July 9, 2012

Why I Love Laundry: Simple, Frugal, and Beautiful

This may sound completely insane, but laundry is one of my favorite activities.

It wasn't always this way. Laundry used to be a dreaded chore. But now, I think I've discovered a laundry routine that suits me. I've fallen into a rhythm, and I look forward to doing laundry. I think it's because I stumbled into this laundry ritual that syncs with everything else I love in homemaking: it is simple, frugal, and beautiful.

And just in case it might inspire someone else to love laundry, too, here's what I look forward to on laundry days:

  1. Using homemade laundry soap

    I love how easy it is to make. I love how inexpensive it is. I love how it smells. I love the satisfaction that I made it myself; I sort of feel invested in its success.

    I love the fact that it is also the best pre-treatment I've found. If an article is stained, I simply pour a bit of the laundry soap on it, smear it in, and let it sit anywhere from five minutes to twenty-four hours. Then I toss the treated item into the laundry and wash it as usual. This has worked for me better than Shout or Spray 'n Wash. I love the simplicity of having only one laundry product.

  2. Prepping the laundry for the clothesline 

    I usually spin our laundry in the dryer for five minutes in order to knock out wrinkles, soften the clothes, and begin the drying process. I watch the clock rather than setting the timer on my dryer, since I don't want my clothes to spin on the "cool" cycle that occurs in the last ten minutes of my dryer's regular settings.

    The laundry has already been sorted once, when it was sorted into loads. But as I remove the laundry from the dryer after the five-minute spin, I sort the items within the load. I want them to be hung on the line in groups: all my t-shirts together, all my husband's t-shirts together, bath towels together, kitchen towels together, etc. This makes it easy peasy later when it's time to take the dry clothes down and put them away. So as I pull our laundry items out of the dryer, I group them. Then I lay them in the basket in the order I want them to hang on the line. (This video demonstrates.)

    Oh, this is also the point at which I separate "unmentionables" from outerwear, towels, and linens. Anything I wouldn't want blown into my neighbor's yard in the event of a huge and unexpected windstorm, I hang on a short clothesline inside my laundry room. I refuse to have undergarments flapping in my backyard breeze!

    I love prepping the laundry for the line because I get to play inspector. I make sure I've caught and treated all stains and that they are now gone. This is also when I notice any holes that must be mended, loose buttons that need attention, or frayed towels ready to become cleaning rags.

  3. Wearing my clothespin apron

    You have permission to laugh. I feel so official when I tie my clothespin apron around my waist. Carpenters have tool belts. Cops have holsters. Look out, world; I have a clothespin apron.

    I love having the "tools of my trade" very handy when I start to hang the clothes. Both my hands are free to lift the clothes out of the basket and fold them over the line, but my clothespins are right at my hip when I need them.

    My view of my clothespin apron, while I'm hanging clothes:

  4. Hanging whites in the pure, bright sun

    I find it extremely relaxing, maybe even therapeutic, to methodically hang my laundry. With the sorting already done, all I have to do is go down the line attaching the clothes. It's the kind of mindless work that allows your thoughts to wander. And in the sunny, windy weather that creates the best laundry days, my thoughts are happy. I like to pray while hanging the clothes.

    It's also exciting to me to anticipate that my row of white towels and t-shirts, and even my husband's one white dress shirt, will be a brighter white when I return later to take the laundry off the line. Nothing bleaches whites quite like direct sunlight. When it's time to collect the whites from the line after they've been exposed to the sun, their color is even, pure, and a bit blinding at times.


  5. Though I want my whites to get as much direct sunlight as possible, I don't want my vibrant red sheets to fade. I try to hang richly-colored articles during times of the day when they will be shaded by the trees or when the sun simply isn't as bright. Sometimes, though, I end up hanging colored clothes in the sunshine; and when I do, I hang them inside-out, fronts facing away from the sun. 

  6. Experiencing the smell of sunshine

    Aside from beautifully bleaching whites, another lovely benefit the sun imparts to drying clothes is the smell. I sniff every item as I take it down from the line and fold it. I would like to know why sunshine seems to have an aroma that can only be detected by the human olfactory senses after it has been absorbed into fabric. I just can't figure it out. But this I know: it smells like health and wholesomeness and fresh air and a hint of nectar and the kind of cleanliness that is supposedly next to godliness.

  7. Knowing that I've been a good steward of our resources and enjoyed the process

    If I bought a 172-oz. box of Gain powder detergent
    on sale at $29.99, and if it lasted the advertised 150 loads, I would be spending about $105.00 per year on laundry detergent for our household. As it is, with our homemade laundry soap, we spend less than $10.00 per year. This is our only laundry product, since we don't use dryer sheets or fabric softener.

    Further, when I previously used my clothes dryer "full-time," it consumed a huge portion of our household electricity. I haven't been able to calculate exactly how much our switch to line drying has saved us, because since we made the switch, several other variables have come into play that also affected our electricity bill. For the average couple, however, the clothes dryer is "the second-biggest electricity-using appliance after the refrigerator, costing about $85 to operate annually" (
    source). A few real-life conversations and a quick look around the web will reveal that many who switch to line drying save between $50 and $100 per year.

    Finally, clothes last longer when they're not tumble-dried. In the past I would pull fistfuls of material out of the lint trap and comment that I was losing a washcloth's worth of fabric every time I dried a load. That wasn't far from the truth! A dryer is just rough on anything that gets tossed into it. I like the fact that my line-dried clothes feel thicker and look less worn than they did before, when they used to tumble in the dryer for 45 minutes. 

So there you have it: six things I love about laundry. Is that so crazy, after all? 

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