Clothesline art, laundry activism, cash savings

Vintage paperdolls.
Make a clothesline and post it in a storefront to encourage line drying.

As tempting as it is to take a break from your life to join the activities at an  Occupy Wall Street encampment, this isn’t necessarily possible for everyone.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy the opportunity to make a statement, flout mainstream culture, and help influence others toward the good. In fact all you need to achieve all three is to hang your tidy whities on the line.

That’s right, later this week — Thursday, April 19 — is National Hanging Out Day, an annual day of laundry activism to help raise awareness about just how much energy (predominately fueled by coal) goes in to our home appliances, notably, our clothes dryers.

Simple living

Even if you have a high efficiency dryer, it’s an energy suck and a serious cash drain compared to the good old sun and wind. If you don’t have a dryer, and you have to schlep your clothes to the laundromat and hang around for two hours, it’s also a time-waster that most folks could probably do without.

Fortunately, in the case of line-drying your clothes, you need neither a pricey photovoltaic panel, nor an industrial scale wind turbine, to get the job done right at home. A simple rope line and clothespins will do the trick.

Low energy love story

When I met my husband Erik four years ago, he was an avid hand washer and line-dryer of his clothes.

I, on the other hand, considered my first in-apartment laundry machine at age thirty akin to reaching the promised land. I  arranged all subsequent housing around said appliances. However enviro-concerned and energy-savvy I imagined myself to be, it didn’t extend to my bending over washboards in the bath tub or pinning my bloomers to blow in the breeze.

And then Erik bought me a beautiful brick Edwardian house and asked me to marry him. In light of full disclosure, he duly informed me that we would never have a clothes dryer in a house he owned. Never!

As it turns out I loved him more than I loved an Electrolux Red Hot Red 8.0 Cubic Foot Gas Front Load Dryer with Wave-Touch® Controls featuring Perfect Steam™ .

So I agreed to the no-dryer conditions. And to the marriage.

Best thing I ever did.

Low carbon benefits

Since then I’ve come to love drying my clothes on the line. It’s relaxing to go out to my back porch and hang the clothes while taking a look around at our city — the neighbor’s rose garden, the rooftop of our corner church, the water fountain next door.

I also love that we save a couple hundred bucks a year, giving us more cash to spend on things we really like, like Virginia wines or a chicken coop or Adirondack chairs to sit on while reading a book as our clothes blow in the breeze.

Or, we can just save the cash for a rainy day.

Not emitting green house gases or burning that coal simply to dry clothes makes me happy, too — it’s an easy way to low-carbon living that doesn’t tax our family in the slightest.

That my two girls have come to know line-drying as their lifestyle means a lot to me too, since it may be their permanent condition in the future. I’d rather they were used to that now, and saw it as a good thing, than shocked and affronted by being forced to line-dry in the coming low-energy future.

Pin some clothes for the apocalypse

So this Thursday, when it’s National Hanging Out Day, I hope you’ll do something simply radical to celebrate the gifts of sun and wind. Maybe string a line straight across the front lawn in a one-day defiance against a homeowners association policy. Or, if you’re under no neighborhood restrictions, try to get as many folks in your neighborhood as possible to hang clothes in a gesture of low-carbon solidarity.

If you’re particularly creative and motivated, make and pass out postcards alerting folks to the facts about dryers and greenhouse gasses, and how much money you can save by going dryer free. You can also let people know that according to Project Laundry List, “The average American uses more energy running a clothes dryer than the average African uses in a year for all her energy needs.”


You can also:

  • Send a note with your child for the teacher to share the gospel on dryer-free living at school.
  • Make clothesline paper dolls and post them in a storefront with news about line drying.
  • Make an artsy clothesline for your house or neighborhood–clothes line art is cool!
  • Share your participation in National Hanging Out Day on social media sites.

Whatever you decide to do, take it from me — you can live dryer-free and pretty much not notice it, except in the extra cash in your pocket. Meantime, you can reduce your carbon footprint and make a better world.

Talk about a win-win.

— Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice

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  1. W. R. Flynn says

    In Portland, Oregon, one can easily hang dry clothing inside the house all year.

    We have a small rack, bought online year ago for around forty dollars. A load of clothing can easily be draped on it and in twelve hours, often less, everything’s dried. Yes, even during our wet, rainy months. The rack stays inside all the time and the sun has never shined on it.

    The benefits are easily added up. The heat inside the house doesn’t get sucked out, the precious fossil fuel energy to operate the dryer is saved, clothing lasts much longer, doesn’t fade and best of all, we save money.

    We rarely need to iron dress shirts, either. They get placed on hangers while damp from the washer and, after a quick shake, they’re hooked over the top door frame molding. They dry in a few hours. T-shirts get dried that way as well. Oh, even bedsheets dry on the rack. We drape them across it one at a time.

    There is no reason to ever use a clothes dryer. People do this because they’re clinging to an old mid-1900s habit, not from necessity. It’s a wasteful behavior people might consider breaking.

    • John Andersen says

      I’m also in Portland, OR, and live largely without the use of a clothes dryer.
      It’s all about changing everyday behaviors, and modeling a different way of life. People around us can’t help but notice, and will be following suite as their buying power/income continues to go down.

    • W. R. Flynn says

      Oops … I meant “years ago.” We’ve been hanging clothes to dry for thirty years. I agree, John, it’s an ingrained behavior. In time people will quit using their dryers. Maybe when clothes get too costly. The dryer EATS your fabric!

  2. Greg Yurash says

    Great idea, but watch out! In the community where I live, a cloths line is not just frowned upon, it is an actual misdemeanor offense that carries a fine! Laws like this will likely change or be ignored if the price of energy is high enough as time goes by. However, I’d bet that most towns that have their noses pushed up this high are suburbs where every house has a garage. Cloths will dry perfectly well on a line stung in that garage. Direct sunshine is not a requirement to dry damp cloths, it just takes a little longer.

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