Monday, May 1, 2017

Hanging Clothes Outside: a Prescription for Good Health

A friend recently sent me a cartoon that struck my funny bone. In it, two women stand near an old-fashioned clothesline as one ironically tells the other this device dries her laundry using the very latest solar and wind technology. It made me think about people who’ve never hung clothes outside to dry. It also helped me recall helping mom and grandma pin wet laundry on the line and then remove and fold it afterward. Grasping sun-warmed fabric and breathing in breeze-scented sheets and towels is a heady experience, even in a technology-oriented world.

I suspect if more of us depended less on dryers and more on clotheslines, we’d be healthier. Several recently published articles suggest older Americans need more sunshine to help with vitamin D absorption. I’m guessing the amount of time it takes to hang a basket of wet laundry and then retrieve the dry result delivers that daily requirement.  

Not only are many folks in need of more vitamin D, they also suffer from anxiety. Experts who deal with such issues remind us fresh air and exercise are good medicine for such ills. It would be interesting to know if our grandmothers fretted less because they spent more time with their clotheslines. After hanging a couple of loads of sheets and towels the other morning, I see how time outside listening to birds sing and feeling warm breezes caress skin contributes to a peaceful disposition. In addition, you get exercise by repetitively bending, reaching, and pinning wet fabric. Once my basket was empty and the laundry fluttered in the breeze, my concerns seemed to shake away as well.

Add that repetitive action to sunshine and fresh air, and you have the ingredients necessary to generate a good mood. It satisfies the soul to see a clothesline weighed down with clean linens and clothing. The reverse efforts of unpinning dry objects and folding them to put in the basket just as effectively reduces stress. Listening to and watching birds multiplies these positive effects.

In fact, once those fresh sheets and towels are ready to go back on the beds and in the cupboards, you discover another boon. What feels and smells better that sun-dried bedding or terrycloth? Perhaps it’s my imagination, but I swear line-dried sheets freshen a whole room. When I crawled between them that night, that outdoor scent plunged me into deep slumber the minute my head hit the pillow. The fact I’d labored to hang, fold, and put away king-size bedding and towels may have contributed to my exhaustion.

Humans have so many labor saving devices that make life easier. Despite such convenience, we should consider what we lose in terms of physical and mental health. Do some of our grandparents’ old- fashioned housekeeping techniques aid in vitamin absorption as well as connect us to the outdoors where sunlight, fresh air, and exercise renew spirits without requiring prescription drug use.

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