For me, the practical path to personal liberty began at the laundry line. Will probably end there too for all the dirty clothes in our home. This is fine with me: I love doing laundry.
I use an electric front loader to wash our clothes, but rely on that marvelous elemental Air to do the drying. Taking the time to hang laundry to dry by hand was one of the first physical processes that interjected a space of calm into my hectic modern life.
As my body rhythmically bends to the clothesbasket, straightens to the line, squeezes the clips — open, shut — and then bends again and again, my mind stills, my breathing deepens. In that present moment, I connect with the wind, the sun and the brightness of the blue, blue Carolina sky. At the laundry line, I feel whole. Be Here Now, and Amen.
My interest in air-drying laundry is, however, more than spiritual. It is rather quite ordinarily practical:
(1) It saves money, about $20/month on our electric bill;
(2) It saves energy which translates to reducing the average household’s carbon footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year (1);
(3) I don’t need to iron, so it saves time, and more money, and more energy and more carbon credits;
(4) Clothes and linens last longer, so it saves more money, shopping time and the energy that goes into the materials and creation of a new garment;
(5) In the winter, clothes drying on indoor racks add much needed humidity to our wood-heated home;
(6) It brings me and my kids outside most days where I’m sure our pediatrician would be pleased with our optimization of Vitamin D.
There are, I am sure, many, many more reasons for unplugging your dryer and many elegantly written articles to explain them. For more information, I recommend checking out Green America or Project Laundry List.
For my part, I will close with the absurd figure unearthed by the Pew Research Center, who in 2006 found that 83% of Americans believe that a dryer is not a luxury but a necessity – yes, a necessity (2). In response, I humbly offer that perhaps it is time to re-evaluate our priorities; and that perhaps that re-evaluation need not be overly complicated.
In this case, I encourage this simple action: The next time you remove your clothes from the washing machine, pretend your dryer is broken. Now ask yourself: how am I going to dry these clothes? Now do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day.
This seemingly small choice will add up to something more, I promise.