This has actually been my #2 question asked (tied with how do we shower) regarding our mobile ministry of the last 8 months. Today I am here to answer!
Like I said, it has been stages.
FIRST it was learning to respectfully use someone else's machines and everything that meant like, "What does this nob do?" and working around other schedules. One machine seemed to actually have more buttons and knobs then a 747!!
SECOND stage was camping laundry... which we actually had some familiarity with from back when we use to camp for fun and adventure (vs. living and survival!). We did the typical; once the tent is pitched, run a clothes line for hanging towels and wet laundry left over if we ran out of quarters to dry! One blessing: the laundry facilities were there at the campground.
THIRD stage was probably the worst, most humbling, and so-grateful-for experience: living out of our car with no way to get to a laundry mat or shower. A missionary's budget at that point = just enough money for gas so even if we could find a laundry mat, we didn't have much change for washing. Praise be to God we only lived like that for a week, but my heart really ached for people who have to live like that all the time. Standards of comfort were lowered... drastically... and appreciation for the even more simple was found.
FOURTH stage was actually a step-up from car living... but not by far. After trading our van for the RV we had no car for running around in. Once we were parked in Phoenix, we didn't move (big city and, honestly, we thought we would break down if we tried... hence the miracle of our trip back north to Montana!!!) One of the blessings in Phoenix- dry heat is quiet helpful on Laundry day!
To save wear and tear on our clothes as well as our bodies (I didn't have a washboard so extra elbow-grease was needed) we would:
1. Wear the same clothes for as many days as we could before it became apparent that washing was necessary.
2. Shower with our clothes (not ON, but in the shower with us... this was especially helpful for undergarments which needed washing much more often... so grateful for the shower the Association put in at the office for us!!)
3. Except ANY hand-me-downs we were offered because it expanded our wardrobe AND the amount of time we could go before washing was imperative.
4. Keep church/dress up clothes SEPARATE. They were only worn to church and then they were taken off and set aside. Each of us had at least 2 changes of nice clothes at any given time so we could look presentable when necessary!
It sounds tiresome... it was. It seems unbelievable to those of us who have grown use to wearing something once or twice then throwing it in the wash...it was crazy at first! I had to dig DEEP DOWN into all the old depression era articles I had read... all the money savor tips I had heard. And it worked! We didn't get bugs, we weren't repulsive... we had ingenuity!
FIFTH stage stepped up again... at least a little! In the last two months of our time in Phoenix we had the ability to go to the laundry mat once a month. This came by two blessings: room in the budget for a roll of quarters each month AND a shopping cart! Others in the area were seen pushing shopping carts to run errands, so we joined in on this adventure! (I will explain next week how we came about it.... NO, we didn't take it from the store!!) It was tremendously helpful and, while we couldn't always afford to dry ALL the laundry, it was nice to not have to hand wash it all! We would still hang whatever we ran out of quarters to pop in the dryer.
LAST we are still waiting for a home but have been blessed with the use of other people's cars while we wait for God to direct us to our own. Our laundry goes in the trunk and now that my husband is also working a regular job with a regular paycheck I can go to the laundry mat more often. I still miss having my own washer but am grateful I don't have to walk it a mile to its destination or scrounge for the quarters and hang to dry (though hanging is still fun!). We still, like most people, have to watch the budget and we still have a tricky shower/laundry situation so following steps 1-4 on wear-and-tear policy is imperative! But we get so many opportunities for interaction at a laundry mat. I do enjoy it. Besides, Jesus is SO worth it!
Life on Mission as a family is not always easy. Whether the ministry is met with challenges or the day-to-day house-wifery duties need to take a creative turn... it is an adventure for the Kingdom worth doing again and again!
I pray you are truly and deeply thankful for the amenities you have and that your heart is open to sacrifices for the King that His Kingdom might come through you and radical steps taken to follow Him wherever it leads!
Last week I shared about the #1 asked question of mobile ministry: "How do you cook?" You can read my answer in the article, My Traveling Kitchen.
Also linking up with some of these