I wash my clothes by hand – all of them. Detergent sensitivities prevent me from using my landlord’s washer and dryer, or public facilities.

Pain in the ass.
Until recently.

I bought a small, hand-cranked washing machine with a pressurized lid. It cleans like a front-load washer. I can fit my entire sheet set inside, including the pillow case. (Yeah, it’s a twin bed, but still!)

My biceps complained, initially, but then I got used to it. On cold mornings it’s a great warm-up. I use less detergent, and my clothes are softer and cleaner. And about a month after I stopped forcing myself to use others’ stinky machines, my lungs breathed a huge sigh of relief. Now they’re much more inclined to inhale deeply.

Tidying guru Marie Kondo believes you should only keep things that bring you happiness and contentment. She recommends divesting yourself of anything that doesn’t spark joy.

Now that I hand wash my clothes, I’ve noticed a certain reluctance to clean certain things. Because I am using my physical energy, as opposed to money (which I earn with my physical energy, but is now a step distant), I am reluctant to wash the t-shirt a not-a-friend-it-turned-out gave me. Or the mawkish Thanksgiving apron. Or the much loved, bought-brand-new-when-I-was-homeless hoodie that is showing wear and tear.

With big electric washers and dryers, it’s easy to throw in a bunch of clothes without thinking too much about them. White? in you go. Blue and purple? next load.

Washing my own clothes with my own brawn (and brains! figuring out the best cloth-to-water ratio has proved not as easy as advertised) is actually quite satisfying.

Today, inspired by Ms. Kondo, I sang a song of gratitude while I washed: the black v-neck I wore to star in a play; the shirt bought at Whole Foods when I was living in my car; the patterned leggings that kept me warm this winter; the soft black dress that reminds me of the one left behind; the chocolate brown tunic from France; and the underwear that literally covers my ass.

Just as every person has a story (or a million), every piece of clothing has a story, and as I washed, I remembered their stories (or the parts I know), and how each one came to me exactly when I needed it.

They are dripping dry over the tub right now, my riotous clothes, my protective gear, my personable apparel. Cleansed of sweat, sand, salt, dirt, and tears.
Domo arigato.


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