Old (to me) Old Fashioned Adventure #1: Line Drying Clothes

I’ve been saving this adventure up for a rainy day, folks.

It’s true, and there’s actually a really simple reason: every time there’s a sunny day, I spend all my free time out at the clothesline — and this summer in drought-plagued Michigan, we’ve had a lot of sunny days.

(Sultry summer sun, meet my never-ending mounds of laundry!)

It’s finally rainy (or, rather, damp — but I’ll take it!) now, though, so here goes. . . .

I love, love, LOVE line drying clothes.

When I was a teenager, hanging the wash out to dry was one of two chores (the other was practicing piano) that I used as an excuse to get away from all my other — ahem — more unpleasant chores.

(Yes, my chore list as a teenager did occasionally include shampooing the carpets in the family cars. Yes, I am a better woman for it. No, I do not now shampoo the carpets in my own cars.)

Hanging clothes on the line is, for me, one of life’s simple pleasures. The warmth of the sun, the cool damp of the soft clothes as the wind whips them against me. . . . I can’t believe some people consider this work.

There are, of course, many practical reasons for an old fashioned girl like me to haul her heavy baskets of wet things out to the clothes line (weather permitting, as it isn’t today).

  • It saves money — and if you have three young children and a whole heap of laundry like I do, it saves lots and lots of money.
  • It’s easy on the environment.
  • It makes my beds and closets smell like a linen-scented Yankee Candle (only nicer and less chemically).
  • It gets my towels good and crunchy — and extra absorbent. (Fabric softener is to towels as Rain-X is to windshields.)
  • It gets me outdoors and moving around (at least as far as the clothesline and back) on even the hottest, sunniest days.
  • It can be really good exercise — especially when (as occasionally happens) I have several loads nearly dry on the line just as thunder clouds begin to boom on the horizon.
  • If I hang things just right, the wind will do my ironing for me.
  • Line-drying is supposedly easier on clothes and makes them last longer (something to do with less lint being sucked out of them with every dry cycle). I know there is a variety of opinions on this, however, and I’ll readily admit that the sun can bleach out colors and wear out elastic.
  • If I happened to live in a neighborhood full of hoity-toits (I don’t), it would really annoy them, and hoity-toits really ought to be annoyed. (I’ve never had any real-life neighbors say anything negative about my passion for clotheslines . . . to my face, at least.)
  • No matter where I live, hanging clothes ensures that the whole world knows that I must be (a.) really hip (hippie, hipster, just plain hip . . . take your pick) or (b.) really old fashioned. (Hint: I’m no hipster.)

Really, though, in the end, I hang clothes because I love it. It’s pleasant. Fun, even. Watching a line full of neatly pinned clothes I hung myself dance themselves dry in the wind is deeply satisfying.

What’s more, it makes me feel connected to people like Ma Ingalls (real but literary) and Grandma Mac (real and wonderful and related to me) — and to all the many, many generations of women who have gone before me, relying on the sun and wind (not the gas and electric) to get their laundry crisp and dry on wash day.

Are you a line-dryer? Or not? I’d love to hear why you do it . . . or don’t do it!

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9 thoughts on “Old (to me) Old Fashioned Adventure #1: Line Drying Clothes

  1. Hi I hang cloths outside on a clothesline in the summer, and in my basement during the winter. We burn a pellet stove in the basement in the winter and by hanging the cloths in the basement it puts moisture back into my house. I saved between 1100.00 and 1200.00 2 years ago by not using my dryer, & not using hot water to wash cloths, and used 700.00 of that money towards pellets, which kept my house 6′ warmer in the winter. It works it’s free drying cloths this way. And it’s a way I don’t use propane any more.

    • Wow! I dry outside whenever I can during the summer, but I’ve not done it much as a year-round thing. I’m impressed — and inspired. I’ve used clothes racks some inside (mostly for keeping unmentionables out of public sight when I lived in the ‘burbs) and found that they double as an effective air freshener, but I love the idea of using wet laundry as a natural winter-time humidifier, too.

  2. I was drying out washed dog towels and hand washed bathing suits. It rained last night, but I did not do the marathon sprint to get them off. I just said “eh”.

  3. Oh, and your Grandma Wesche would line dry clothes at the house on Coverdale. Nutmeg thought this was wonderful and would swat at her hands every time she reached for a clothes pin.

    • Ha! I wish I’d seen that. I remember the clothesline on Coverdale, but some reason, I don’t have any memories of Grandma line drying before they sold the house and moved into town. I wonder if she just took care not to schedule laundry day when she knew we were coming to visit?

  4. I love line drying, too, and have done it many places I’ve lived, but can’t do it here. Neighbors are physically too close. I miss it. Yes, your Grandma Wesche line dried everywhere but where she lives now. Laundry day was usually on Wednesdays, unless she needed the time for company. Then she’d make it up another day. That was also one of my chores when I lived at home, and I love the smell of the outdoors clinging to the fabrics. Then it was also my chore to iron everyone’s clothes every Saturday, and the outdoorsy smell floated up with the heat of the iron.

    • I figured that had to be the reason I don’t remember witnessing Grandma out at the clothesline hanging stuff out!

      Also, I’ve gotta say: I hate ironing — but the way you describe it is so poetic that it makes me want to give it another go sometime. (Not now, though. It’s way too hot!)

  5. Pingback: Newfangled New Year | Life, Old Fashioned

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