When You Fall Off The Wagon

by Katy on October 25, 2009 · 22 comments

The Clothes Line by Helen Allingham

I am mostly a consistent and self-disciplined person. I’ve been with my husband since 1987 and in the same job since 1995. I have been doing The Compact (buy nothing new) since 2007 and hanging my clothes on a clothesline for over two years.

However, I’m far from perfect.

For example, my younger son leaves for a week long outdoor school tomorrow afternoon and the only way I could coordinate getting all his clothes clean, labeled and packed up in time was to crank up the ol’ electric dryer. I had worked the past two days, plus there was a torrential rain storm yesterday. This narrowed my clothesline option to an indoor line that requires a good two day’s time, and can only be properly used during daylight hours. (The room is unfinished and has no lighting.)

So Katy, the clothesline queen put three loads of laundry through the washer and dryer today.

Should I give up my hard won habit of hanging my clothes to dry? After all, It’s hardly worth the effort if I’m becoming inconsistent.

No way dude! Today was very much an electric dryer day, but that doesn’t mean I should give up. I am not perfect, nobody is. There is nothing to be gained by holding myself up to a level of expectation that is destined to fail.

Much of my Non-Consumer life is about doing my best, occasionally splurging on a dinner out, expensive birthday party or even the luxury of electrically dried clothing. But I don’t expect myself to live an austere and limited existance that does not allow for the unexpectedness of life.

I may have fallen off the wagon, but I’ll hoist myself right back up again tomorrow.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Bad Hippie October 25, 2009 at 4:17 am

I have a high school soccer player, and during the soccer season (which is almost year-round!) the washer and dryer are almost always going. The uniforms come home muddy and often have to be washed alone and dried for the next day’s game. Fortunately, polyester dries quickly!

I try to hang a lot of other stuff up on my clothes racks or outside during spring/summer, but I know I’m far from perfect. I think the main thing is to keep trying to reduce your use of resources and strive to be the best you can be without beating yourself up. Otherwise, you’ll just go nuts!


Jinger October 25, 2009 at 5:30 am

Your words really resonate with me right now. I need more balance in my life and find that it’s important to be able to live, as well as be thrifty. Lately, I have allowed myself more freedom in “living”….simple things such as purchasing food and some hand crafted items at a wonderful Vida la Vita Festival yesterday with my 20 year old. Tomorrow is so unknown and the present is all we really own.

Thank you for your wisdom!


Marlyn October 25, 2009 at 7:08 am

Living in PA, as much as I like to use my “solar dryer” all the time, the long, wet winters disallow for such consistency. I hang laundry inside as much as I can, but it does take a few days to dry.

Life happens so we hang laundry outside when weather permits, hang inside if time permits, and use the electric dryer as little as possible for those occasions that can’t be helped. Tomorrow is another day!


Lisa October 25, 2009 at 11:31 am

It’s nice to have options. When I occasionally fall off the wagon, something as simple as using an electric dryer gives my day a luxurious feel. Instead of feeling guilty, I feel pampered.


Janet Texas October 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm

It’s unfortunate that many people look at “living green” as some kind of trend or contest, keeping score to see how many “green” points they get. If we could get everyone in America to hang their laundry on the clothesline once a week the energy savings would be huge! The important thing is to keep moving in the right direction.


Angela October 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm

So true! I love your philosophy. A lot of people will say “well, if I can’t do it 100%, what’s the point?” None of us can do anything 100% all the time, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Most of the time is a whole lot better than never or not at all.

I recently learned the wonders of dried beans- $1 a bag that makes several meals! But I had to make a recipe that included fava beans for a birthday dinner party yesterday, and after what I refer to as my “fava fiasco” that involved mushy dried beans I had to throw out, I was overjoyed to pay almost $10 for fresh, cooked and ready fava beans by the brand “Melissa’s.” I was saved by Melissa! And it was a much better idea than using those sorry dried fava beans. More important to serve a tasty meal for good friends than to save $9.


Linda October 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I hang my laundry on the line about 85%- 90% percent of the time. I figure that is really good. I live in Massachusetts. January and February sometimes gets really cold. I give myself a break in the bitter cold weather. If there is a nice day in the winter, I will definately hang out the clothes. I just want to seek balance in my life and not beat myself up when I can’t or don’t want to do the most frugal thing.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl October 25, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I do the same thing…sometimes, it’s just too wet and rainy to hang laundry, and at times like those, I’m really glad I own a dryer.


