My cousin periodically sends me Internet nostalgia with comments along the lines of “Are you old enough to remember this?” One of her recent items struck me as newly useful in our energy-conservation-conscious times:
The Basic Rules for Clotheslines: (If you don’t even know what clotheslines are, a quick look on Google or Wikipedia will clarify.)
1. You had to hang the socks by the toes … not the top.
2. You hung pants by the bottom/cuffs … not the waistbands.
3. You had to wash the clothesline(s) before hanging any clothes – walk the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.
4. Wash day on a Monday! Never hang clothes on the weekend, or on Sunday, for heaven’s sake!
5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so that you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts and busybodies, y’know!)
6. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothespins, but shared one of the clothespins with the next washed item.
7. Clothes off of the line before dinnertime, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.
My cousin claims not to have used a clothesline since she first discovered dryers at the laundromat. For me, my clothesline is an integral part of my Saturday routine. It is very soothing to take the laundry outside and pin up or hang the clothes. It gets me outside, makes me bend and stretch, and saves at least one dryer cycle.
I don’t follow all of the rules above. Contrary to Rule 1, I always hang socks by the tops, paired with a single clothespin. I’d never heard of Rule 3 – I guess my mother assumed that the occasional rain would keep the line fairly clean. And for a working woman, Saturday, not Monday, is wash day.
Rule 2 has been made pretty obsolete with the advent of permanent press and spandex. When I was a child, my mother and I struggled on laundry day with pants stretchers that you put down the legs of trousers and expanded as much as you could so that the trousers – especially jeans – would dry with fewer wrinkles. Now all I have to do is hang the pants by the waistband with the fly zipped and they will dry flat.
Because I own a limited number of clothespins, I have to challenge myself to use as few pins as possible, as Rule 6 above suggests. (That’s about as much challenge as I can stand on a Saturday morning.) And I do hang sheets on the outside line, but only because that’s where they fit best on my umbrella-style clothesline. (See solar clothes dryer in privacy mode below.)
Permanent press and Kleenex have also put an end to the sprinkler bottle, used to dampen pillowcases, dishtowels and handkerchiefs so that they could be ironed more easily. My older brother made ours at Boy Scout camp – an RC Cola bottle painted green, with a decoupage flower on the side and a sprinkler top secured by a cork stopper. (I’m sure my brother will curl up and die now that I have revealed he is a decoupage maven.) Ironing now is only for the linen napkins if company is coming.
But despite some improvements in textile technology, I’m still enthusiastic about my small-ecological-footprint, resource-efficient, cost-effective, reusable, easily repaired combination low-impact aerobic exercise device/solar clothes dryer, available in retractable, parallel and umbrella versions from most online or offline housewares providers. Let me encourage you – take wash day back to the future!