Project Laundry List, an organization “that leads the air drying and cold water washing revolution”, says that there are a huge number of reasons to put up a clothes line. Among them:
- It saves money.
- Clothes last longer (Where do you think lint comes from?)
- Clothes and linens smell better without adding chemicals to your body or the environment.
- It saves energy, preserves the environment, and reduces pollution
- Sunlight bleaches and disinfects.
- Small steps can make a difference in the world.
I have wanted a clothesline for awhile now, for most of those reasons. Last summer, when I mentioned it to my father-in-law Clarence, he immediately volunteered the equipment: the pulleys, the line and even a specially made metal pole. All we had to do, he said, was dig the hole and he would help us install it. What a fantastic offer!
Sadly, it took our family the better part of a year to get that hole dug. But today, not only did we dig a hole, but Clarence came over and spent the morning getting the whole system up and running.
First he and Pat dug the hole, mixed the concrete, and installed the base. Then they attached the pulley to the house, secured the pole and adjusted the tension on the line. (I got the hose. And made lunch. But I mostly stood around doing my clothesline dance.)
Clarence designed a brilliant system, and I am so grateful for his help. The line is in the perfect place at the edge of the deck, making it easy to put the clothes out. It also has a special pulley to raise the whole line up into the air far enough that the kids will still be able to play in the backyard underneath it.
I have been using a decrepit clothes drying rack for two years, so it was with great delight that Sydney and I hung out the first load of laundry this afternoon. I also took great delight in the fact that I will now be able to use the back corner of the garden again: it has been sitting idle, covered in weeds, with a half-dug hole since last summer. Now I can reclaim it as garden space again. That will certainly be a far nicer vision when I look out the kitchen window!
We did make a few jokes about what the neighbours might say. For those who aren’t fond of my front yard gardens, this may add insult to injury. As I hung up the clothes, pinching each item with wooden clothespins, I thought about the fact that the neighbourhood will probably notice our sheets flapping the breeze. Because of that, they will know something about our family. We like to save money; we think it’s important to save energy; we don’t mind our yard looking lived in. They will know just how many pairs of jeans we go through in a week and what colour our bathroom towels are.
In a suburban neighbourhood like this one, the sharing of such information is unusual. We tend to hole up in our individual houses, with little more than a wave or a nod to the people who live next door. Our windows are closed up tight to keep the house warm in winter and cool in summer, so we never hear each other holler “Dinnertime!” or fight with our spouse or yell at our kids or sing rousing renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’. Our lives are so carefully shielded from one another that we often don’t know even the names of our neighbours, never mind their colour preferences or shirt size.
Our family is taking a risk by putting up this clothes line. I don’t just mean the risk that we will be criticized for messing up a tidy, well-kept street with our laundry. No, we are choosing to be vulnerable, to let others see who we are. They will know more about us than we do about them, which is always a little unnerving.
One of the things I hoped to do by installing front yard gardens was encourage conversation in my neighbourhood. So far that’s working; people talk to me every single day I’m out there. I am not sure how my community will be affected by our clothesline and the self-revelation that seems to go along with it, though. Maybe it will give others the permission they need to air dry their clothes, too. Maybe it will bring back childhood memories for others like it did for Pat and Clarence and me today. Maybe it will just help people feel a little more comfortable sharing who they are with the people who live in my house.
At any rate, I adore my new clothesline. I may be a little nervous about hanging my skivvies where all the world can see them, but I can’t wait for the first set of clean, sweet- smelling sheets on my bed!