Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Old Clothesline

I’ve had clotheslines before. Sometimes I enjoyed using them, but mostly, I didn’t. I’m sure my grandmothers had them, but I don’t remember my mother using one. I had a dryer; I didn’t see any need for a clothes line.

I did actually buy one once, at the very beginning of my quest to live a plainer, simpler life. I would use it for a while, and then I would quit and go back to my dryer. The first house I had a clothes line in had a wonderful laundry room, and I had a good system for sorting the clothes of my ever growing family. Lugging the clothes outside held no appeal for me.

Then, in the beginning of the ‘90’s, we moved to a very small little Texas town close to the Mennonite church I was interested in joining. The ladies I got to know well there barely used dryers at all, they hardly thought about it, although a few of them had them. As I sought to be more like them, I used the clothes line that was already installed in the house we bought from the deacon’s son when they moved to California to start a new church. I was pretty faithful in using the clothesline for a few years. I even began to enjoy it. I finally had the pretty little farm I always wanted. Using the clothes line gave me the opportunity to enjoy looking at my farm animals, checking out how they looked as I went outside various times during the day, checking to see that all was well.

Then we applied for and became foster parents for the state of Texas. It wasn’t our first time to be licensed foster parents, we had done it before in Oklahoma, and had even fostered privately for two different ladies who were in jail. This time however, we seemed to get babies drug addicted from the womb. They certainly had their own special challenges, and took a lot of my time and energy. Soon, we had adopted three foster children.

My husband and I were well into our fifties when these three little ones joined our seven biological children, to give us ten children. We also had nine grandchildren by this time, and they liked to spend a lot of time with us, which we enjoyed. But I was older now, and my energy level wasn’t the same as it used to be. It wasn’t long before I decided the clothes line could go, and I went back to using my dryer full time. Once again, I had a nice system for sorting the clothes of the many people I washed for. Laundry was a job I reserved for myself, because if I did it, the clothes would end up in the right baskets, rather than everyone complaining that their clothes were mixed in with a brother or sisters, or even dad’s as the boys all got as big as, and even passed him in size.

Then the recession hit. Even my attorney husband was having trouble making enough to provide for our large family. I was having trouble making the money stretch, not that we couldn’t pay our bills, but I had to quit buying some of the more expensive foods my children enjoyed, and I visited more thrift shops and ebay for our clothes and other things.
I soon was looking for ways to cut the large bills down so we could enjoy more of the things we used too. I changed out the light bulbs to the funny looking ones that are supposed to save energy. I changed the way we heated and cooled our home. I joined a site called and began to clip coupons, and cut our grocery bill by quite a bit.

But one day when I was lamenting again about how I could cut our electric bill still more, my eighteen year old son remarked that no one else that went to church with us seemed to worry about the electric bill. I said I wondered what they did that made a difference. He remarked that none of them would even think about using a dryer as much as I did. We laughed as we remembered some of our friends who even have clothes lines stretched across their living rooms during bad weather. I remembered dodging underwear once in one of those houses as I tried to walk in the door. He was right. I began to rethink the clothes line, although I really didn’t want to use it. Then, I read an article about saving money, and it said that the dryer cost about a dollar for every load. Well, I usually washed at least two loads a day, sometimes more, depending on what was going on. So that was at least $60 a month on our electric bill, just using the dryer.
I decided to use the clothes line again. But this time, I enlisted the help of my twelve year old daughter. I wash the clothes, she hangs them, and then I bring them in. This way, lugging the heavy baskets of wet clothes outside is on her strong young back. I bring them in and sort them into each person’s baskets, and the clothes don’t get mixed up. As I take the clothes off the line, I am once again looking at the animals around our little farm, checking out how they look: are they active, do they have water, do they seem like they are in any distress? I have time as I take down the clothes to look at the clouds in the beautiful sky, to see the trees, to hear the birds, all things that usually have me singing hymns before I’m finished. My four and five year old like to show off their bike riding skill while they’ve got me in the yard. It’s not so bad. Why did I think it was?

And sure enough, my first electric bill after a full month of hanging clothes outside was more than $60 dollars less than the month before.

I haven’t yet gotten to the point of hanging a clothes line across my living room. I still use my dryer once in a while in bad weather, and to dry the nicer clothes that would wrinkle on the line, especially our church clothes. I might use the clothes line, but I still don’t like to iron, and I haven’t found a good alternative for that yet!

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