La Lavandería

So, it seems most houses around here don’t have a washer and dryer, and The Little House is no exception. There aren’t places to do your own laundry either. You take your clothes to a lavandería and if you’re organized enough to get them there in the morning, they’ll be done in the evening. I think we’ve seen numerous such establishments in our limited time here, but luckily for our decision making process Raul recommended one that he used.

We (or at least I) seem to assume everything here is going to be hard because we are still learning the language, but as it turns out getting clothes washed is pretty easy. This morning Randi and Kress dropped the clothes off and without too much trouble got a number (11) and were told they would be ready this evening at 7pm. Easy as pie.

Randi and Kress headed off to play Ultimate and I stayed behind for a meeting at work and just as I started making dinner about 8pm realized that I had forgotten. Luckily, we’re in Uruguay and the Lavandería is open until all hours of the night. When I got there with our laundry bags and the ticket our clothes were in fact ready and packed into 6 bags about the size of a pillow each, to ensure that the folding they had done wasn’t lost in transport. Incidentally, their ticket book was on 25 and washers and dryers were still running so there was plenty of action after our clothes were dropped off.

Stacks of clothes

After convincing the husband and wife team that the clothes would in fact fit in the bags (I trusted this was the case since Randi and Kress had transported the clothes this morning in the same bags) they relinquished our laundry and accepted my payment.

It seemed that was the test, after which, we were best friends. The guy behind the counter started asking me a few questions. Apparently, I hadn’t mangled the previous conversation enough to convince him that I was, perhaps, not the best target for conversation. He learned a bit about where I was from, or at least I think I communicated it pretty well. Upon learning I was from the US, he complemented my Spanish. I responded that I was just learning and he said, “Obviously, but it’s much better than my English.” I beamed and ducked out on a high note.

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A taste of Lemanjá

We took a quick trip to the beach to see what Raul had told us was a must sea event. He mentioned something about candles and that it was just up the Rambla on the beach. We later found out it was a festival for people to provide offerings for the water goddess, Lemanjá. So, around 10:30 or so we set out.

As soon as we made it past the American Embassy, we could see that there were throngs of people hanging out near the beach. We walked up to the beach and it mostly seemed like aftermath of small boats washing ashore and hundreds of holes with lit candles inside. It was quite scenic and we were pretty happy with just that. Still we were disappointed that we had missed out on the festival. About the time we gave up hope, a group of people dressed in all white carrying a boat passed by us headed for the beach. As it turns out, the event isn’t over at all, groups pay tribute all night long.

The beach littered with candle divits and throngs of people

Generally, groups where about 20 people all dressed in white, some with tiki torches, some with candles and 6 or so people carrying a small boat (not because it’s heavy but because it’s a ritual). In front of the group, is someone ringing bells that sound something like sleigh bells. This group heads down the stairs to the beach and after some preparation (we were too far away to see what exactly) they lit the candles/tiki torches on the shore (sometimes there was even a candle on the boat) and waded out into the water about 500 yards to send the offerings out to sea. The wind was blowing out to sea, so the boats that had candles and sails provided an impressive display as you could see them far out into the sea.

Raul was right, this was a pretty impressive spectacle. I’m glad we decided to follow his suggestion and head out to observe.

Bag Replacement

I bought a big black duffle bag at some point in college and it’s served me quite well. It’s nice and light which makes it great for checked baggage since anything over 50 pounds tends to get quite pricey and we’re traveling for quite a while. So, anyway seemed like a good choice and I thought it would survive one more adventure. Not so.

The shoulder strap had broken back in December and I never got around to fixing it, mostly because there were four other handles by which to schlep it around and that seemed like it would be plenty. We checked it into baggage claim on the train and had our ride down. When we got in to claim our bags Randi tried to pull it off by one of the handles and it ripped straight off. At this point we noticed that the matching handle on the other side hadn’t even survived the luggage handlers on the way down. Still two handles left, that should do…

Looking urban sheik with my backpack straps deployed meandering down the street near LAX

Suffice it to say by the time we got to the hotel there were no straps remaining and I had carried quite a bit in a bear hug. It seemed like it was time to find a new one that would last the rest of the trip. Staying near the airport it seemed as though this should be the mecca of luggage sales. Thought that wasn’t the case we did find a Kohl’s a bit over two miles away and trekked over to it. Thankfully, they had a pretty good selection in the store and we were able to find quite a suitable replacement. It’s a roller duffle and though it weighs more it’s quite versatile with various handles and backpack straps.

Thankfully, we had taken the early train and there was plenty of time in the afternoon to take care of this. Randi took care of that planning and kudos to her.

A step towards Minimalism

This trip has really gotten all of us thinking about our possessions. Mostly about how we have so many of them. The separation of us from our possessions was a necessary part of our trip, but we’ve met the task with varying levels of enthusiasm. Miranda and I downsized from a three bedroom place to a one bedroom place. Along the way the reality is that there are plenty of family treasures and prized items, everything from trophies to stuffed animals to high school yearbooks, that have been sold, donated or discarded. Almost everything we decided to keep is now in storage and we’re living out of our car. (As an aside, pets take up a lot of space in a car.)

For me, the whole experience has been cathartic. It was hard identifying the cruft from items we really did need. We got more than a few cock-eyed looks as we sold and eventually junked tools that were perfectly good. When it comes down to it we don’t need 6 wrenches or pliers or screwdrivers that are all the same size. I found myself saying, on more than one occasion, “I know they’re good and I’m selling them anyway. Go ahead and take them if you really need them! Please!” I hate junking things but if no one needs them we’re wasting resources by carting them around.

I’m really enjoying having only a few possessions and, at least for the time being, not having a house. The only part I don’t like is that I don’t get to see much of the fruits of our labors because we’ve moved in with Miranda’s parents for a bit until we leave for Uruguay, so I can’t see the fruits (or lack of fruits) of our labor.

The next step in the process is probably the hardest and really the key to making the reduction worthwhile. That is not refilling our coffers with junk. Focussing on the closet for starters, there was a timely ad on patagonia.com‘s front page (related blog post). The cliff notes are: strive to reduce, repair, reuse and recycle in that order. First step, don’t buy stuff you don’t really need. Second, don’t buy stuff when you can repair the old item. Third, if you really want to get rid of it let someone else use it (eBay, donate, garage sale). Fourth and finally, recycle the old stuff and keep it out of the landfill. The take away for me is, now that I’ve downsized my wardrobe I want to make sure that I don’t grow it again for no reason. I get a lot of teasing for my attempts to perfect my wardrobe but at least any time I buy something I get rid of something else. In this way, I don’t tend to accumulate a whole lot of junk in a dresser or in a box stashed away for the one day I might want to use it (that day doesn’t tend to come anyway). I suppose, that puts me somewhere in the middle of reuse and recycle. I could do a little better there, but it’s a start.

Until next time, keep it simple.

TL;DR – Find and get rid of cruft. Don’t replace it. Rinse and Repeat with every facet of your life.