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Sometimes I imagine myself like Anne Shirley or Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I admit that I love those characters and what the world was like then. When I was a girl, I thought I should have been born in that time period. Even now, I get all nostalgic, caught up in my imaginary world.

But then something happens. Reality brings you screeching back to real life. The beautiful daydream ends as you look at your life, and you realize that the life those old timers lived was way harder than the one you live.

In one particular such season of my life, my clothes dryer stopped working. Just stopped. It died. We were at the time a family of 9, who did laundry only two days a week. When I tell you it was piles and piles of laundry to be done, I am not even kidding. As I looked at said heaps of laundry and the two that were already washed and wet, I felt defeated. That is until my inner Laura Ingalls stepped up, and I decided that I could just hang the clothes on my rotting old clothes line.

Challenges of using the clothesline

“Why didn’t you just go buy a dryer, crazy woman?” you ask. Well, funny thing. We don’t do debt, and it was almost Christmas (with 7 kids to buy for), and we didn’t have the extra money to pay cash for one.

I knew I could make a clothes line work; I done it before just not quite in this capacity. Those first couple of days were fairly easy and enjoyable, oddly, but pretty quickly, I found that there are a good many other obstacles to not having a working dryer besides the whole “that’s a boatload of laundry” thing. Still, I thought for a few weeks, ehhh using the clothes line won’t be so bad!

And it truly wasn’t until one day that I looked out and there was smoke filling our whole area that I realized this was not fun. I ran out like a mad woman, snatching clothes from the line in manic fashion.  Another day, same thing happened with a gross fertilizer smell. Another day, the line snapped just as I was finishing pinning them up, and I cried! Yet another day, rain. It seemed like there was constantly some obstacle to overcome. Since I didn’t have a dryer I could use, and a whole passel of kids I didn’t want to take to the laundry mat every couple of days, there were clothes literally hanging all over the house!

I learned that hanging the clothes was the easy part, and that the other obstacles that stood in my way were the real challenges.

Clothesline obstacles

  • outside conditions
    • humidity
    • smoke in the air
    • fertilizer fumes in the air
    • limited daylight
    • temps not warm enough
    • rain
  • logistical problems
    • not enough clothesline space
    • line snapping when you have the whole line full! (yep, that happened)
    • dust due to drought
    • children and pets thinking it’s fun to play in the clothes

Life and Laundry

It’s safe to say that my life at that point revolved around laundry. There had to be a better way, but I didn’t know what it was. I cried and prayed (yes over laundry), and cussed under my breath, fussed at my kids, and prayed some more. I was hating this constant battle. Somehow at some point, I stumbled upon this precious gem called All About Laundry:  Save Money, Save Time.  Game. changer! (**From time to time it’s free, so be sure to check it out!**)

Take-aways from the book and my own trial and error:

  • how to hang clothes outside–there really is a method.
  • you need the weather app, and you need to use it to plan ahead
  • with proper use of liquid fabric softener, smoke and fertilizer smells didn’t stick to our clothes. My favorite was Downy because it had enough scent but is not overpowering.
  • best ways to hang the clothes to get the best shape and most efficient drying arrangements.
  • latest point in the day I could hang a load out so that it would be dry before dark. for us in the fall/winter in the South was 1-1:30 pm.
  • folding as I took things off the line, almost completely eliminated the need for ironing.
  • big savings on our utility bill, an average of $47 a month! (That’s a $564 yearly savings!)

Enjoying a laborious task

Truly, I began to enjoy using the clothes line because I was outside enjoying fresh air.  It was quiet, allowing me a few moments to enjoy the glorious sunshine and fresh air! And ultimately, I began to smile, most days not dreading the chore at all. It was helpful not to have to iron and that clothes were folded and neat from the moment they came off of the line rather than laying crumpled in a laundry basket for days.

It’s in those moments that you can begin to see what is important. You learn to take care of the important and urgent stuff, and let the rest wait. This is true in all of life. Everything isn’t urgent although it does feel that way sometimes. I thought that not having a dryer was an urgent need.  What I learned was that [for us] while a reasonable and even basic want, it’s a want.

It’s in the hard seasons, we find ourselves

When your dryer dies, and it’s raining outside, maybe it is the end of life as you know it, at least for a while.  It was for me in the beginning, too, and I might have had a hissy fit or two!  In the end, though, it has been good, great even.

In life, often “it’s raining when your dryer breaks.” It’s in the difficult times that we figure out what we are made of, what makes us tick, and how to overcome the ugly that may have boiled out. We discover how strong and determined we are to do what’s best for our family, and that’s huge! We need to sometimes feel strong and capable. Otherwise, we feel frail and unimportant, which is never good. And honestly, it’s not who we are, ladies, especially as God’s daughters.

How to Use the clothes line and actually smile about it

Do you do well and learn the lesson and tap into those inner strengths, or are you like me and have to have the remedial version time and time again? My hope for us is that we can learn the lesson.

In this season, I’ve learned a lot…about myself, about doing things the old way, about patience, about finding joy in every day things. There is joy and satisfaction in accomplishing such a task.  Maybe I do have a little Anne or Laura in me after all.  Do you?


16 comments on “Tips for Using the Clothesline and Not Hating It”

  1. What an awesome word of encouragement. I have been in deep anguish more than a few times only to find that “I” was the cause of it!

  2. Our dryer went out last weekend (almost burned out house down – thankfully, my nose saved us and realized the smell was the plug melting). Didnt know what to do! Thankfully, neighbors let me use their dryer a couple times. Way to go living without one for a while. I barely made it a few days!

    • Oh, no, June!! That’s super scary! For us at the time it was one of those things I had to do at first, then my stubborness’ kept me going. Still using the sunshine! 😉

  3. I just found this on Pinterest. I also love to line dry my laundry. Most people think I am nuts! When we were looking for land to build our homestead we ran into a lot of areas that would not allow a clothesline in your yard. I think that is ridiculous. Another frustration is finding a good clothespin. We found some on line, very expensive, but we’ll worth it. The ones sold in stores just snap apart when you hang jeans or towels.

    • Hey, Debby! I’m glad you stopped by. Wow! I had no idea there were places you couldn’t hang a clothesline. I guess I never thought about it. And clothespins–yes! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. This is really interesting to me, as our family has never had a drier (which is fairly common here in the rainy UK!). I always make sure to run the washing machine in the very early morning, that way the clothes have a lot longer to dry. On cold and rainy days, we just use our clothes airer by a large window to dry the clothes. It’s funny how you just get used to what you have – we never had a dishwasher until 7 months ago, but now I feel I’d be lost without it, when in reality I’m sure it would be just fine!

    • Amy, wow! Yes, you do get used to what you have. Our dishwasher hasn’t worked in months, years…I don’t even know anymore. But we are just used to washing dishes all the time now. 😉

      Thank you for stopping by!

  5. I have always loved hanging the laundry outside! My Mother blessed me with that love. She would hang the laundry out and it was BEAUTIFUL! like a piece of art!My Mother has Alzheimer’s now, so I imagine that she probably isn’t able to put her laundry out. When I do this, I feel like I have accomplished so much! Every thing smells so fresh and aired out.Thank you for such a wonderful blog! May your days be filled with the love of God and the sun!

    • Thank you so much, Cathi! Sorry your mom is battling with Alzheimer’s…it’s such a sad disease! But the memories you have of her and her love of something so simple makes me smile! May the Lord bless you both!

  6. On yes, my dear! I was definitely born in the wrong era. We will be moving soon, and this time to an older home with a basement…my mother-in-law has hung her laundry up on her clothesline every winter in her basement for 60some years. I plan to be just like her!!

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