Hanging Laundry Good for Health

I noticed something missing in America, the clothesline. Hanging clothes outside is great therapy. If more people hung clothes, doctors would be out of business. It’s good for achy muscles, stiff joints and stress related illnesses. Bend, reach, ssstttttretch. Breathe. Inhale, pick up the jeans from the basket, and exhale as you pin garments on the line. Hanging laundry forces you to slow down. It’s mindless, which gives you time to focus on the world around you.

As I hang laundry in my little yard in Switzerland, I admire Mont Blanc, a white peak sticking up above a jagged, gray mountain line, behind a shimmering blue lake. Granted not everyone has a view of the Alps, but no matter where one lives, there is beauty to behold – yellow daffodils, emerald lawns, pink cherry blossoms.

I keep old-fashioned wooden clothes pins in a pin bag loving stitched by my mom. Although my son never used pins; he had his own technique. He would fling clothes from the washer directly on to the line. On windy days, I used to pick up my boys’ boxers from my neighbors’ yards on my walk home from school.

I’ve never owned clothes dryer. In Europe, they used to cost a small fortune. They are so tiny, a pair of socks, two t-shirts and three boxers would fill them. Washing machines, also compact, make laundry a daily chore, but it keeps me fit. I haul clothes up and down 24 stairs from the bedrooms to the basement. So my FitBit is always happy.

Every time I do laundry, I think how lucky I am now. When I first moved abroad, I washed clothes in the bathtub on my hands and knees. Then I hung tops, shorts, and socks on furniture to dry.

When first married and living in Paris, my sweat suits waltzed on the wrought iron railing from my balcony overlooking the town square. After our daughter was born baby clothes hung from a rack above the tub. Onesies fell on my head every time I took a bath.

I had been married 15 years before I owned a clothesline and a yard to put it in. Now I have one of those lines that spin and I love watching pants and shirts twirl in the wind. At the end of the day, while folding clothes I enjoy the comforting ritual, seeing the sun slink behind the mountains in a golden glow. While gazing at the view, I daydream unless a family member shows up to help, then we talk. Hanging clothes together helps us stay connected.

Better yet, keeping clothes clean gets me out of the house and away from the kitchen. Some fathers put up Christmas lights in July when they want to get away from the kids, I hung laundry to escape from the daily demands of motherhood.

If they still make clothes lines over in America, you should buy one. It’s a wise investment for your health. You’ll feel better in a couple of days, once you get back into that rhythm. Bend, stretch, breathe. Just what the doctor ordered.

Posted in humor.

27 Comments

  1. Unless it was winter, my mom always hung clothes outside. It was part of growing up in Summit Lake.
    Excellent post.

    • Ah, the one photo is of me hanging out swim suits at the cabin after a fun day on the lake. Part of what we treasure so much about Summit Lake is that way of life where the pace one slows down enough to appreciate the beauty of nature at its best. However, I can see why your mom wouldn’t want to hang out laundry in the winter. Who wants to sleep on frozen sheets? ha

  2. We have a clothesline and always hang our clothes outside to dry all year long. We especially love the smell and feel of the sheets. It is definitely more time consuming but allows us to slow down and enjoy the nature surrounding us and takes us back to a simpler time each week!

    • So wonderful to hear from you Maria. Yes, hanging clothes is a simple way to go back in time when life was slower and saner. It always reminds me of the old neighborhoods where we grew up. Loved your FB comment about teaching your dog to hang his laundry too along with the hilarious photo you posted of his stuffed toys hanging on the line. Too funny.

  3. Fifteen years ago my husband and I bought a ranch in the Texas Hill Country. In the backyard of the 100-year-old house were the metal end posts for a laundry line. I imagined the women baked bread and did their laundry while the men went about the business of being ranchers. I hope they had a good life.

    • Oohhh, a ranch with 100-year old house. Oh if only that house could talk, the stories it would tell. I always dreamed of one day living on a ranch. I was so cowboy crazy as kid and wanted a horse. That said, I think women living out West back then had a hard life and had to as tough as their men to survive.

  4. My dear brother welded special clothesline posts for me and I dug and cemented them in the backyard and was happy using them for years. Then came the year my husband had to pull them out for the roofers’ trucks to come into the backyard, close to the house. The posts never went back into the ground. My husband worries constantly that the clothes will pick up pollen and allergens, because his allergies are so bad and one year I had a line of towels hanging while the soybeans were being harvested in the field behind…. It made him sneeze, so bye-bye to my clotheslines forever (or until he dies!). Your story about hanging laundry made me long for them again. Thanks, Pat!

    • Oh yes, allergies and I know that in certain places during certain conditions hanging clothes outside can be hazardous to one’s health. I guess you could hang clothes indoors but it is not as much fun. All winter long I hang clothes in our basement, but they take forever to dry. My sister in Minnesota has 2 wooden posts out in her yard to hang laundry on. Sounds a lot like the special clothesline posts your brother made you.

  5. I would love to be able to hang our laundry outdoors but the wind and dust here would just make the clothes dirty (and probably dirtier than they were) again! But I do hang them indoors.

