Hung Out to Dry

[Previous Rural Farmgirl, April 2009 – May 2010]
I am not sure what it is about certain tasks that make me fight them with every fiber in my being. Maybe it is the repetition of some that make them seem so mundane. Or perhaps it is that some tasks never seem to really be finished, like washing dishes. (You know, just as the last dish is washed, someone has the audacity to bring in another glass.)

Well, for me that never-ending task is laundry. I have four boys and a farming hubby, so that probably has something to do with it. But it seems that mounds of laundry can grow in very little time. I’ve resorted to purchasing all the same kind of socks for the guys, which cuts down on the amount of time I need to get them sorted. Since they all look the same for the most part, I throw them all in a cute little basket and let them fend for themselves.
I feel guilty complaining about doing the laundry, though. In comparison to the days of old, we have it pretty easy. No one expects me to haul their dirty items down to the stream and pound them with a rock, or scrape them on a washboard and run them through a hand wringer. Yet I still find doing laundry tedious at best.
My favorite part of the whole process is looking into the closet and seeing all my clothing lined up. I arrange all my clothes by color, and I like looking in there and seeing everything neatly arranged. I should say that although lining them up by color sounds impressive (or crazy), I don’t really “do” much color. I have a couple of colored accent pieces, but most of my closet is filled with brown, tan and white.
An artist friend of mine recently painted a beautiful scene of her clothesline, and I was so drawn to it. There is something so great about the sound of sheets snapping in the breeze, and I love those movie scenes with kids running through the hanging laundry while playing tag.
I also love the smell of freshly hung sheets after a long, stressful day. I find that there are very few things more wonderful than climbing into bed and burying your face into fresh sheets that have hung in the sun all day. And laundry is looking better and better since I won an amazing laundry cart at a recent bloggers’ event in Snohomish.
More and more of us seem to be reverting back to the days of old, when hanging the laundry out to dry was commonplace. I personally think that it is a move in the right direction. The farmgirls have even taught me new laundry skills, like making my own laundry detergent and stain removers. I must say, knowing these tricks helps me feel a little more interested in the topic.
Simple homemade laundry soap
6 cups baking soda
4 cups Borax
2½ cups grated castile soap
1 TBS essential oil
Combine baking soda, Borax and grated castile soap. Mix. Add essential oil and mix with a wire whisk. Use 1 1/8 cup per load.

  1. stella says:

    Wow! That tickeled my heart. I always said if I could afford
    to pay someone to help me around the house it would be with my laundry! We have six children and when they were little it just seemed liked unsurrmountable mountains of laundry would always be there! Soo when I would have trouble sleeping I would start telling myself I just needed to get up andgo work on that laundry, beleive it or not but that would put me out like a light. Like you I loved the feeling I got looking into my well organized closets and draws.

  2. Brenda says:

    Well I cannot say I know how you feel, but I can say my daughter knows how you feel. She also has 4 boys, and when i visit she always has stacks or clean cloths, enough that I would think she would be done. But there is always a never ending pile growing in her laundry room. I had 3 daughters and had trouble keeping up. Keep smiling though, one day it will just be the two of you and you think you are on a laundry vacation.

  3. auntpammy says:

    Wow Rene, I can relate! I use to hate laundry and then I started hanging my clothes out and now I love it!I think it is being able to go outside and breathe while I am still doing "housework"…now if I could only do the rest of the stuff outside,I would be set!

    If you find anyway to enjoy the dishes let me know. I’ve tried everything from rock ‘n roll to classical music.I even tried making the kid do it-forget that, I want the dishes done today. Plus, there was the time I happened to walk in the kitchen and the son had the plates on the floor and the dog was licking them clean! Did he do the dishes we just ate off of? Ewwww!!!

    Anywhoo, love your blog. enjoy it alot.Thanks and blessings to you.

  4. Noreen says:

    I am considering a lovely apartment without a laundry. A portable washer and dryer is what I am looking at, any advice, recommendations, etc. please respond to: Thank you so much.

  5. Pat says:

    I have hung out my clothes for years, but I was wondering if anyone had a good homemade clothes softener mix.

    Pat~ I think that there are several over at the farmgirl connection…  click on chat with other farmgirls.

    I like this one as well.

