For years, I’ve considered laundry about as appealing as pinky toenail removal. In college I’d delay doing laundry until I’d worn every last pair of underwear, bikini bottoms, and cross-country running briefs (yes, I had to run in those terrible things). I’d even turn a pair or two inside out before buckling to the chore. Oh, imagine my mother’s horror.

Marriage civilized me somewhat. In Washington, D.C., Mike and I had what I considered an ideal division of labor: He dealt with laundry and I did the dishes. His reward was a hot-cooked meal and a clean kitchen, and I got my t-shirts folded with neat hospital corners. With this delicate balance all was calm in our corner of domesticity.

But our big move brought a big problem. Without a washing machine in our rental and with Mike working 80 hours a week, for the first time in my life I was relegated to the vilest of tasks: babysitting our clothes at the laundromat.

It’s not the commercial washers and dryers that shred your clothes to oblivion that bothered me. It’s not even the fact you’re chain-ganged to the washing machine for hours at a time. Forgive me for being such a snob, but it’s the company. I spent one too many Friday evenings with my husband in the hospital while I sat as a captive audience to an inquisitive, talkative man prone to brown-bagging Mike’s Hard Lemonade at 6 p.m. and lecturing me on the finer details of inspecting washing machines for suspicious hairs before using them.

Everyone has a breaking point. I believe this gent was mine.

So when my dad generously offered to buy us a washing machine as “rent” for the few nights each month he stays with us while visiting the Bay area for work, I nearly swooned. My dad has always been a generous guy, but in this instance he was my Knight in Shining Maytag Appliances. Actually an LG front-load washer.

What you’ll notice is missing from the photo above is a dryer. Rather than shell out an extra $500 for a dryer, we opted to save up our money until the winter rains arrive and in the meantime take advantage of the California sunshine to dry our laundry the old-fashioned way.

Line-drying our laundry has had a magical effect on the chore for me. I don’t loathe it anymore! There’s something nostalgic about hanging the whole affair in our backyard with wooden clothespins and waiting for the breeze and sunshine to do their work. I like the soothing repetition of the manual labor and the fresh air. I like my zippy retractable 40-foot clothesline that hides in the vines against our fence when it’s not in use. I like that our sheets dry with a crispness like extra starch.

And I especially like that our gas bill has yet to exceed $20. According to the Consumer Energy Center, the dryer is typically the second-biggest electricity-using appliance after the refrigerator in most homes. Project Laundry List, a great online resource for how line-drying and cold-water clothes washing can save energy and water, estimates that the average home can save $25 per month on the heating bill.

Granted, line-drying is more difficult in certain parts of the country. In Seattle, the mist might mildew your clothes on the line. In Washington, D.C., the humidity might rot them completely. But even in these more challenging climes the weather cooperates for a few months. See Project Laundry List’s 10 reasons to consider line drying if you’re curious or searching for motivation to give it a go.

So far, I’ve identified only two major drawbacks to line-drying:

  1. Our towels dry with all the softness of a loofah. Needless to say we’re well exfoliated these days.
  2. Last-minute loads of laundry are an exercise in futility. No matter how much you wish for clothes to dry on a clothesline overnight—such as the night after an interview and before a weeklong trip—the morning dew will always win.

Thus, we have a pile of damp, partially laundered clothes waiting for us when we return to Mountain View. On the positive side, I also have a heap of delicious recipes to share with you from the time we spent in Denver earlier this week with Mike’s younger brother Tom and his fabulous natural foods chef wife Molly. Stay tuned for those soon.

P.S., I had intended to post this entry on October 10, 2010, in honor of the grassroots campaign to motivate worldwide climate change action, but the month ran away from me. Instead, allow me to direct you to the 10-10-10 highlights video.

P.P.S., A quick shout-out to Mike’s older brother Andy and his bride-to-be Jessie who are getting married this Saturday in The Woodlands, Texas! Merry wedding bells!!