We all know that if we don't dry our clothes in the dryer we save on electricity, but many of us don't think about how the dryer reduces the life of our clothes. For a long time I couldn't understand why so many people were buying scads of socks and underwear for their families every few months.

When my children were growing up, they almost never wore out their underwear and socks and we owned only about a quarter as many pair as most people. No I didn't buy some name brand known for its childproof quality. I usually bought the least expensive ones I could find.

Fast forward a couple decades. One day after folding my grandson's new underwear, I noticed that the waistband was terribly rippled. After doing some research, I discovered the answer: The dryer was destroying the rubber elastic in the socks and underwear. I rarely dried my family's clothes in the dryer, so the elastic never broke down. It doesn't just happen with underwear - Have you ever noticed pilling (those little fabric balls) on your clothes and linens and the resulting lint in the dryer? That is the result of the fibers being rubbed thin. The dryer also shrinks clothes and sets in stains.

The two reasons I think most people don't line dry their clothes are that they think it is inconvenient or they're just not sure how to do it. Here are some of the best tips I have found to air-dry clothes without a clothesline.

Though I don't use the dryer to dry my clothes, I do use it for five minutes or so with some loads (just long enough to fluff the clothes). I put one load in the dryer and only leave it there as long as it takes me to load the washer with the next load.

If you have no clothesline, you live in an apartment or your homeowners association won't allow clotheslines, here are a few ways to dry without a clothesline.

You need at least one drying rack and some type of clothes rod. You can buy drying racks at most discount stores or hardware stores. You might locate a clothes rod in your laundry room above the dryer, use a sturdy shower curtain rod in the bathroom or get a metal clothes racks that hooks over the back of a door. You don't need much. I can hang two loads of laundry on one drying rack and 2 feet of clothes rod.

Hanging on a Clothes Rod

Hang as many items as you can on clothes hangers, beginning with the obvious things like dresses, dress shirts and blouses and hang the hangers on a clothes rod to dry. Be sure not to put the hangers too close together or the clothes will not dry. You can also hang things like pajama tops, t-shirts, small kids shirts and one-piece outfits. Lightweight pants, pajama bottoms, skirts and sweats can be pinned on clothes hangers and even sheets can be folded and hung on them. If you are really short of drying rack space, you can hang socks, underwear, wash rags, hand towels and towels on hangers and add them to your clothes rod, too.

Hanging on a Clothes Rack

When hanging clothes on a drying rack, I start at the bottom with socks and underwear, wash rags and baby clothes. Young children's clothes and hand towels go on the middle layer and the top rack is for towels, jeans, pillowcases, sweaters, sweats, pajama bottoms and t-shirts. I try to use every inch of space, so if I put a pillowcase on the rack and there are a couple of inches left next to it I put a sock there. I even hook bras on the corners of the rack.

Drying racks are handy because they can be moved to speed up the drying process. Place them outside on a sunny (but not windy) day. Inside the house, try putting them over a vent and the heat or air conditioner will dry them faster. If you don't have central heat or air then you can place them in front of your heater or a fan. Don't place clothes close enough to heaters to be a fire hazard.

If you are short on space and don't want to look at a drying rack in the middle of the room, do the laundry before bed, hang it and in most cases it will be dry by morning (especially if you set it above an air vent).

Try hanging large king sized sheets or blankets over your shower rod, over the rail of your deck, between two lawn chairs or folded in half or quarters over your clothes rack. When you fold large items, you must flip and turn them every 5-10 hours so that each side gets dry.

Sometimes it is useful to hang a clothesline in the basement or attic. Be sure to check out your department stores and hardware stores for other ideas. They have many clever items like retractable clotheslines, things to hang over doors and some not so new ideas like extra large drying racks that can hold two loads of laundry each.

Even though this may sound complicated at first, once you do it a few times it becomes second nature to you. Pretty quickly, you will discover the most efficient way to hang your clothes on the rack. I know automatically that three wash rags fit across the bottom bar of my rack and the two socks will fit next to that particular t-shirt. It's like putting a puzzle together- the first time takes you longer than the times after that because you know where the pieces fit.

Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is the inspiration behind her daughter Tawra's frugal cookbook Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit  www.LivingOnADime.com. To order Not Just Beans: Send $17.95 (free shipping) to Not Just Beans, P.O. Box 4252, Wichita, KS 67204