Week One: Indoors

My first indoor attempt was curtailed by the drying rack Seventh Generation sent me to use. I opened it and set it up. It took up half my apartment. No matter. The metal base seemed sturdy enough and the ropes on top some sort of plastic. It didn’t seem big enough for all I had stuffed in the washing machines. Before I even went down the hall to get my two loads of wet laundry, I noticed the undeniable stench of PVC/vinyl, AKA “The Poison Plastic” coming from those ropes. This is not something I ever want to be breathing, even if it meant air drying less clothing than I promised I would. I quickly boxed the thing back up, opened the window wider, and turned on a fan. I hung as much of the wet laundry as I could over every part of my apartment – on hangers on the shower curtain rod, on the backs of chairs etc. – but had to dry the rest. Not an entire failure but a failure nonetheless. This wasn’t that different than what I normally do. I always air dry my more delicate clothing and that’s about all that will fit draped around my apartment. That night, I started researching different drying racks (wood, especially FSC-certified, are expensive, IKEA has a cool looking and inexpensive metal rack, and Project Laundry List sells tons of great options). I also posted on Facebook for advice from friends who urban air dry. I got and am still getting great responses and even photos. Some people dry in their closets! (Mine has no room.) Some put delicates in the oven on low and, in the winter, stand in front of it to warm up at the same time! They figure short time baking uses less energy than putting a load in the dryer. So I may have failed overall, but I gained inspiration and how-to advice for my next attempt.

Meanwhile, I noticed my daughter stole my clothespins, set up a line in her play area, and was drying her doll’s clothes. Her line was tidy and well arranged. Educating the next generation = success!

Week Two: Outdoors

We went upstate to my parents’ house that weekend. I brought the PVC-stinky stand, and set it up outside in their yard to let it offgas overnight. The following morning, I put the first load up. It happened to be some of their gardening clothes and sheets. My first attempt was anything but graceful. I’d prefer a line to a tippy stand. (Later I was informed that I didn’t open it all of the way. I’m not sure how this is true but my PVC ropes are less taught in pictures than those belonging to other participants of this challenge. Oops!) Getting the sheets on there was not too easy. And my family was more than happy to mock my attempts. I was fascinated to learn that both my mom and stepfather remember line drying as one of their chores growing up, yet neither offered me tips as I wrestled with the stand. Just as I finally had everything on there, my mother got out of the pool with my daughter and announced she was going to put their damp towels in the dryer! I diverted her from the machine and hung the towels. This was around 5 p.m. The wind picked up and I was feeling positive. Fifteen minutes later, the sky opened up. It was pouring. I enlisted help and moved the rack underneath an overhang on the back porch. I worried about the other load waiting in the washer – clean and wet – to be hung. Rookie mistake. I vowed next time to check the weather before outdoor drying. And to read some instructions. By 11 p.m. the sheets were actually dry but nothing else was. It rained for two more days. I bet that when we left, the remaining damp items were transferred into the dryer.

Week Three: Back In the City
Life is busy and I hadn’t managed to buy a new rack before it was time to do my weekly two loads. We didn’t have much laundry so I vowed to dry as much of it as possible in the apartment. The weather was dry so I hoped that would help speed things up in my ventilation-challenged apartment. As I put wet clothes on hangers, I was feeling stressed. I have many work deadlines this month and though I wanted — and want — to get into what could be sort of zen about the experience, I was rushing so I could get back to work, annoyed by how long it was taking. I reminded myself that my annoyance was nothing compared to lowering the amount of energy I use. I smoothed the hanging shirts with my hands so there would be less wrinkles once dry.  Then I pushed the hangers to the side to make room, and tossed a pair of jeans – the last item — over the bar. The bar came crashing down. I broke it. It fell on me. I was laughing and crying at the same time. I so badly wanted this to work but once again I failed. I resituated everything in other corners of the apartment, then got back to work.

This coming weekend will be Week Four and my conclusion/assessment of the project. Stay tuned. And feel free to post comments.