Casaubon's Book

I think the first time I really seriously reconsidered the American ubiquity of the dryer was when I was in college, and a friend of mine made a list of ten things she considered hysterically funny about Americans. Number 3, after paying more money for milk with the fat pulled out and something about our worldview, was that we consider it perfectly normal to buy an enormous box at great expense to do precisely what the air will do for you anyway. Put that way, and with her performance of “American justifying why they need a dryer,” it was pretty humorous.

It isn’t like I even had one much of the time growing up – w but I’d never seriously questioned the idea that they were normal. I assumed I’d have one. But after that, it never seemed to be a necessity – and for most of my adult life, I’ve not owned a dryer.

I recognize that there are a few people who can’t hang laundry – a very few. Elderly folks who have to do their laundry at laundromats can’t haul wet laundry up stairs. There are probably a few other good ones. But that’s pretty much it. Don’t have an outside to dry clothes? Get a good laundry rack. Can’t reach a normal clothesline? My friend Pat sits down and hangs her laundry on hangars and then hangs them on the shower rack. I just don’t see the compelling case for the dryer – and I have four kids, and I’ve done this with multiple non-toilet trained kids, and used cloth diapers.

Making heat with electricity produced largely by coal to dry clothes is something we simply can’t afford – and natural gas is only slightly better. We need to reserve fossil fuels for things that can’t be done without them, But moreover, the hundreds of dollars a year to maintain and fire your dryer is simply money you don’t need to spend.

How do we know this? Well, one of the compelling bits of evidence is that a billion plus people in China (not to mention much of the rest of the world) have somehow managed to live without dryers – even once they could afford them (thanks to Stephen B. for sending this one to me!):

As increasingly affluent Chinese embrace all the accouterments of the modern, middle-class Western lifestyle — big-screen televisions, automobiles, washing machines, double-door refrigerators with automatic icemakers — one glaring exception stands out: the clothes dryer.

Tweet 0diggsdiggYahoo! Buzz ShareThis For reasons practical as well as cultural, most Chinese consumers simply don’t like clothes dryers. Don’t want them. Don’t trust them. Won’t buy them. And, even when they have them around, won’t use them.

According to a spokesman for the appliance store Best Buy, the Chinese market for dryers — or even washer-dryer combinations — “is by no means fully developed.” In the chain’s stores, dryers and washing machines with dryer functions make up just 10 percent of all washing machine sales.

Other businesses report similar experiences. Zhao Na, a saleswoman for Haier washing machines, a domestic brand, said, “Our factory stopped producing dryers since last year because they don’t sell.”

It certainly isn’t true that a couple of billion non-dryer users *can’t* be wrong, but in this case, there’s a real likelihood that they aren’t.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Isis
    October 3, 2010

    Teehee. I know. I’m not an American myself, but I’ve been studying in the US for most of a decade now (college plus grad school), and yep, clothes dryers must be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in America. Actually, I did use them when I was in college and lived in a dorm room in which there really was no space for a drying rack (and there was nowhere else I could’ve hung my clothes to dry), but since moving to an apartment a few years ago, I’ve been using a drying rack exclusively.

    A thing you failed to mention: fabric lasts longer if you hang dry. If you’re one of those people who will wear clothes until they start showing obvious signs of wear (I certainly am one of those people!), this is an important benefit.

  2. #2 Kate
    October 3, 2010

    And what about hair-dryers, and hair straightners for goodness’ sake.
    When I was a kid in the 60′s my mom washed my hair once a fortnight. Nowadays hair positively has to be washed daily. With drying AND straightening that take 28 times as much energy. Madness

  3. #3 Josh
    October 3, 2010

    It’s more convenient. Very little of what happens in our modern lives is necessary, but we do it anyway because it’s easier. Since when did an easier life require justification? If your answer is limited natural resources, where do you draw the line? Why are washing machines OK? You could bust out the washboard and tub.

  4. #4 Isis
    October 3, 2010

    Kate, I do wash my hair every day (most days only with water, though, no shampoo), but I haven’t used a hair dryer in years. Too much effort, my hair dries just fine on its own…

  5. #5 Graves
    October 3, 2010

    Josh has highlighted the major issue here, and with much of the good things you suggest. Using a dryer is _way easier_. The fundamental problem is that life is a rat race in the US–take the time to air-dry your clothes (and grow your own garden, and can your produce for the future, and any number of the other things you suggest) and be prepared to seriously sacrifice on your career or other aspects of your life (time spent actually doing things with your kids, for example?) This sacrifice is a noble and good one, but others are NOT making the sacrifice. It’s a tragedy of the commons, where you suffer and others don’t, and why would they when they prioritize their own family’s proximal well-being over the longer term consequences to the world we live in? Honestly, unless we get public consensus and legislate things (e.g. force people to recycle or put heavy taxes on luxuries like dryers, electricity usage over a certain level) we aren’t going to get a cultural change.

  6. #6 David B
    October 3, 2010

    Interesting post. I’ve taken the liberty of posting a link to it on my favourite discussion board, the Secular Cafe, in the hope of provoking some discussion about it there.

  7. #7 Isis
    October 3, 2010

    Funny, I actually like hanging my clothes to dry. It’s an easy mechanical task, a nice opportunity to take some time off to daydream… :-) Same with washing dishes by hand and such.

  8. #8 Gopiballava
    October 3, 2010

    The last summer that I lived in the UK, I remember doing a load and getting ready to hang it outside. But it was damp and drizzly, so we had to wait. There wasn’t a dry, sunny day for two weeks.

  9. #9 niraj
    October 3, 2010

    @graves

    actually the ease of using a drier doesn’t compensate for the extra cost both in terms of money and environment. saying that washing machine itself can be dispensed off is illogical. washing clothes takes a lot of time and effort. drying clothes on the sun (or shade) doesn’t take any effort at all.

    to give you another example … an elevator or escalator is definitely a big convenience … but you do not install one in your duplex home. even though in this case climbing stairs does take a good amount of effort and the cost benefit ratio is probably better than that of the drier.

    but i do not blame the families … it boils down to shrewd marketing by companies … they have managed to convince scores of families that using drier is way more easy. the “way easier” is perception not reality !!

    PS: I hope i have not put ideas into the minds of elevator companies like Otis/etc.

  10. #10 Sena
    October 3, 2010

    Okay, now I’ve tried drying my laundry on the line and I can’t get around how everything ends up all stiff and scratchy. Any suggestions?

  11. #11 Roberta
    October 3, 2010

    I haven’t used a dryer full-time in oh, 20 years. That’s through 2 kids in cloth diapers – and living in a climate where winter runs October-April and can get to -35 C. In the winter I hang the small stuff inside on a rack, but the large stuff goes on the line. After 24 hours it comes in (frozen stiff) and finishes up inside. More work for sure, but the clothes smell fantastic – real “outdoor clean” scent, not coming from added chemicals.
    I do own a dryer, mainly because we’ve rented our house out a couple of times while overseas and I can’t impose my dryerlessness on the renters. The dryers I’ve had have all been second-hand (replaced one because I thought it was broken; turned out the wall plug was faulty. Didn’t notice because I never used it) And I confess, once a year or so we have a laundry emergency that requires quick drying. But if the dryer weren’t there I’d live without it.
    Stiff and scratchy can be reduced by vigourously shaking the items as you hang them. But they’ll never be soft and fluffy. You get used to it.
    Only problems I ever had: once a squirrel gnawed through a sheet, and once smoke from forest fires blew in unexpectedly and left everything smelling like a campfire.

  12. #12 Laurie
    October 3, 2010

    Use less soap and the clothes will be softer when they dry.

    The local power company had an add for a while that said “Without us, how would you dry your clothes?” It didn’t run for very long.

  13. #13 Stephen B.
    October 3, 2010

    I’m going to guess that Josh and/or Graves don’t have much experience with hang drying if you all think that drying on a rack is less convenient and/or time consuming, because it really isn’t.

    I hang t shirts and tops on the hangers damp and then hang those from a molding in my bedroom. When dry (usually the next morning or the evening if I washed in the morning), I simply move the hung clothes to the closet. This doesn’t take any longer as I’d have to untangle and hang that clothing when it comes out of the dryer anyhow. I simply save the step of moving the laundry from one machine to another. The fact that there is a 10 hour time period or so that they’re hanging damp doesn’t take any time from me because obviously, I’m doing other things.

    Other stuff I hang on a rack, indoors or out, depending on the weather. I dried sheets yesterday outside. On a clear, cobalt blue sky, breezy day like yesterday, the sheets were dry in half an hour. No fooling. And the smell at night when you lay your head down on the sheets? Well, you have to sleep in bedding dried on a day like yesterday to understand what that’s all about.

    Another reason I save time is that I don’t have to work to pay for a dryer, repairing it, replacing it, and powering it. That can add up to couple of hundred dollars a year. As other posters also have said, dryers wear out clothes faster and that costs money too. All the lint on the lint screen is proof of that wear and tear.

    Then too I don’t have to waste time cleaning the dryer vent once a year or so, or paying somebody to do it. In my house, the vent has a longish 25 foot run through finished flooring and walls and with use, such vents simply MUST be cleaned every year or two. In my case, a proper job takes a powered tool from a professional duct cleaning service at $100+ per visit. If said vent ducts are not cleaned, the dryer takes longer and longer to dry its loads and can catch fire. (More on fires below.)

    By skipping the dryer, I have less lint all over my house and in the laundry closet in particular. Even when the vent hose system is in perfect repair, dryers manage to eventually get lint everywhere. I don’t know why, but they do.

    Finally, I don’t have to worry about dryer fires. Have you ever seen the aftermath of a dryer fire? One of my childhood neighbors suffered a dryer vent fire. The laundry area wasn’t pretty afterward, and his mom happened to be right by the machine when the fire broke out so she could respond. (I can’t recall exactly what she did besides call the fire department.) They were lucky they didn’t lose the house. Even back when we used a dryer years ago, none of us EVER let the dryer run while we were asleep or were away from the house after the neighbors’ fire. There are about 15,000 dryer fires a year in the US by the way. Frankly, I’m surprised dryers aren’t far more heavily regulated or banned due to the fire danger. (By the way, I HATE protective legislation. I’m just saying….)

    Actually, in some commercial settings, dryers ARE regulated. At the residential school I work at, our facilities manager is required by code to completely replace all the dryer vents and hoses, from the machines all the way to the outside vent caps, every year, to ensure total cleanliness and fire safety. Mere cleaning will not satisfy the law. That’s how bad dryer fires can be. He writes the replacement date right on each duct coming out of each machine.

    There’s a reason survival books mention dryer lint as a prime fire-starting material to have on hand.

    I save time, money, clothes, mess, and have much more peace of mind line drying.

    Ya’ll really ought to try it sometime.

  14. #14 Sandra
    October 3, 2010

    When we had no funds and no room for a drier (and had a baby in cloth nappies), I thought they were a naughty extravagance. We did have to run a dehumidifier in our flat (no outside line available or permissible) to deal with the condensation. Then we moved to a proper house with an outside line and still no tumble drier and used the outside line every time it was a dry day and finished off inside. It was a big step up in luxury because we didn’t have to trip over the drying rack all the time as we had a lounge and dining room.

    Then we moved back to NZ, bought our own home, had our daughter (also in cloth nappies) and settled in an area which gets over 2 metres of annual rainfall. Yes I still use the outside line whenever the weather is dry. All the jerseys and socks go over the fireguard but on the days (can be ten in a row or more here) when it rains the entire time, we now own a drier and I use it with great pleasure and relief. We’ve spent a lot of time and research working out how to reduce our son’s asthma and one strategy is to keep the inside air dry. We already live in a humid climate and washing throughout the house is an unhelpful addition to moisture levels in the air.

    I do get your point about line drying and the superfluity of driers for many people, but thought I would share my small story of how I do appreciate our drier.

  15. #15 Stephen B.
    October 3, 2010

    Re the stiffness:

    The fresh smell compensates for any stiffness. One gets used to the stiffness if it’s even there. Lots of synthetic fabric won’t get stiff anyway, and any wind that day will soften the clothes via mechanical action just like a dryer would anyway.

    Better rinsing leads to less stiffness too.

    I honestly haven’t noticed stiffness in a long time.

  16. #16 Gardenatrix
    October 3, 2010

    Too funny!

    I live in the US, but I have two small indoors clothes dryers. My mechanical dryer broke, and it was probably a year before I bothered to repair it — and then only because my gf moved in and couldn’t stand to hang all the clothes.

    Unless I have a great deal of laundry at a time (which is really my own inefficiency at work) it’s really a pretty useless appliance.

  17. #17 Marcus
    October 3, 2010

    What good timing. I was just noting how many of my Asian immigrant neighbors do not have driers. I’d have a few more questions before I’d be willing to dump my drier. Keep in mind that different people may be in very different situations regarding available space, etc.

    Does this work perfectly for *all* clothes? I don’t mean just t-shits and jeans.

    What of the space needed for a drying rack or line? Not everyone is in a big house or even has a backyard.

    What if I need a lot done quickly? Happens from time to time, especially if I’m traveling.

  18. #18 Stephen B.
    October 3, 2010

    Marcus,

    My drying rack takes up a corner of my bedroom. I’m usually drying overnight or while I’m out at work. Thus, the space required is minimal. Outside, the rack fits on the porch and takes up less space than a picnic table.

    I still have a dryer for extended rainy spells and for that must-dry item right now. All in all, I use the dryer perhaps half a dozen times a year, tops.

    I just posted several links to dryer fires in another post, but it won’t show up until Sharon approves it as posts containing multiple links must be moderated. But wait until you see the statistics and pictures on these fires!

    Alright….I’ve got to go do some other things away from this computer, lol!

