Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Right to Hang....

The Right to Hang out the laundry was on the front page of Yahoo News this morning,  and those that hang have got a lot of snooty city folks and housing development administrators' "panties in a wad" due to it's so-called unsightliness.  I'm a long-time clothesline hanger and have been practicing this method of drying since I was a kid at home.  Many "hangers" are finding great savings on their electricity bill and the pleasure that comes from the age-old task of pegging clothes outdoors and breathing in the fragrance of freshly laundered, sun-kissed, wind-whipped sheets, towels and T-shirts.  There's nothing in the world like lying down in your comfy bed with that scrumptious fresh air wafting about your head.

When all the buzz today is "green living" I can only imagine that the restrictions on clotheslines will soon be a thing of the past.  But it makes me wonder how they might try to regulate the method of hanging out?  Will underthings and nighties be restricted to the center lines while towels and sheets hide them between the front and back lines?  Will there be a fine issued when the neighbor's undies are blown off the line and into your shrubbery or when Spot the Dog pulls down the blue jeans from Mrs. Jones's line?  Perhaps they'll find a way to keep things more eye-appealing by requiring all hung towels to be earth tones to match the house paint or perhaps they'll  require sheets hung on Mondays and towels on Tuesdays and no hanging of underthings on the weekends when children are at home.  We surely want to keep clotheslines "G" rated.  Should there be a ban on hanging out when the wind speed is above 25 mph to avoid stray clothes coming of the line?  Surely hanging out will not be allowed to be a free expression of each family, will it?  How did they do it back in the Olden Days without ruffling the neighbors' feathers?  Or were feathers always ruffled no matter the hang out style?

Thank goodness I live in the country where I can hang out my laundry in total freedom, in any fashion and on any day I like.  My main concern about country hanging is dust and dirt, especially when my family members drive through the yard, kicking up gravel and dust which wafts over to the clothesline. Nothing makes me sizzle more than seeing the dirt fly when I've just hung out a load of wet wash on the line.  On warm fall days like today, I have to watch for wasps in the pant legs and arms of the clothes.  They tend to crawl in when the sun gets low and the air starts cooling so a good shake is in order when collecting the clothes from the line.  Other than that, my two neighbors don't mind a bit about my hanging, but I wonder if my style tells any secrets about me?  Enjoy the poem below which will give all you hangers something to think about next time you're pinning things to the clothesline.

The Clothesline

A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.
For then you'd see the fancy sheets
and towels on the line;
You'd see the comp'ny tablecloths
With intricate design.
The line announced a baby's birth
To folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.
The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed
You'd know how much they'd grown.
It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.
It said, "Gone on vacation now"
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told "We're back!" when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare.
New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors raised their brows, and looked
Disgustedly away.
But clotheslines now are of the past
For dryers make work less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess.
I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line!

~Marilyn Walker


  1. Haha -- you cracked me up! I live in one of those ridiculous neighborhoods and I could just see them requiring the towels to be color coordinated with the siding colors. We have restrictions that say we're even supposed to petition the arch. committee when painting or roofing the house in the same color. It's ridiculous. I can see preserving your property value, but come on.

    I SO hope you're right. I'm dying for a clothesline. I'd even settle for rules against hanging underwear out, if I could just hang sheets and towels. And our houses are far enough apart that a few scattered clotheslines (I know everyone wouldn't have one) wouldn't even make a dent in the scenery. One thing's for sure -- our neighborhood will be the last to fall around here. I can only hope that our state is one of the 5 looking to change their law! Maybe a little note to my rep. is in order!!!

  2. You put a smile on my face! I love this post and your clothesline.
    I remember hanging my younger brothers and sisters diapers on the clothesline. It seemed like a never ending chore for me, especially with the twins!! :0)

  3. Oh my much crazier can this world get?! EVERYTHING that was bad is now good and EVERYTHING that was good is now bad! People have gone crazy! I love the poem and I grew up with it too..such a good thing! Come say hi :D

  4. I was the headline today as well. Ridiculous. I am sure pressure from the green movement will reverse these bylaws...we have them in Ontario as well....but, like you, we are in the country, and love our clothesline.

  5. Miss Thimble,
    I really was thinking of you as I wrote this, remembering that you have those silly clothesline laws in your neighborhood. I do hope that one day you will get your wish of a clothesline and I hope it's soon.

    I just had to smile thinking about you hanging your own siblings' diapers on the line. I used cloth diapers on all 5 of my kiddos and honestly, I did like pinning them on the line every other day. They seemed much "fresher" smelling from the line.

    It is funny that the "old things" that are now "new" again. I'm glad to hear about another "child of the clothesline."

    So glad that you can hang in freedom like me. There's good and not-so-good when living in the country and a clothesline is definitely GOOD.

    I love all your comments. Thanks for stopping in.


  6. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and I love that poem.I live in an apartment and there is a clothes line but its indoors,I'm waiting to live in an independant house where the clothes line will be outdoors and the sun will bleach the white sheets and towels and they'll feel crisp and clean when they are dry.

  7. Great post. When we moved to town, I hung clothes one day and noticed none of the other neighbors had clotheslines. I thought it was crazy. It's all about saving the money sometimes.

  8. I just couldn't believe it when I learned that people were not allowed to hang out clothes on a line. It seemed so strange to me. Everyone does it here - it's considered a virtue :) My mom had some strict rules about hanging - all the whites together in order of type and size - all coloureds also in order. I'm not quite as fussy but I do like the ends of the sheets to be even :)

  9. Sadly, I haven't had a clothesline for many years but I have the memory! When we were first married, I worked full time and would often hang out the clothes in the a.m. before work. One day an unexpected storm blew thru and I dreaded to come home to a clothesline full of wet clothes. But a little 90 yr old neighbor rescued them and returned them to me IRONED. It was such an act of kindness, I've always remembered her as the clothesline fairy :)

  10. You know those rules just make me want to hang my lundry. Just to say I own my house and can do what I want ;-) xoxoxo Clarice

  11. I would laugh if my neighbors in the country said anything about laundry. You should see what some of them have in their backyard.

    It is rather odd that the place we lived where I hung laundry out all the time was Detroit (actually, Warren, which is still Detroit Metro).

    There was already a clothesline when I moved in and I noticed many in other lawns... with a million people surrounding me.

    You can tell this was an older neighborhood where housewives had hung out laundry for at least a couple generations.

  12. Embellisher,
    I'm glad that you at least have an indoor clothesline. I use my shower rod and hangers to hang delicates to air dry. I hope that one day you will enjoy outdoor hanging too.

    I wonder if one reason why people don't use clotheslines is because they aren't home? People who work outside the home are so busy that hanging clothes outdoors might not be their first priority.

    I love your story about your 90 year old clothesline fairy. What a blessing and what a sweet memory.

    What about stringing a retractable clothesline from one tree to another?

    It's fun to think of generations of housewives hanging out their clothes in the city of Detroit. I'll bet a person could write a book about clotheslines and the history.

    Thanks everybody for your fun comments.


  13. This made me laugh. I love my clothes line...but don't use it as much as I should. The wind and the dirt don't make it as pleasant as it should be...instead of nice smelling air dried clothing...sometimes they just smell dusty.

    Isn't it awful how much 'they' try and regulate our lives..right down to hanging clothing? I can't imagine having to live like that.

    I thank the Lord daily I am out in the sticks away from the clothes line police's prying eyes. Ha


  14. Yes, Jody, I could circle my whole property in laundry ;-p xoxoxo Clarice


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