THE  EXPLORER
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USING A CLOTHESLINE

noun_68993_ccIt's really kind of fun

Yesterday, I posted a picture of our clothesline on Instagram with towels I had just pinned to the line.  It's something that we started doing after we returned from our sabbatical in Andros, Bahamas in January.   For nearly a month, we lived in a community at the north end of the island called Nicholls Town.  Our house didn't have a washer or dryer, so everything we brought was cleaned in a washbasin and dried on a clothesline.  
 
Truth be told, our clothes never really seemed clean with the hand washing; I missed having a washing machine.  But drying on a line, especially in the tropical locale, was something easy to get into.   The line was always gently fluttering with bright swimsuits and beach towels, a signal to everyone that we were here to relax.  
 
Our little cottage where I did reenactments of "Little House on the Prairie" as I (poorly) washed our clothes in a basin.
The clotheslines was 2 green plastic-coated wires strung between these trees. Not a great photo, but its the only one I have.
 
During this month sans phone and computer, we had a chance to really meditate on how we were living day-to-day at home and how we wanted to reprioritize when we returned.  And as I journaled (something I did every day there but have not done since), I saw that a clothesline was jotted down on a list of priorities.  
 
Why?  We weren't in a touristy area of the Bahamas and so we were removed from consumerism for the entire time that we were gone.  Once we escaped the Nassau airport, our shopping was limited to buying produce at a Mennonite farm and fish from local guys who would stop by our house at the end of the day with 5-gallon buckets of spiny lobster tails and snapper. We weren't bombarded with advertisements on Facebook, Google, cable television and billboards.  And while no one in Nicholls Town had any American-style "wealth," they were all happy and vibrant.  It was nice.  And inspiring.
 
I don't want to make this into a preachy rant about all of the waste we create every day so I'll skip to the part when I decided that a clothesline was one simple way that we could reduce our impact on energy consumption.   Now six months into the transition, I have some tips for drying in a humid environment, if you're interested.
 
1.  Put your clothesline in a convenient location.  Ours is on our deck.  This makes sense for me (even though we have a big yard where we could stretch one out) for a couple of reasons.  First, it needs to be somewhere close by so that you'll actually use it.  Since it is right there it's easy for me to remember to pull it in when the clothes are dry or when it is about to rain.  I don't have to lug a basket of wet laundry across the lawn and contend with grass clippings or debris getting on the clothes.
 
Our clothesline
 
2. Make sure that you get enough sunlight and air circulation.  I've make this mistake a few times, and I ended up with clothes that would not dry.  If your laundry doesn't dry in a few hours, it will get mildewy.   I hang my laundry up in the morning when the deck gets the longest stretch of sunlight before it is shaded by the house.  
 
3.  Find the type of line that works best for your house.  I picked up a retractible line from Lowe's so that I could stow the line away when I wasn't using it.  Since it is on my deck, I don't need an empty line hanging there that could literally "clothesline" someone when it wasn't flagged with drying laundry.  
 
There are so many options that even a small space should not deter you from trying it out.  You can be simple and just get a coated line like we had in Andros (the plastic coating keep your clothes from getting rust stains on them), or you can get fancy with something like a solar-powered rotating one. These hipsters seem pretty content with their choice:
 
They look so happy.

4. Don't be all or nothing.  We still use our dryer (and I love it), but I've reduced by dryer usage by at least fifty percent.  I think of it like dieting:  If I say I'm never going to eat bread again in my life (I've said that), I fail. And then I loathe myself for my nonexistent self-control.  

Start with doing your towels (they are not personal like clothing, so it's a good place to start if you have neighbors!) and go from there. 

5.  Get an indoor drying rack, too.  There are times of year where an outdoor line does not work well.  Winter months, rainy days and really high humidity foil the clothesline.  I have a cheap indoor rack that holds a surprising amount of laundry that I use, too.  I tend to dry all of Olivia's clothes and our undergarments on this year round. Because it is only a couple of feet from the washer, it's nearly as easy to load up the rack as it is to toss the clothes in the dryer.  This is what it looks like (Each dowel is 2.5 feet long, giving you 20 feet of total drying space.  Not bad.)

This one is from Crate & Barrel ($30) but it's a pretty ubiquitous design that you can find everywhere.  

That's it.  I figure that by doing this my dryer will last a little longer and our energy bill will be a little lower.  And image- just imagine- if all of us did this.  In a nation like ours, if we all just did one measly load a week on a line, the collective needle would move in the right direction.  

I hope this wasn't an annoying read for you.  I'm still kind of shaking my head that I just wrote an ode to homesteading.  Next time we'll get back to kayaking and boating with a post on water shoes that our guides wear.
 
See you on the water,
Kari Crolley