  19. #19 Apple Jack Creek
    October 3, 2010

    I was thinking about the summer before last and I actually asked people (via my blog) to time how long it took to hang up a load of wash or how long it took to transfer from washer to dryer and then fold.

    Using an outside rack or an indoor one didn’t seem to make a lot of difference time-wise, and on the whole there just wasn’t much difference between the time it takes to transfer from washer to dryer then fold vs the time it takess to tranfer from waher to line then fold. My perception is that you shift some of the time from point A to point B: I sort my laundry as it goes on the line (so socks are near each other and the shirts that belong to one person are usually hung up together) since it’s faster taking them down and getting them into everyone’s closet if they are pre-sorted. In the dryer, you have to do that part afterwards – but it gets done regardless.

    As for the stiffness, I have found that after you’ve line dried for several loads, the stiffness goes away – I have no explanation for this but it does seem to be true. We also put a splash of vinegar in the rinse (our washer has a spot to put fabric softener, we put it in there) if we want things extra soft. Drying outside (where things get blown in the breeze) also makes for less stiffness than drying indoors.

    Our climate is terrifically dry, so we are very happy to have the humidity of drying clothes inside. For sheets and towels, if we aren’t drying them outside, we loop them over hangers and hang them in the doorway (over the top moulding) … reshuffle once or twice, and they dry quite nicely.

    I can’t imagine spending the money on a dryer now – we’ve all gotten quite used to this strategy, and I don’t find it takes much more human work time (if any) overall.

  20. #20 Christina
    October 3, 2010

    The NYTimes has an article on the overuse of laundry soap – to the point that you can often put perceptually “clean” clothes back into the machine, without any additional soap, and have it lather up again (and again, and again). The only things I notice being particularly crunchy after line-drying are the towels and the cloth diapers; regular clothes turn out fine after a quick snap during folding.

    I have a project week set aside later this month to get my garage sorted out so I can hang clothes in there when it’s raining this winter.

    Another significant challenge in American clothing habits is the overuse of clothes in general – every item going into the laundry after one wear. Even my filthy gardening clothes get worn until they’re pretty stiff with sweat and dirt. I’m strategizing a plan for getting my kids more effective at reusing clothes this winter (to be implemented when we switch over the seasonal clothes this month). Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  21. #21 Gordon
    October 3, 2010

    “Since when did an easier life require justification?”

    At the moment when you realize that your easier life today means NO life for someone tomorrow.

  22. #22 David B
    October 3, 2010

    For myself, I live in a flat with little scope for drying, so I use a washer drier because of space considerations. This thread has inspired me to start thinking about how I might set up some drying racks, though.

    I own neither a hair-drier nor an iron.

    I thought it might be worth pointing out here that there is a downside of using conditioners in a wash – I never do, but my ex did – apart from cost and environmental impact.

    I noticed that her towels didn’t dry as well as mine, and a bit of web detective work pointed me to the fact (I think it really is a fact) that conditioners inhibit the abilities of towels to soak up water.

  23. #23 Lindsey
    October 3, 2010

    Okay, I’m all for going no-dryer, but do the hours I spend ironing wrinkley clothes add up? Sometimes my time is just more valuable. I feel very eco-guilty for admitting that, but I just don’t want to iron all our clothes that air dry!!!!

  24. #24 Isis
    October 3, 2010

    Lindsey, what kind of stuff do you wear? I guess if your every day clothes are on the fancier side, the ironing time may add up(?). I generally wear T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans, and none of that stuff needs to be ironed, whether I air dry or not…

  25. #25 Art
    October 3, 2010

    I like line dried clothes. Air drying is much more energy efficient.

    That said there are reasons to use a dryer. Many subdivisions don’t allow clothes lines for aesthetic reasons, they think it makes the place look cheap, and have include this in the HOA rules. Many apartment don’t allow clothes lines because the lines can be a hazard to groundskeepers mowing the laws at 20mph on riding mowers. Seems something could be done to encourage HOAs to allow clothes lines and calm the worries of apartment complexes about groundskeepers losing their heads.

    There are some good reasons to use a drier. Perhaps it is never an issue up north but down here there are days at a time when humidity is very high. Add a little cloud cover and damp clothes can mold. Doesn’t happen too often but it does happen. Down here shoes and books mold without adding any water.

    Driers are important tools for anyone fighting bedbugs, or lice. Once heated to normal drier temperatures the critters, and the eggs, are goners. I’ve been told that those high temperatures also tend to disinfect clothing, destroying fungus spoors and bacteria that may have made it through the wash.

    IMHO, in a perfect world, driers would not be used when there are more efficient and effective alternatives. But driers do have their uses. Times when the extra expense might be justified.

  26. #26 Julie Stahlhut
    October 3, 2010

    I’ll have to admit that there are few power-hungry appliances that I love more than I love a dryer. I use a drying rack for many things, like the sweaters and cotton turtlenecks that are ubiquitous in my cold-weather wardrobe. But to me, nothing beats the feel of dryer-dried clothes.

    Now, fabric softener — that’s the one I don’t get. Pouring chemicals on your freshly washed clothes that make them LESS absorbent? Ever try to dry yourself after a shower with a towel that had been subjected to fabric softener? It’s like trying to sop up water with Saran Wrap.

  27. #27 Stephen B.
    October 3, 2010

    Art makes some good points.

    Our woodland areas around here are crawling with black footed ticks aka deer ticks. When I have clothing I think might have ticks, that’s the time I use hot water, and the highest heat setting on the dryer. I doubt I do this more than a few times a year, but there it is.

    That said, I’m not sure the ticks would survive the washer and a vigorous air dry.

    There are also times that I do a wash and then the air is just too humid, in or out, to dry. This occurs mainly during humid weather in the summer. During the winter, even when it warms up to rain, the indoor air is heated enough that clothes dry well. Maybe this accounts for another handful of dryer uses.

    I haven’t tossed out the dryer myself yet either. It’s just that using it as little as I do, I don’t have to clean the dryer vent pipe much at all, and the dryer itself will outlast me.

    As for HOAs….I live in such a monstrous place that bans line drying of clothes. I’ve been doing it anyways. I do not use a permanently installed clothesline, opting instead for a portable rack set on the back patio/deck. I don’t keep clothes out there for days and days, but rather bring them right in when they’re dry. The rack (sometimes I use two at once) is still in full view of the neighbors, but nobody has said anything. I think that between my large garden (also technically against the rules because I didn’t ask permission to make landscape changes first, the way I was supposed to – why give them a chance to say no?), I’ve worn everybody down. I also try to keep the fruit trees well pruned that I planted near our shared pond, as well as keep the veggie garden beds neater than I would if I didn’t have so many neighbors and HOA board members watching. I keep after any and all dropped fruit from the apple and peach trees. I clean up the asparagus bed promptly. I even have it tied up in a corral so it doesn’t flop all over the place. As soon as the squash is done (last week), I pull up the vines and mow the lawn underneath. As soon as other beds are done in the fall, I sow something green such as wheat, rye, or rye grass to keep the visual appearance up. In short, I strive really hard to keep a neat, clean garden and fruit tree/bramble area and nobody has complained. In fact, some neighbors around the pond have complemented me on it.

    It seems as long as I don’t become a true eyesore, I get a pass on drying racks and such. A permanently installed clothesline might not be a go here, however.

  28. #28 Tom
    October 3, 2010

    I’ve always found driers make life harder – everything seems to need ironing and smells scorched. I’ve made a little lean-to about a foot wide on the south side of the house which has a dark painted metal side and a small chimney to aid airflow. The clothes go on a carousel on hangers and on a sunny day dry in a few minutes, and if hung with care don’t need ironing.

  29. #29 Chris
    October 3, 2010

    I live in NZ, where it rains at the drop of a hat and sometimes doesn’t stop for two weeks together. There have been a couple of occasions in the last ten years when I would have liked a dryer (and my parents certainly use one in winter, though if they didn’t have it, they’d probably be better set up with indoor clothes racks and not need it), but no more. If it’s sunny or only spitting, the clothes go out on the line on my covered deck. If it’s really wet, they go inside on racks. The only things that come out a little crunchy are jeans and towels, and I honestly don’t mind – towels seem to dry better when crunchy anyway, and jeans soften within a minute of putting them on.

    I rack-dried when I lived in Calgary too, though sometimes I had to use the dryer in winter for heavier things like jeans. Big household, small basement, so rack space was at a premium. But having a little moisture in the air from air-drying stuff in my room was great, because my NZ-raised skin was not a fan of the dry climate.

  30. #30 Azkyroth
    October 3, 2010

    One reason for using a dryer that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned: allergies. Not only is high heat critical to properly killing dust mites, but clothes left outside on a drying line will tend to wind up saturated with pollen if there’s much in the air. *whimpers*

  31. #31 sealander
    October 3, 2010

    One point not mentioned is that line drying your laundry calls for an awareness of your local climate that may have become foreign to people who go from centrally heated houses to heated car to heated offices each day. The weather forecast becomes irrelevant when you spend most of your week safely insulated from it.
    We generally take a quick look at the weather forecast every evening, and then keep it in mind when considering the washing. Generally we save up a pile and do a couple of loads on the weekend – but if it is going to rain all weekend and be fine during the week we’ll adjust the schedule accordingly. If it appears there will not be much drying time available, we’ll do a smaller load so that there will be room to dry it inside. (It’s the king size bed sheets that are the real pain in the butt there, so we’ll scramble to get them out on a good weekend in winter, rather than have them festooning the lounge for a week while that cat uses them as a play house ;)
    It is the same general awareness of the environment needed for successful food growing – say a couple of days rain is predicted, so I’ll plant my seedlings out just before that and save myself some time spent watering them for example. Or when travelling without a car, I’ll take my rain gear with me.
    It’s not any harder really, but means stepping away from the mindset that expects life to be nothing but instant microwave macaroni cheese.

  32. #32 Sam
    October 3, 2010

    Sure, the sun can dry your clothes… when the sun is actually OUT. But what if it’s overcast and raining for a whole week? In winter, even at the best of times, it takes me at least five days to dry clothes if I don’t have a dryer. A dryer frees you from the random whim of the weather.

  33. #33 Stephen B.
    October 3, 2010

    Sam, I say Baah!

    I’ve never taken more than a day to 36 hours to dry clothes in the winter. If anything, drying in the winter is more reliable because inside air is always drier in serious heating climates. My stuff often dries overnight in the winter, that is, within 12 hours inside.

    We’re over-analyzing this drying thing. It’s not that hard to line dry. People did it for a LONG time before dryers were invented in the early to mid 20th century.

  34. #34 Alexandra
    October 3, 2010

    Contrariwise, Art, there are times and bugs where air-drying beats the dryer. The best moth cure and preventative I know is to wash well and hang up in the sun and air. Clothes moths don’t like the great, bright outdoors.

    That said, I machine-dry every non-wool textile that comes home with me from a thrift store, especially bedding, because I don’t ever want to find out what bed bugs are like.

  35. #35 theshortearedowl
    October 3, 2010

    I love my tumble dryer. It’s a Samsung (stainless steel drum and a direct drive motor, ought to last forever), and it’s beautiful. I never have to iron anything. One day I will get that drying rack set up, but when I’m busy I will still be using the tumble dryer. Trying to pretend it doesn’t make life easier is just not true.

  36. #36 Danny
    October 3, 2010

    When I was a child I remember my mom using the grille behind the fridge as a dryer. She would hang all small items (socks, underpants, diapers) there while using a clothes line for the bigger ones.

  37. #37 Beth
    October 3, 2010

    Sena wrote: Okay, now I’ve tried drying my laundry on the line and I can’t get around how everything ends up all stiff and scratchy. Any suggestions?

    It just doesn’t bother me. I grew up with mostly lined dried clothes. We got a drier when I was 10 + and it wasn’t used exclusively.

    The only thing I notice being stiff is towels but it really doesn’t bother me. I don’t even notice with my clothes. As with many of our “modern” things I think its perception, I don’t perceive line dried clothes as unusual.

    Our ds when in college would bring laundry home and always used the drier, when home for the summer same thing. Dh always noticed a noticable differnce in elec bill when he returned to school. He’s now on his own, after using his drier for awhile, he began using the line (he had one in his yard) he noticed the change in his bill, we lol.

  38. #38 Miss Eagle
    October 3, 2010

    I don’t understand the dryer obsession except in a few circumstances and places. Yet many people in the Land of Oz share it with the American cousins.

    Melbourne, Australia has a changeable climate whatever the season and winters are cold and wet (it rarely snows in Melbourne – but not far from it). Our three adult household relies on folding laundry racks in the laundry. For most of my life, I have lived in the tropics where, apart from The Wet Season, things dry rapidly outdoors in the unmatched golden glow of strong sunshine. Occasionally, when things are not drying well inside, we use a fan – the pedestal type we use for hot days in summer. I don’t think this chews the electricity at the same rate as a dryer. OK – all this takes a little longer and in a rainy winter quite a long time. But being organised with the laundry and one’s clothes sorts that problem out.

    Have to say that I am rather stunned by some comments above saying it is easier to use a dryer and on the anti-dryer reasoning why use washing machines or lives are so busy.

    Firstly, we use washing machines because the alternatives prior to that became the story of female drudgery and heavy work. Drying clothes is not in the same league. When I got married in the early 1960s I used a copper and hand washed things I could not launder with the boiling method.

    As for busy lives – that’s human choice. Some things that we human beings do these days we justify with a peculiar logic as if there is some natural law attached – like the sun rising in the morning. The intensity of our working lives, the busy-ness of our personal lives is a matter of how we, as individuals, choose to live our lives. There is no natural law dictate about it at all! We can choose to have a real life in which putting your clothes on a drying rack is just part of the daily routine – and it is free.

