Taking it back in time

by Sandra

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Our clothes dryer hasn’t been working for a little over a month now. We’ve looked on Craigslist for a new one, have tried to have at least one delivered, yet to no avail. Here we are, on the cusp of February, with still no dryer.

It’s a fact that I’m somewhat conflicted about. On the one hand, I’ve lived with a clothes dryer for almost four years now, and with most modern conveniences (car, mobile phone, microwave) once you get used to having one around, it’s hard to readjust to not having one. On the other hand, when I think about how many people in the word wash and dry their clothes by beating them on rocks by the edge of a river, I know that having one is not absolutely essential to modern living.

But then again, neither is the thought of weekly laundromat visits very inviting.

Leave it up to a woman who spent half of last year living in Africa to come up with a solution.

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The clothesline idea was one that had crossed my mind, but I’ve been so busy and stressed out with schoolwork lately that my brain has been acting like a huge seive—leaking and full of holes. Any idea not substantial enough to resist the cracks, slips out. So last Sunday, as I heard Michelle stringing up two lines of yarn in the backyard, I thought “how ingenious.”

A clothesline is so basic—I remember vaguely my mother having one (am I just imagining that, Mom?)—and at the same time quite romantic. It requires a lot more effort than just throwing clothes into a large metal box, pushing a few setting buttons, closing the door and walking away.

Instead, there’s so much more engagement. Each item of clothing must be individually pinned up to the line. The warm sun beats down on your back as you do this, making you somehow accutely aware that you’re outside. The birds chirp, you hear them more distinctly, the cold grass tickles and dampens the bottoms of your feet, the breeze blows and the clothing flutters.

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The fabrics of your clothes must be periodically touched, to test for dryness. Cottons take longer than poly blends and become stiffer in the sunshine than their synthetic cousins.

And yet, I found it oddly relaxing to dry my clothes this way. Yes they also took longer than a conventional dryer, but I did homework while I waited, and sat outside doing it. When’s the last time I spent three hours outside reading poetry? I can’t even say.

Ultimately, I don’t know how practical this method if clothes drying will become. Already, a spate of rainy days has prevented any further use of the backyard lines, a boon that I realize most people must be under this time of year. Also, I’m fairly confident that not everyone in the house attaches romantic notions to such things and fail to feel so enthusiastic about this lo-tech laundry method. I suspect that we’ll have to shell out for a new, modern drying machine. But it was fun while it lasted!

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