Hanging Out — The Laundry, That Is!

Hanging Out--The Laundry That Is!

My grandmother was green as she hung out her laundry in all seasons.

Great-grandma was green.  She hung out her laundry. In the 1990s when drying cabinets appeared, I thought the tornado-like winds of change would make them a household necessity. Then green got really big. Drying cabinets use energy and manufacturers have to convince smart homeowners that they need a dryer and a cabinet. Not an easy task when today’s households are ready to make changes and lead greener lives. Some families are again doing what great-grandma and some grandmothers did—hanging out the laundry. I could run some clotheslines between the trees in my yard, but it’s so shady—I’m haven’t decided just what I’m going to do.

But it’s amazing to remember: the flapping of the sheets and towels as they wrestle with the wind, and the creaking of the laundry poles as they perform their Atlas-job holding up the line, and the intense scent that clings to our skin as we run under the warming linen. Mom shoos us to the back of the yard. We flop down in the brilliant grass and watch as she stretches the wet fabric of the next sheet, working the clothespins onto it with a squeak, the taut line groaning. This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes—

I have a friend who has been drying her sheets and towels on lines for years. Some towns even have ordinances that restrict this activity. That will probably change. Anyone wanting to save money by cancelling a gym membership could find a new way to work out using elements of this before-machines laundry method.

It was a huge task. Mom had to lug all the sheets, towels, tablecloths, and dirty clothing down to the basement and power up the washing machine. We don’t even want to think about decades before when the sopping wet materials had to be manually pushed through a wringer. Post World War II machines could spin the clothes and get rid of most of the water. Then there was more hauling depending on the weather. During winter or on rainy days, Mom relied on lines strung up along the basement ceiling to hang the clothes. She had to run up and down the stairs checking on drying rates, removing some pieces and adding others from the basket. And think of what she was cleaning! There were few synthetics or blends. Only time and progress would bring permanent press, stain resistant, and nonfading. She was also washing napkins, tablecloths and lots of rags that we have eliminated with our reliance on paper products.

The soap manufacturers of today want to pull us back to the romance of that time—if indeed there was any romance. Check with Mom! A stroll down the laundry aisle calls out to our olfactory senses: after the rain, sun-kissed breeze, emerald stream, mountain spring. They can get to me. I’ll reach for the sun-kissed breeze and be back in the grass watching my mother, back in a time when I didn’t need to fly the blue sky above me; I just wanted to look at it and my sheltering yard.

My ten-year-old dryer still works, and the oak trees in my yard are very messy. So I’ve decided to settle for some dryer sheets to bring me back to that time. I’m cutting back on my use of paper products and there’s definitely no drying cabinet in my future! I’m spoiled enough.