  39. #39 Beth
    October 3, 2010

    Lindsey wrote: Okay, I’m all for going no-dryer, but do the hours I spend ironing wrinkley clothes add up? Sometimes my time is just more valuable

    If I have something I think is too wrinkled to wear I run an iron over it, but I don’t iron lots of clothes at once. I live and work on a farm so my need for lots of ironed clothes is small :). But I have found one can “iron” wet clothes with your hands, smooth out say a cotton shirt before putting it on the line you may find its ok to wear.

  40. #40 Katherine
    October 3, 2010

    I built a (portable) roof over my washing line because I was sick of it raining on my washing. 1-2 day drying even in winter, even while raining the whole day, without using a drier? Priceless.

    And whoever compared it to washing your hair is a bit strange. Your hair didn’t start getting greasier when you hit puberty, requiring you to start washing it more often? Lucky you.

  41. #41 Adela
    October 3, 2010

    You can turn the heat off on most dryers to fluff with straight air for a few minutes to soften clothes and it gets cat hair off.

  42. #42 Elissa
    October 3, 2010

    Lindsey wrote: “Okay, I’m all for going no-dryer, but do the hours I spend ironing wrinkley clothes add up? Sometimes my time is just more valuable”

    Some useful tricks:
    - Get your washing out of the machine as soon as you can after it’s done – the longer they sit in there, damp and squashed, the more wrinkly they’ll be.
    - Give each item a snapping shake before you hang it up
    - Hang shirts on hangers instead of pinned upside down
    - Some things, eg jeans, undershirts, pajamas, casual/at-home clothes don’t need to be smooth and perfect. A few wrinkles a) don’t matter and b) will work themselves out in a little while.

    It’s only because the anti-linedrying thing has been so ubiquitous that you Americans find it so strange and so intimidating. It contradicts your cultural assuptions about how things are done, about convenience, about hygiene – it’s more about the /perception/ of line-drying than it’s actual pros or cons. It doesn’t help that you don’t know any of the tricks, like those mentioned above – my mum taught me those, because we line-dried by default and the drier was for wet weeks when the washing couldn’t be put off any longer.

    Other places with different cultural approaches to clothes (and time and convenience) find your way quite as bewildering as you do ours! (also: people telling me what not to do in my own backyard? wtf is up with that?)

  43. #43 tioedong
    October 3, 2010

    You are missing a point: poor people.
    I suspect the reason the middle class in China doesn’t use driers is that they have maids.

    Here in the Philippines. We have someone do our wash. When it rains, she hang it up inside, yet even then it won’t dry, so she irons it the next day.

    Unlike some of your commenters, who seem to be single, I had two kids who needed their laundry done, and unlike my full time homemaker mother, who did hang outside, I worked outside the home and had to do housework in my “spare” time…in a word: TGFP, thank god for Pampers.

  44. #44 Fatima
    October 3, 2010

    We line dry most of our clothes, reserving the dryer for small things such as a load of socks and underthings.
    This summer we chose not to replace our air conditioner, much to the shock and horror of our family and friends who seemed to think they “couldn’t live without central air.” I expected to find myself having trouble sleeping in the humid, southern heat of our area (I slept well every night). After surviving one of the hottest summers in years, with temps in the mid to upper 90′s nearly every day, I plan to stick with out decision to do without a/c. An outside birthday party in August was positively eye-opening when my family spent the day comfortably enjoying the party while others were “melting” before our eyes. I’m enjoying life more without this “luxury.” I would be interested to know how common central air is in other countries. I couldn’t name a single person in our area who lives without air conditioning. We even had to get a window unit to keep on hand for when we have visitors because their bodies are so poorly adjusted to the weather.
    If you want to know more about our crazy no air conditioning life, hop over to my blog and look under the label, homemaking. Thanks.

  45. #45 Helen Krummenacker
    October 3, 2010

    Allergens.

    If you have serious asthma and react to any kind of pollens, spores, etc in your area, drying your clothes outside is a bad idea. Plus, you have to do more laundry than you could get away with if you didn’t have to worry about what the sweater you wore yesterday was exposed to, and is it now a bad idea to have it near your face.

    But if you’re healthy, the clothesline is your friend.

  46. #46 Brad K.
    October 3, 2010

    The dryer sheets – softener – that makes the towels less absorbent coats all other fabrics as well. One use that might have gone un-noticed, is that the softeners also act to reduce static electricity.

    A decade ago or two, damage to electronics from static electricity was a serious complication. Today’s computers, cell phones, telephones, scanners, copiers, TV’s, radios, iPods, etc. are built more resistant to static – but they are also manufactured under the assumption that users are using anti-static softener sheets or other softener products in the clothes drier. Go back to line drying and getting the softeners and excess detergent washed out of your clothes, and the static issues might be returning.

    And that is just one part of the system view of the clothes drier. Most people using dryers just don’t consider how that shapes their lives. Stores stock clothes for purchase, on the assumption of automatic washing and drying. Our culture regards clothes choices, with the assumption of the dryer being used to launder everything.

    As for line drying not putting as much wear on clothes – does that benefit the consumer, or punish the clothing industry by needing fewer replacement garments?

    For those considering line drying – Wal-Mart sells two laundry racks at the moment, a rack and a “heavy duty” larger rack. The larger one might hold 18 pounds of wet clothes or so – a pretty good sized load of most things but denims and comforters. Mine fits in the bathtub (I have a separate shower), and they fold up easily.

    If you burn wood for heat, you have a lot of air exchange that will keep the house/apartment from building up humidity. On the other hand – who would be heating the house warm enough in winter that it affects the time to dry clothes?

    I noticed the scratchy and wrinkled thing with my tshirts. It is noticeable at first – but not after a few minutes. Thus the dryer seems, for my tshirts, to buy a couple of minutes, not the life or use of the garment.

    I like the lady that posted once that during the great depression, in her neighborhood, if you didn’t hang the small clothes – the under things – outside with the rest of the wash, the neighbors assumed you didn’t have any.

    I remember we had a steel wire clothes line. Mom was careful to wash each line just before hanging the clothes – for dust, dirt, rust, and insect and other messes. A quick wipe with a rag and soapy water (she let it air dry) did the trick.

  47. #47 Staceyjw
    October 4, 2010

    I HATE the crunchy towels, and crispy baby clothes and T-shirts that I get from line drying. The other clothes I can stand, but the towels are really just AWFUL.

    That said,ever since we moved to Mexico we hang everything, and I do mean everything. Our terraces face the ocean and there is such a good breeze, and it’s almost always sunny and warm. The moisture can sometimes make it take a little longer, but usually its pretty quick, and only takes a minute to hang them. besides, who wouldnt want to spend a few extra minutes in the sun looking at the Pacific?

    We got out of the dryer habit because ours is propane, and it’s such a hassle to keep it filled, not to mention really expensive for what it does. Everywhere you drive around here you see clothes hanging, except in my neighborhood- I always wonder what people on the beach think when they look up and see loads of clothes hanging off my house? Mosy people here also collect rainwater and solar heat their water (in big black tanks, no panels), but this is due to poverty, not environmentalism.

    We avoid too much washing as well. We have a baby and use disposables, as water is very expensive (the most costly thing in the house, the highest bill and we BARELY use it!) and precious here. Plus, the electric rates are tiered so that if you use more than 300kw a month, rates are more than anywhere in the US by almost double.

    And we don’t use much hot water either, as that appliance is also propane.I want to switch it to solar,but I don’t own this house. Too bad, since I work for a solar manufacturer and itwouldbereally cheap to do. Solar hot water is such a no brainer, I can’t see why anyone that owns a home doesn’t have it. I’ve gone long periods without hot water, and it sucks, but you do get use to it.

    interesting post!

  48. #48 pradeep
    October 4, 2010

    I agree…in tropical countries, like India, even people rich enough to have dryers would not use them. It is so hot and usually fairly dry that clothes dry within 60-90 minutes.

    Also, people in other countries are more keenly aware of energy costs. We don’t think about it because fuel for us is very cheap relative to our incomes. Just imagine what you’d be driving or what cuts you’d make if energy costs were four times as high?

    If fuel were $10 for a gallon of gas and/or it would cost $800/month to cool/warm your home, you would make serious and drastic changes.

    Right now in India, fuel is $5/gallon, which for an unskilled day laborer, is about a 4 days of earnings.

  49. #49 P Smith
    October 4, 2010

    It’s even more idiotic to use a dryer when you live somewhere warm enough. I’m Canadian and live in Taiwan. I have a small clothes washer in my apartment, and can hang dry stuff on the balcony in a couple of hours, even in January.

    It doesn’t even have to be hot where you live. As a kid, I used to live where it got to -40 in January (celsius AND fahrenheit), and the clothes still got dry outside. Evaporation can happen at any temperature, it just takes longer when it’s cold.

  50. #50 Cactus Wren
    October 4, 2010

    It might be worth noting that in many places in the United States, the question is whether one MAY use a clothesline. Many HOAs (home-owners’ assocations) have bylaws forbidding use of a clothesline, on the grounds that it’s “unsightly” and might lower property values: witness the interview at http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/07/22/hills_hoist/ , in which the head of one HOA complains that line-drying is “just unsightly” and “looks like a lower-class neighborhood”. (Google “HOA” + “clothesline”. Or “right to dry”.)

  51. #51 Reinder Dijkhui
    October 4, 2010

    In my old apartment, 3 out of four seasons, the only way I could dry clothes without a drier is to lay them on the radiator and crank up the heat. Without a heat source, they’d either take days to dry and get mildewy (inside) or they’d stay wet forever(outside).

    I’ve just moved to a new house with multiple floors and so far, we can get things dry on the top floor – so we’re not buying a dryer just yet. But in the old space, having a drier meant running less heat and buying fewer new clothes to replace mouldy ones.

  52. #52 Alex Besogonov
    October 4, 2010

    Art:

    “Driers are important tools for anyone fighting bedbugs, or lice. Once heated to normal drier temperatures the critters, and the eggs, are goners. I’ve been told that those high temperatures also tend to disinfect clothing, destroying fungus spoors and bacteria that may have made it through the wash.”

    Modern detergents at 70C will destroy most (if not all) multi-cellular parasites and most bacteria. And your drier won’t destroy some spores, they are very resilient.

    Also, worrying about bacteria on clothing is a bit pointless unless you are a surgeon.

  53. #53 anonymouse
    October 4, 2010

    A washing machine plus air and sunlight will kill most parasites, and I agree that bacteria aren’t usually a serious issue. But bedbugs really are extremely hard to kill and will survive the washing machine. The only time I ever use a dryer is to sterilize used clothing or bedding that I buy at yard sales. When you consider the effort and expense required to get rid of bedbugs once they’re established (not to mention the environmental cost of fumigation), I’m convinced the precaution is worth it.

  54. #54 Pam Ronald
    October 4, 2010

    we gave ours up years ago and never looked back. Clothes dry faster outside in Davis california than they do in a machine, on most days anyway.

  55. #55 Tsu Dho Nimh
    October 4, 2010

    @10 … dry the clothing on the line, then in the dryer on no heat (air dry or “fluff”) for a couple of minutes. the friction and bouncing is what softens them. Even levis.

    The amount of soap you use is not very relevant unless you are using way more than the machine needs.

  56. #56 tarynkay
    October 4, 2010

    I am all for line-drying, eschewing the electric dryer, etc. The stiffness doesn’t bother me, and I actually love stiff line-dried towels. However, I have the same problem as Lindsey with the ironing. My husband and I both work at jobs which require us to wear professional clothes. If I use the dryer, and get the clothes out right away, ironing is generally not required. But if I line-dry, I have to iron- even though I shake the wet clothes out and hang them on hangers and so forth. (Note: I realize that I do not have to iron in the way that I have to eat, but I do have to iron in order for us to keep our jobs.) Not only do I have to iron these clothes, I find that I have to steam-iron them to get the wrinkles out. So this is a lot of high heat on the part of the iron. We do re-wear professional type clothes as they are generally not dirty after a day of office-work. But I am wondering if all of this iron-use is negating the non-use of the dryer? If I spend an hour steam-ironing every load of shirts, does this use less power than using the dryer for an hour? Would it make more sense to use the dryer for the professional clothing and the clothesline for clothes that won’t need ironing?

  57. #57 Sharon Astyk
    October 4, 2010

    I knew this one would raise hackles – somehow threats to “labor saving” appliances always do. We’re very, very attached to them. You should see the drama level when I talk about dishwashers – I’ll have to do that again soon, just to see the reaction.

    What troubles me about the business argument is that implicit in the statement that we have to, because we’re soooo busy is the idea that other people in the world aren’t so terribly busy – we get this whenever we talk about cooking from scratch “oh, it isn’t realistic” – never mind that the planet is full of people who couldn’t afford take out, and was once full of people who didn’t have access to take out who also worked very hard, and somehow managed to live a life with a lot fewer conveniences. The “history of our own exhaustion” is one that I think is used to justify a great deal.

    Sharon

  58. #58 Mark
    October 4, 2010

    My partner and I recently started using a clothesline to save some money on electricity, and it’s been remarkably easy. It’s kind of funny to see a fully loaded clothesline hanging right above the dryer.

    It’s great that you’re blogging about this subject, a lot of people would benefit from this easy lifestyle change.

  59. #59 Sharon Astyk
    October 4, 2010

    Oops, I meant “busyness” not “business.”

    Sharon

  60. #60 Raging Bee
    October 4, 2010

    I agree with the idea of saving energy by line-drying clothes, but here are two practical objections:

    First, I also save energy by washing large loads of clothes (mine and my GF’s) at a time, just to get the most from the power and water used by my washing machine. (And no, I’m not about to switch to hand-washing — that’s a LOT of time and effort.) That means LOTS of clothes I have to dry at once, and not much room to spare to hang them where they can be expected to dry before they start to molder. I won’t just need one rack, I’ll need a roomful of racks, especially for the queen-size bedsheets, blankets and duvet. Also, it does take a lot of time to hang things out to dry — time I may or may not have to spare.

