For me, the clothes line epitomizes the central theme of Becoming Peculiar: living radically in ordinary, everyday ways.
I’m interested in exploring ways that we can serve God in our daily lives. Prayer and Scripture-reading are important, and so is talking to people about who Jesus is. But how does following Jesus impact our day-to-day choices – the way we prepare our food, the way we interact with strangers, the way we shop? How does Jesus’ call to love our neighbours affect, say, the way we do our laundry?
I believe it’s possibly to live radically in small, humble, everyday ways.
Hanging your laundry is just one of those ways.
So, what’s so peculiar about hanging your laundry to dry?
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Ben and I hang our clothes to dry all year long,* even though we live in Canada where the winters are long and cold. For us, hanging our clothes is a form of worship. It’s one small way we try to show God that we appreciate the beautiful planet he gave us to live in. It comes out of our desire to be conscious of the impact our decisions make on the people and environment around us. And it questions the cultural assumption that we’re better off when machines do our work for us.
It’s also how we keep our energy bills down.
In a culture that values efficiency,** hanging your laundry can be a revolutionary act. It’s an act of resistance against our culture’s addiction to fossil fuels.
Line-drying takes more time and effort than simply stuffing your wet clothes in the dryer and pressing a button. It forces you to slow down. You can’t hang laundry in a rush. While you’re hanging your clothes you can take that time to pray or meditate.
Hanging laundry requires a certain amount of creativity, too, especially if you live in a colder climate like we do. You have to solve the problem, How can we hang up all our laundry within the limited space of our home?
(I’ll tell you how we do it: Ben has attached old broomsticks to the beams in our basement ceiling so that we can drape our towels, sheets, pillowcases, and jeans over them. We bring handfuls of empty hangers down to the laundry room with us every week for our shirts, which later go directly into the closets. And we have this extraordinary little contraption from Ikea for hanging up our socks. We also have to be self-disciplined and stagger our laundry-washing throughout the week to make sure there’s room for everything.)
It just takes a little bit of imagination and forethought.
We all know that clothes dryers consume enormous amounts of energy to run. The standard electric dryer takes five kilowatt-hours of energy to do one load of laundry. If your family dries one load of laundry a day, that means one ton of poisonous gases are expelled each year to run your family’s dryer.***
Line-drying your clothes keeps those toxins out of the air. It’s a simple way to protect your neighbours and children from air poisoning.
There are other benefits to line-drying your clothes, too:
- As mentioned above, it saves us money.
- It also provides exercise, which means less energy that needs to be spent on running a treadmill or getting us to a gym.
- It also makes our clothes last longer. You know that lint you have to clean from your dryer filter after every use? Those are fibers that have been stripped from your clothes. Your dryer is slowly eating away at your fabric. You can keep wearing your clothes twice as long if you line-dry them.
- And it reminds us of the dignity of manual labour. We have to take time out of every day to hang up our clothes — to touch each garment and find a place for it, only to take it down the next day and fold it, only to wear it again. It keeps us connected to the daily rhythms of life.
When you hang your clothes to dry, then, you save energy, you keep poisonous gases out of the air, you get an opportunity to pause and reflect, and you get a chance to (gently) use your muscles.
It’s kind of a peculiar act, but also kind of awesome.
*I must confess that we dry our cloth diapers in the dryer during the colder months, simply because they are so thick and take days to dry indoors. This would be all right if we had enough diapers to last us several days, but alas, we don’t. We hope to return to line-drying them when the warmer weather hits.
**Really, dryers are the opposite of efficient: they use huge amounts of energy when clothes actually dry all by themselves if they’re just hung up on a line.
***Stats taken from J. Matthew Sleeth, Serve God, Save the Planet, p. 92
Photo credit: @sahxic