Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The joys of hanging laundry outside March 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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MELTING SNOW MUSHES the lawn. Rivers of water stream across the driveway from dwindling snow piles. Water puddles in a corner of the garage. At night, sections of the driveway ice over.

But, during the day when the sun beams bright upon the land, the temperature soars into the high fifties/low sixties hinting at summer. Unbelievable in March in Minnesota.

Snow edges my patio where my clothesline unwinds between garage and house.

Snow edges my patio where my clothesline unwinds between garage and house.

The welcome warm weather prompted me to hang out my laundry for the first time in four months on Monday. It was a nippy 28 degrees when I hoisted the laundry basket onto my right hip and stepped out the back door to clip damp clothes to clothesline.

Some would call me crazy. I don’t care.

The clothespins I use are weathered by years of exposure to the weather.

The clothespins I use are weathered by years of exposure to the weather.

There’s something about hanging laundry on the line that is therapeutic. Pick and pinch, pick and pinch, pick and pinch. I work in a methodical rhythm pulling garments from the laundry basket and clipping them in an orderly fashion to the clothesline. Heaviest items like socks and jeans are hung in the brightness of the morning sun. By afternoon, when the sun shifts, the entire wash basks in solar rays.

This unstaged image captures the four seasons: summer/spring (lawn), winter (snow pile) and fall (dried leaf).

This unstaged image captures the four seasons: summer/spring (lawn), winter (snow pile) and fall (dried leaf).

After months of dreary skies and frigid cold, I love the feel of the sun upon my face, the blue of the sky, the promise of spring.

In my opinion, nothing beats line-dried laundry.

In my opinion, nothing beats line-dried laundry.

I love the connection to those pioneer women who hung their family’s laundry under a wide prairie sky. I wonder if they viewed the task as labor, just another chore to be completed. Or did they view hanging laundry as I do, as a precious, peaceful time to savor in the morning of a delightful day?

How about you, do you hang laundry outdoors?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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41 Responses to “The joys of hanging laundry outside”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    Best. Smell. Ever.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    I’ve already done several loads outdoors……bed linens are usually the first and I managed to sneak a load in about a month ago. My backyard faces East/the rising sun and, nearer the house, is bordered by a garage and the pine trees/windbreak. It catches the westerly/southern breezes and always the sun’s rays but is protected from the northern gusts that can be so icy. It’s almost an artificial warmth in the cold winter because of the lack of polar gusts. Bringing in frozen garments is not unheard of in this household, however!!!!!! LOL!!!!

  3. bev walker Says:

    Yes, I still hang my laundry outside. Love the fresh laundered smell of the clothes that permeates the inside of the house as well. I remember when we were younger and on the farm, the clothes would be stiff on the line in the winter. We would carry in the frozen overhauls and long johns and after they thawed , we could hang them up to dry.

  4. I remember my mom doing that at our house.

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    Oh I LOVE hanging laundry out – especially bed sheets. The gentle breeze (and many times wind) snaps the sheets so that they’re like pressed linens! I grew up hanging laundry out, and it’s a tradition I still carry out today. I use a retractable clothesline so it’s pulled out only when I’m using it. That free’s up yard space and keeps birds from sitting on the lines.

  6. Almost Iowa Says:

    I’ll second the “Best. Smell. Ever.” comment.

  7. I was thinking of you as I hung out the towels this morning.. we both just Love hanging washing on the line!.. c

  8. Li Says:

    Yes, I sure do! Sheets were on the line yesterday – love the fragrance.

  9. I can’t wait to hang my bedding out. 🙂

  10. And I love how stiff and scratchy the towels are after drying outside. A pox on dryer sheets! LOL.

  11. hotlyspiced Says:

    I’m pleased to hear the snow is melting and Spring is on its way. I do wonder how your washing dries with those temperatures! I am still at the stage where if I’m running behind (common) I can peg my washing late afternoon and when I wake up in the morning it’s dry. With our weather cooling down, I know those opportunities are going to become few and far between xx

  12. Deanna Says:

    Your blog took me back to the 50s when I was a young teen, helping my grandmother with housekeeping chores during summer months. One of those chores was carrying the heavily-laden wicker baskets, piled with farmer overalls, bath towels, and bedding, up the basement stairs and outside to hang on the line. The cool morning air caused the hot clothing to radiate warm steam. But, it was no match for the myriad of mosquitos buzzing in nearby bushes and trees. It was a quick pin-up job.

  13. Jackie Says:

    You beat me to it this year Audrey. I wouldn’t be without my clotheslines, I hope to be hanging mine out soon too. Sadly I’ve been at work this week on the really beautiful days. Have you notice they don’t make the old wooden clips like they used too? I’ve had to find mine at flee markets and antique shops, the new ones always break, especially the solid clips.

  14. This post generates so many thoughts – my daughter hanging out her laundry to dry in her fifth-floor apartment in Spain a country where clothes dryers are rare. Well-worn clothes pins tells you a lot about a person just as a well-worn Bible tells you a lot about a Christian. And probably the biggest reason why more people don’t do this: What would the neighbors think, especially if they saw ALL my laundry hanging out to dry?!

  15. Thread crazy Says:

    Aww yes, the smell of fresh washed clothes that have hung outside to dry! I do so remember those days. I still hang a few outside but for most part, they get dried in the dryer. Still I must admit I miss hanging the clothes outside. Also I remember after taking the clothes down, I would then moisten them, roll them up and place in a plastic bag until they could be ironed! Now that takes us back a bit doesn’t it!!

  16. Sartenada Says:

    When living on country side my wife made the same. I still remember how clean sheet smelled. 🙂


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