available at each of the three other places I’ve lived since moving to Portland, but not at my new digs. So I was secretly delighted when I realized I’d have to find a Laundromat in my new neighborhood. And find one, I did. I think I might have found the coolest Laundromat in the world!

Now once a week I head to the Belmont Eco Laundry with a backpack full of laundry to wash. I alternate between biking and bussing depending on the weather. The Laundromat is an especially nice place to be on a rainy day. I've just gotten a Smart Klean laundry ball at the suggestion of my friend Karin, another tiny houser. So far I'm liking it quite a bit, even though it's one more thing (since it's not disposable it counts as a thing in my Thing Challenge). It's nice to not have to think about buying detergent anymore!

Unless I'm doing sheets and blankets I'm able to fit everything into one of the 18-gallon washing machines, which are the smallest they have. I pay $2.25 for the quick wash on my credit card (no need to bother with all those quarters!) and settle down to do use the free wifi while waiting the 16 minutes for the magical washing machine to finish up. The machine sends me a text message when it is time to switch my laundry to the dryer. I grab one of the wheeled baskets (so tempting to crawl inside and scoot around the Laundromat, pushing myself off the washing machines, but I resist!)

I've been impressed by how my clothes are already nearly dry because of the rapid spin cycle of the industrial washing machines. I've discovered it usually takes only 2 quarters (14 minutes) to dry my clothes. If I'm only doing one load clothes I can get things washed and dried in just half an hour! I don’t have to deal with quarters and I even got to check my email. The only thing that would make this place truly perfect would be if they happened to have a coffee shop next door, but I'm still pretty pleased! I’ll do my best to refrain from turning laundry day into a musical…