Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hey, the pioneers didn't have dryers

A few years ago a good friend of mine was telling me about a family she knows in some New England state (read: cold in the wintertime) who live a super eco-friendly, green sort of life.  "They have three kids and they don't even OWN a clothes dryer!" to which I responded "What?!?!?" followed by "I could never.  Just never."  And I looked at little 3-month old Paul in my lap and was sure it was true.  We were living a typical suburban life then...two cars and smartphones and endless traffic, on a cul-de-sac with an HOA that prohibited (among all sorts of other things) clothes lines.  How could my imagination make the leap from that moment in that kitchen with my baby boy in my lap to a time that would require, or even enable, me to live a dryer-free life?  The unbelievable series of events that would lead to today would have been just that: unbelievable.

Before I go on, I'll make a confession- I've probably never done anything only because it was "green".  But I have done many "green" things because they're cheap.  That's gotta count for something, right?

Anyway, when we got here (or "upon our arrival") the laundry-room/future workshop looked like this:

so we had to make something work and it had to be cheap.  Solution: no dryer

So now, despite all my adamant claims to the contrary those few short years ago, for three seasons out of the year we lug every bit of our soggy laundry outside to the real clothesline, and during the winter we hang it here in our den on this handy-dandy drying rack from  Because we have four kids and we don't even OWN a clothes dryer.  And do you know what?  I love it.  I love every second of the meditative silence of hanging each little piece (because if someone wants to talk, then someone gets to hang.  No one wants to talk when mama's hanging).  And I love being able to give the chore to my big girls if I need to, because it's easy but time consuming and makes them feel the consequences of putting stuff that's still clean into the dirty laundry hamper.  Now that, ladies and gents, is a win-win-win.


  1. How long does it take heavy things (e.g., sweaters) to dry?

    I'm with you: I only go green when it saves money. Except when I find a really cute grocery sack, say at Henry's or Trader Joe's. They're so useful!

  2. Well, it depends on the temperature and humidity but basically most things are dry in 8 hours (so overnight is the perfect drying time) but something really bulky and wet could take a full 24. When we use the outside line in the summer, that stuff is dry in 2-3 hours max.

  3. I love drying outside when I can. I don't think I would be able to do it inside. Our cats would tear all the clothes down.

  4. Just found your (AWESOME) blog today, via Meredith at Like Merchant Ships. Wow, what a wild ride you're on--thanks for taking us all with you! Thought you might be interested in these wooden clothes dryers, made for FAMILIES, and not for single college guys who only change their clothes thrice a week(ew).


  5. Clothes dry on the line just fine in the winter! There are two rules to follow for drying clothes in the winter, wear warm gloves under rubber gloves to hang clothes in winter. Wet hands get COLD. Rule two, don't use fabric softener, use white vinegar in your softener dispenser run the clothes through 2 rinses.A little more water but you will like your clothes better without the soap residue or the wax and chemicals from the fab softener. Suddenly towels will become xxx thirsty and sox won't get so smelly...

    Things will take longer to dry but it's worth it. The process is different. First the clothes freeze, then the cold dry air evaporates the water and they become soft. Sheets are cool to watch as they go from frozen boards swinging in the wind, like an old pub sign, to briskly snapping sails as the water is evaporated.

    Clothes need to be hung differently. Hang tshirts by laying over the line at the underarms and not by the hems or shoulders. Socks... hang independently, not in pairs. Same with towels/washcloths etc. Dress shirts, hang them on the hanger buttoned up, then use a clothespin on the top of the hanger's hook to keep hangars from flying off the line.

    Clothes freeze dried in winter... There is NOTHING like freeze dried sheets. Heaven will smell like freeze dried sheets.

    Winter is a great time for airing non washable rugs outside. If there is a cold dry snow, lay the rugs out, take a pile of the dry snow (the kind that doesn't make good snowballs) and dump it on the rug top. Use a broom to scrub it into the rugs fibers then sweep the dirty snow off. Repeat a couple of times then let the rug further air and dry.

    Wool blankets, sweaters, coats, all perk up after a two day stint outside in the freezing air, especially if you're lucky enough to get some show showers. Yes, let them hang overnight :-)

  6. Are you in a homeschool group? Kalamazoo--- has a Catholic homeschool group! It's called the Kalamazoo JMJ group~~~ God bless you!

  7. Our HOA banned clotheslines. I guess because they look tacky. I ignore them and hang sheets and diapers out anyway. If anyone calls me out on it, I'm just going to brag about how GREEN I'm being for not wasting all that precious electricity! :)
    I'm totally going to try freeze-drying our sheets! I love the fresh smell from the outdoors -- something a winterized house could totally use.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...