    Second, I live in te DC area, where the air tends to be humid and not very mobile. I could hang things out to dry, but some things — like jeans, towels and blankets — could take quite awhile to dry. And no, I can’t just hang them out in the sun, because a) my backyard is not that big; and b) we also get afternoon rains and I can’t always spare the time to drop everything and start hauling things inside when the sky gets a little dark. Oh, and colors do tend to fade if they’re out in the sun for hours after each wash.

    And besides, those evil HOAs are right about one thing: hanging large amounts of sheets, towels, jeans, undies, etc. all over the place really is ugly, and when they’re hung all about the inside of one’s residence, taking up whatever free space you have, it’s kinda oppressive as well. My GF’s undies look really hot when she’s wearing them; but looking at a whole roomful of them when they’re damp and hanging all around isn’t quite as thrilling. And I’m sure she feels the same about my undies as well.

  61. #61 Raging Bee
    October 4, 2010

    What troubles me about the business argument is that implicit in the statement that we have to, because we’re soooo busy is the idea that other people in the world aren’t so terribly busy – we get this whenever we talk about cooking from scratch “oh, it isn’t realistic” – never mind that the planet is full of people who couldn’t afford take out, and was once full of people who didn’t have access to take out who also worked very hard, and somehow managed to live a life with a lot fewer conveniences.

    What troubles ME about that argument is that it can be — and too often is — used to belittle the interests of others, who may want to spend more time pursuing their dreams and less time cooking, washing, drying, etc. “from scratch.” Washing machines and dishwashers, in fact, are considered major enablers of the entire feminist movement, because they allowed “women’s work” to be done with less loss of time; and many right-wing men regularly trash women by saying they only care about “convenience” when they say they want to spend more time doing what they want to do and less time doing what they’re “supposed” to do. (Also, the argument that we shouldn’t bitch about the time lost cooking from scratch because so many past generations were okay with it, is a standard reactionary argument against ANY change. Do you really intend to go there?)

    If you want to make choices regarding how you spend your own time, that’s fine. But when you try to make such choices for others, you are, in effect, making judgements about the relative value of their time and the things they choose to do with it.

  62. #62 Ed Straker
    October 4, 2010

    “when you try to make such choices for others, you are, in effect, making judgements about the relative value of their time and the things they choose to do with it.”

    The women’s movement has been primarily interested in assimilating women into the economic growth model, which is part and parcel of pushing us up against limits to growth. You know, do your part to boost GDP at all costs.

    Women should get beyond the 1970s notion of achieving equality through moving up the corporate ladder and to learn to measure success in a different way. We’re all going to be poorer sooner or later anyway.

  63. #63 darwinsdog
    October 4, 2010

    We have a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, a gas furnace, an evaporative cooler.. because they came with the house when we bought it 15 years ago. The dishwasher got used once, when we had a big housewarming party when we first moved in. It can’t be used anymore because all the gaskets have dried out & cracked from disuse. The dishwasher is now used for cooking utensil storage. The only time the dryer has been used is a handful of times when I needed dry longjohns or socks in the morning before leaving for work, and none were available. When it rains on clothes hanging on the line we just say that they’re getting a second rinse. Last year we had a problem with turkeys roosting on the clothes line. My wife wasn’t very happy about streaks of turkey poop on her clean clothes! We stopped using the swamp cooler a few years ago. If I could use ditch water in it, I might consider using it but our ditch water is muddy & it would require filtration. Rinsing the filter screen several times per day would get tedious. This past July I turned the fan on several nights, to blow cool night air into the hot house, but no water was being evaporated. Last winter the gas furnace wasn’t even turned on. We heated exclusively with wood sustainably harvested from the property. This winter I am going to have to turn the furnace on because my wife won’t be around to keep the fire going during the day and I can’t have the pipes freezing. I will keep the thermostat set as low as it will go, however, and build a fire morning & evening. And, oh yeah, not to forget the flush toilets. I’ve stopped using them and poop into a five gallon plastic bucket instead, for composting. The property is secluded enough that I pee outside.

    I could feel smug towards someone like Raging Bee, for his or her rationalization and glorification of profligate energy usage, but I don’t. In fact, I basically agree with him/her. I’m not part of some Movement, not out to “save the world” (as if it needs saving or I would be up for the task if it did). I live the way I do because I prefer to do so. I’m just an old hippie and have lived pretty much the same way my entire adult life. If others prefer lifestyles in which energy wastage is de rigueur, more power to ‘em. To each his or her own.

  64. #64 Christina
    October 4, 2010

    #61 Raging Bee: One either believes that fossil fuel and CO2 reductions are vitally necessary, or one doesn’t (or doesn’t care). As a feminist (40yo), I agree that modern appliances had an impact on gender roles; it’s not all rosy-hued though and it’s okay to reevaluate things in light of new information. Last I looked, women are more able to pursue their dreams and yet still are firmly established in taking care of the original housework, appliances notwithstanding. The GDP now gets all of our free domestic labor, and our compensated labor on top of that.

    Too, I’m not interested in pursuing any dream that comes at such a drastic cost to others right now and to everyone in the future. Makes it less of a dream and more of a hit-and-run. Feminists accepted (and continue to accept) American individualism as the only equality worth achieving, and lose so much in rejecting the opportunities of other equality paradigms. The fact that Sarah Palin can lay claim to the term “feminist” nowadays shows how much work we still have to do in this regard.

  65. #65 Sharon Astyk
    October 4, 2010

    Raging Bee, others have given some of the answers I’d give – but I’d also observe that the history of domestic technology has by no means been one of universal gains for women – the history of most of those technologies is of rising standards and nearly identitical amounts of time spent on domestic work. Juliet Schor does a great job, for example, of exploring this, but others have as well.

    But the larger issue is simply this – if climate change is real, our fossil fuel usage kills people – period. No personal, individual freedom to choose a more convenient life permits that in any ethical system I’ve ever heard of. There are already 1 million documentable annual deaths from climate change, and more predicted over generations, and the UN is very clear that these deaths will be predominately women and children. I simply don’t find any call to feminism that focuses on the inconveniences and luxury choices of middle class women in the developed world at the expense of dead women and children in the Global South all that much. Honestly, we’re going to have to put much bigger things than dryers on the table to address climate change – I put the dryer out, along with a few other things that are really simple to get along without – CAFO meat, for example, as absolutes simply because I think that until you deal with the outer edge realities, we can’t even begin to get to the really challenging things we have to give up to keep other people alive.

    Sharon

  66. #66 darwinsdog
    October 4, 2010

    We could all get into a greener-than-thou pissing match. I cut my firewood with a Husqvarna chainsaw & maybe you cut your’s with an ax & bow saw. I lose. If the debate begins to smack of self-righteousness, the message is lost.

  67. #67 Phil Plasma
    October 4, 2010

    Maybe I’m slow at hanging all of the clothes as compared to others, but I don’t see how it is about the same as taking an entire load out of the washer and sticking it into the drier immediately next to the washer. Maybe 10 seconds for the whole load?

    I hang the laundry indoors when I can, but with both my wife and I working, three kids all in activities, volunteering for a few different groups on top of that, there are some places where we need to eek out some time. Given a choice between hanging a load of laundry to dry or getting an extra five-ten minutes of sleep since invariably laundry gets done at the very end of the day, sleep wins out and so into the dryer the clothes go.

    Here in Quebec at least I know that the electricity I am consuming is hydro-electric.

  68. #68 Jim Thomerson
    October 4, 2010

    Here is the bottom line. My mother knew how to do it. You fill a washtub with water pumped from your well with a windmill. She used soap she made yourself out of lard and wood ashes, made over a wood fire. Scrub your clothes on a rub-board, and put bluing in the rinse water for the white clothes. Wring everything out by hand and hangout to dry in the sun on wires from an old fence.

  69. #69 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2010

    I guess my post with all the links on dryer fires got lost and that’s a pity, because dryer fires are dangerous and not nearly as uncommon as one might think.

  70. #70 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2010

    @Phil,

    But you’re not done when you put all those clothes in the dryer. You still have to take them out afterwards, hang them on hangers, put them in the closet, sort out the socks for the drawers…. Some of that work can be done while the clothes are still wet and while you’re hanging them to dry.

    You’re also not accounting for the work hours spent paying for the dryer, fueling the dryer, repairing the dryer, cleaning the vent hose, etc. For most people, such work time lost feeding the dryer is more than they think.

    Most people think that they’re ahead with cars too, but there was a study done once that showed for most people, that after one accounted for all the work hours needed to pay for the car, the gas, the insurance, the repairs, the depreciation, etc. a bicycle was actually a faster way to get around.

    Doubtless this logic applies to dryers, snowthrowers, and many other labor saving devices. We work longer to pay for and maintain those things and it doesn’t always result in a net saving.

    @Raging Bee: A similar argument may apply to your concerns. What good is it for the formal economy to “free” women for work in the commercial, corporate world, if they work long hours to pay for all the labor “saving” devices and food that they now need to have just to work outside of the home? Don’t forget the second car, the fancy clothes, perhaps child care too. I’m not saying just stay home and hang clothes. But all these labor saving devices aren’t the complete winners we assume them to be.

  71. #71 ildi
    October 4, 2010

    What good is it for the formal economy to “free” women for work in the commercial, corporate world, if they work long hours to pay for all the labor “saving” devices and food that they now need to have just to work outside of the home?

    Because working in the commercial corporate world seems to be oodles more fun and satisfying for many women than staying at home slaving away over the hot stove and wash pot?

  72. #72 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2010

    Don’t ask me ildi. Sharon has written oodles of stuff on this very idea of women trading their life away in the corporate world versus “slaving away” at home.

    To each her own.

  73. #73 ildi
    October 4, 2010

    To each her own.

    Exactly. One can wax eloquent about the zen of washing dishes or hanging out the laundry , but there is a whole boatload of people who are just not that impressed. If it were so wonderful, why aren’t we seeing a huge influx of men taking up the slack?

  74. #74 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2010

    ildi,

    Sharon has written extensively, and I do mean extensively, on this very subject of changing domestic roles for women and men as cheap, fossil energy came onto the scene in the early 20th century and has offered many possible scenarios for what the future may offer regarding the loss of that same cheap energy in the coming years along with further evolutions of the domestic role of both men and women in and out of the home.

    As for men taking up the slack in the present, I would point to both myself as the man of this household, doing a whole lot of the very work you seem to be disdaining for women, along with Sharon’s husband, Eric.

    Regardless of whether it is the man of the house, or the women, or a mixture of both doing this “grunt” work, I suspect you will see the rebirth of quite a bit of domestic house work in the areas of food preparation, cottage industry, and other ways of adding value to the family unit, bypassing as much of the present formal, $$ economy as possible. (That’s what using a clothesline does, in a small way. It somewhat pulls the act of doing laundry out of the formal, dollar economy, and returns it to something of a cottage industry by freeing laundry, somewhat, from utility and applicance financing bills.)

    As I say, Sharon has quite a few essays and thoughts on this subject. They’re either in the archives of her older blog: http://sharonastyk.com/writings2/ and/or in her first book, Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front the latter having flowed somewhat from the blog in any case.

    You ask/state very important points and I think you’d have something to think about in Sharon’s book.

    (I have no financial or other interest in Sharon’s book, and would decline if so offered, as the saying goes.)

  75. #75 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2010

    Ildi,

    You really got me to thinking, so I dug a bit through Sharon’s archives. Here http://sharonastyk.com/2006/11/06/ is a link to an early essay Sharon wrote on why Peak Oil is a women’s issue along with some of the possible implications on women’s lives.

    The present economy, in which women are nearly as likely as men to go out and work full time, depends enormously on cheap energy. Mothers of young children can only go to work if they have easy access to and can afford formula, or fancy breast pumps and refrigeration for the milk. Unless wet nursing makes a come back (and it may, but most of us almost certainly won’t be able to afford it), women in their childbearing years will not be working far away from home. And given the dramatic increase in domestic labor created by using less energy, it will make sense for them to be at home. They will be the ones who almost certainly shoulder much of the burden of food production, housekeeping, sanitation, and childrearing. It will be damned hard work, and there will be a lot of it. If we are to shoulder that burden, we must be involved in the creation of the systems that we will live under, and prioritization of resources – that is, we cannot allow the old saw, that those who are employed in the world of the GDP are doing “real” work, which should thus receive a larger share of the remaining resources in accomodation. The elimination of domestic labor from calculations of value and worth is an intentional lie of growth capitalism, to devalue the work subsistence labor, which meets most of our basic needs. We need to demand that any calculations of priority take into account the fact that the food, clothing, shelter and nurturance provided by people engaged in homemaking is, in many cases, more valuable than the non-essential paid work that many people engage in.

    More at the link.

  76. #76 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2010

    Also: http://sharonastyk.com/2007/02/03/ or “Home Economics, Sustainability and the “Mommy Wars”

    I don’t dare even quote from this one. Any selected passage of the cited essay, coming from a man, will possibly sound offensive. But I think what Sharon wrote back then raises many important questions on the changing domestic roles of both men and women as cheap energy fades away. It’s a must read in order to put Sharon’s and a lot of my and my fellow commenters’ anti-labor-saving devices comments in the proper context.

  77. #77 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    Phil #67: Hanging laundry does take time, though as others mention there are both direct and indirect costs for using the appliance and the time it takes you to cover those costs with your earnings offsets the hanging time.

