Dec 3, 2007

Shoveling a Path to the Clothesline

We're taking a big step here. We're trying not to use our clothes dryer.

We're hanging clothes either on the beautiful clothesline that John and my father in law installed right after Thanksgiving, or on a drying rack in basement. I ordered an extra large wooden drying rack that should be in any day, and I just got some eucalyptus lavender fabric softener. Three sets of solid one-piece wooden clothespins are also on their way, along with a clothespin bag. It's a strange time of year to inaugurate an outdoor clothesline, but we really must give Mervin, my father in law, a job when he comes so he doesn't hog my computer playing solitaire. Also, when I saw the clothesline with cedar posts advertised by the Verm*nt Cl*thesline C*mpany, I simply had to have it. Mervin copied the design from their picture on the web, and bought the cedar locally.

So we're a tiny bit more green. I read that a family will save 100 dollars a year not using the dryer, and a blogger somewhere says she saves 60 dollars a month. I guess it depends on your electricity costs, the size of your family and how you define dirty clothes. Some people apparently just wash everything after one wearing, and even wash bath towels after one day! These are not people who line-dry. When you have to actually hang everything up clothespin by clothespin or hanger by hanger or rack by rack, you begin to set more reasonable standards. My boys just throw everything in the hamper because it's easier, and then I cull. (Of course, a little retraining is in order too.)

Hanging laundry outside, when it isn't too cold, is pleasant, even meditative. Our back yard is very private, which helps. I'm not sure how people around here feel about seeing laundry, not that I care. I do hide certain garments behind big towels, and wonder what that says about me. I guess I do care. Oh, speaking of towels, they end up scratchy, but you can fluff them up in the dryer for 5 minutes if you must. My tactic is to use fabric softener, snap the towels before hanging, and then see if anyone complains about them being scratchy. No complaints yet . . . .

Here is something the poet and memoirist Kathleen Norris wrote about hanging laundry. She lives in North Dakota, where the winters are long and severe. I love this image.

During the unspeakably brutal winter of 1996-1997, with nearly thirty inches of snow on the ground by Thanksgiving, I had had enough by the time the spring blizzards came--another three feet of snow and high winds on the eighth of April--that I set out one morning, ablaze with the warmth of an angry determination, to shovel a path to the clothesline in order to hang something colorful there. As I began to handle the wet clothes, my hands quickly reddened, stung with cold, but it seemed worth doing nonetheless, simply to break the hold of winter on my spirit--and to disrupt the monotony of the white moonscape that our backyard had become. And even though the clothes freeze-dried stiffly and had to be thawed in the house, they had the sky-scent of summer on them. And it helped.

Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women's Work, p.34


Domestic Goddess said...

You are much braver than I.

I do a load or two every day. At any one time I have 3-4 loads to fold and put away. In a way we have WAY TOO MANY CLOTHES but it is a bit necessary. If the boys had less clothing I'd be doing more laundry, I'm telling you. There is still too much peeing and soiling going on around here. Bugaboo was in three different outfits yesterday, two were wet through and another had a milkshake dumped down the front of it. Sigh.

I look forward to the day when we can do more hanging. Right now, all the clotheslines in the world wouldn't be enough. I do hang many things (bras, jeans, sweaters, things that should probably be dry cleaned) on the lines in the basement that reside next to the heater (which dries them mighty quickly, I must say!).

O said...

I think people around here look at laundry on the line and think, Gosh, good for them. At least I do. That is hard-core to me, but I grew up in a house with a severe pollen allergy (thankfully not mine) so all outdoor clothes were shed quickly upon entering anyway and line drying was not possible. So now I'm not used to it, except in the mountains. And in our yard here, we have almost no sun.
Hooray for you, though! Keep an eye on the electric bills and tell us what you see!

jo(e) said...

Clothes last longer, too, if you don't put them in a dryer.

I love the Kathleen Norris quote. She's one of my favorite writers.

John said...

I'm not too crazy about the stiff socks and underwear, but the smell of the undershirts makes it all worthwhile.

Lilian said...

YAY! Welcome to "the club." I hide some clothes too ;)

I'm sorry to admit that having enjoyed doing it from Sept-Nov now I haven't been brave enough.

Luckily I only do up to three loads per week, so it's not that bad, right? (I only do dark colors separately and I mix all the rest, once in a while I'll save enough "good" clothes for a gentle cycle and have an extra load). This house also has a clothesline in the basement, but it's in the oil/furnace room and I don't like the oil smell -- not that it gets to the clothes. I should use, though. Vacuum the whole (unfinished) room and do it.

Lovely quote. And, like John said, the smell makes it all worth it!

P.S. My husband was telling me today, though, that there are people who live in places with laws or something (I know rental places and some communities have them) against clotheslines are fighting to be allowed to air dry their clothes!

Patsy Terrell said...

I LOVE the rough feel of towels dried outside. I put up a clothesline as soon as I bought my house - I love the fact that the dryer isn't making my shirts too short, the sheets have that lovely sunshine smell, and towels are thristy! I never thought about it as a green decision - that will make me want to do it even more.