This post is about laundry and my reevaluation of how we handle it around here. It’s kinda lengthy, but it’s something that has been on my mind a lot for the past few months. Read along if you have been wanting to reevaluate your laundry situation, maybe there’s something here you can take away?!
I started to line dry our laundry after the dryer stopped working at the beginning of the summer. This was something I had been wanting to do, but lacked the ambition to actually tackle. The dryer quit on me while I was in the middle of washing our clothes, and thankfully we had the set up we needed to hang our laundry outdoors. All we needed was extra line and more clothespins. I wanted to give line drying a fair shot…Would I like it? How would it compare to using the dryer? Would it save us any money? It was an experiment, and for the sake of giving it a real trial, we opted not to get the dryer repaired until the weather began to cool.
It turns out I like it a lot. I liked the quite time I would get while hanging laundry. The kids would either be eating a meal or off doing something else while I hung the clothes, so it was peaceful. It gave me time to myself to think, and I really appreciated that. This probably sounds silly, but it is also a nice arm workout. (Not that you’re going to get super toned or anything, but it helped a bit.)
In terms of comparison, I never got around to using a fabric softener, so everything was kind of stiff. The first load of laundry that came out of the dryer after it was working again almost felt too soft (if that’s even possible). Most of us know or have heard that drying your clothes in the dryer makes them wear out faster. The clothes tumble and rub against each other in the dryer, automatically creating more wear. And if you think about your lint trap…they loose so much fiber content every time the go through the dryer as opposed to hanging on the line. However, I don’t have any idea how much wear one summers-worth of line-drying saved our clothes.
Something else I liked about the line drying was that the clothes were often less wrinkled. If I pull laundry out of the dryer as soon as a load finishes, then I can often help prevent most of the wrinkling, but most days that just doesn’t happen…I dry a load as we head out of the house for the day or I pop a load in before heading to bed for the night. I was also far more likely to fold the laundry as it came off of the line as opposed to shoveling it out of the dryer and leaving it in the basket until I got time to fold it all. If it was folded immediately, I was more likely to make sure that the kids or I put it away right away. I also got better at washing our laundry more frequently, something that I had been wanting to change for a long time but never succeed at. Handling each piece of laundry so many times in the process allowed me to notice a lot of things about our laundry that I wasn’t seeing otherwise, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.
The cons were that if the weather was uncooperative, I couldn’t dry the clothes. I tried keeping track of the weather forecast so that if I was going to be gone during the day and clothes were on the line, I would make sure it wasn’t supposed to rain. One day the field next to us was spread with manure, and the smell got onto a load of laundry, so that’s something I need to pay more attention to next year. And while this isn’t much of a complaint for some people, our pants never shrunk back to size while on the line…not an issue for the kids, but something that was a little irritating for Scott and I because some of our pants started to look droopy after awhile.
As for cost savings, I was never able to get an exact number on this because we ended up needing to run the A/C upstairs and the dehumidifier in the basement for nearly all of July and August. I didn’t start line drying until partway through June, so I only got a glimpse at cost savings before the A/C was turned on. Our electric bills had been dropping as the days were getting longer, and I think I would have seen a little bit more of a dip in the already dropping bills if we had not used the A/C and dehumidifier. We ended up paying roughly the amount we paid throughout the winter months during July and August, and September began to drop a bit again.
Back to the things I began noticing about our laundry. 1) I was washing so much laundry that I was no longer having time to deal with stains properly. 2) Even though I was washing the laundry more frequently, I was washing way more than needed to even be worn in a week. 3) We owned way too much clothing. 4) Most of it was not appropriate for the way we are now living.
In fairness to the amount of laundry I was washing, I should disclose that we started potty training Doodles this summer, so there have been plenty of extra dirty bed sheets, clothes and underwear. It’s getting better, but it was automatically causing extra work. I also began cloth diapering E, and we have second hand cloth diapers that are not quite as leak-proof as their newer counterparts, which means I need to be more diligent about diaper changes. It’s also my first time cloth diapering, so there’s a learning curve to go with that. I’m still adjusting, but I’m getting the hang of it. Between the diapers and the sometimes wet bedding and clothing, there’s plenty of extra laundry right now.
We have been very blessed. In over the past 4 years, we have only had to purchase clothes of any kind for our kids a handful of times. Between gifts and hand-me-downs, we rarely need to purchase anything. As far as gifts went, we’d get asked if the kids need anything, and if I knew that they needed pants or shorts or whatever, I would let the person asking know. This was really helpful because it usually covered anything we were in need of. If there were gaps, I knew I’d have to fill them myself, but more often than not, we ended up with an abundance of a particular item. From time to time family or friends would give us their hand-me-downs, and I would only keep what I felt we really needed. If we had enough of a given item, I’d pass on the rest to someone else or bring it to a thrift store. (Clothing has really only been an issue for us with Pumpkin and Miss Lady since Pumpkin is the oldest boy and Miss Lady our only girl. The other boys largely use hand-me-downs from Pumpkin and occasionally get new items as gifts.)
