laundry with my ancestors

It was another glorious day yesterday, although the cold air keeps the temperatures down. I’ve been using the run of good weather to empty the laundry baskets in the house. I can see the bottom of them all now.

Yesterday I washed sheets – bulky items that take up plenty of space in the hamper.


I feel a strange sense of satisfaction drying clothes outside. I love the smell of the clean wash, and the snap they make when the wind whips at them. I can see them flapping in the breeze from my office window, and its simplicity gladdens my heart.

What I love most is that it’s such an ancient way of drying your washing.

Whenever I peg a sheet to the clothesline I think about one of my forebearers doing the same centuries before. In that period of time clothing has changed remarkably, as how they are washed, but the drying of them – hanging them outside, or draping them over rocks – remains the same.

Technology changes our lives constantly, to the point that one of my ancestors would be bewildered if transported through time to my home today.

Yet, most of them would recognise the act of hanging laundry on a clothesline.

They could heft the basket of damp clothes outside, hand me a fistful of pegs (perhaps marvelling at its colour and material), and help out with the chore. Little explanation would be necessary.

Clothes pegs close

I appreciate not everyone has access to a garden, as I didn’t for a long time. However, I strongly object to restrictions that don’t allow people to dry clothing outside because of ‘aesthetic’ reasons.

It wasn’t until I was writing this blog post, and did a small amount of googling on the subject, that I discovered in the USA there are rigorous bans on drying clothes outside in some communities. There’s even a web site, Project Laundry List, which is dedicated to encouraging people to dry their clothes outside.

There’s a documentary, called Drying For Freedom, which is about the fight in the USA to have a clothesline in your back yard. Forcing people to use tumble dryers costs them more money and is an energy drain on our strained resources. Here’s a trailer for it:

I’ll continue drying as much laundry on my line as is possible, which in Ireland means developing a good weather eye and being able to sprint outside when rain erupts (but not today!).


    • Maura

      Sunny days are to be celebrated in this country! 😀

      And drying loads of laundry outside is one way of doing it. 😉

  • K. A. Laity

    The idea of wind-dried clothes is always appealing, though not quite enough to ever make me eager for the task. But for the first time in years, I can do it again.

    • Maura

      It’s always great to have the choice. 😀

      I had years and years of bringing clothes to laundrettes when I lived in Dublin, before I had an apartment with my own washing machine. Theoretically it was a washer/dryer machine, but it took so long to dry so few clothes it wasn’t worth the cost.

      But, we were not ‘allowed’ to dry clothes on our balcony. Often, I ignored that and put up my clothes horse of laundry out there anyway.

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