    1 cup glycerin

    1 gallon water

    Mix together

    Ass 1/2 mixture to wash or rince cycle~ hang clothes as normal to dry.

  6. Heather says:

    I have come to enjoy laundry. My biggest pain is the heavy stuff but even that is fun to me. I enjoy the fresh smell of the outdoors on my clothes but especially my bedding. Even when I lived in tiny apartments, I had a drying rack that I hid outside behind my big planters to let me clothes dry. I love it!!! I just started using a dry homemade laundry detergent and it is fun, fun, fun!!!
    My laundry hint is for Charlie, my 3 year old boy, just have matching clothes- jeans, khakis, white, blue, or Longhorn Orange shirts, black socks. Easy peasy since I don’t have to have everything washed and put back immediately since it all goes.

  7. Mary Anne says:

    I finally went through my closet and got rid of all my black,and tan clothes! I have felt brighter and much more cheerie! I’ve been wearing so much more color and it really does affect my mood for the better. I figure God gave us all of these wonderful colors so why not use them. Oh our house is an old little farm house painted curry yellow,green trim, eggplant shutters and red doors!! People come in and always say they wished they would have the courage to try more color, hey it’s only paint!!!!!

    Point well taken~

    I added a little yellow and purple this year… and I have to admit I feel sassy wearing it 🙂

  8. judy jones says:

    Scuse me, but on that message/recipe for fabric softener to Pat, was that 1/2 cup per load or is it 1/2 of the gallon mixture. Wow! Seems like a lot!


    1/2 cup per load~ of the total mixture… 🙂

  9. Gary says:

    You are so right Rene’…
    I betcha’ we all have some "chore" we dislike, and some we enjoy…
    I enjoy working with my feral Cats, as I keep a feeding station stocked, and I like tending my Herb and Flower Garden each mornin’…
    I dislike laundry perhaps as much as you, so I keep enough "fluff n’ stuff" to go for two weeks. It takes two hours to do laundry properly, whether I have one load or four, and since I can’t control that, I keep the frequency to a minimum. I despise dusting, but hey… I like a clean Home, so it just must be done.
    Thank You so very much for your kind inquiry about Midnight Rene’. He is much better, after a very close call with a fever, and he had to stay two days in the Hospital. I am so Happy to have him Home and healthy.
    Health, physical and Spiritual are cornerstones, ‘eh… if we lose them, nothing else much matters, even dusting. *WINK*
    GodSpeed to Y’all…!
    in Tampa

  10. Cassandra says:

    Does the recipe for the laundry soap work also in place of an HE detergent? I have a small Bosch front-loader. If I don’t use the HE soap it will foam up too much and start coming out of the door!

    This is just the recipe for softner, so it is something you might add to soap to soften your laundry.

  11. Terces says:

    This is such a powerful conversation. Here is what I do. I have taken on surprizing and delighting all the folks in my family and community, there are over 200 of them, with the completion of those repetitive, daily, often mundane tasks! So I keep my "worship power" or my attention in other words on the benefit of those tasks completed for the entire, farm, household, business, whatever the context might be. I have also learned to make requests of others, not an easy task for me, to keep things in nice shape, clean up after themselves etc. so the kitchen, shed, barn, office…. continues to shine after my work!
    Thank you for bringing this topic up for us all.

  12. Hi Rene – I love hanging out clothes – it’s one task I truly enjoy. I’m sure it is the sunshine, the birds singing and the breeze blowing my hair.

    Have you heard about the movement Right to Dry? Did you know it is illegal in many communities to hang out your clothes? I met a great guy (while I was working at a summer camp) who had started a movement while a student at Middlebury College. That movement has gone international. (Great guy too – at the time he was taking a group of kids on a long paddling and canoeing/camping trip down a remote river in Canada.) Anyway check out

    Here’s a teaser to clue you in on one of their latest endeavors to get the word out:
    Project Laundry List to Visit Ten Cities

    Concord, NH (Sept. 3, 2009)- Did you know that drying clothes outside on a clothesline is illegal in some places? Alexander Lee has spent more than a decade trying to change this. The founder and executive director of Project Laundry List, Mr. Lee says, "I have been working to make clotheslines a ubiquitous part of the American landscape, as they are in most other nations. We launched National Hanging Out Day (April 19) in 1998 and in 2007 we made the front page of the Wall Street Journal for starting a green movement. Today, there is legislation that has made it possible for more people to use outdoor clotheslines in states from Hawaii to Maine."

