Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reasons I love hanging my laundry out to dry

After living without a dryer for so long (2–3 years between three different countries) I never could have imagined choosing not to use one. I think it was one of the things I desired most of all when we lived in Egypt and I was stuck with a bed-wetter and a spitter-upper with no bedding to spare and only a couple of drying racks on a hopelessly dusty balcony. Not to mention the cloth diapers.

Side note: I saw a post today on the "effects of war" and while I think war is a horrible, traumatizing thing, I also thought to myself, "I could do a similar post on mothering a toddler." The "during" pictures would be shocking.

Anyway, now that I have a high-capacity washing machine (or at least higher than my little Egyptian machine (which I was grateful to have, mind you (because scrubbing clothes by hand in the bathtub...))), reliable power to run the washing machine (usually, the exception being the two times the transformer blew in the past week or so), extra sets of sheets floating around, and two generous clotheslines running through my backyard, opinion of hang-drying clothes has changed dramatically.

I like to get outside in the sunshine.

I like dragging my kids with me and making/watching them run around and play together.

I like being able to do housework while that happens (and to take breaks when I need to in order to push someone in the swing or help them down from that high place they climbed up to and then got paralyzed with fright).

I like being able to daydream while I hang up the clothes because the kids aren't pouncing on me (usually).

I like knowing that I'm helping the environment a little bit at a time.

I like saving the quarter I'd otherwise spend to run the dryer.

I like bleaching stains out of my diapers naturally. Not that I'm doing the wearing of the diapers. (And actually Benjamin's almost done with them, I think/hope!)

I like seeing our family's clothes hanging neatly in a row; it's very picturesque and it makes me love my family more (as weird as that may sound).

I like thinking about how my ancestors must've hung their clothes out, too.

I like that when the power goes out my laundry—more ore less—keeps going (because it never ends).

I like being able to sort my laundry into piles as I pull it off the line and fold it (Benjamin loves knocking over piles of things but has a harder time doing this when they're already in the basket; and it cuts the folding/sorting time in half).

I like folding sheets right off the line—it is so easy! The line holds it for you; it's like having another pair of hands.

I like having the kids help pick the clothespins off the ground (and they seem to like it, too...most of the time). I just throw them in a's not like I scatter them all over the lawn.

I like that every single time I've put the laundry out this spring (it's supposed to snow this week but I'm calling it spring anyway; I'm from Canada—deal with it) the neighbour boys have asked if the dryer is broken.

I like matching socks as I hang them up so that there's no huge pile to sift through as I fold.

I like that I can basically starch Andrew's shirt collars without even trying (though the stiffness on the towels is a bit undesirable so I usually end up jostling them in the dryer; but overall we don't mind the starch-effect (and if it's windy enough you can hardly tell the difference)). Full disclosure: I would never even consider starching his collars ordinarily—this is something that just happens in the sunshine that I consider a bonus. Similarly...

I like how I can fix the wonky way the seams on the girls' dresses sometimes flip up in the dryer (you know what I mean?) without having to iron. I just pull them back down when I hang them up and the sunshine and wind fixes them for me.

I like that the time it takes to put two loads of laundry up and get two loads of laundry off the line is approximately the same amount of time it takes for Benjamin to burn off enough energy that he falls asleep for his nap in thirty seconds flat and goes to bed in a similar manner (bedtime was a dream this evening).

There are downsides to hanging your laundry outside, too.

Bugs: Carpenter bees are the bane of my existence once they start drilling. Paper wasps, too, once they start swarming out of the woods. Yellow jackets. Cicadas. Stable flies. Horse flies. Mosquitoes. Ticks. Spiders. Spiders. Spiders. Umm...what am I forgetting? Did I mention spiders? Yes—spiders. Huge spiders. Usually they have the decency to stay out of the laundry itself (but not always). Bugs are just everywhere out here. Everywhere, guys.

Humidity: If you pick the wrong day to hang your laundry out it can come inside smelling like wet dog. Ugh.

Summer storms: These can come up fast—like a wall of black cloud hurtling toward you—and you have to rush to get the laundry in (which means you loose the benefit of getting to sort while folding, or of folding it at all, or even of letting it dry all the way). Fortunately, weather forecasts are pretty good at warning us nowadays.

I'm sure there are other reasons why I don't like hanging my laundry outside and somedays—even beautiful days—I elect to forego my battle with the elements and use my dryer anyway. But this is a post about why I love hanging my laundry outside so three negatives are plenty.

At any rate, I was thinking about why hanging my laundry out made me feel happy today (while I was hanging my laundry out, obviously), thus this post was born. I think it mostly has to do with changing the way I sort and fold laundry and also the swing set (because the kids are playing all over it instead of playing all over me).

And I can't help feel like it's perhaps a good example to my kids...of what, I don't know (I haven't made that part up yet)? Sustainability, perhaps? I want to impress upon them that I care about the earth? Or perhaps I just want them to have memories etched into their mind that I slaved over housework between all the feeding, playing, and going on walks that I did with my babies? I don't know.

So, hi. My name's Nancy. And I like hanging my laundry out to dry.


  1. I loved this post! I was just thinking the other day that even if we ever lived somewhere with a dryer, I might still prefer to hang out the clothes to dry. At least sometimes. There are plenty of days where I still wish for a dryer. Or a washer that took less than 3 hours for a cycle.

    What is with that wet dog smell? Do you use liquid fabric softener in the wash cycle? I find that helps, but given how humid it is here, I feel like I'm constantly keeping that smell at bay and every once in a while a load ends up smelling funky anyway.

    1. I actually haven't ever used liquid fabric softener (though perhaps one day I'll try it). I did some reading and it seems to do with the amount of time it takes to dry. So, making sure you have a decent breeze (in a humid climate) is necessary since otherwise things won't dry out...ever. Apparently drying inside with a fan going helps (but hanging the laundry outside is so much more convenient than drying it inside (though in Egypt we'd sometimes dry inside with the fan blowing on the cold, wet clothes—it acted almost like ZC)! :)

      Let me know if you figure out how to eliminate the wet dog smell altogether, though.

  2. When we got married, Andrew's brother bought us a washer and dryer, but I've rarely used my dryer. I just liked hanging my clothes outside. I find it peaceful most of the time.

    I love that your neighborhood kids ask if your dryer is broken. I guess not many folks in your neighborhood hang out clothes. Mine either. :)

  3. Here in the desert, on a summer day, I love that the sun can dry things quicker than my dryer. Also, I love the feeling of crisp, sun starched sheets.

  4. My dryers is upstairs now so taking it down stairs to hang out especially when it freezing is so not for me...that being said I hang plenty of laundry in my laundry room either on my drying rack or on hangers that hang in there. Only two things I don't like hanging to socks and jeans. Something about how stiff those get. I like to throw them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften them up :)