    Even if that weren’t the case, sacrifices of our modern lifestyle HAVE to be made. I too live a life of three demanding children and two demanding jobs, but given the insistence of carbon emission and fossil fuel limits, we must find the time in our lives to do the things that are necessary. Clothes dryers account for 6% of residential electricity use (according to a list at Peak Oil Hausfrau), so a ten-minutes-a-load investment represents a reasonable dent in one’s household consumption of fuel and emission of CO2. That time can be significantly reduced by forgoing various clothing habits that increase laundry load. (I see you’re in Canada, so maybe those habits are different for you, but here in California the worst habit is that once an item of clothing touches your body, it is judged “dirty” as soon as it’s taken off. Obsessive washing of towels and sheets is another.)

  78. #78 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    Ildi #73: “One can wax eloquent about the zen of washing dishes or hanging out the laundry , but there is a whole boatload of people who are just not that impressed. If it were so wonderful, why aren’t we seeing a huge influx of men taking up the slack?”

    Presumably for the same reason men didn’t go gaga over household chores when technological upgrades came on the scene in the 50s: because household chores aren’t “work”, they don’t count in the formal economy, and nobody worth their salt would want to do them when they could be at their “job” instead. After all, the American dream has women getting out of those tasks as well.

    Nevertheless, that “boatload” you mention will be in deep psychological distress when they can no longer afford to pass menial labor onto their lessers (be they wives or paid servants) and they find themselves complete novices at achieving a zen state in the informal economy.

  79. #79 Tom
    October 5, 2010

    I live in Scotland. If it is not raining (rare I admit) I always hang clothes outside to dry. It is quick, it gets me outside and they smell nicer. In addition I save the cost of the dryer, the cost of the electricity and my house won’t burn down if I forget to clean out the lint from the filter. If it is raining I hang them inside. The only use I can see for a dryer it to help re-waterproof raincoats (the static induced in the dryer lifts the fibers which help repel the rain).

    One of the most depressing thing I ever saw was an article I came across in a magazine in the States. I don’t recall what it was but at then end they had one of those Ask the Expert sections. Some guy had written in asking why there were bug lumps of concrete in his yard and how to get them out. The expert explained that, ‘weird as it seems, in the olden days folks had actually hung their washing out to dry but that the practice had been forgotten after dryers had become popular’.

  80. #80 Phil Plasma
    October 5, 2010

    Stephen B:

    Only a very small number of the shirts and pants that my wife and I wear end up on hangers, everything else of ours and of the kids get folded, so the sorting and the folding is the same amount of time whether I use the dryer or hang to dry.

    In 2001 when we bought the washer/dryer we paid as much as we could afford for the most efficient dryer. In terms of work hours to pay for the machine, those hours are long gone now. We have not required a single repair, nor have we ever had to spend any significant time cleaning the vent hose – the dryer vents almost directly to the outdoors.

    I don’t doubt that your arguments hold true for some people, but in my specific situation I do not see how hanging to dry beats out using a dryer.

    I actually wish things were different…

  81. #81 Sharon Astyk
    October 5, 2010

    It is really interesting to me that so many people jump on the feminist thing with this. Dryers are our liberation. Except that seems so strange to me – because drying clothes requires such a negligible amount of time. If I were asking people to give up washers, I could understand it, but hanging laundry?!?!? Is that really the thing standing between women and freedom?

    Equally interesting to me is the implied argument – that it is ok to do harm to women and children far away, because this makes us freer now. This strikes me as a variant on the early versions second wave feminism that focused on the liberation of upper middle class women from domestic space, often with the result that now they worked and employed poorer, non-white women to do the work they once did. That kind of feminism troubles me and always has – I think other feminist discourses lost out to this kind of affluent capitalist feminism precisely because this was so profitable for industrial capitalism. Selling women on the idea that they freer with a boss reading their emails and scheduling their bathroom breaks than at home was so successsful precisely because it never really challenged any deeper realities.

    And one of the things it never challenged seriously was the idea that domestic labor was not garbage work, that it deserved to be taken seriously, that it mattered and was an integral part of a society that used a lot fewer resources, and that it should be done by women and men together to serve their own households, rather than passed down to paid employees, or abandoned or done by fossil fueled machines at huge environmental cost.

    The housewifization of domestic labor has been bought by a lot of feminist women, and I think that’s a huge shame – first of all, it demeans the women who actually do that work, most of whom are poor, but some aren’t. It fuels the “Mommy Wars” dynamic which pits women against each other. And ultimately it never really deals properly with the question of domestic labor – it never forces women and men to fully confront the issue of their choices. This is a shame, and we are about to live with the consequences of doing this. The domestic labor in question is pretty negligible. It is true, Phil only has to spend 10 seconds – but it takes me less than 5 minutes to hang a load of laundry. And yes, I have plenty of work to do, young children and a love of sleep. Framing this as entirely a women’s issue really does let the guys off the hook, no?

    Personally, I’d rather expect my husband spend 2 1/2 minutes a day hanging laundry, I’ll do my 2 1/2 minutes, and we’ll all just make do. But I do know that many women haven’t managed to fully negotiate these positions, so maybe it is easier to frame this with women as paying the price. I think the ecological and human cost of our environmental predicament, however, is so great that it might be easier to split the work, even acknowledging that that isn’t always easy.

    Sharon

  82. #82 Raging Bee
    October 5, 2010

    Women should get beyond the 1970s notion of achieving equality through moving up the corporate ladder and to learn to measure success in a different way.

    And what way is that, exactly? You don’t seem to have an answer to that. “Moving up the corporate ladder” is one means of getting more money and financial security, which means more freedom to use that money to achieve whatever other success or objective one has in mind. I agree there are other measures of freedom, justice and success; but sooner or later, money and financial independence do become important.

    One either believes that fossil fuel and CO2 reductions are vitally necessary, or one doesn’t (or doesn’t care).

    “One” can also support other means of generating clean energy, so it won’t matter so much whether we line-dry our clothes. And like I said earlier, I’m not against line-drying; I’m just saying it doesn’t work equally well for everyone in all situations.

    Feminists accepted (and continue to accept) American individualism as the only equality worth achieving, and lose so much in rejecting the opportunities of other equality paradigms.

    Such as…?

    …the history of most of those technologies is of rising standards and nearly identitical amounts of time spent on domestic work.

    True — but men and women alike can still resist the arbitrary rise in standards and choose how much to depend on which new gizmo.

    Presumably for the same reason men didn’t go gaga over household chores when technological upgrades came on the scene in the 50s: because household chores aren’t “work”, they don’t count in the formal economy, and nobody worth their salt would want to do them when they could be at their “job” instead.

    Um, no, it’s because household chores are BORING, and people tend to want more in their lives than the routine tasks of maintaining their lives. I don’t have a problem scrubbing my toilets, sweeping my floors, cooking my meals and shovelling snow off my stoop — but I also want to have a life with more fun, variety, challenge and learning than those tasks alone provide. I want to clean my own house, but after that’s done, I also want to do other fun things both in and out of my clean house.

    We need to demand that any calculations of priority take into account the fact that the food, clothing, shelter and nurturance provided by people engaged in homemaking is, in many cases, more valuable than the non-essential paid work that many people engage in.

    On the one hand, this is true. On the other hand, right-wing men are using this as an excuse to force their women to stay at home and give up any ideas of any kind of life outside the home, while pretending to value their “roles” as the keepers of civilization. This could easily lead to the kind of environmentalism where women are blamed for their resource-wasting selfish demands (shades of “Original Sin”), and thus women end up making nearly all the sacrifices to fix the damage done by male-run corporate manufacturing and mining.

  83. #83 Sharon Astyk
    October 5, 2010

    The only way to believe that you can support enough clean energy development rapidly enough to address the realities of our present climate situation is to remain ignorant of the physical realities of climate change. Renewable development is a 20-30 year project, major strides in climate reductions have to be made in the next decade according to the IPCC update released this fall, or there’s no chance of not crossing tipping points. The idea that we’ll all have enough clean energy to keep running dryers is a fantasy. I’m sure it is comforting fantasy, but the costs in real women’s and children’s lives are enormous.

    Sharon

  84. #84 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    Raging Bee: “And what way is that, exactly? You don’t seem to have an answer to that. “Moving up the corporate ladder” is one means of getting more money and financial security, which means more freedom to use that money to achieve whatever other success or objective one has in mind. I agree there are other measures of freedom, justice and success; but sooner or later, money and financial independence do become important.”

    Of course they do, but the “corporate ladder” equality paradigm puts individual money and financial independence at the top of the heap without regard for freedom, justice and success. Is it financial independence to have the balance of your life savings vulnerable to the whims of hedge traders (whether your savings are in stocks or in a savings account), or to have a significant chunk of your earned income directed immediately back into making sure you can keep the job that earned it? Is the independence and security worth the cost to others around the world, whose lives and communities have been materially damaged so that goods are cheap enough that we can have what we need (food, clothing, etc.) and still have money left over for that independence and security?

    Dry clothes have a cost. It can be the cost of five minutes of one’s personal time, keeping the cost local to the individual who is demanding the results. Or the cost can be Pacific Islander communities having to devote huge percentages of their GNP to purchasing relocation land far away from where they’ve lived for centuries, because their islands will be underwater soon.

    What Sharon calls the “housewifization” of domestic chores is degrading to us all. Why should anyone be above doing the real work that keeps their lives going on a daily basis? Because it’s “boring”? I didn’t realize that pushing papers, spending hours in ineffective meetings, reading hundreds of irrelevant cc’d emails and commuting for the privilege of doing so was so exciting…

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting more, and going after more. What’s wrong is the percentage of “more” compared with the percentage of living up to the sum of one’s responsibilities to feed, clothe, shelter in a fair manner. I’d prefer to be feminist under an interdependent or communal equality paradigm that judges a sweatshop worker’s right to more to be just as important as my own. That means I need to spend three or four hours a day taking care of my own business – laundry, food production and processing, biking and walking, etc. By my accounting, that leaves a pretty significant number of hours for me to pursue all those other stimulating modern interests. Time is zero sum, though, so I forgo some of the less valuable ones: primarily the four hours a day that the modern American adult spends in front of a television (that’s in addition to internet time!)

  85. #85 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    Sharon, I cringe when I see you repeat the concept of “the cost in women’s and children’s lives” – men’s lives are sacrificed to our clothes drying and other obsessions too…

  86. #86 Sharon Astyk
    October 5, 2010

    Of course they are, Christina, although there’s a strong disproportion here – women are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of climate change than men, with poor women the most likely. But since the argument being advanced is that I don’t care enough about women because I’m arguing that affluent women can afford 5 minutes to hang laundry, I thought it might be particularly compelling to them to point out that there are women dying there ;-).

    Sharon

  87. #87 David B
    October 5, 2010

    As a result of this thread I went out and spent a tenner (and some recourse use) on a drying rack, with a view to using it to at least part dry clothes on sunny days in my flat (which is not ideal for drying). If it works I may adjust my washes, which are all on min heat) so that there will be a relatively large amount of sun and low humidity.

    The link I put to this thread on my favourite discussion board has produced some lively, even vituperative, debate.

  88. #88 Lorna
    October 5, 2010

    Wow, you’d think Sharon had demanded that we move back into caves and do our wash by pounding our clothes, or animal skins, on rocks. Seems like there’s some overreaction here. I thought her point was that there are things we can do to decrease our energy use that demand little or no sacrifice on our parts; we just need to readjust our daily routines. As someone who has transitioned to no dryer within the last 5 years I can attest that it requires no discernible extra work, but it does require a change in routine and approach. I guess change is hard.

  89. #89 Raging Bee
    October 5, 2010

    But since the argument being advanced is that I don’t care enough about women because I’m arguing that affluent women can afford 5 minutes to hang laundry…

    First, you’re misrepresenting our objections to your original post. Second, hanging a washer-load of clothes so they all dry as fast as possible can take a LOT more than five minutes. Hell, it takes me that long just to sort normal from delicate items before hanging the latter. And third, we’re not just talking about “affluent” women here; we’re talking about MILLIONS of people, rich and poor, many of whom have neither the time nor the space to hang all their wet clothes at once. Pretending this is just a bunch of rich airheads clinging to their conveniences really doesn’t strengthen your case. Neither do your indiscriminate accusations of infanticide. Read our comments again: no one here is opposed to making sensible sacrifices and saving energy; we’re just saying the issues aren’t as simple as you seem to think they should be; and the emotion and idealism need to be balanced with a little common sense.

  90. #90 Raging Bee
    October 5, 2010

    Of course they do, but the “corporate ladder” equality paradigm puts individual money and financial independence at the top of the heap without regard for freedom, justice and success.

    No, it merely acknowledges that individual money and financial independence are among the necessary components for freedom, justice and success.

    Is it financial independence to have the balance of your life savings vulnerable to the whims of hedge traders (whether your savings are in stocks or in a savings account)…?

    Well, if you’re the one earning the money, that gives you at least a little more ability to control where it goes, and to hold the “hedge traders” accountable. Do you have a specific alternative arrangement that’s better?

    …or to have a significant chunk of your earned income directed immediately back into making sure you can keep the job that earned it?

    Um…what the hell are you talking about here?

    Is the independence and security worth the cost to others around the world, whose lives and communities have been materially damaged so that goods are cheap enough that we can have what we need (food, clothing, etc.) and still have money left over for that independence and security?

    A lot of the people who have achieved that independence and security, are working, in both the public and private sectors, for social changes that will reduce that cost to others. Would you rather have them stay home and hand-wash clothes all day instead? (Oh, and did our affluence have no cost to others before dryers were invented?)

  91. #91 Lorna
    October 5, 2010

    Raging Bee, are you saying you owe your success in life to your dryer or am I completely misreading you? How do you explain the successful lives of people in all other parts of the world who either don’t have or seldom use their dryers?

