Don’t Press Me!: The Debate About Ironing, Continued

by Cate

Since the last time I posted about ironing, a few people have asked me for advice about how to iron their clothes using a 19th-century sadiron. I couldn’t tell if they were being sarcastic or not, but in case anyone is interested and doesn’t mind getting a few second-degree burns, here is a step-by-step guide. The whole process is actually easier than you think! (Though I’m assuming here that you think it is really, really, really hard.)

  1. Before you start heating up your sadiron, make sure it is clean and sanded. You’ll know it wasn’t clean enough if it catches on fire.
  1. Heat your sadiron on a bed of hot coals. Put out fires as necessary. D.J. insists that I put out fires “the Slow Laundry way,” which he says means dumping a bucket of sand on it. (I end up getting a lot of the sand on the floor, which is why ironing sort of reminds me of a day at the beach. A horrible, horrible day at the beach.)
  1. If your sadiron has a metal handle, you’ll need to use an oven mitt to pick it up. If your skin starts to blister, then you should consider using two oven mitts.
  1. The sadiron will need to be hot enough to get wrinkles out, but not so hot that it burns your clothes. You’ll get the hang of it eventually, and you will also burn a lot of clothes. On the plus side, this means there will be fewer clothes to iron.
  1. After a minute or two, your sadiron will cool off, so you have to put it back on the coals and wait for it to heat up. This is a good time to sweep up all of the clothes-ashes and sand you’ve spilled. I’ve found that a good way to make sweeping more fun is to have a glass of wine while you sweep.
  1. At this point, it is normal to start fantasizing about packing a suitcase of wrinkle-free clothes and moving to a new city, adopting a new name, and starting a new life away from the oppressive burdens of ironing.
  1. Oh no, while you were daydreaming your kitchen caught on fire! Don’t panic—this happens all the time. My kitchen is actually on fire as I type this! Ha ha. No, really–but it’s a pretty small fire.


    For Christmas I am hoping to get an iron with a wooden handle.

Noah, I want you to build an ark. (Part 3)

Part 1Part 2

By D.J.

So, it turns out that the well I dug in our backyard was actually drawing water from a water main that runs under our house. (More specifically, I broke through the water main.)

There is good news here and bad news.

The good news is that I totally succeeded in digging a functioning, productive well.

The good news is also that my next-door neighbor Noah had expressed a lot of skepticism that I’d be able to dig a well, and his house is downhill from ours. So when my well started to overflow into my yard, most of the water drained into his house! It sure was poetic justice seeing the guy who two days earlier had said “D.J., you CANNOT dig a well in your yard” frantically trying to bail well water out of his basement. I dunno, Noah, I guess I CAN dig a well in my yard, can’t I?

Indoor pool

I assume this is what Noah’s basement looks like now.

The bad news is that Cate and I have to pay a gigantic fine to the DC government for digging without a permit. That means we’ve had to cancel the trip to Hawaii we’d been planning, so Cate is annoyed at me. But the way I see it, it’s basically like we already got to take a trip, but to the past, where people dug wells by hand and drew their water straight from the earth. So, you’re welcome for getting to take a vacation to the past, Cate.

Hawaiian sunset

This is the kind of lame vacation I saved us from.

The Armoire

By D.J.

I really believe in the power of laundry to build community and bring people together. That’s why it’s so frustrating that our next door neighbor, Noah, seems to react to our slow laundering in such a hostile and defensive way.

Here’s the deal – Cate and I like to make our own soap. If you’re reading this blog you probably know that store-bought soap is a horribly chemical and artificial substance. I just looked at a soap label in the medicine cabinet at a house party a couple weeks ago, and it was terrifying. I say, if you don’t know what the thing on the ingredient label is, you shouldn’t be putting it on your body. What is “sodium chloride”? What is “water/eau”? I’ll stick with just water, thanks. So we make our own soap.

And this simple act of defiance against the giant multinational consumer products companies drives Noah crazy.

To give just one example, part of the soapmaking process is using wood ashes to make lye. Cate and I are pretty DIY, so instead of, I dunno, going to Wal-Mart and buying a few bags of ashes, we make our own by burning wood in our backyard. When we can, we use old pallets we find behind Safeway. But we also sometimes drive to the Ikea up in College Park and buy a couple bookcases to burn. It sounds expensive, but honestly, it’s worth it to have the feeling of satisfaction and wholeness you get when you use soap you made yourself.

Just another day making soap.

Just another day making soap.

So anyhow: last week, I was burning an old armoire that I’d found on the curb. I’m in the backyard, tending the fire to make sure I don’t set the fence on fire again, and Noah comes stomping out his back door, yelling and screaming. He said it was his armoire, that he’d just inherited it and the moving guys had just dropped it off, it had a couple albums of old family photos in it, why did I steal it and burn it, etc etc.

