Clean Clothes, Clear Conscience

March 20, 2009


Awkwardly stringing a clothesline between a maple tree, the corner of the garage, and the basketball hoop, this year I finally declared independence from the clothes dryer. In our summer’s move from inner-city D.C. to the Chicago suburbs, visions of sheets dancing on the line against a clear, Midwestern sky had filled my head, and finally I arrived: my clothes were drying on the line.

A strange dream, you might think. Well, first take a look at the facts:

- Energy: The dryer in our new home is old and inefficient, requiring at least two cycles to dry each load. But most dryer models don’t vary much in the amount of energy they gobble up, and across the board come in as the second-biggest electricity hog in your home, behind the refrigerator. A gas-powered dryer uses a particularly dirty form of energy that we need to break our dependency from.

- Money: A lot depends on the number of loads of laundry you do in a year, but on average families save about $100 a year by line-drying their clothing. May not seem like much, but it’s just a slice of the pie. Use this spreadsheet to calculate what your own savings would be. That number is just a slice of the approximate $1500 you’re paying over the lifetime of your dryer.

- Safety: Short of getting tangled in your clothesline, there’s little risk involved in line drying. On the other hand, from poor gas line connections to a build-up of lint, any number of problems can (and do) lead to dryer-fueled fires.

- Clothing Quality: Drying your clothes shortens their life-spans. All that lint that builds up in your dryer? That’s your clothing gradually disintegrating before your eyes. Factor in the money you’d spend on new clothing to that $100 a year saved, and line-drying looks like an even better bargain.

But while all these reasons for line-drying are persuasive, what excites me most about line-drying my clothes is that I’m also feeding my soul. Here’s why my time with the  clothesline is not only a discipline of creation care, but a discipline of the spirit:

- Good work: The value of work is undermined by the myth that we can work as little as possible and still have as much fun as possible. But Proverbs says that (something about the value of work). Pinning each piece of clothing to the line puts me physically in touch with the work of stewardship over God’s creation and the resources he has given me. The amount of time and work I put into the activity (and it’s surprisingly little!) also conveys care to my family as I treat their belongings well.

- Time: Line-drying clothes enables me to slow down and concentrate on the present. I can’t browse the internet or watch TV while I hang things on the line. My focus is on the task at hand, and for a few moments I can avoid worrying about the future, distracting myself from my thoughts, or forgetting about God. I find myself praising him while I hang the clothes, because I know my hands are happy to be doing a satisfying project, and I praise God for their fulfilling employment.

- Patience: Patience is required in so many life situations. More importantly, it is required of us by God (Galatians…). But more often than not, I fail at it when I most need it. When so little else in our daily lives requires us to practice the discipline of patience, I find it good to enforce the exercise upon myself.

- Humility: I get to choose to line-dry my clothes. This makes me grateful that I have a dryer available as needed. But it also makes me conscious of the women I join who do this task out of necessity. It connects me to them and to the generations of women who used this method of drying because they had to. I feel honored and humbled to share the slightest connection with these women who work or worked so much harder than I may ever have to.

I’m not perfect: In a rush, I throw things in the dryer. Life’s not perfect: My visions of sheets whipping in the wind are replaced by the reality of bedraggled clothes dripping from clotheslines in my basement, when the seasons change. But I am grateful for this hard work, this God time, and this breathing space in the crush of things.

This post originally appeared on

Kendra Langdon Juskus is managing editor of Flourish.

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