  13. kay says:

    It is worth repeating…hanging clothes outside is the best, especially sheets. Moving back to eastern Washington from western Washington was the opportunity to have a clothesline and hanging clothes outside is my favorite chore. Hey, tomorrow is sheet washing day…on a sunny fall day.

  14. Linda Hooker says:

    I live on a farm and also work full time in an office, I fell in love with this magazine when someone passed it on to me, recycled! A clothes line has been a staple in my entire life of 57 years! In the spring around March, my husband will bulldoze a path to my clothesline so I can hang out laundry! My question is also about the homemade laundry detergent, I have a small front load Whirlpool washer and is this laundry detergent ok for a front load washer and if so how much would I use?

  15. Debbie says:

    How funny! I always felt that there must be little laundry gremlins or something that fed the laundry so that it always seemed to be growing no matter how much wash I did or how regular. But, I do have to admit that clothes lining is the best! Nothing like line dried sheets to snuggle into at night. Incentive to do one other chore weekly, change all the beds! 🙂

  16. Jolene says:

    Dishes are definately my chore that I despise… never ending and so un-enjoyable for me. (Although I enjoy cooking – bad combination!) But laundry on the other hand, I’ve always gotten a strange sort of comfort from doing laundry and I love, love, love hanging laundry out on the line on beautiful sunny days!

  17. Patsy says:

    I once met an honest washing machine salesman and he said you can use ‘regular’ detergent in the front loaders – just use a lot less. I have been for 5 years with no problems. I use about 1/8 of a cup (I really eyeball it). The special detergent was backed by the manufacturers so they would want us to buy the expen$ive detergents. I will give the homemade stuff a try. Love the clothes line too.

  18. Kelli Garner says:

    Great site, how do I subscribe?


    If you go to you will find a spot on the right hand site that allows you to subscribe to our emails.  Thank you so much!

  19. Bait Boat says:

    Enjoyed reading through this site, I will send this site to a few of my friends

  20. Elaine says:

    I’m in Montana and you can dry year round here. In the winter you have to get your load out on the line early in the day, and thick items will pbloarby need a bit of additional time on a rack indoors. Sometimes I wish it weren’t so dry here, but it’s great for laundry ;)1. What kind of laundry detergent do you use? Is it an eco-friendly brand or traditional?I’ve tried a lot of things, and made my own out of that soap/washing soda/etc recipe online. It’s only so-so for getting things clean so I mainly use Seventh Generation HE soap. I just use the smallest amount I can that still gets things clean. I use Ecover softener on the items that would otherwise be full of static or super scratchy. 2. Do you worry about the plastic packaging and choose cardboard packaging and powders instead?No, I have stressed about the laundry as much as I’m willing to at this point. 3. Do you have a high efficiency washer (HE)?Yes, and it’s a front-loading machine as well. The downside to that is the gasket/drain hose situation. I tried all the ‘green’ methods to keep it clean and fresh and none of them worked. I very grumpily use the HE washing machine cleaner in it once a month. (and yes, the door is *always* left open for the machine to dry out. I can’t imagine how horrific the mildew musty odor would be in a more humid climate.)4. Do you wash your clothes in cold water?Some of them. Others I wash in warm. I almost always rinse in cold, unless there’s a load of something that was particularly fouled. With kids and pets you sometimes have gross messes.5. Do you ever line dry your clothes?Fairly often, except during times when I’m swamped- it takes me a lot more time to line dry except during the heat of the summer, so if I’ve got too much else on my plate I just use my dryer.6. Do you live in an area with a clothesline ban?No. It was one of the things on my list to avoid when we were looking at houses. It meant we got an older home but the freedom of not having an HOA has been worth it. 7. Are you happy with your laundry routine or do you wish you could do more to lower your impact in that area?For the immediate moment I’m satisfied, but I do want to look into more ways to be less-impact about it (and save money). I saw a really cool hand-crank washing machine at a living history farm, but honestly I’d rather not use something like that unless I had no alternative. ~Maeve

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