Sunday, May 18, 2008

A poverty line?!

The Simple Dollar had an article today about clotheslines, and the ‘poverty perception’ thereunto.

First, I was outraged at the very suggestion that a clothesline has a ‘poverty’ connotation! Mostly because I was using clotheslines today! Harrumph! The very idea!

Then, I had to admit that there was a time when I, too, thought clotheslines were somewhat…less than classy. And that when one of my back-fence neighbors put up a series of enormous and also permanent clotheslines and promptly began leaving sheets and towels on them morning, noon and night – even in the rain! – I made grumbling noises about it.

I got over it. His estimate of $0.35 per load is about what I came up with; I generally run between seven and ten super-sized loads a week, let’s call it 8.5 on average, which comes out to $2.975 a week or $154.70 a year if I were to line-dry all my clothes. Which I don’t. In the winter, I only dry the first one or two loads on the line, and the rest in the dryer.

Sometimes all of it in the dryer, if it happens to be raining on Laundry Day. Or, frankly, if it is wicked cold outside – on those days, any heat I can generate inside the house doing chores is a good thing. Let’s make pies! And soup! And extra bread! Anything that heats up my kitchen works for me!!

But in the summertime…it’s a different story. It’s getting to that time of year where clothes dry faster out on the line than they do in the dryer…and I don’t want anything generating heat inside the Den, thank-you-all-the-same.

We took two boating clamps, similar to these, and bolted them firmly to the house. Sometimes, I suspect the clamps are what holds that side of the house together.

On washing day(s), I take my clothesline and fasten one end to our big wooden play structure – there’s a handy beam perfect for the purpose. Then I run it across the yard, slip it onto the clamp, pull like the dickens on it to tighten, and then simply twist the rope under itself a time or two (or three, if I’m feeling nervous) to hold it. Repeat with the second clothesline, and I’ve got room for two average-sized loads of wash.

When everything is dry, down it comes. No permanent footprint in the backyard, and in the unlikely event that any of my neighbors were having a Fancy Pants Party or some other Event that would make my clothesline an eyesore…well, what clothesline? I don’t see no stinkin’ clothesline…

The biggest complaint we had about the clothesline was that the clothes were stiff as boards. My husband actually asked that I not use the line on his underwear or jeans due to the stiffness.

Found a way around it.

When the clothes you wish to soften up come off the line, put them into the dryer with a damp towel and/or half a softener sheet for five to ten minutes on low to medium heat. I’ll stuff my dryer with two or three loads worth of dry, but too stiff, clothes at a time to soften them up. Works like a charm, and no more complaints about sandpaper briefs.

It’s cheap, it’s environmentally friendly, gets you out in the fresh air and gives your clothing that ‘fresh air’ smell.

I’d do it even if my neighbors were the sorts who would recoil in horror.


Kris said...

I love drying my clothes outside. As for softening them in the drying, I would think the air fluff cycle would be enough. It is the tumbling that softens them.

Unknown said...

Clothelines certainly don't offend me, but I don't use one, perhaps because I'm old enough to remember when that was the only choice. I do, however, try to hang many of our clothes to dry on hangers rather than using the dryer. For one thing, I think they last longer that way. I am glad to read your estimates on drying costs. Since the current energy expense increase began, I've been consciously hang drying even more of my laundry and mentally trying to total up how much I'm saving. Rather than just adding dollars and cents, I try to translate the savings into something I want to buy, such as a new bathmat and then "save" enough to pay for it. I used to do this all the time when we were younger with small children, starting a business, and money was really tight. It worked for me.

I really like your blog.

Anonymous said...

I have a clothesline extending from my (second-floor level) deck to a large tree in the yard. It's pretty unobtrusive when I don't have clothes hanging. That can be used pretty much April through November. And since my house is too spacious for one person (when I was looking, I had a choice of too large or too small!), I have two wooden frames in otherwise underutilized space. I only use the dryer for towels and, in the winter, for sheets.

Yeah, stuff is stiffer when it's line dried than when it's tumble-dried. But, once it's on me, it softens right up. I'll have to try the tumble for a few minutes technique on my next towel load though.

'M' said...

Living in the Northeast we are very limited when it comes to hanging the clothes on the line. I am just able to hang them out now and will have to start using the dryer in September. But, anytime I don't have to use the dryer is great. I have the opposite problem with the "stiff laundry". My husband loves the stiff and scratchy towels and can't wait until we start line drying!

Anonymous said...

I grew up with neighbors who had clotheslines, and they always seemed to have plenty of money (the two houses in the neighborhood with inground pools both had clotheslines, and to a kid pool=rich!). Everyone I knew who used a clothesline also had a working dryer, so I always thought that the clothesline was better than the dryer.

And I agree with panhandle jane - that lint in the dryer is part of my clothes. I can't imagine that the lint completely due to washing.

I can't have a clothesline where I live, and I'm not sure I'd want one. Not because they're not a great idea, just because I have really bad luck and I'm sure my laundry would get rained on all the time!! I've managed to get the benefits of a clothesline - I have three folding metal drying racks. I found that the metal can handle heavier things (such as multiple sweaters or 5 pairs of adult jeans) without warping like my wooden ones did in the past.