  92. #92 Isis
    October 5, 2010

    I’d really like to know what kinds of sacrifice for the environment/the poor/future generations would be acceptable to people who think that hanging their clothes to dry is simply way too much work. Changing the proverbial light bulbs maybe? (LOL)

  93. #93 Sharon Astyk
    October 5, 2010

    Raging Bee, the majority of the world’s poor don’t own dryers – they are a middle class reality at a minimum outside the Global North. Even in the Global North, many millions of low income people don’t have dryers. This absolutely is a class issue.

    As for time to hang laundry – it takes me 4 minutes and 8 seconds to do a full load – I timed myself twice and that was the high time. It is much faster if it is all towels or sheets or something. Perhaps a little practice?

    As for the rest, what kind of sacrifice are you offering? If you won’t use a dryer, what would you offer to help bring your energy consumption down to one that permits people not to die? If the dryer is too much, what would you offer?

    Sharon

  94. #94 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    (me) “…or to have a significant chunk of your earned income directed immediately back into making sure you can keep the job that earned it?”

    (Raging Bee) “Um…what the hell are you talking about here?”

    I’m talking about all the economic analyses that demonstrate how much of a person’s earnings go simply to maintain their employment, costs that they wouldn’t have at all otherwise: commuting, work clothing, childcare, convenience food, etc. Workers have overhead too – they just rarely bother to quantify it.

  95. #95 Sue
    October 5, 2010

    I am continually amazed at the rationaliztions people have for not making even small sacrifices for the common good. I have friends who will put their hands over their ears and say “La, la,la” rather than hear anything about Peak Oil, or climate change. The best thing I personally have come up with is to model what I can and be ready to answer questions and help people with questions about gardening, food preserving, etc.

    On the clothes drying front: I have found that if I put clothes that it matters to be more wrinkle free in the dryer for 5 minutes before hanging them, and then put all shrts and t-shirts on hangers, I really have very little ironing to do.

    The best job I ever had was when I was a teenager and worked at a fishing camp in the Maine woods as a laundress. I had a big old wringer washer that ran on a gasoline motor that was similar to starting a lawn mower. I hung all the laundry out to dry. I loved it! We ahd a hand-powered crank mangle that was a good excuse to get the chore boys help. All of the folded sheets went thru that to make them flat! Our hot water came off the wood stoves that were needed to keep us warm most of the summer at night at least.

  96. #96 NM
    October 5, 2010

    This is an interesting discussion. I appreciate your ability, Sharon, to keep reminding us of the consequences that are not visible in our daily, small decisions. That seems profoundly powerful to me, but I have learned how deeply resistant, and resentful, of that message some people are. With some friends, I find that different arguments go farther, because they just hear “you should feel guilty” and close their ears.
    We do hang our laundry during the dry season here, and hang some things on the line in the garage, and a wooden drying rack in the garage or house, during the rainy season, when it rains for weeks on end, and even under cover outside, things wind up muddy. They don’t dry quickly in the garage, either; the humidity is very high here during the rainy season. So we mostly use the dryer during the rainy season, and in the past, I’ve found myself feeling defensive about that.
    But your arguments are a powerful reminder, especially since Tom in Scotland says he is managing just fine in the rain … so I guess I’d better drop that excuse, get off the internet and go buy a second drying rack. This will make the cat happy; he loves climbing on the drying rack, and wrestling with my socks. ; }

  97. #97 Raging Bee
    October 5, 2010

    Sharon: I already drive a hybrid car, I use public transit to get to work after dropping my GF off (our Metro system doesn’t work for her — we tried numerous times), and when we wash clothes, I wait as long as possible so each load has the maximum amount of clothes for the power and water used. (That’s why it takes so long to hang clothes out to dry — I don’t just wash handfuls of clothes at a time.)

    Even in the Global North, many millions of low income people don’t have dryers. This absolutely is a class issue.

    Are you forgetting the numbers of low-income people (and college students, and apartment-renters, etc.) using coin-op laundromats? No, it’s not just the upper-middle class who are using dryers.

  98. #98 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    (Raging Bee) “A lot of the people who have achieved that independence and security, are working, in both the public and private sectors, for social changes that will reduce that cost to others. Would you rather have them stay home and hand-wash clothes all day instead? (Oh, and did our affluence have no cost to others before dryers were invented?)”

    At best, those people (whether billionaires like Gates and Buffet or regular Joes and Janes) are merely slowly repaying the commons for their own withdrawals, and not making actual credit deposits.

    Affluence always has a cost to others. The kind of divergent affluence experienced globally now is multiple orders of magnitude different than the more moderate affluence of past times, since it is driven by the equivalent of 300 years of human labor per person, per year. (An amazing figure – picture three hundred slaves carrying you to the store, washing and drying your clothes, harvesting your food…) It is divergent in terms of how much more affluent the top is than the bottom, but also because the affluent and poor no longer intersect in shared community. The person making our clothes lives on the other side of the world, the river being poisoned by the factory is in their neighborhood and not ours. We won’t even let our food harvesters have citizenship…

    I (personally) would rather have each of us take immediate responsibility for ourselves and keep the consequences in our own backyards literal and figurative, rather than pass it off onto others whose names we don’t even know. It’s time to take responsibility for the fact that the BP well blowout is OUR fault; the toxic aluminum sludge disaster in Hungary is OUR fault; the deforestation of the Amazon is OUR fault.

    I can appreciate that it seems insane to think about handwashing a load of laundry every single day, but who needs to wear that much every week? If it were just me, I’d be doing at most half a load a week: three shirts, two pairs of pants, a few underthings, a couple of kitchen towels and napkins, and a washcloth. Instead of spending forty-five minutes on the elliptical (if I’m affluent) or walking back and forth to the laundromat (if I’m not), I could spend thirty minutes dancing in my bathtub or washtub for wash and rinse, and fifteen wringing and hanging. Every few weeks an extra load for my towel and sheets, or the seasonal washing of sweaters and blankets. Hardly a sacrifice of enormous consequence…

  99. #99 sealander
    October 5, 2010

    It appears it is far easier to come up with a bunch of reasons why you can’t do something, rather than why you can…….
    Let me outline my typical Saturday morning…..
    As my husband lacks the gene for extended sleeping in, he usually arises before me and grabs the contents of the laundry hamper on his way out the door. This is tossed in the washing machine and runs through the cycle while he feeds the cat, eats breakfast and messes about with his computer. After further extended wallowing under the covers I’ll shamble out, feed the chickens, and enjoy my breakfast while perusing the weekend papers.
    If we’re both there when the washing machine finishes, we’ll have a little race (complete with elbows and attempted fouls) to see who can hang out the clothes the fastest (washing line is next to the laundry, which is housed in an outside shed). If the weather is not conducive to drying, the laundry will be put on a rack in front of the fire in the lounge. It will be rearranged for optimum drying and taken down and folded during the ad breaks while watching TV, generally.
    I’m not entirely sure what we’d do with the copious amounts of spare time we would gain from using a dryer instead………no doubt we’d both be CEOs by now if we’d only use a few more labor saving devices ;-)

  100. #100 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    (Lorna) “As someone who has transitioned to no dryer within the last 5 years I can attest that it requires no discernible extra work, but it does require a change in routine and approach. I guess change is hard.”

    (Isis) “I’d really like to know what kinds of sacrifice for the environment/the poor/future generations would be acceptable to people who think that hanging their clothes to dry is simply way too much work. Changing the proverbial light bulbs maybe?”

    I’m not going to pound the internet to track these down, but are you familiar with the psychological studies (MRI analyses, etc.) that demonstrate thinking something and doing that same thing are nearly equivalent in the human brain? So my in-laws, who saw and were deeply impacted by “An Inconvenient Truth” but otherwise take very little action, are pyschologically equivalent to me, who never watched the film and tries to add a new low-energy feature to my life every month.

    For those looking for community inspiration on the low-energy laundry front, try Project Laundry List with their Million Solar Dryers Pledge and Stop the Ban (on clotheslines) actions, and the film Drying for Freedom.

  101. #101 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    (Raging Bee) “Are you forgetting the numbers of low-income people (and college students, and apartment-renters, etc.) using coin-op laundromats? No, it’s not just the upper-middle class who are using dryers.”

    How many of them do you think save as much money as possible by minimizing their need for doing laundry, with appliances or without? Clothes draped over radiators and shower bars, wearing things until they walk on their own… I was once a twenty-hours-a-week work study college student, I remember the financial pressures. Don’t you think low-income people might be better served by a cultural mindset open to income-saving alternatives, where line-drying and hand-washing are commonplace and supported by infrastructure, rather than being pressured to meet cultural standards that demand higher levels of spending than they can truly afford?

  102. #102 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    “On the clothes drying front: I have found that if I put clothes that it matters to be more wrinkle free in the dryer for 5 minutes before hanging them, and then put all shrts and t-shirts on hangers, I really have very little ironing to do.”

    I hypothesize, but have no documentation, that the ironing imperative of olden times had less to do with wrinkles and more to do with making sure clothes were actually dry. We wear mostly knits and those don’t wrinkle at all, but I can’t imagine any self-respecting housewife ironing sheets for any other reason than to make sure the last of the damp was off of them… My partner is particularly sensitive to the scent of clothes that are not put away perfectly dry, though I never seem to notice; I’m trying to refine my process so that’s not an issue in the greyer, damper days this winter. His clothes occasionally go in the dryer for five minutes if I’m not certain they’re completely dry, and I’m trying to get that step eliminated.

  103. #103 Jennie
    October 5, 2010

    Hubby and I have had long conversations about household duties. Namely because after a year of me being home with nursing baby, we’ve swapped, and he’s home with the toddler while I work in an office. All the decisions I made when I was home, (cook from scratch with our homegrown veggies, dry outside on the line, cloth diapers, etc) now had to be explained and defended as we swapped roles. He did have different takes on some things, and does things his own way, but when I was able to crunch $$ numbers for him and analyze each one, he rapidly saw the benefits for them.
    Some of it isn’t even $$, the time spent outside hanging 3 loads of laundry is nice outside time for the toddler, sunshine is good for more than plants and towels.
    With some things the extra time required can be stacked and done simultaneously, i.e. cooking from scratch and preserving food from your garden. If you’re in the kitchen doing one, you might as well devote another burner to the other.
    I’ve found that with both of us practiced at this way of life, we both do our part and we really get a lot done and both have plenty of time for our own relaxation.
    The savings show up in our utility and grocery bills. Not to mention our carbon footprint.

    I don’t feel like any of it holds me back as a woman. I took responsibility for my future, married someone interested in sharing ALL the burdens and made sure that we were both on the same page about how that burden sharing would manifest. Home economics, (in my opinion) are the responsibilities of all who live in the home.

  104. #104 Lorna
    October 5, 2010

    Jennie–”I don’t feel like any of it holds me back as a woman. I took responsibility for my future, married someone interested in sharing ALL the burdens and made sure that we were both on the same page about how that burden sharing would manifest. Home economics, (in my opinion) are the responsibilities of all who live in the home”

    Very nicely expressed.

  105. #105 ildi
    October 5, 2010

    This strikes me as a variant on the early versions second wave feminism that focused on the liberation of upper middle class women from domestic space, often with the result that now they worked and employed poorer, non-white women to do the work they once did. That kind of feminism troubles me and always has – I think other feminist discourses lost out to this kind of affluent capitalist feminism precisely because this was so profitable for industrial capitalism. Selling women on the idea that they freer with a boss reading their emails and scheduling their bathroom breaks than at home was so successsful precisely because it never really challenged any deeper realities.

    Ok, let me get this straight; hiring someone to do unskilled work for you is somehow racist? It just so happens, none of my cleaners were women of color. My first cleaner had MS (her daughter helped), my second cleaners were gay men who met at NA and formed a cleaning crew, and my third cleaner cleans homes because it gives her the flexibility to spend a lot of time with her son in the nursing home who has brain damage. Do I get my PC creds back?

    I really would like for you to explain to me what troubles you about a woman being able to learn the skills to go to a job that is mentally satisfying, and pays well enough that she can pay someone else to do unskilled labor for her that she doesn’t want to be bothered with? What exactly is so sacrosanct about scrubbing your own toilet? Don’t you think a woman can be in touch with the “deeper realities” by spending her free time gardening or walking the dog? How is it worse to have a boss at work who pays you, than a husband and children at home who treat you like free labor?

  106. #106 clew
    October 5, 2010

    After having lived in some distinct geological regions, I hypothesize that the mineral content of your water determines whether line-dried clothes are Icky Hard or merely delightfully crisp. Therefore I would look for local remedies, not global ones… vinegar, salt, whatever people in your region have used.

    Here’s another mild science thought: no matter how dry your clothes get in the drier, they will equilibriate with the air where they’re stored pretty soon. I know that drying too slowly (above freezing) can induce mildew, but above that point, there’s not much the dryer does that won’t be undone before you put the clothes on. (Except possibly kill ticks! Which apparently can survive hot water and chlorine detergent!)

    I find that hanging carefully can leave clothes nearly ironed — good enough to look nice on casual days and make ironing really fast for formal ones — but it takes some practice with different kinds of clothes.

  107. #107 Christina
    October 5, 2010

    (Ildi) “Ok, let me get this straight; hiring someone to do unskilled work for you is somehow racist?”

    No – “early second wave feminism” was racist (and classist) because it focused on liberating middle class white women from domestic chores so they could work in the formal economy, at the cost of demoting those chores onto women of color and of poverty.

    “I really would like for you to explain to me what troubles you about a woman being able to learn the skills to go to a job that is mentally satisfying, and pays well enough that she can pay someone else to do unskilled labor for her that she doesn’t want to be bothered with?

