A Clothesline Way of Life

Published this week in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

I just saw an advertisement for a washing machine with two washers in one machine so you can wash light and dark at the same time. Let us pass over the fact that you can wash light and dark together on an energy-saving cold-water setting and consider what this means. How many housekeepers face the mountain of laundry in that one spot that always seems susceptible to the plate tectonics causing its growth? Do we really need to do more laundry at once? It is time-saving, so instead of spending all weekend doing laundry, you can spend one full day doing nothing but laundry.

I’d like to propose a different way of life. I discovered it through my clothesline.

Lack of financial resources during a particular period of our life had me searching for whatever ways I could to be conservative with our money. Though we owned a drier, our rented home sat atop a large hill with a massive clothesline shared with our adjoining neighbors.

Combine this set up with the wisdom gleaned from A Mother’s Rule of Life and I discovered a slower way to live. Her recommendation is to set a structure for each day, an order of events that may or may not be on a timeline, that follow a similar approach as a monastic order. The routine stays the same. The sequence depends on the family. It may be wake up, dress, breakfast, school lessons, chores, lunch, rest, hobby, dinner, clean up, bed; or wake up, dress, breakfast, leave for school, errands, return home after school, snack, homework, play, dinner, clean up, bed. A simple routine spelled out in more detail: clean a different room each day, wash a different load of laundry each day. Never more than one load of laundry per day. Otherwise, the day can become consumed with laundry, neglecting other areas of life.

Over the past wet winter, at our home-in-town with our average-size fenced-in yard, I gave up using the clothesline and used the dryer instead. When I finished one wash and put it in the drier, it seemed so simple to add another load to the wash. Soon I was completing three loads in one day and had a great deal more laundry to fold, with more places to deliver it to. Even though I did laundry on fewer days, it felt more exhausting. Like having to deep clean once a week rather than clean small, quick messes daily.

Winter passed, the clouds dried up, and I took out my clothesline once again. I am back to one load or one type of laundry a day (sheets) and at least two days a week without washing anything. I make sure to have one day of rest from all chores. For us, as Christians, that day is Sunday. There is something fulfilling of going out into the sun, hanging the pieces with care, and folding that fresh-smelling crisp wash at the end of the day rather than after the huff of getting it all washed and dried within three hours.

We have to guard our lives. Faster and time saving may be better, but what do we fill the time with? Do we just end up doing more? Do we end up losing the time to social media or some fabulously written Netflix show? It can be good and necessary to spend a day doing laundry, that’s true. Not all lifestyles allow for a slow approach to chores. Still, I would like to advocate for the effort. The effort to slow down, do a little less and enjoy a little more. Whether it is with a clothesline, a slow cooker or a storybook, I think it is worth a try.

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