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Monday Q&A | My siblings, my childhood, and my clothesline!

Every Monday I answer a few questions from you, my readers! If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post (or a question that you’d like me to pose to my husband), leave me a comment, or email me (the frugal girl {at} gmail {dot} com) and put “Q&A” in the subject line.


I have a question about clotheslines. I have no experience with them at all and want to start using one. I know the basic concept but will the clothes be stiff after drying? It’s beginning to get cold so should I move the clothes to an inside line or is it fine to keep them outside? What about a drying rack for inside instead of a line, is that better? I guess I need overall guidance and haven’t found a good website yet for instructions for a beginner. Am I over complicating this? Thank you so much and keep up the good work!

I wrote several posts about line-drying laundry last year when I first started my blog, and you might find those posts to be helpful.

How To (mostly) Give Up Your Dryer

How To Save Money While Washing Your Laundry (about reducing your washing machine’s electricity usage)

The Benefits of Line-Drying

Two Air-Drying Tips

Perfection and Laundry

To answer your specific questions, yes, air-dried clothes are more stiff than clothes fresh out of the dryer. I’ve found that the best way to minimize stiffness is to run the wet clothes through the dryer on air-dry for 5 minutes or so before hanging them up. This uses very little electricity, but it shakes out the wrinkles and helps the clothes to be a lot softer.

If you live in a warm climate, you may be able to hang clothes out all winter, but it’s too cold to do that here. So, in the winter I use two drying racks and I also put clothes on hangers, which I then hang over the door frames downstairs. If you’ve got a lot of space, an indoor line may work well for you, but my house is not set up in a way that would accommodate an indoor line.

Due to the increase in laundry during the colder months (we wear more clothes!) and the decrease in drying space, I do end up using my dryer for some loads in the winter. I don’t look at air-drying as an all-or-nothing proposition, though, so I don’t beat myself up over my dryer usage. After all, some line-drying is better than none.

Readers, if you have some air-drying tips to pass along to Ashley, leave them in the comments!


You mention that you grew up in a frugal household. Are your siblings as frugal as you?

You know, I don’t know that I would characterize my childhood household as frugal so much as non-consumer (although my parents, both of whom read my blog, can jump in and correct me if I’m wrong!). My parents were certainly responsible with their money, but more than that, they didn’t buy into the consumer mindset.

We watched almost nothing in the way of TV, so my siblings and I were exposed to very little in the way of advertising. My mom refused to buy any of the toys that were fads (even at the age of 5, I had more sense than to ask her for a Care Bear!), and so we mostly played with classic toys (Legos, un-motorized dolls, etc.). We only ate out occasionally, and when we spent time together as a family, we often did things like biking, camping, canoeing, playing catch, and taking walks together.

Of course, my parents saved money by not signing up for cable, by not buying us a boatload of cheap fad toys, by feeding us at home, and by doing activities with us that weren’t expensive, but I’ve always thought that my parents’ motivations were about more than just saving money. For example, my mom was staunchly against fads because didn’t want us to buy into the idea that we needed item X just because everyone else wanted one. And I know that their motivation for minimizing our TV exposure was less about saving money than it was about encouraging us to do more productive things with our time.

I suppose that to an outsider, a no-TV, no eating-out, no Care Bear(!) sort of existence could sound kind of bleak, but honestly, I think I was blessed to experience an unusually happy childhood. My family was remarkably peaceful (something I only realized when I grew up and heard about other people’s family lives!), and my free time was spent happily playing with my siblings (especially my sister)…we spent hours playing with our dolls and ponies, and we also spent a great amount of time outside playing in the woods, riding our bikes, and rollerskating.I don’t think I could have asked for a happier existence.

Anyways! To answer your actual question, no, none of my siblings are quite as ridiculously frugal as I am. I wouldn’t say that any of them are as spendy as the average American consumer, but they also don’t line-dry their laundry and obsess about their food waste like I do. To be fair, this is partly due to the fact that some of them don’t need to be as frugal as I do, but it’s also partly because I am just more naturally frugal. Even when I was a kid living at home, I still made sure to use up the last bits of a bar of soap, and I wasn’t even paying for the soap back then! I really think I was just born this way. 😉


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Tuesday 3rd of November 2009

Disclaimer: I have not done this myself but am giving it to you on the authority of my mother, who had no option but to line dry back in the 50s. She claimed that clothes were SOFTER if allowed to freeze on the line and then shaked out. I think this must have shaked off a lot of ice crystals, thus removing the (frozen) water from the clothes. Why it should make them softer, I have no idea. The climate I now live in doesn't usually get much below freezing in the daytime so I can't test this for you. This is just a very second-hand report.


Tuesday 3rd of November 2009

two tips for newbies: 1) wooden clothes pins last longer than the plastic ones - the plastic breaks down in the UV light (after a couple of years) and become very brittle. Try the grocery store near the cleaning products. 2) retractable clotheslines might be good for indoor spaces. I live in Massachusetts, and in winter (and during our LONG rainy spring this year), I dry inside when I can. Right now I have a regular clothesline in my basement, but I'm getting tired of walking into it, so I'll be buying a couple of retractable reels next time I'm in the hardware store. It'll be a lot more convenient and a lot more attractive - I would think it'd be fairly easy to put one up in the living space if you had to - there when you need it, gone when you don't. I don't find the collapsable racks hold very much and tend to become somewhat less stable for things like jeans & towels.


Tuesday 3rd of November 2009

I have found that using Fabric softener in the washer helps the clothes from getting really stiff. Really you could limit the use of the Softener to just the jeans and towel loads as they are the articles that tend to get the stiffest. I too, do not look at air drying as all or nothing. I always run my laundry in the dryer for a few minutes to help soften the clothes and mainly because I have a Black lab and his fur seems to be everywhere! As for getting any supplies that are Air Drying related, I personally love the Vermont Country Store. I have gotten most of my supplies from there, since it has been getting harder and harder to find things in my local stores. Also, small hardware stores may be a good idea. I live in New Hampshire and my local family owned store has beautiful Birch Laundry Racks made in Canada. Online sites your may find interesting are Project laundry List and Frugal Village. Hope some of these ideas are helpful.


Tuesday 3rd of November 2009

I'm in the UK where line drying is very normal. I try to line dry as much as possible - my tip would be to put the washing machine on at night so that it is ready to hang out first thing in the morning. Now that the winter is coming I use my tumble dryer alot more, although I do have an indoor airer. When my central heating is on I use the airer more often.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

Monday 2nd of November 2009

Strict or not strict, there was very little children's programming on TV when I was growing up. And there were certainly no videos or DVD's. It forced us to play marbles, jacks, hopscotch, house and ahem . . . "doctor."

My favorite doll was a Sasha doll, which I still have.

Katy Wolk-Stanley "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."

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