This week’s New York Times editorial about using clotheslines to dry laundry with the crisp freshness of the afternoon sun reminded me of what has become a ritual in my home. For the past three months — all through a very long, hot summer in Texas — I’ve been hanging some of my clothes outside to dry. (Er, not everything, mind you; undies hang on racks in the garage.) On the days when it was 100 degrees or more, this didn’t take very long.
To air is divine
Why air dry? The heating element in my gas dryer stopped working and I haven’t bothered to get someone out to take a look at it. After the clothes come out of the washer, I shake them out, put them on hangers and place them along the top rail of a gazebo in my back yard. I don’t know how much this practice has saved me on my utility bills. It was both a frugal and environmental gesture on my part (and avoidance of making an appointment for yet another repairman to come to my home).
The Times editorial talks about how much both electric and natural gas powered clothes dryers drain our energy resources. In the United States, nearly 80 percent of households own dryers, according to a commentary by Alexander P. Lee, executive director of Project Laundry List, a nonprofit group that promotes energy conservation one clothesline at a time.
The right to dry
As the Los Angeles Times reported in this February 2009 article, line-drying is making a comeback and pitting “right-to-dry” advocates against code enforcement officers who say they are illegal, unsightly nuisances.
Many cities, communities and homeowners’ associations ban the dreaded clothesline as an eyesore, a property value downer. It’s true you don’t see many clotheslines in well-manicured neighborhoods. And let’s face it, many clotheslines are pieces of rope strung between tree branches or held up by rickety poles or leaning metal posts. As the New York Times reports, some cities are working to prohibit clothesline bans. At least one college has set aside space for students to set up indoor drying racks for their clothes. What the green movement wants us to realize is that hanging clothes out to dry saves the environment. Financial advisors also point out that it saves money on energy costs.
As a child growing up in South Florida, my mother always hung her (I mean, our) clothes out to dry, even when she owned a dryer. “I like the way my clothes smell when they dry in the sun,” she used to say. For my brother and I, it meant schlepping clothes out to the line and then in. The whole process seemed to add oh-so-many steps to the weekend chores. When an afternoon rain shower whipped up, we’d have to dash out there to take in those clothes or endure a lecture from my mother about why we let the clothes get wet.
I remember my adolescent and teenage years and hauling clothes to and from a clothesline was back-breaking work. I also remember vowing to myself back then to have a dryer and actually use it when I grew up. Fast forward to today: I’ve got a dryer but I’m not using it. And, well, I’m OK with that.
This blog was featured in the frugality section of The Centsible Life for the 229th edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance. Each week, a different blogger hosts the carnival, which features the best of the blogsphere in personal finance topics.