Just have to add that I love your blog. I found you through the Yarn Harlot - I'm so very glad she raved about you and your blog!!

Lydee said...

yep, a tumble in the dryer works like a charm!

Anonymous said...

I live in Arizona. We have sun. (understatement)
For at LEAST a third of the year, odds are, the clothes on the line will be dry or near-dry before the next laundry load is done and ready to hang outside. ;)
Another third of the year, it takes 2-loads worth of drying time. Winter a bit longer.
Yep, I use a clothes line. A retractable 5-line-across clothes line so it will roll itself back up and just be a box on the wall with two hooks across the way in the brick wall.
I was also a bit offended that someone would think I was poverty-stricken to use a clothes line. I would rather think people would have enough sense to recognize I dry clothes on the line like I recycle. Why waste electricity taking hours to dry (shrink) blue jeans or towels? As you noted as well - Why heat up my house (When it's 110 outside, I want to run a dryer inside??)? I also have a semi-ancient dryer - but it does a grand job of fluffing my line-dried clothes so they're not line-stiff. (15 minutes is good)
Oh - and I wash/hang t-shirts and nicer blouses/shirts inside out to preserve the print/decoration/color longer and not expose them to possible fading...
I submit, the Simple Dollar Article presents a limited perspective.
Keep up the good work!!
I'm just now exploring your blog - rather spiffy, I must say. KiniaCat

Lydee said...

I tagged you on my blog for a meme. Play along if you like :-)

Marie Louise said...

Hi - saw your blog via Lydee. I, myself used to have a clothesline at my previous house. I loved putting my sheets out to dry and then straight onto the bed - they'd smell so wonderful. Unfortunately I now live in a hoity-toity neighborhood where everyone's lawn is akin to a golf course and a clothesline would prompt an emergency neighborhood meeting I'm sure.
Sigh....I miss my old house - you could sit on the front steps with your morning coffee in your bathrobe and not a soul would care!

Anonymous said...

I would dearly love to be able to use a clothesline, but my big guy is allergic to almost everything that grows outside. We have to use the dryer and also must use the air conditioner when most would have their windows open. :(

JoHanna said...

I love clothes lines. I hang things outside year round, and I live in Montana. It is a great energy saver and it brings back wonderful memories of growing up at my Nonie and Pap's house. And, this is odd but true....I like the feel of towels dried outside instead of in the dryer. I enjoy the scratchiness and the exfoliating nature of them. Not to mention that here in the great Big Sky country....they smell wonderful after being on the line.

Kaviare said...

Here in Australia it is almost unheard of to have a dryer. But now I live in a teeny apartment with strata rules about lines on the balconies and a communal line that people nick things off of. Sigh.

Also, sunlight is anti-bacterial. There's nothing like having sun-fresh sheets, to go around sun-fresh quilts and maybe even pillows... kills those dust mites right off.

Anonymous said...

I love my clothesline (just installed a few weeks ago). I don't even like my neighbors. I personally take great pride in hanging my laundry outside and I'm waiting for the day when this woman, who I know (because she is a relentless blabbermouth) is up to her ears (or higher) in debt and who is one of the biggest and most wasteful consumers of everything I know, asks me "is your dryer broken?" I'm gonna say "no, is yours?" and leave it at that.

I'm working on voluntary poverty...I'm the first generation out of the involuntary kind and I'm aiming to keep it that way. And I'll take poverty of money over poverty of spirit any day.

Ms. Packrat said...

Whatever happened to the sort of "umbrella" clotheslines that could be folded down to a pole when not in use? Why wouldn't one of those be appropriate anywhere? I live in a condo and don't have a yard, but sorely miss the days when I rented a little house and had a clothesline. And a vegetable garden. And a compost heap.

Yarnhog said...

Well, to tell you the truth, for $154 per year, I'll just toss them in the dryer. But I'm lazy that way. (I do hang ALL my own clothes to dry on hangers in the laundry room. At nearly six feet tall, I can't afford any shrinkage in length, so none of my stuff goes in the dryer.)

Anonymous said...

Although there is minimal savings in electricity costs, you are using a much more environmentally-friendly approach with line-drying.

I used to do it for the fragrance of line-dried clothes and sheets (especially the sheets!) P & G hasn't figured out how to capture that smell in a bottle yet!

Anonymous said...

I'm in Arizona too, and I line dry all the time. When I was a kid in Michigan, we had a dryer and used it during the cold parts of the year, with the dryer vent hose pulled out into the kitchen to help heat the house. (This was in the energy crunch years during the 70's) As soon as it was warm enough to line dry, that's what we did all year. We've lived in Az for the past 20 years or so and we've always line dried, weather permitting. (Yes we do get rain in the Sonoran Desert. Say it with me kids "Monsooooooon"). I did discover that we could avoid excessive scratchyness by using a touch of Downy Free (I suppose any Downy could work, but I HATE scented detergents and softeners.) in the rinse cycle. Downy is one of those heat activated fabric softeners and when it's 105 in the shade, that's plenty warm enough to get yer soft on.