I think the best answer to this question is--it's complicated and, in many ways, it's a matter of your personal taste. First of all, it depends on what kind of fiber you are using. You can block acrylic until you're blue in the face but it will never take. Some plant fibers lose their blocking really easily. Animal fibers love to be blocked. And take into consideration the bloom of the yarn. Some fluff up a bit when washed and although they are not felted at all, the fibers cling to each other a bit more.
Then there is how you define blocking. Guess what? If you knit a little stocking stitch baby sweater, give it wash and then dry it flat giving it loving pats and tiny tugs to straighten it out, you are blocking it! It doesn't always involve pins, strings and wires. But that laceweight silk/cashmere shawl you made? Yeah, that's gone involve some time on your hands and knees with pins, a tape measure and a few well chosen swear words. A heavier yarn in a lace pattern could do just as well stretched out on the bed.
Marilyn, I'm sorry to hear that you have been under the weather. Have you called your local dry cleaner. Mine will hand steam things for me when I need him to. He's a good guy. Yours might as well. Your local yarn store or knitting guild might also have someone who could help you with blocking. My knitting friends and I help each other all the time.
Sandra, if you have a weekend to play with it, you could make a bunch of swatches, block them and then wash them once they're blocked to see what they do. If you make them all the same size you could end up with a cozy throw at the end of it. A lace sample scarf is fun to learn more about blocking with too.