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Monday, May 10, 2010

Hanging Laundry with Funny and Lillian

Funny About Money wrote a paean to hanging laundry. She correctly realized that the practice is valuable not for the tiny amount of money it saves, but for the priceless stress-relief it provides. I hang laundry now and again, but, living in a high humidity environment means that sometimes items NEVER get dry. When I visit in-laws in California, I delight in hanging laundry. Even wool sweaters dry as if by magic. My in-laws, not fully appreciating the low humidity, do not engage in the practice.

I recall a description of hanging laundry in an even higher humidity place: the Hebrides. There is a wonderful series of books by Lillian Beckwith about her life in the Hebrides, where she went to rest on doctor's orders. I can't locate the exact part I remember, which is about hanging laundry in an environment of almost constant rains, resulting in continual re-rinsing and sun-bleaching of linens until the blessed moment when one can take in the laundry.

The following passage is from Bruach Blend, not the one I am thinking of, but pretty close:

The earth dykes around my croft were draped with sheets bleaching in the sun; newly washed blankets hung from the clothes rope where they responded to the caress of the breeze which, as it dried them, teased their fibres into downy softness and filled them with the good fresh smell of pure Highland air.

Perhaps because sunshine is scarcer in the Hebrides we tended to assess its qualities seriously. Thus May was traditionally the best month for bleaching and blanket washing. The hot summer sun, if and when it came, was welcome for drying the peats, but it turned woollen blankets yellow and hurried the drying of linen. To bleach successfully one needed the slow-drying, spring sunshine. A sheet put out to bleach in June or July would need to be sluiced frequently with clean water to ensure it did not dry too quickly, and as clean water had to be carried from the well it was far too precious a commodity for such ministrations. So we made the most of any good May weather, leaving the spread sheets out over several days and nights to be soaked repeatedly by the abundant May dew and subsequently dried by its benign sunshine. When the time came to gather them in, even the most obstinate stains had disappeared and the sheets were almost eye-dazzling in their whiteness.

Such knowledge I had of course acquired since living and working with the Bruach crofters, for once they realized I was in earnest they were eager enough to teach me not just the essentials I needed to know and practise to survive the crofting life but the simpler more esoteric crofting lore

I highly recommend Beckwith's books, which are in the genre of city-lady-goes-to-country-and-falls in love with place-and writes about it. Is there a better name for the genre?

What are your small stress relievers of the frugal variety?

P.S. I just checked Amazon and the Beckwith books are in print once more: Try Hills Is Lonely">.


Kris said...

For me, it is probably doing a bunch of cooking and food prep. For instance, I just cooked a big pot of spaghetti sauce and made up a tray of mostaccioli for tonight. That will then be lunch for tomorrow for the kiddos and I have 2 more big containers of sauce to defrost at a later date. I also peeled/cut a ton of vegetables while the sauce was simmering for snacking/lunches/whatever. Of course, this is all done while listening to the radio as loud as I want because I am the only one home.

If I hung my clothes out to dry, my family would all die from allergies right now. It is really bad in Michigan right now.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Kris--I like cooking better than laundry. I like the IDEA of hanging laundry.

Duchesse said...

I hang laundry both outdoors, off an upper-floor deck with a line moored to a huge old elm, and indoors over the AGA (on hangers hung to large pot rack).

What amazes me is that some neighbourhoods here have convenants against hanging laundry outside.

Funny about Money said...

Beautiful sheets sheets on the line, like sails in the tradewinds. I've got to get a Beckwith book!

Speaking of using the sun to bleach whites, did you know that if you dampen a stained white garment and put it in the freezer until it's thoroughly frozen and then put it out in the sun all day, it often will bleach out the stain? I've had this work on (grr! brand-new!) panties that came out of the washer still stained with menstrual blood.

SLF said...

Also, one must not forget the environmental benefits of hanging laundry. Sure, the cost of electricity that we pay is only 8 or 9 cents / kwh (maybe 20 - 25 cents per load of laundry i.e. a relatively insignificant sum) but for each kwh we use, we emit about 960g of CO2. Avoiding THAT is the real benefit (and of course all previously mentioned stress relieving benefits as well.

--Frugal Son

Anonymous said...

Do you know, I never really thought about this before, but it is satisfying putting washing out on the line - and even more so bringing in a load of fresh smelling dry washing. I put my washing out at every possible opportunity - usually hanging it out at about 6.30am before I leave for work. South east England doesn't have your humidity problems and we get a lot of wind so I can dry washing outdoors for probably 8 months of the year at least. I bitterly resent every penny my (rarely used) tumble drier costs, and only ever use it overnight when I get cheaper electricity. In winter I am more likely to put stuff on the radiators before I go to work (so they get the last of the heat then and catch it when the heating comes on again about 4ish). I had never realised how deeply the frugal habits of my mother had gone!!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--If I had an AGA, I would do the same.

@Funny--The books are great! I learned about them from the defunct catalogue A Common Reader. BTW, thanks to your question, I looked at the Atlantic on-line. It was all there. I am in love with their food sections.

@SLF--You are soooo good, because when you're home, you always help hang the laundry.

@Alienne--I wish I had radiators. I used them for drying when I was in Cambridge a few summers ago.

Mary Q Contrarie said...

I air dry year round. I live with high humidity in the summer and below freezing in the winter. Most days I dry in the house on clothes drying racks. I am not sure it is a huge stress reliever. But it does help to keep the utility bill down which does help keep the stress down. Clothes last longer when air dried which means I do not have to go shopping as often which keeps the stress down. So looking at it from that point of view. Air drying helps relieve my stress too.