Clothes line vs. Beck’s chalkboard

March 15, 2011

I’m probably an anachronism, but I grew up in a house without a clothes dryer. In the winter, we would hang our clothes on lines strung wall-to-wall in a section of our basement. The wet laundry drying inside our house in the winter added a significant amount of humidity to our furnace-dried air.

In warmer months, we would hang our laundry on outdoor clothes lines. We knew how to use clothes pins, placing the end of one item on top of the end of another item so that one clothes pin could clamp both ends. That meant you only needed four clothes pins for three items of clothes…unless you had heavy towels, which might use an extra clothes pin between the ends for added support.

My Dad even rigged up a piece of wood with little circular hooks screwed into them so that we could take outside the clothes we first placed on hangers.  Each little circular hook would easily keep in place the curved metal hook of the hangers while the sun and the outdoor air naturally dried our clothes. Sheets smelled heavenly coming off that outdoor clothes line! No fabric softener or dryer sheet could replicate the scent of sun and wind on those clothes!

Even when I first moved out on my own after college, I washed my own laundry in the kitchen sink of my apartment and air dried them on a collapsible wooden rack. I was a cub reporter on a family-owned small daily newspaper in Ohio. I was lucky then just to have a job, not to mention a job in journalism. So I took the low-paying position just for the experience. I simply couldn’t afford the laundromat.

Once I started earning a little more, I did go to the laundromat, but I quickly soured on the very hot driers, which  sometimes shrank my clothes and even singed some of the synthetic fabrics I still wore back then. I went back to my drying rack.

I thought about my clothes-drying ritual this evening because of Glenn Beck.

Beck was talking about America’s sources of energy. He promised he would tell us the facts…not opinion. His chalkboard asked the question: “This OR ___?” Then he asked his viewers: If we take out nuclear energy or coal as sources of energy in America, then what will we replace them with?  This…or that?  Perhaps he meant to ask: “This (nuclear or coal) or what?”  In any case, his pie chart did not include wind, solar or hydroelectric power.

So I reflexively started talking back to my television screen: “But what about solar? What about hydroelectricity? What about wind?”

As if he heard my words, Beck raised the issue of wind turbines, but quickly dismissed them as unable to replace the missing piece in our energy pie.

I suppose I should have watched the rest of his show, but then I started thinking about the solar and wind energy that naturally dried my clothes.

That’s when my clothes line said more to me than Beck’s chalkboard.



  1. I drip-dry a lot of my clothes in the laundry room, as it does make the clothes last longer. Elastic stays stretchier, and the colors don’t fade as quickly when you don’t use the dryer. Alas, I do use the dryer for towels, underwear, and socks … Would love to hang sheets outdoors, though, like my mom used to do back in the day!

  2. Cindy, I’ve also found that the elastic lasts a lot longer when it doesn’t go through the dryer.

    I do use our house dryer for some items, and my sons, who do their own laundry, also use the dryer for their stuff. However, for myself, I often use drying rack and for hangable items, I’ll run them through the dryer for about 3 minutes to take out the wrinkles, and then I’ll let them air dry on hangers inside the house on collapsible clothes racks. After going up and down the stairs for all that, I find it’s actually a mild aerobic workout!

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