Frankly, I'm worried all that lacquer made for sub-par ashes.

Frankly, I’m worried all that lacquer made for sub-par ashes.

I said: first, Noah, back off.

Second, property inheritance is part of why there’s so much inequality in our society, so I don’t totally agree that it was “yours.”

Third, this batch of ashes is probably going to be ruined because of the chemicals in those photos, so I just wasted a whole Tuesday morning, thanks to you.

Fourth, because I’m big enough to overlook that fact, I’m happy to share some of the ashes with you, because they’ll still probably be good for gritting the sidewalk after it snows or something.

I still feel angry about it, but also sad. Because people like him are so wrapped up in acquiring things (like that armoire) that they don’t see that what really matters is relationships (like what I think of him). If only he cared a little more about what I thought of him and a little less about things, then he probably would have not been so selfish about the whole thing. Oh well.


by D.J. 

I think Slow Laundry is all about awareness. To really understand and appreciate your laundry, you have to be fully aware of it – you have to be present in the moment, with all your senses attuned to the various stains and smears.

That’s why I’m really frustrated that lately, Cate has started drinking wine while she washes our clothes.

It started off as just a “nightcap” when she started the nightly 10 pm wash. I usually go to bed and just let Kate handle this wash, because I like to get a good night’s sleep, so at first I didn’t mind.

We could use a little more of this in our house.

We could use a little more of this in our house.

But then she also started having a glass of wine during our 6 pm wash, which is the only wash we get to share together as a couple. So now she’s drinking during almost half of each day’s shared laundry sessions.

I’m not sure why she’s doing this. So far I haven’t asked her about it, other than raising my eyebrows and/or rolling my eyes and letting out a little “hmph” every time she takes a sip. But it’s getting to the point where I feel like I’m the only one truly doing laundry in our house.

I’d appreciate any advice on how I can help her understand that by dulling her senses, she’s missing out on a lot of the joy of doing laundry.

Well, well, well. (Part 2)

Part 1

By D.J.

Success! I’ve proven the haters wrong (Cate, our neighbor Noah, etc.) who thought I shouldn’t try to dig a well in our backyard.

When I was 8 feet down into the hole I’ve been digging, my pickaxe broke through some sort of long, cylindrical tan rock into an aquifer. Water started gushing out immediately – I barely had time to climb back up before the entire well filled up!

When I was originally planning this well, I thought I would need to build a bucket-lowering contraption. I was looking forward to this because I’m a pretty DIY guy and I probably have a natural aptitude for carpentry. But as it turns out, my well is so bountiful that the water actually overflows into our yard. So there’s no need to lower a bucket – I can just scoop water out of our yard, which is also filling up with water.DC water logo

And it’s lucky my well is so bountiful, because coincidentally the water pressure in our house has suddenly dropped to a trickle. Good thing I no longer need to count on the DC Water and Sewer Authority for my water!

Laundry Swap!. (Part 3)

Part 1, Part 2

By D.J.

This will be my last post about Laundry Swap!.

The dream of Laundry Swap! was simple and beautiful: use the postal system as a magical highway for boxes of dirty clothes, building a global community through mutual exchanges of laundry. Strangers would get to see what kind of clothes I wear and how I’d gotten them dirty, and I’d get to do the same. By washing someone else’s laundry, it would almost be as if I’d traveled to their homeland and worn their socks for a day (but better, because I don’t actually have to travel anywhere and instead get to stay at home doing laundry).

But Cate has insisted that we stop participating in Laundry Swap!. Here’s what happened.

Our first Laundry Swap! partner failed to wash our son’s cloth diapers often enough (daily), so we requested a new partner. Fair enough (on our part).

Our second partner was a little unusual. The first box of laundry she sent us was just white bedding and towels – no clothing. Then the next day, we got another box of just white bedding and towels…before we’d even sent back the first box!

Every day another big box of white sheets, pillowcases, and towels arrived. I can’t even imagine how many bedrooms and bathrooms this woman has! All the towels were monogrammed with her name (Garden Hilton), and I wonder if she isn’t a member of the Hilton family.

White sheets

Our backyard pretty much looks like this all the time.

I thought it was really exciting to be doing a celebrity’s laundry, but after two weeks Cate demanded that we drop out of Laundry Swap!. She said she was spending 18 hours a day doing laundry and was sick of it.

Honestly, I can’t even believe she’s complaining. I have to be at work all day earning a paycheck and would much rather be at home hand-washing sheets and towels. In fact, I wish there were some way I could just spend all day washing linens, every day, forever, like I was getting to live inside Downton Abbey (but downstairs).