Martha October 25, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I mostly hang the clothes up either inside or outside, depending on the weather, and if I have to I use the dryer, though it is rare enough I sometimes think we should sell the thing…but when we need it, we need it!
Here’s a question to this incredible group…my son realllly complains about rough towels, and wonders in an exasperated tone why we cant DRY the towels in the DRYER. So I googled and learned that adding vinegar in the rinse cycle will make the laundry softer, but we weren’t very impressed with the results…does anyone have other ideas? we dont tend to use much “product” so I’d rather not start using fabric softener etc. But would LOVE to hear the collective wisdom of this group!



Bad Hippie October 26, 2009 at 2:24 am

I use Ecover’s fabric softener for laundry that’s going outside, and those bumpy blue dryer balls for laundry that goes in the dryer. You only need a little bit of the Ecover softener to make the laundry soft – and the smell is fresh, not floral or chemical or fake. I have a friend who makes her own laundry soap, though, and if I use that I don’t need fabric softener at all.


Wendy October 26, 2009 at 6:08 am

If you hang your laundry, try diluting unscented fabric softener (just a capful) with approximately 8 oz. water in a spray bottle and spray liberally on your clothes. It works much like “wrinkle release” but softens clothes as well.


WilliamB October 26, 2009 at 7:40 am

1. You did not fall off the wagon, you were subject to Force Majure, overwhelming external acts over which you have no influence or control, also known as Acts of God. And if the weather isn’t an act of god, I don’t know what is. I suppose that in the long run, you could consider finishing that room but that would use a lot more energy than a few dryer loads. And using electric lights or fans would truly defeat the purpose.

2. “Should I give up my hard won habit of hanging my clothes to dry? After all, It’s hardly worth the effort if I’m becoming inconsistent.”

Preaching to the converted: Each time you don’t use the dryer, each time I recycle a can, each time the next guy over uses tupperware instead of a baggie, that makes a permanent difference our use of resources.

It’s painful to see people let the perfect be the enemy of the improved. Glad you understand this and are helping others see it also.


WilliamB October 26, 2009 at 7:41 am

I have no suggestions to offer but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who feels this way. I wonder what makes towels different?


Mary Bigger October 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I think it is important to differentiate between standard procedure and help when needed. My laundry hanging is a seasonal thing. I gave my principal the book “The Millionaire Next Door” (purchased for 25 cents) when he moved on to assist. supt. I wanted to drop a hint that being upwardly mobile and doing what one loves is a choice and sometimes they are mutually exclusive. My husband and I have built wealth and let the prestige fall where it may, we wanted freedom to be who we are, and if that meant a 30 yr old Volvo with 300K miles on it so be it. I still miss that car.


Helen October 26, 2009 at 6:09 pm

When I line dry my towels, I take them down when they are just slightly damp and then toss them in the dryer for a minute or so…it softens them and is much better than using the dryer to completely dry them! You still get that fresh smell!


NMPatricia July 31, 2015 at 3:33 am

I didn’t stop to read all the comments, BUT once in a while doesn’t seem like falling off the wagon. And you had a really good reason. Life for us in today’s and age is so different from years past. This is not like you fell off the wagon and bought a Lear jet. Now, that would be falling off.


Betty Winslow July 31, 2015 at 3:49 am

I have an easily-put-out back, which means I use my dryer daily. I use the clothesline to air out pillows, dry our queen-sized comforter, and hang out things that can’t be dried. Too much carrying and bending means danger of not being able to function the next day. Ideal? No. But my life.


auntiali July 31, 2015 at 5:36 pm

I’m seeing this from a different angle as why couldn’t your son do his own laundry and pack his own stuff? Those are two good life skills to have. My kids had to pack their own stuff for camp – I gave them a list – and now are able to pack and go anywhere. They started doing their own laundry at 13 too.

I was once the queen of the clothes line but now due to allergies and asthma I can no longer hang clothing outsisde. Sob! Wish I could!


Katy July 31, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Keep in mind that this blog post was from my son was in 6th grade. He’s going into his senior year now and certainly packs for himself.


auntiali July 31, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Oops, my bad. Begging your pardon.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: