A good wash day.

Definitely turning into my mthother: I am now identifying sunny, windy days like today in terms of laundry.

For the past couple of months I’ve called every balmy and breezy morning “a good wash day.” Because that’s what it is.

This has been a particularly warm summer and DF and I have used the clothesline to the maximum. If it isn’t laundry we’re hanging out, it’s the bedclothes and pillowcases: They smell so marvelous after a few hours in the air and sun.

I’ll even cop to looking for laundry where there is none, e.g., “Is it time to do a load of towels and bathrobes?” or “Have we washed the comforter lately?” Failing that, I’ll put the bedclothes out for the second day in a row.

My mom would approve. Like us, she hardly ever used the clothes dryer. None of the adult women I knew did. Why add to the electric bill when sun and wind are free?


When my parents split up I became the one who ran the household for my father and brother. I remember hanging up laundry at 6:15 a.m., before the bus came, and hoping that it didn’t rain while I was in school. (If it did, sometimes a neighbor lady would take the laundry down and set the basket inside the mud-room door.)

At one point, someone told my grandmother that our family was “either the cleanest or the dirtiest” one around, because of the frequency with which I did the wash. Since we used a bath towel just once before laundering it, that meant several loads of wash during the week (we didn’t have many towels) plus sheets and clothing on the weekend.

Don’t get me started on the ironing. I did that, too.


On borrowed time

These days I luxuriate in laundry, for several reasons. For starters, I’ve gotten over that use-a-towel-once habit.

Thanks to my dear partner I no longer have to handle all the housework, shopping and cooking in addition to whatever else I need to do. Sometimes he does more than his share and he does it cheerfully and without comment, vs. expecting a ticker-tape parade because he cleaned the sink.

Now I know why men let women pick up the shitload all those years: Because it feels great not to always be thinking things like:

  • “What should I be fixing for dinner?”
  • “Are we out of milk?”
  • “Clean clothes: Do we have any?”
  • “Why does the linoleum feel crunchy under my slippers?”

Another reason is that I’m old enough to appreciate slipping into a bed made up with freshly air-dried sheets. At age 16, laundry was just one more chore to complete before the bus arrived or in between fixing dinner and doing my homework. Now that I’m a frugal sybarite, I love the way the scent of summer follows me into my dreams.

That’s the sybaritic part. The frugal factor pertains to lower electric bills and also clothing and linens that last longer vs. ones that get heated and tumbled mechanically.

This time of year is usually rainy, so we’re acutely aware of how lucky we are to have this much sun. Lately I’ve been assuming that each nice day is probably the last. But I’ve been wrong. This, of course, makes each good wash day that much nicer: We’re on borrowed time, summer-wise, and we know it.

Not that the weather has to be warm to hang things outdoors. I’ve seen DF standing in the snow in a djellaba and flip-flops to put the comforter on the line. Winter air smells marvelous, too.


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  1. Here in New England, we call that “a sheet day.” : )
    and, yes. I avoid the $$ dryer year round, drying on clothes horses when it rains, or placing them near the woodstove come Winter.

  2. Here in Ireland hardly anyone uses an electric clothes drier. I don’t even have one. In winter we use a clothes horse inside the house.

  3. Donna, I can really relate to doing a load of wash before going to school… although ours went into the gas dryer. I love to hang out, even though I don’t have a clothesline. If it’s a good drying day, I’ll just drape things over the deck chairs (after wiping them off, of course)! Since the kids do theier own laundry, I just wash the household linens and my and DH’s clothes, and very often there isn’t enough to justify running the dryer. On the line they go. And I’m surprised by how much nicer my inexpensive T-shirts and shorts look! I also like to put our bed pillows out in the sun for a couple of hours every week… probably should try that with the sofa pillows,too! Thanks for this post. I so love the smell of sun-dried linens!

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks for reading it.

      Never thought about sofa pillows. Wonder about the cushions, too? Half an hour on each side in the sun would freshen them without undue fading, I’d think.

  4. Love the smell of sheets dried in the sun1
    I can relate to your youth. My father was military, and we ironed everything including his boxers. Mom and I would start around 8 in the am and keep the iron going all day. When I married, I continued the ironing except I added a beer in the afternoon (well, maybe 2 or 3). I always looked forward to ironing day.
    Now my ironing takes less than 15 minutes. I sure miss the beer!

  5. I’ve never had good luck air-drying clothes, indoors or outside on the line. Invariably, they come out stiff and scratchy, and the fabric actually seems to break down faster, especially knits like T-shirts and socks.

    Bedding really seems to benefit from a good air-drying, though, and I really should put our pillows out in the sun one day soon.

  6. Loved this post! I just had my husband put up a clothesline after 28 years of not having one. I had been draping my laundry all over the basement, but using the dryer a lot. When I told my grown children I put up a clothesline they looked at me like I had lost my mind. Not only do we love the electric savings, but the clothes smell great. Even the dogs love it because they get to go in and out of the house all day when I hang and take down the laundry. What is funny is how relaxing I find this chore. I guess being out in the sun and feeling frugal helps! Thanks for another great post. I cannot believe how timely this was in my own life!

    • Donna Freedman

      “It’s just so pleasant,” DF said when I told him about your response. I feel the same way about hanging/taking down the laundry: being out in the sun and breeze, watching the laundry dance on the line…Maybe if I had to do it every day for a family of six or more I’d change my mind. I doubt it.