    What troubles me, is that the privilege comes at the cost of some other person having to do your drudgery when perhaps they’d rather have the opportunity to do something else, too. Domestic work is not so awful that everyone couldn’t spend two hours a day taking care of it, and the rest of their time doing more glorified work. Really, if anything, domestic work is far MORE important than so-called “skilled” tasks, quite simply because if no one does it, society will come to a standstill. Food and shelter are essential; mid-level managers are not.

    What exactly is so sacrosanct about scrubbing your own toilet?

    Nothing at all – what’s so vile about it? It can be done in a thirty-second ad break, while brushing one’s hair, or by one’s child as part of their contribution to household maintenance.

    Don’t you think a woman can be in touch with the “deeper realities” by spending her free time gardening or walking the dog?

    How can a deep reality be grasped via a casual leisure endeavor? Can the psychoemotional state of a yogi be experienced by someone taking a gym’s beginner yoga class? Can the intense poverty of Mumbai be grasped by taking a vacation there?

    How is it worse to have a boss at work who pays you, than a husband and children at home who treat you like free labor?”

    It’s not, if that’s how they treat you and how you let yourself be treated.

    The point is that domestic chores have serious value to society (it is irrelevant that they are unremunerated by the capitalist system), that they are done primarily by women the whole world over, and that an attitude that demeans such essential labor is automatically demeaning to the workers themselves. How can the cause of equality for women be advanced if all work that originates with women is automatically devalued? Housework, childcare, teaching, nursing… An unwillingness to do such work because it is beneath one’s education or socioeconomic level contributes to the entire problem.

  108. #108 ildi
    October 5, 2010

    No – “early second wave feminism” was racist (and classist) because it focused on liberating middle class white women from domestic chores so they could work in the formal economy, at the cost of demoting those chores onto women of color and of poverty.

    No, I don’t know how you’re missing this basic point; women are empowered when they have autonomy over their own resources. The middle-class woman and woman of poverty both gained access to income, both by entering the formal economy.

    What troubles me, is that the privilege comes at the cost of some other person having to do your drudgery when perhaps they’d rather have the opportunity to do something else, too.

    That is that other persons’ JOB for which they get PAID, because most people want to get PAID for their labor.

    The point is that domestic chores have serious value to society (it is irrelevant that they are unremunerated by the capitalist system), that they are done primarily by women the whole world over, and that an attitude that demeans such essential labor is automatically demeaning to the workers themselves.

    Yes, domestic labor is valuable, and one way to show that it has value is to get paid for it. Bottom line, though, it’s unskilled labor that pretty much anyone can do. There’s nothing special or magical about domestic labor.

    How can a deep reality be grasped via a casual leisure endeavor?

    And you are grasping your deep reality with your 30-second commune with the toilet? Clean all the toilets you like; spend all the (non) time it takes to clean the house and do laundry and start all over again. If you are uncomfortable being an employer, that’s fine by me. Acting like there is some mystical special meaning to housework is not going to make people value it more or empower women more. Education and control of finances is what empowers women.

  109. #109 Raging Bee
    October 6, 2010

    How many of them do you think save as much money as possible by minimizing their need for doing laundry, with appliances or without?

    “As much money as possible” isn’t much, given their constraints: if they can’t afford large amounts of clothes, then they have to wash more often to have a steady supply of non-malodorous clothes; they have little indoor space — and ZERO outdoor space — to hang clothes out to dry; the indoor space may not be that great if the building is poorly ventilated and has preexisting mildew; and they can’t afford to go to work in clothes that smell bad.

    Don’t you think low-income people might be better served by a cultural mindset open to income-saving alternatives, where line-drying and hand-washing are commonplace and supported by infrastructure, rather than being pressured to meet cultural standards that demand higher levels of spending than they can truly afford?

    What kind of “infrastructure” would you give the poor to enable them to hang their clothes out to dry? And who would pay for such “infrastructure?” Here, let me offer a more practical proposal: make sure they get dryers that WORK, rather than eat money.

    Seriously, the inefficiency of coin-op dryers is a far bigger waste issue than whether or not rich suburbanites hang their clothes.

    For starters, private-home dryers only waste energy when the homeowners use them; and said owners have both the ability and the incentive to keep their dryers working efficiently. Coin-op dryers, by contrast, are almost continually used by HUGE numbers of people, and they maximize profits by being inefficient and forcing users to keep on feeding them quarters for as long a time as possible. Which means that coin-op dryers are more wasteful ALL THE TIME. And there’s more of them. I’ve lived in college housing and rental apartments, and I’ve seen all this firsthand.

    If you’re really concerned about saving energy, then stop making this a “class” issue and start looking at a much larger number of dryer-users who have far fewer choices as to how they save money and energy and meet their clothing needs.

  110. #110 Christina
    October 6, 2010

    (Ildi) “No, I don’t know how you’re missing this basic point; women are empowered when they have autonomy over their own resources. The middle-class woman and woman of poverty both gained access to income, both by entering the formal economy.”

    I’m not missing your basic point; I disagree with a significant portion of it. Women only gain a certain type of autonomy and independence when they enter the formal economy – the capitalist, monetary, formal economy kind. I disagree that they gain very much of that, or that it necessarily outbalances the associated costs: the devaluation of essential work; the transfer of most of the paid work’s value into employer rather than worker benefits (profits being distributed at the top); the devolution of unvalued work onto increasingly marginalized populations.

    I think an impressive aspect of the informal economy is that the majority of value accrues directly to the worker. In the formal economy, the worker is fortunate to accrue even 10% of value – that drops below 1% for globalized factory workers.

  111. #111 darwinsdog
    October 6, 2010

    I think an impressive aspect of the informal economy is that the majority of value accrues directly to the worker.

    Which is why the informal economy is largely illegal. What better evidence do we need that under fascist corporatism, the good of the workers comes last? Women, and everyone else, are enslaved, not empowered, when forced by economic necessity into the wage earning economy.

  112. #112 Christina
    October 6, 2010

    (Raging Bee) “If you’re really concerned about saving energy, then stop making this a “class” issue and start looking at a much larger number of dryer-users who have far fewer choices as to how they save money and energy and meet their clothing needs.”

    That’s the class issue – that the poor in the U.S. do not believe they have a choice to save money. Clothes MUST be dried using a dryer, despite the ubiquitous presence of sun and/or dry air. That’s the class trap – that because the affluent do things a certain way, everyone must start doing it that way, and so not only the infrastructure disappears, but even the psychological space to consider an alternative disappears.

    It wouldn’t take much infrastructure to make line-drying available. I’m assuming this is an issue for urban/suburban poor; rural poor are undoubtedly using clotheslines. It’s less a physical infrastructure than a bureaucratic one: invalidate all public laws and private policies that prohibit/inhibit line-drying, except where they protect paths to safety (no blocking hallways). Let residents have access to their buildings’ outside space again – roof and window lines used to be common and still are in cities around the world. Efficient coin-op dryers sounds like an improvement, but it’s still several dollars a week of spending that isn’t necessary if systems and psychological space for line-drying were open again.

  113. #113 dewey
    October 6, 2010

    I am pretty well used to everything from machine-dried clothes (my husband’s preference) to line-dried (the necessity in much of the world), and I like my comforts, so all this wailing about how the towels aren’t fluffy seems pretty silly to me. Anyone can learn to accept slightly crunchy towels. Also, if you use the towel for a little while it will soften up.

    I really prefer the European-style washer that spins much of the water out of the clothes, leaving them quite damp but not dripping wet, and then you hang the stuff up on a collapsible drying rack. You can easily hang and spread one load of laundry on a rack, putting shirts on hangers so they don’t wrinkle, in perhaps three minutes. And then they are faster to put away.

  114. #114 Isis
    October 6, 2010

    My family (two parents, two kids) used to live in something like 350 sq ft; basically, one room plus a kitchen. Can’t imagine fitting a drying rack anywhere in that place… So we used a dryer, right? Ha! Of course not. We hung our clothes to dry on the roof, just like everyone else in the building. (Of course, this was not in America…) This isn’t a complicated (or expensive) issue. It’s as Christina said: the rich get expensive trinkets that they then impose on everyone else by making the infrastructure necessary for doing things a different (cheaper) way disappear.

  115. #115 Raging Bee
    October 6, 2010

    Wow, no wonder environmentalists like us get pegged as out-of-touch naive elitist airheads…

    Women only gain a certain type of autonomy and independence when they enter the formal economy – the capitalist, monetary, formal economy kind.

    Which is a damn good kind of independence to have. My mom got that from a college education and a long career with the US Government, and she used it to give me, and herself, the best education and widest range of cultural opportunities and experience possible. (Thanks, of course, to HER mother, who made the same choice long before “feminism” was a household word.) And she used that kind of indenpedence to give us both more forms of independence: freedom to travel, learn, experience, understand, and choose; and sometimes concerted local political action for sensible liberal causes. Money isn’t always necessary to achieve all that (although it sometimes is), but it sure does help. Now my mom is retired and spending my inheritance on fun travel all over the world; so in her case at least, I’d say all that hard work of hers (yes, she DID work hard, albeit on things that interested her) made her not only richer, but a more complete and interesting person. And rich elitists like her are a net benefit to society as a whole, not a drain.

    I think an impressive aspect of the informal economy is that the majority of value accrues directly to the worker.

    Which “informal economy” are you talking about? Black markets? Grey markets? Underground economies? Farmers’ markets? Housewives doing their own chores? And where does this “majority of value” accrue FROM? Either way, your statement is vague at best, if not completely ignorant and false. If an “informal economy” of any sort really generates a significant net benefit to “the worker,” chances are that sooner or later, some gangsters will notice this and take over the system, and use their superior economic power and coercion to make sure the “net benefit” goes to themselves. This is what happens in prostitution, drug-dealing, bootlegging, gunrunning, tax-evading trade, and most other “informal economies” I’ve heard of.

    That’s the class issue – that the poor in the U.S. do not believe they have a choice to save money…

    Right…the poor have plenty of choices, they’re just too deluded to know how much choices they have. And you say this after I’ve given you a specific list of REAL factors that limit their choices in the REAL world, and you ignored all of it?

    Clothes MUST be dried using a dryer, despite the ubiquitous presence of sun and/or dry air.

    Do you really think the Sun and dry air are “ubiquitously present” in all cities? Ever heard of this thing called “winter?” How about “shadows of big buildings?” How’s the weather in Seattle or Portland right now?

    Let residents have access to their buildings’ outside space again – roof and window lines used to be common and still are in cities around the world.

    Ever heard of this thing called “stealing?” It tends to happen when people leave their stuff in common spaces. It’s dangerous enough to leave your clothes in a running dryer in an indoor laundromat — even when the apartment building is key-accessible, there’s still a danger of theft or vandalism by other tenants.

    Also, in highrise apartments and other densely populated urban areas, there still won’t necessarily be enough common space to accomodate all tenants. Outdoor common space is valuable for MANY purposes in addition to line-drying clothes; and if people start clogging it up with clotheslines, they’ll be depriving others of equally beneficial use of that space.

  116. #116 Isis
    October 6, 2010

    Raging Bee:

    Ever heard of this thing called “stealing?” It tends to happen when people leave their stuff in common spaces.

    I don’t recall a single item of clothing ever being stolen from us when we hung our clothes to dry on the roof. (We did lose a few laundry pegs. Who knows, maybe someone did steal those…) There were around 25 apartments in the building…

  117. #117 Raging Bee
    October 6, 2010

    You can easily hang and spread one load of laundry on a rack, putting shirts on hangers so they don’t wrinkle, in perhaps three minutes. And then they are faster to put away.

    How big a “load” are you talking about? I try to conserve/get the most from my energy (and water) by washing bigger loads less often; so there’s no way I could fit one load on a single rack, let alone arrange it right in a mere three minutes. Sure, I could do smaller loads at a time, more often, and be able to hang everything out faster; but that’s just trading wasteful drying for wasteful washing.

  118. #118 Raging Bee
    October 6, 2010

    I don’t recall a single item of clothing ever being stolen from us when we hung our clothes to dry on the roof.

    Well, I do recall such incidents in more than one of the places I’ve lived. Petty crime is well known to happen in low-income areas.

  119. #119 Isis
    October 6, 2010

    Well, I do recall such incidents in more than one of the places I’ve lived. Petty crime is well known to happen in low-income areas.

    A lot of it has to do with the collective willingness of the tenants to take care of the common spaces. In that building where we hung our clothes to dry on the roof, most tenants were retirees, and then there were a few families with young children; stealing just wasn’t an issue. Then we moved. Got an apartment twice as large (so we started hanging our clothes to dry on a rack in the living room), but a much worse building, with a lot of vandalism. At one point though, a critical mass of tenants got organized, so the walls got painted, the lighting on the staircases fixed, we hired some unemployed tenants to work as doormen (cost us very little money per tenant)… You wouldn’t recognize the building. Individually, we were no richer or poorer than before, there was just a bit more willingness to work together, that’s all…

    If people started hanging their clothes on the roof, hey, there’s no reason why unemployed or retired tenants couldn’t use the roof space to (say) play chess, and keep an eye on things in passing.

    Of course, one can also insist that Americans are simply inferior to the rest of the world’s population and couldn’t possibly be expected to organize themselves in such a way… Must be it.

