I remember sheets billowing in the warm southern breeze, suspended from the line with wooden clothespins, creating a magical backdrop for a kid’s imagination. My brothers and I would run through the rows of laundry, sometimes to hide from the ‘seekers,’ other times just only to feel the fabric lightly touch our skin as they lifted up and fluttered. The fresh-air scent of the cotton lingered long after I was tucked into bed, falling asleep to its earthy fragrance.
I grew up in the South where line-drying was as commonplace as the family gardens and home-cooked meals. Women in our neighborhood were predominantly home-makers, whose daily rituals involved doing things naturally and often by hand. This added an element of beauty and symmetry to their lives that brought peace and enjoyment. More importantly, this lifestyle was sustainable. But, this was a seasonal joy. Winters were a different story.
My mother hung clothes on the line in the winter. I remember standing at the window and watching as she carefully stepped along the icy ground, hanging our clothes while a freezing wind blew. I remember because I was worried. She had a cough, and I was too young to help her. I also remember how overjoyed my mother was when we were able to buy an electric dryer. This one appliance may have allowed her to stay healthier during the winter months. Each Spring, however, she was happily hanging her clothes on the line again. She loved the ritual of it as much as the outcome. The dryer was unnecessary during these beautiful warm months.
As I got older and started helping my mother with the household chores, I would gather the laundry from the line, enjoying the crispness of the sun-dried fabric and the satisfaction of its freshness. Line-drying our clothes was one of my favorite tasks.
Today, I live in the Colorado Rockies, where the winter winds can blow over a hundred miles an hour, and anything not tied down firmly will disappear. So, like my mother, I have strung clotheslines in my backyard and hung my laundry in the warmer months, and then rely on my dryer in the winter.
Now, when our ‘carbon footprint’ is being measured for the preservation of the planet, this fair-weather practice of ‘line-drying’ has become even more perfect. It is indeed a very ‘green’ ritual. This has caused me to review all of my household practices. I recycle more, using fewer resources, and practice a few old ways of getting things done before, so many ‘conveniences’ were invented.
The problem of drying clothes in the winter months remains daunting. My next project is to construct a clothesline in my mud-room, to hang those things that can drain slowly and efficiently. A friend places her clothing in her dryer long enough to start the drying process and then hangs them, cutting down the necessary drying time, preventing dripping on her floor, and saving money on her utility costs. This is time-consuming, however, and she laughs that being ‘green’ takes forever! She too is thrilled when the weather is warm enough to string up her clotheslines and hang her linens out in the fresh air.
So, in warm months, nothing beats hanging your laundry on the clothesline. Not only does it help the planet; this ‘green’ ritual will bring you closer to the Earth and your inner peace. Although harsh winters will pose unique problems, finding creative solutions to laundry is warranted. And as sure as a kid’s imagination, each spring will bring us a chance to lower our ‘carbon footprint’ in an old and magical way!