      Enjoy that line.

      • Maybe it’s that dose of Vitamin D from the sun? I always feel better outside – no matter the weather. I walk 10 minutes to work as long as the windchill is no less than -20F. I have the clothes for it. Improves my attitude.

  7. I like the outside line but not the basement one.

  8. For some hateful reason, I now itch like crazy if I hang the sheet/blankets outside to dry. But I do love my clothes line. I will hang towels out. I have a drying rack and an umbrella-like indoor rack to hang on. It doesn’t smell as good but I’m saving a ton. See Anna’s room is coming in handy. Oh did I tell you that it is now housing all of DJ’s college crap, er stuff?

    • Donna Freedman

      We have three big clothes-drying racks and one small one for when we can’t hang clothes out. In the winter they sit near the fireplace insert, which we call our “wood-fired clothes dryer.”

      Sorry about the itching. Itch, itch, itch, all you ever do is itch. 😉

      When the kids want to come home, tell them they can’t because you’re making too much money on Airbnb to quit.

  9. I would love to hang my clothes outside, but my allergies will not allow me the luxury. My towels get dried in the dryer cause I like soft fluffy towels, but our clothes get hung on drying racks in the basement. Not only do I save money, but I think it makes the clothes last longer. Dryers are hard on clothes. And when you’re almost 6 foot tall, it’s nice not to have the shrinkage!
    Love your writing Donna…you make being frugal fun!

  10. Zelda Lee hoover


  11. We share the same love of that fresh line dry smell. I also see a day as a good day to do laundry when the sun is out and when it rains, its is a day off. Looking at our weather today, last night I did a load of towels, left them in the washer and hung them first thing this morning before work. I also washed a load this a.m. and got it right out on the line. I love saving the money but I love the fact that it makes my doing laundry easier for me because I fold them off the line and put them right away.

  12. I have clothes hanging out on the line right now. I love doing laundry and haven’t had a dryer since last fall when ours finally bit-the-dust. I mostly hung my clothes outside anyway since I grew up hanging clothes outside. Plus, it also helps living where it is hot and sunny most of the year. If the weather is bad, I just hang a load in the bathrooms to dry, but that doesn’t happen to often.

  13. Carolina Cooper

    Okay, Donna, be my dictionary, please. What is a djellaba, which you mentioned your DF as wearing to hang laundry. Is it something akin to a nightshirt?

    • Donna Freedman

      It’s a floor-length garment similar to a nightshirt. Sometimes it’s hooded. The one DF wears is made of polypro fabric and is extremely warm, which is why I sometimes see him wearing it outdoors in the winter (to hang up clothes, bring in wood or take stuff to the compost pile). A relative made it for him years ago and it’s proven to be almost indestructible.

      I first heard the word when listening to the Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Marrakesh Express.” But until I moved in with DF, I’d never seen a djellaba.

      • Deborah

        I purchased a djellaba in Tunis in 1984. Mine is made of a tightly-woven muslin in a lovely royal blue. It’s loose-fitting with a wide neckline and open sleeves. (Think of an solid color, ankle-length version of the dashiki shirts that were so popular years ago.) Extremely comfortable. I wear it virtually every summer morning for the couple of hours between arising and dressing for work. It’s still in remarkably good condition. Typically a man’s garment, but the bazaar seller didn’t seem to mind that I was obviously buying it for myself.

  14. Carolina Cooper

    When I was growing up, my father & my 2 brothers wore & dirtied 39 all cotton shirts per week, 2 each Monday to Saturday and 1 each on Sunday. Thanks to them I learned to DANCE. Mom had me iron those 39 shirts starting when I was about 12 years old. We had a little portable black & white TV. I sat it on the counter, tuned to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and ironed for hours. To this day, I LOVE to iron and always offer to do it when I visit other people. Many take me up on it! So sorry to hear that your DF likes to iron, too, so I probably won’t get a chance to do it at your house.

  15. Elizabeth

    I love my clothes lines, too! I’ grew up I the country but have lived I the city since college and we still make sure that we can hang out our laundry. With a family of 6, it really helps plus I love the scent of sunshine– not sure how sunshine smells, but since I use vinegar instead if fabric softener, I know that the scent isn’t Downy! My boys and I have allergies too, but I’ve learned to just run my clothes through the dryer on de wrinkle for 5-10 minutes and that seems to get enough pollen off plus smooth out most items. My house had a pulley system going back to the garage, and gorgeous wrought iron hooks secured into the bricks of the house. I like knowing that I’m using what previous owners used at my house 100 years ago.

    • Donna Freedman

      DF put up a pulley system between the house and the greenhouse/shed. It works marvelously. Last night we put laundry on racks and we’re shocked, shocked to find out that everything didn’t dry completely overnight. Boy, have we been spoiled by all those sunny days. Right now it’s the third day in a row of solid rain and while the garden is happy, our laundry isn’t.

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  16. I love this post! Since i started my maternity leave in April I’m always doing lots of laundry and checking the forecast for a good laundry day. I love hanging laundry out and fortunately my baby is content to watch me. Dreading the onset of winter when ill have to toss everything in the dryer.

    • Donna Freedman

      Get some drying racks! We hang our laundry on these when it’s too cold/rainy/snowy to dry successfully outdoors.

      Way back when I dried hand-washed cloth diapers on racks in my Philly apartment, along with all the rest of my clothes. Too broke to afford the laundromat. Thank goodness those days are past.

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.


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