Clothes Dryer Challenge

Good morning!  I enjoy being frugal.  Sometimes I joke about it saying “I’m just cheap”, but I spend too much money to be really considered cheap.  What I like to do is consider being frugal a challenge:  how can I most wisely use our money and time to make it stretch the farthest. Then, we can decide what to do with the extra money, like be a stay at home mom when the boys were little or go camping on longer vacations now.  Sometimes, a challenge can encourage frugality or start a new habit.  Like how long can I not use the clothes dryer?

I don’t really remember how the dryer challenge started.  Sometimes, my mom dried clothes on the line. I didn’t mind helping to hang out clothes, it was easy and they smelled soo good when dry.

My mother-in-law was thrifty and grew up during the depression.  So she also hung out clothes, much more than my mom.  The husband built 3 clothes lines for me, one at each of the houses we have lived in.  I hung out clothes off and on for many years, though not religiously.  I would put babies under the clothesline for shade as I hung up clothes and later I put toddlers in playpens, so I could hang up more than one item at a time before chasing after the running toddlers.

Then a few things happened at once:  I was trying to save as much money as possible to stay at home with our youngest boy, I read that drying can cost $.50-$1.00 per load (I was drying 1-2 loads a day) and one of my sisters said ‘Do you really still hang out clothes?  Doesn’t it take too much time?’  Sounded like a challenge to me!

                              The Clothes Dryer Challenge List                                                   See all the stars when I didn’t use the dryer.

I started keeping track of how many times I used the dryer.  Unfortunately, it was winter.  I still wanted to try not using the dryer, so we bought our first wooden clothes rack.  I used the clothes rack and hangers hung in our doorways to dry clothes.

Since I was able to set the rack over the heat vent, I could dry a load overnight in the winter and still keep up with laundry for three boys and the husband.

Sheets were an issue, but sometimes the weather cooperated.  When it was mid 30’s outside with sun and a small breeze, I would brave the snowdrifts to hang out the sheets.  The neighbors probably thought I was crazy, hanging clothes out while wearing snow boots and a winter coat.  I did have to watch that the drifts weren’t too high; otherwise, the sheets would drag in the snow.  I would also drape the sheets over a clothes hanger and pin up the corners, so they didn’t hang on the floor when I had to dry them inside.

Spring and fall were tricky with the dryer challenge.  The furnace doesn’t run as much-so it takes longer to dry clothes on the rack over the heat vent.  Sometimes, it is so cold that I need a winter coat and gloves to hang out clothes or boots when it is too muddy. They also can take longer to dry outside and often I need to finish jeans inside on a hanger.

The challenge was fun, though, and I learned so much while visiting with others about it.  My brother-in-law went to Australia during the challenge.  He shared about how clothes dryers are rare there and many people line dry clothes because they have so much sun.

My dad reminisced about his grandma.  When you entered her house, you had to dodge clothes.  She had an inside clothesline on the front porch.  My great-aunt had an inside clothesline, but in her basement.  Sometimes, I wish we had a full basement. Oh, well.

I also learned that I am not a good judge of clouds.  One summer day as I hung up my laundry, I noticed a few clouds up above.  I hoped they would blow over, but later I heard a rumble of thunder.  Looking outside, I saw a few big raindrops on the deck.

    After 20 minutes, the few large raindrops were now a down pour.

‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘it’s still sunny, it won’t rain much.’  Then I got distracted and quit watching the laundry.  Twenty minutes passed before I glanced outside.

It was now pouring.

The clothes were sagging so much that I hoped the clothes lines wouldn’t break!  I debated; should I run out, getting soaking wet and bring in the laundry; or take a chance that the sky would clear and dry the laundry without interference.

I decided to take a gamble and wait.  Eventually that day, the sun came out and the laundry pretty much dried.  Other days have found me getting soaked, though, as I try to rescue my laundry from the rain.

I still have my clothes dryer challenge list hanging in the laundry soap cupboard.  I smile every time I notice it.  The challenge lasted about 3 years.  Many months I didn’t use the dryer at all!  I enjoyed the challenge and hung out laundry on many summer days.  Evidently, the neighbor girl had noticed my lack of using the dryer.  She was in middle school and visited with me once in a while as I hung out laundry.  One day, she had a question.

“Don’t you hate having to hang out laundry all the time?”

          See the rain barrel overflowing and the sagging laundry!

I was surprised!

Then I explained that I hung out laundry because I wanted to, not because I had to.  I’m not sure she believed me.

At one time though, I did dislike all the socks there were to hang.  Even though I prefer to go barefoot during the summer, three boys and the husband make plenty of dirty socks.  Then, I read a magazine article or blog post about being thankful for all the socks, because feet go in all those socks.  And I am very thankful for all those little (and big) feet!  I still think of that article when I get tired of hanging socks.

I stopped keeping track in 2009.  The dryer was used a lot (though not by me) when I got the flu early that year.  Then, our oldest started hiking more, which meant we had more ticks.  I was paranoid about ticks then, so I dried everything in the dryer.  This included shoes for a while.  Of course, the fact that the kids could go hiking and I would get a tick probably had a lot to do with my paranoia.

Even though I don’t keep track of how much I use the dryer now, the challenge has helped me.  I am back to rarely using the dryer, though it is a good place to store stockpiled toilet paper.  I currently have the wooden clothes rack over the heat vent, three shirts drying on hangers and I am hoping for a sunny day to dry sheets.  Thankfully, there are only 2-3 inches of snow under the clothes line!

I am more relaxed about using the clothes dryer; I might use it once or twice a month, but the dryer challenge did help encourage a thrifty habit – even 10 years later.  Are there any challenges that have helped you to be more frugal?  If so, please share them below. It may be time to start a new challenge!

Happy Camping (and clothes drying!)

The Frugal Campasaurus


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