I am so grateful to the people who have helped us out with this because it took a huge financial burden off of our shoulders. (Thank you!) And while these gifts and hand-me-downs have been a huge blessing, the problem that I started to notice while dealing with the laundry this summer was that we largely don’t own the right clothing for the way we live and where we live right now. (All of it was fine when we were in the city, but being in the country and homesteading is a game changer.) It also turns out that we owned a lot of the wrong clothing.
I started by scaling back on what we owned, going down to an amount that fit in their dressers and seemed a reasonable amount to own. As I was going through their clothes, I knew that I might need to do it again, and I did. This past week I went through everybody’s clothes to get rid of anything that was wrecked beyond repair (they did a lot of damage over the summer!), anything that was not durable enough for kids who climb trees, crash bikes, chase chickens or play in the mud, and then pared the remainder of most of their clothing down to half. Right now they each have one nice outfit for special occasions, one outfit for days we go out of the house, a few pairs of jeans, a few basic t-shirts, and a few long sleeved shirts. I might reduce more, but we need to experiment with this level of clothing first.
Don’t worry, I went through my closet and dresser as well and I got rid of most of what I owned. Having been pregnant and now with my weight shifting post-baby, I had been putting it off. When I finally went through what I owned, I realized that most of the clothes that “fit” me now didn’t fit me well, and that the clothes that I had been hoping to be able to wear again weren’t even going to be practical once the weight comes off. The shirts weren’t durable enough, I almost never have a reason to wear a dress or a skirt, and I only need one pair of dress pants for special occasions during the cold months.
I want to make some replacements for some of our pants or shirts, wherever it’s needed, to make sure that what we own is both practical and durable. We’ll be doing the same thing with our outerwear as well, making sure that we get jackets and footwear that are durable and work through multiple seasons, not just one.
There were three big driving forces behind me giving this topic so much thought. First, I really disliked doing laundry because of the sheer volume of clothing that we owned, and I was hoping to make the experience a little less dreadful for myself. Yes, I have the kids help with laundry, but they aren’t big enough to do some of the things themselves such as hang laundry on the line or remove it from the washing machine, and even if they could help more, I would still have wanted to downsize.
Second, we have so many things going on around here and I am trying to simplify as much of the cleaning process as possible, simple clothes make laundry easier (less care instructions, easier stain removal). Less clothing means we stop to think about what is actually dirty and whether or not a piece of clothing can be worn again before getting washed, ultimately leading to less laundry.
And third, I wanted to make sure that if the dryer dies again in the middle of doing laundry, I can still wash and dry our laundry. It’s not like I can just go out and hang clothes on the line when it’s 10 degrees out. If there is less laundry, we just can’t accumulate as much dirty laundry, the loads will be much smaller, and we will have enough room to hang things to dry around the house if need be.
Why is the third aspect so important? Because for two weeks in a row in September, it rained or was cloudy or really windy or just too cool to get a load of laundry dried on the line (I love fall weather, but you can’t dry clothes in that around here). I managed to get the cloth diapers washed, but that was all. I really, really needed to get the laundry washed at that point, and it was still a week until we could afford to get the dryer fixed. Knowing the weather wasn’t going to get better anytime soon, I called my mom and asked her if I could dry our laundry at her house. She said yes, which was great…only her dryer died in the middle of one of the loads and I still had baskets left with wet clothes. I had to drape laundry all over the house to dry it out, and it took two whole days!
Could we have gone to a different friend or relative’s house to use their dryer, or gone to the laundromat? Sure, but taking 5 little kids anywhere can be quite a task. Taking them out with baskets and baskets of laundry is even harder, but the thought of having to do that in winter? That’s the kind of stuff that gives moms grey hair and wrinkles, S-T-R-E-S-S-F-U-L! There needed to be a better solution. I had gotten all of the clothing dried, but I already had a few baskets of laundry that were waiting to be washed at that point. I couldn’t take a drive that day, kids were sleeping, food was in the oven. I was settled, we’d go to the laundromat the next day. But as I was contemplating the problem, I knew I didn’t want to have to rely on the laundromat, I didn’t want to have to rely on family or friends if it ever happened again. The problem wasn’t the dryer, it was the amount of stuff that we owned.
The dryer is now working, but I realized that though I will be using it during the cold months, I don’t want to rely on it like that again. We aren’t in the city, our road isn’t exactly the first to get plowed, our driveway is worse, and I just don’t want to have to rely on other people like that. I know we have helpful friends, family, and neighbors who would probably be happy to help, but that’s beside the point. It also made me look to see how much excess we own, and why? Because that’s just how everyone else does it? I like fashion, but I’m not trying to impress anyone with our fashion sense here, especially if they are at our house unannounced! The basics will do just fine. The point of it is to own what we actually need and not to hang onto things just because we have them.
This homesteading journey is about discovering what things are truly important, and doing things that we love and make us happy. Line drying isn’t exactly a time saver, but I enjoy it. It gets me out of the house when I’m feeling lazy. And I don’t know if we would ever ditch the electric around here, but I also want to know that I have solutions for these things should we ever go that route.
So there you have it. Was that boring as all get out, or did it give you something to think about? Do you enjoy line drying? Have you ever or do you need to stop and reevaluate you (and your family’s) wardrobes? Don’t forget to like and comment, and feel free to share! Happy laundry!
*Update* Want to read more? Check out my follow up post: Part 2.