Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hung Out to Dry

When we moved in to our house a little over six years ago our minds were full of project ideas and new found freedoms. Unlike rental units, in which we had lived for the majority of our adult lives (and for me, most of my whole life), the house afforded us opportunities to express ourselves: wall colors, landscaping and custom alterations. But our first project was a cheap (less than $80) addition that we both felt strongly about: the installation of a clothesline.

Both my husband and myself had fond memories of clotheslines from childhood - those technicolor makers of shade and instant fortresses. But we knew that clotheslines provided much more. Specifically, a clothes line is a solar-powered clothes dryer; a backyard stand against pollution and global warming. We chose a telescoping model for two specific reasons: 1) We have a smallish, urban backyard and didn't want the clothesline to significantly hinder how the space could be used while clothes were on the line, and 2) During cold weather and, say, lawn parties, the pole can be removed from the base, leaving only a small concrete patch flush with the ground. Our particular model can hold about three loads of laundry at a time and was a cinch to install - just one bag of concrete mix and a concrete form was needed.

The benefits of drying your clothes on a clothesline are many.

  • It's free! Drying clothes in a dryer costs on average about 30 cents per load.

  • Environmentally friendly bleach alternative! The sun's rays are quite effective at removing stains. Granted, they can also fade a favorite shirt so drying certain items wrong-side out is recommended. If your clothesline is in a shady area you won't have this concern.

  • Community-building! I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten caught up on the neighborhood scoop while out at the clothesline. Folks lean over the fence to chat when you have a clothesline.

  • Meditation! Hanging clothes up on a clothesline and taking them down are examples of the types of mindless tasks that let your spirit relax.

  • Sunshine fresh! Sun dried clothes smell, well, like sunshine - need I say more?

Of course, there are those naysayers that poo-poo the idea of clotheslines. Here's a few I've heard:

Clotheslines can be such an eye-sore. Isn't it horrible to show your underclothes to the whole world? Well, we make an effort to hang any unmentionables towards the center of our clothes line so that subsequent items block them from view. A three-line long wire clothesline would afford the same option.

Don't the birds poop all over the clothes? Umm, no. For this reason I don't recommend putting your clothesline under a tree, but our current clothesline sits under a power line (aka bird wire) and I'm only aware of one "bomb" in the last six years. The odds are clearly in our favor.

Aren't the clothes wrinkled? The condition of your clothes will only be as good as your technique; if you hang the clothes bunched up and wrinkled then that's how they'll dry. A quick shake and careful pinning and clothes are often removed from the line with less wrinkles than if they sat in the finished dryer for 5 minutes past the buzzer.

But the towels are so stiff and scratchy! True, sun dried towels have a different initial texture than towels slathered in petroleum-derived fabric softeners that were dried in fossil fuel-using dryers. But sun dried towels are more absorbent! Seriously, fabric softeners leave a film on fabric that retards absorption. And that characteristic stiffness is short-lived - as soon as you start using a sun dried towel it begins to soften up.

You're not really saving that much money and energy, so why bother? My family does roughly 4 to 5 loads of laundry per week, which translates into about $1.50 worth of savings per week. No, that doesn't seem like much of a savings. But when you consider that clothes dryers account for an average of 15% of a home's utility usage, you can see how using a clothesline is a cheap and easy way to save a bit of your budget. Plus, if all the homes in the United States used clotheslines exclusively for just 5 months out of the year, imagine the reduction in fossil-fuel based energy demand!

Do you use a clothesline? If yes, what are your favorite things about using one? If not, what's holding you back?

Now, I will be the first to acknowledge that using a clothesline has one serious draw-back: it's seasonal. Like most folks we've used the electric dryer during the colder months, or on a summer day that turned out to be more rainy than sunny. It would be great to have an indoor alternative, especially during the colder months when the drying clothes can add much-need moisture into the air. We've used drying racks inside the house with some success, but their cost ($15 plus dollars each) provides a bit of a set back, since we'd need around 8 of them to dry just one load of laundry. This past winter the husband got creative and hung a sturdy line near the 9 foot tall ceiling of our main living level. It snaked from the dining room through the living room and could hold nearly two loads of laundry (some of you had the pleasure of viewing this oddity). This was a convenient option but a bit of an eyesore at times. And, we had to learn the do's and don'ts of using this type of laundry line (do hang socks in between items to maximize space, don't hang long items in the middle of a walkway).

Does anyone have suggestions on how to tackle this problem? What solutions are available for indoor clothes lines?

Thanks for reading "Rational Living" and providing feedback on this topic. We'll get by with a little help from our friends!

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is "Rational Living?"


Okay, I am finally starting my journey into the world of blogging. I've been mulling over the idea of this blog for nearly a year, brainstorming topics and debating whether or not to bring it to fruition. But I've had the title pegged from the beginning. So, what exactly is "Rational Living?" Some of you know of my keen interest in WWII homefront rationing and how part of me wants my family to live within those rations for a period of time to see what discipline and self-sacrifice are like. Maybe this blog will someday be about that experience, but for now it's really an amalgam of ideas and doings and changes and discussions. I think the best way to get to the core of this blog is to look at the words themselves.

Ration (noun): a share, especially determined by supply
Ration (verb): to use sparingly

Rational (adjective): having reason or understanding

Living (adjective): having life
Living (noun): means of subsistence
Living (noun): conduct or manner of life

tional Living" is about taking only our share and sharing with others. It's about using less so that others have more. "Rational Living" is living within our means and living with meaning, and doing our best to not be driven crazy by the materialistic and consumer-driven expectations of our society. It's about living in a way that mirrors your beliefs which is, in all honesty, really really hard to do. It's not about perfection; I'm not perfect, my family's not perfect and neither are the readers of this blog. It's about real people asking questions and learning from each other and making changes.

Reader participation and feedback are most definitely encouraged.

Some of the common tags you'll see on this blog include sustainable living, gardening, conservation, canning and food preservation, recycling, ethical eating, hunting, petroleum-free, reusing and environmentally-friendly.

Book and movie reviews, recipes and even restaurant recommendations will be included in the content. Let me know if you have a suggestion!

Thanks for reading this and I'd be honored if you followed the blog and became an active commentator on "Rational Living."

--Rational Mama

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Watch This Space!

New thoughts, ramblings and mad schemes to take over the world will be here shortly!