Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Yes, I hang laundry on a clothesline May 3, 2017

Vintage tablecloths, clothes and towels hang on my backyard clothesline in this November 2009 photo.

 

Clothespins? Who uses a clothes line anymore?

Minnesota Public Radio writer Bob Collins posed that question yesterday in a NewsCut column about a Cloquet matchstick and toothpick manufacturer that is closing. The plant also made wooden clothespins at one time.

 

I hang laundry out in all seasons. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

 

My immediate reaction to Bob’s question was to raise my hand high. I am a devoted user of an outdoor clothesline and a drying rack, when Minnesota weather necessitates indoor usage. Several readers commented on Bob’s column that they use clothespins. For laundry and for clipping shut snack bags.

Why do I hang laundry on the line when I could just throw everything into the dryer?

 

Snow does not stop me from hanging laundry outside. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2015.

 

I enjoy hanging wash on the line. Yes, even in the winter, if the sun is shining bright and the patio (where my clothesline is stretched) is cleared of snow and ice.

 

The clothespins I use are weathered from years of exposure to the elements. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

There’s something comforting about the rhythm of clipping wet clothing, sheets and towels to the line. Grab two or more clothespins, choose a piece of damp laundry, then clip. Grab, choose, clip. Grab, choose, clip.

 

Laundry on my clothesline. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

There’s a certain pleasure in slowing down, in ignoring the busyness of life to do this simple act of hanging out the laundry. I’ve learned to appreciate the crispness of the morning air, the sharpness of a cardinal’s trill, the nuances of a breaking day. And I’ve learned, too, to appreciate more the warmth of my home as I step back inside, fingers stiff from hanging out laundry in 30-some degree temps.

 

In my opinion, nothing beats line-dried laundry. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

When I hang laundry, I am, in those minutes, free of life’s worries, calmed by simply being outdoors, separated from stressors, focused solely on the methodical and therapeutic task at hand. By habit I hang the heaviest items, such as socks and jeans, in the full morning sun for maximum drying exposure.

 

Laundry drapes over a chain link fence on a balcony along Third Street N.E. in downtown Faribault, just across the alley from the post office. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2015.

 

Hanging laundry outside offers the benefit also of fabric that smells of the outdoors—of sunshine and fresh air woven within the fibers. There’s the satisfaction, too, of saving money via solar power.

 

Monday wash day in the Amish community of Eden Hollow, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

Who uses a clothes line anymore?

 

I cannot imagine so many grasshoppers that they obliterated everything, including clothing hung out to dry. I photographed this info at a Minnesota Historical Society exhibit on disasters in April 2016 at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna.

 

I do. And I have no intention of discontinuing that practice any time soon…unless Minnesota experiences another Grasshopper Plague.

TELL ME: Do you hang laundry outdoors? If yes, why?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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