    • Nice to here from you, Patti. Oh dear, I can see where the dust would kind of defeat the purpose. I guess you will just have to open a window when hanging your laundry indoors. And you can still do the bend, stretch, breath routine.

  6. I have a wooden clothes drying rack that I put outside when I do handwash, or things I don’t want to shrink. Not quite the same, but I get what you mean. We grew up without a dryer – a family of 6! We had eight lines in the back yard running from the back of the garage to the fenceline. I love the smell of laundry brought in off the line. And I agree with your doctor. Instead of going to the gym today, I did yard work. I’m now hot, dirty, and tired, but very pleased with myself!
    PS I love that picture of you hanging clothes. So natural, and you look great!

    • I can just imagine how your family of 6 filled those clothes lines across the back yard. My family of 6 had one of those lines that rotates in a circle and was always spinning with a load of fresh laundry. Funny the little things that take us back in time. Yard work is the ultimate work out, just be careful of your back, all that bending and twisting can be rough of the spine. That picture was taken at our family’s cabin in the summer. I was hanging out swim suits after another great day on the lake.

  7. Dear Pat, I had to read this post when I saw the mention of clotheslines. Your observations of the joy of hanging clothing outside to dry echoes my own experience too. I live in Canada where line-drying your laundry is experiencing a comeback. I, however, had never stopped using one. My mom and my grandmother always had one too. When we moved from the country to town, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to use a clothesline because some neighborhoods don’t allow them. However, our home is from the 40’s and still had a clothesline. I was so happy to see it. Today I dried our sheets on it. So fresh–so cozy.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Wendy, thanks so much for stopping by. I am so glad you are allowed to enjoy the lost art of hanging clothes in your community. I remember in some parts of Paris hanging laundry was forbidden too. I guess it is not considered aesthetically pleasing, but I think it’s beautiful. Just seeing laundry on a line blowing in the wind takes me back to the simpler times of my childhood.

  8. Ahhhhhh, so many washing line stories to share. This blog brought them all back for me! In Switzerland I used to hang clothes out on the line at La Ferme and they sometimes blew away with that cold north wind. I remember chasing a sheet all down the road past the sports hall ???? Some days I put washing out at night in CH and it would freeze, but gradually thaw the next day only to be pulled in with a fresh smell of Founex air. I remember a story my mum shared about my great grandmother who organised a blanket wash across all the terraced houses with other women along the length of the road. Each house would help the allotted woman to wash their house blankets in their respective tin baths and then each house would peg out a blanket for her in their garden. This kind of community gathering of women and drying blankets must have been a sight to behold! My final memory is of pulling in the family’s six sheets from the line with my mum and sister, laughing as we pulled each end tightly and fought about who folded it which way and how. Like you, washing has many memories for me, and I never resent putting it out in the beautiful weather we have here down under that’s for sure. Sometimes, a whole machine load is dry by the time I have put the last sock out on a 40 degree day with a breeze. Thanks for the lovely washing words xx

    • I think I remember a day we had to chase down a pair of knickers blowing in the Bises across the sport field. ha ha Just kidding. I LOVED the story about your mum’s great grandmother who organized a blanket washing day. Women have always relied on each other. Your wind and heat combo must be a amazing. I can’t believe your clothes dry even before you have finished hanging them up. Why would anyone want to own a dryer down under?

      • Hahahahaha, I had to be very careful as to what I put on that communal washing line ???? Nothing like sharing your life’s laundry with the school community is there? Would you believe, people do own dryers here. I have no idea why, as most days are sunny even though temperatures drop to 10 or so in winter. A quick air inside after a day on the line is all that it takes to get them ready for wear again.

  9. Pat, we have a clothesline, and I love it! There’s no manmade dryer sheet that scents clothes better than the sunshine and fresh air. This must be a Midwest tradition. I don’t recall seeing clotheslines much down south; in fact, some neighborhoods ban them entirely. I guess they find it offensive to look at people’s undies, ha! But yes, besides the physicality of hanging clothes, there’s also the frugality. And who wants to heat one’s house more by running the dryer, especially in the summertime?!?

    • I think it must be a Midwest thing. I don’t often see clothes lines in Switzerland, but I wonder if they may be hidden behind the hedges, which grow so high to offer more privacy. Yards here tend to be much smaller and homes are built closer together because after all this is a petit country.

  10. Patty, Yes we still hang the clothes out on the line and the best part is sitting in a chair with my dog Kizzie enjoying a beer and watching them dry!! great entertainment!! have you every hung them out in the winter for freeze dried clothes? Something for you hubby to try one of these years.
    Dukes

  11. Pat, the best days of my life as a child were going out to the backyard, watching mama hang clothes on our DIY clothesline. The pure white clouds and blue clear skies kept a watchful eye when the weather was clear and breezy. And there’s nothing like the smell of fresh washed clothes air dried from flapping in country winds! Thanks for the memories, Expat…

  12. One of my sweetest childhood memories is running into the sheets hanging on our clothesline in the back yard. They smelled like sunshine. I don’t know what happened to this tradition, but no one seems to do it anymore.

    • Thanks for bringing up that old memory. I remember the joy of running through the sheets on the line on a windy day and playing hide and seek with my siblings.

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