Thy Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbors Clothes Line (and how to make fabric softener sheets)

“Ooh, look at that one!” I exclaimed and pointed, my mouth slightly ajar. “I love that one.”

‘Tis true that our walks together over the past eighteen years have included gaping at properties we want, but we just bought our first bit of land this year so my husband replied, “That place is a mess! We just bought our own land!”

“No,” I pointed, “look at that clothes line!” I waved at it. My sign that I love it.

“In the spring,” Doug said.

I can’t wait! Oh, I know the wind has been gusting over 40 miles an hour the past few days and it is a balmy 26 degrees right now (minus windchill), and it is a strange time to be dreaming of clothes lines, but farmers and homesteaders live perpetually in the spring. I know just where I will put it.

This all began a very long time ago when our new (mind you- new) dryer crapped out on us again and smelled like it was going to catch fire. I rigged a makeshift rope across the yard to our very-nearby neighbor’s house in the suburbs. The next house didn’t have a dryer. The next house had the longest, oldest, sturdiest, most beautiful clothes line on the property. I even hand washed clothes on that property. The next one had a beautiful line as well. As did the friend we lived with complete with a buck who stayed near me while I hung clothes. (Rather enchanted place. I will be writing about that on my other blog We rigged a clothes line at the last house, but the new puppy pulled the clothes off and ate them. And here I am, in a lovely house- the nicest we’ve had- with a new dryer and longing for pins in my apron pocket. The smell of spring and soil and summer and sun upon the clothes as I hang them quietly in the fresh air, my eyes on the mountain ranges, listening to birds sing, and taking a moment to restore.

Work pre-electricity was a place of meditation, a time of prayer. Beading, sewing, washing, painting, farming, animal care, cooking, and hanging clothes were all ways of being in the moment. Mental health is associated with domestic chores.

In the meantime, I learned a rather good trick. In lieu of commercial fabric softener sheets, dampen a washcloth and sprinkle ten or so drops of lavender essential oil on it. Throw in with your clothes. It works great!

What are your laundry tricks?

All Hail the Clothes Line!


“How will the clothes dry in the winter?”  It was an innocent question and one I probably asked years ago.  I didn’t really know how to answer, so I just said, “The sun!”  It takes a day longer, but the clothes do dry on the line outside even in winter!

“I think the dryer is going to burn down the house,” I told Doug.  “It smells like burning rubber and it takes two hours for anything to get remotely dry.”  It was a fairly new dryer.  It stopped working, no kidding, the day after the warranty ended.  Dryers should really be called “Perma Set and Shrinks” anyway.  They are not that great of an invention.  I was getting tired of all stains (Doug’s shirt is a magnet) becoming permanent and the complaints from the family that their clothes were too small.  It was an easy decision.  The first appliance I didn’t replace with an electric model was the dryer.

I have not used a dryer in four years.  I do not miss it.  There was one when we moved into this house in March and I had them move it to the garage.  The beautiful, old clothes line that graces the yard was the first thing I saw when we came to look at the house to rent.  This is where we are moving.  It was incredible.  Three strong wire lines strung across three poles firmly staked in the ground.  In Parker, our clothes line was the fence.  In the last house we went through two clothes lines, both of which blew away.  They were the kind that looked like an umbrella.  This one has been drying clothes for decades and continues to do so.


Before you shake your head and say you will never give your dryer up, listen to the advantages.  First and foremost, I am forced to stand outside for a full five to ten minutes in nature hanging clothes.  The kids don’t generally volunteer so I am typically alone and at peace.  The repetition is calming.  The weather is always different and wonderful.  On most days, the sky is clear and the air fresh.  Birds chirp and sing and commune in nearby trees.  The chickens play at my feet.  The space is quiet and serene as I hang fresh laundry on the line.  It is better than meditation.

Next point, 9 cats people.  9 cats.  Add a few dogs in and we are talking skeins of pet hair.  The dryer did alright at pulling hair off but set these clothes out in the wind and watch them look like new.

I also hate to iron.  I just don’t unless I am sewing because Grandma said I had to.  There is nary a wrinkle in sight after the line gets through with them.

They always smell fresh.  No fabric softener needed with its fake smelly chemicals of mountain air or made-up flower names.  Just really clean, fresh laundry.  If it should be out on the line during a snow or rain storm, even better.  Can’t bottle that smell.

I have an indoor clothes rack that Doug put together for me.  It is great except that it is located in the back room where the cat’s water actually freezes on cold nights.  With no sun or wind the clothes truly never dry.  When I get a wood stove, however, the rack will be lovely to use in the winter.  It holds two loads of laundry and will dry quickly in front of a fire.  Until then, it takes approximately one hour to dry on the line in the summer, and at most, three days in the dead of winter.  Not too bad.  Never do I forget to take the clothes out of the dryer that inevitably a day later will have permanent wrinkles until they are rewashed.

The clothes line is a gift.  I get fresh air, nature, and a sense of what my ancestors experienced, sweet, fresh laundry, and a lower electric bill!