  120. #120 NM
    October 6, 2010

    Well … actually Raging Bee, it is sunny and dry in Portland today, with a nice breeze. : )
    I agree that an awful lot of this is about perception. Public outdoor clothes drying Is easier when that’s just what everyone does. But we ourselves help to shape public perception, as well as being shaped by it. Which is why, for example, I find it useful to hear from people like Tom, saying, “Um, I just hang things inside …”
    I live in the Pacific Northwest (a bit southwest of Portland), and in the past, my objections to Sharon’s admonitions to stop using the dryer were purely practically-based (and ignorance-based): But how Else am I to get the clothes dry???
    Line drying here in the summer is a no-brainer; it doesn’t rain! But it’s not at all unusual in the winter for it to rain nonstop for two or three months, which makes things darn wet. : D
    … We actually get less overall precipitation than Sharon does, but the distribution pattern makes a huge difference. And it is annoying, when you may not see the sun for three months, then to hear people say, Well, just hang things outside to dry on the sunny days.
    But until I started thinking about it, I’d forgotten just how much we actually do use the clothesline strung in the garage, and the wooden drying rack in the living room. (It has to be in the living room, because we don’t heat the bedrooms, and they consequently have mold issues, a problem with poorly-built houses out here) …
    Now, obviously, we in our 1,000 square-foot house have more luxury to do this than, say, someone living in 350 square feet, without a handy roof rack. Although, I have lived in a studio apartment, and (since there were 2, not 4 of us), we could have managed a drying rack in a corner. In fact, I think we did …
    But I’m not sure the point of this whole discussion is to say that this is all or nothing — our ban must cover every person in every conceivable situation, on every single occasion. Maybe it’s more to argue that we can, and should, be thinking harder about possible alternatives rather than simply assuming there are none.

  121. #121 Sharon McDonnell
    October 6, 2010

    Wow, what a great discussion. I love the image of the Chinese distaste with dried clothes. I disagree they are making this choice because “they all have maids” because a) they don’t, I have checked and, 2) even if they did have maids, if dryer-dried clothes were valuable then they would have their maids use dryers and dryer sales would be higher than 10%.
    It is a sign of the times and of my own “time”. I have become someone who talks about what birds are at my bird feeder and read with interest ideas about how to line dry clothing more effectively in wet places. A rack with 2 lines on pulleys for us. I understand the concerns re roles and choices and, all the possible assumptions but, it is good to stop and think about the cost of our various conveniences just to make sure they aren’t enslaving us. Thanks!

  122. #122 dewey
    October 6, 2010

    Well, Raging Bee, it is true that European washers are not made to hold giant loads of clothing – the expected standard load size on the one I have used most was 4.5 kg. Maybe they don’t expect us to throw the towel in the hamper after one use. This machine, btw, was in an apartment not much bigger than the 350 sq ft cited above. Yes, it was inconvenient when that thing was spread out in the living room; it took up about half the floor for a day every week or two. Such misery!

    Your namecalling (@115) of Christina (@110) offers a really silly straw man. Is hanging your own laundry, or mending clothes rather than discarding them and buying new, or making your own jam really comparable in any way to prostitution or drug dealing? Is there any conceivable way that “some gangsters” would be able to, or even want to, move in and take a cut of the “savings earned” if you did these things? Where on earth do you live, anyway? Your second argument that hanging laundry “deprives” others of other uses of that airspace is stronger, or would be if we weren’t aware that dumping carbon into that same airspace would also eventually interfere with other people’s “equally beneficial” activities.

  123. #123 darwinsdog
    October 6, 2010

    Is hanging your own laundry, or mending clothes rather than discarding them and buying new, or making your own jam really comparable in any way to prostitution or drug dealing?

    These activities are similar in that they deprive government/corporations – which is the real gangster – of revenue. As such, they are self-empowering. Why allow parasitical gangsters to extort a percentage of the fruits of one’s own labor, especially when they will use this revenue to further oppress people? Earning a living in the informal or underground economy is the morally superior alternative to working for the pharaoh.

  124. #124 dewey
    October 6, 2010

    darwinsdog – I agree in principle, but there are often personal considerations, beyond naked status panic, that make such extreme downsizing difficult. For me, one of them is that if I quit my paying job to go live in a yurt, my husband, who has chronic health problems, would lose health insurance and essentially no longer be allowed to obtain Western medicine except through an ER, which would be followed by inflated bills and probably confiscation of the yurt. (Oh wait, I forgot, he’d soon be required to buy health insurance — and to do that, he’d have to get a paying job — so that’s all okay. Problem solved!)

  125. #125 darwinsdog
    October 6, 2010

    You’re right, of course, dewey. We are prisoners of the system and are thereby forced to make accommodations to it. The rap is that private ownership of real estate is an important goal & tenet of US society but I contend that no such thing as private ownership exists. So long as we are obliged to pay property taxes the government effectively owns all the land and our taxes are a form of rent we pay for the privilege of living on the land. The goal of “owning” a home is even called the “American Dream” yet the entire concept is nothing but Orwellian Newspeak. If we don’t pay the landlord – be the landlord the person we rent from, the bank that holds the mortgage, or the government in the form of property taxes – we’re homeless. Homelessness may be liberating – the life of the Hippie Gypsy can be a life of freedom & excitement – but at my age I like my place and would be hard pressed to make sufficient income from it in the form of firewood, produce & eggs, etc., to pay my rent in the form of taxes. Hence I am rather obliged to work for the Man. This is why the current political debate resolves to “it’s all about jobs.” A job is deemed a necessity yet any job in the formal economy rips off the worker, not only in the form of taxes but in any profit that accrues to the employer over & above the wages paid in exchange for the worker’s labor. No one should put up with someone else being enriched at his or her expense. Yet we all do. I offered to give my property to my son & his girlfriend, i.e., to let them pay the taxes, so long as I could set up a teepee (more comfortable than a yurt) down closer to the river and come up to the house to take a shower now & then. They didn’t take me up on the offer but if they had’ve, I wouldn’t be working here & wouldn’t be online.

    What I find interesting is that the mere suggestion of dispensing with something as superfluous as a fossil fueled clothes dryer evokes such strident objection from so many apologists for the status quo. If this is the case, imagine the outcry had Sharon suggested giving up something actually significant, like the car or hot water heater. It looks to me like people are going to go down kicking & screaming when energy constraints seriously begin to impinge. Such a fate appears preferable to many, rather than learning to live within limits.

  126. #126 Christina
    October 6, 2010

    (darwinsdog) “What I find interesting is that the mere suggestion of dispensing with something as superfluous as a fossil fueled clothes dryer evokes such strident objection from so many apologists for the status quo…”

    It doesn’t matter how many times one says, “people all over the world live(d) this way, we can get there” (clotheslines out windows, clothes as clean as city air can make them, dry clothes during monsoon season, etc.). Although our current systems are killing people and causing irreversible changes to the planet, any replacement system such as clotheslines and racks must be unequivocally demonstrated to be 100% perfect across all geographic and demographic variables before it will be put into operation.

    Nevertheless, I do believe I will be giving clothesline kits out as gifts this holiday season.

  127. #127 darwinsdog
    October 6, 2010

    ..any replacement system such as clotheslines and racks must be unequivocally demonstrated to be 100% perfect..

    I think it’s hilarious that some people assume that the alternative to a clothes dryer must be some cord labeled “clothesline” they purchase, or a folding rack made of dowel rods held together with plastic fittings that comes in a box with instructions included. What’s wrong with some scrap baler twine tied together & stretched between trees, or some peeled sticks lashed together or simply laid between furnishings for wet clothes to be hung from? Marketing psychology has been so successful at inculcating “need” that it’s pathetic; it really reflects poorly on peoples’ capacity for independent thought. Knowing how successful advertising propaganda is, not to mention religious indoctrination, what hope can anyone have of people coming to their senses in significant numbers?

  128. #128 ildi
    October 7, 2010

    Christina:

    Women only gain a certain type of autonomy and independence when they enter the formal economy – the capitalist, monetary, formal economy kind. I disagree that they gain very much of that, or that it necessarily outbalances the associated costs: the devaluation of essential work; the transfer of most of the paid work’s value into employer rather than worker benefits (profits being distributed at the top); the devolution of unvalued work onto increasingly marginalized populations.

    I think an impressive aspect of the informal economy is that the majority of value accrues directly to the worker. In the formal economy, the worker is fortunate to accrue even 10% of value – that drops below 1% for globalized factory workers.

    What, you’re part of an anarcho-syndicalist commune?

    I don’t know what you do for a living or how you support yourself or how old you are, by which I mean I don’t know what you’re basing this statement on, but I could not disagree with you more when you say that women only gain a modicum of autonomy or independence when they enter the formal economy.

    I assume you mean the following by the informal economy:

    The informal economy refers to activities and income that are partially or fully outside government regulation, taxation, and observation. The main attraction of the undeclared economy is financial. This type of activity allows employers, paid employees, and the self-employed to increase their take-home earnings or reduce their costs by evading taxation and social contributions. On the one hand, informal employment can provide a cushion for workers who cannot find a job in the formal sector. But, on the other hand, it entails a loss in budget revenues by reducing taxes and social security contributions paid and therefore the availability of funds to improve infrastructure and other public goods and services. It invariably leads to a high tax burden on registered labor.

    Yeah, you get to keep your money, but not just from “the man” but from paying for infrastructure and other government services that the rest of us in the formal economy support through our taxes.

    Also:

    Women’s share of informal economy employment worldwide has remained between 60 and 80%. Moreover, the number of females in the labour force is continuously on the rise and women in the informal economy most probably number much more than reflected in available statistics. They comprise most of the unpaid labour, are often homebased workers, and thus fall easily through gaps in enumeration as data and statistics on household level is still difficult to measure43. If productive but unpaid work is performed, these women are to be included in the informal economy workforce. Another important aspect of women’s and girl’s high participation in the informal economy is that they lack the right to own and inherit property of any kind in many countries. This obstructs women even more from the so-called formal economy, as they do not have any assets to use as security for credits, etc.

    So, it is being limited to the informal economy that keeps women down. Ironically, paid domestic work is a largely part of the informal economy, so pick your battles. Either paying for domestic labor is keeping women of poverty down, or it is part of the utopian informal economy.

  129. #129 ildi
    October 7, 2010

    btw, thanks, Stephen B., for the links. I’ve ordered Sharon’s book, and I look forward to reading it.

    I got sidetracked by this (to me) weird notion that housework is somehow sacrosanct, that people are obligated to clean up their own messes because a) it is drudgery when you pay someone else to do it or, conversely, b) it is a way to get in touch with the deep realities of your life. Oh, funny story about that; I was chatting with the daughter in the mother/daughter set of cleaners, and she was saying how much she hated housework; I was a bit surprised by that, given how she earned her living. She said the two were totally different; for one, it’s easier to clean other people’s houses because it’s not your stuff and your mess, and for two, you get paid for it and people are happy, whereas at home it’s a thankless chore.

    Anyway, I did actually have something more to say about the dryer wars, my point being that you’re not going to convince people to give up their dryers by saying it’s not any more work to hang them up to dry. Ain’t gonna happen, because there are so many other behaviors that would need to change to make that true: 1) Owning king-sized beds 2) changing clothes several times a day 3) towels only used once 4) huge wardrobes , so laundry can be done more infrequently (I mean, look at the size of walk-in closets on modern homes! They are bigger than some of the bedrooms in my house.)

    If getting people to go back to the farm a la “Little House on the Prairie” is what it’s going to take to avert catastrophe, then we’re doomed. For one, that is my idea of hell, so shoot me now, for two, there are almost three times as many people in the U.S. as there were in the 20s, and for three, despite the example of the Chinese, people want what we have, and we don’t really have the resources to support the existing lifestyle of the industrialized nations.

    Hopeful news: Denmark plans to be off the grid by 2050.

    Off to take my place in the soul-crushing capitalist system!

  130. #130 Jim Thomerson
    October 7, 2010

    My mother had a washing machine for a while. It finally broke down, but rather than replacing it, she went back to the washtub and rubboard method. I never talked with her about it, and wish I had. She never had a dryer.

  131. #131 Barn Owl
    October 7, 2010

    As for the rest, what kind of sacrifice are you offering? If you won’t use a dryer, what would you offer to help bring your energy consumption down to one that permits people not to die? If the dryer is too much, what would you offer?

    Choosing not to reproduce works for me, and for a number of my environmentally-conscious friends, but of course that option is off the table for many in this discussion. Eliminates all those potential descendants whose energy consumption cannot be controlled or predicted.

    Of course that decision does not give us free rein to be profligate in our energy consumption, and I try to add new ways of reducing this each year. Adapting my food-buying and production habits has been the easiest change; I have a small suburban house and lot (about a tenth of an acre total), and have been adding to the vegetable-growing area each year. I dry about half of my clothes on hangers indoors, which didn’t work when I lived in humid Gulf Coast suburbs, but hanging everything outdoors to dry doesn’t work for me even in my current warm, dry climate. I don’t care about the HOA – many of my neighbors are recent Central American or Asian immigrants, and they certainly won’t snitch on someone for joining them in line drying clothes – but there are a lot of quarries nearby, and pollen and mold spore levels are high for many months out of the year. I have allergies, I get wheezy and develop bronchitis, and there’s not room in my house to hang everything indoors to dry. I also wear scrubs four days a week when I’m teaching gross anatomy, and sometimes I can’t wash them until I get home late evening, and I need a clean, dry set to wear to work early the next morning, so into the dryer they go. Sorry, but if it’s any consolation, I will be eliminating my genetic material from the Earth when I die (unless some of my organs are still OK for transplant).

  132. #132 Cornish_K8
    October 8, 2010

    Its a bit late for posting this but I couldn’t resist:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11417677

    Another thought; do you have condenser dryers in the US?
    The amount of water used by them in drying clothes is staggering.

  133. #133 Mary
    December 4, 2010

    I have not had a dryer for 3 years. I simply use a couple laundry drying racks I have a family of four so it isn’t like I don’t have any laundry to do. It just makes so much environmental and economical sense to not use a dryer. I believe their is lots that we Americans can learn from other countries if we just open our eyes and ears and look and listen.