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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published May 25 2013

Halgrimson: Earth-friendly clotheslines becoming thing of the past

Are clotheslines part of history? Judging from the response to my completely unscientific survey, the answer is yes because they are more a part of the past than of the present.

After taking the survey in my water aerobics class at the “Y,” I’ve determined that we need to have more clotheslines if we are going to save the Earth.

Only about a quarter of the people in two classes hung their clothes out to dry, but most remembered the heady scent of sheets fresh in from the line, the roughness of the towels, and the beauty of the clothes and linens waving in the wind and glowing in the sun.

You don’t see any memorials to historic clotheslines. And you don’t see many clotheslines anymore, but mention them and people get teary-eyed remembering the clotheslines of their youth.

When I moved into an apartment condominium in 1973, I attached a retractable clothesline between my garage and the building. I was told to take it down so the place wouldn’t appear to be a tenement, and this was in the midst of an “energy crisis.”

A 2007 story by journalist Kathleen Hughes states that, “Clotheslines are banned or restricted by many of the roughly 300,000 homeowners’ associations that set rules for some 60 million people.”

I recalled the tenements I’d seen many years ago from the train passing through a big city with retractable clotheslines running from the back stoops laden with laundry waving in the breeze. I thought it a lovely sight.

So I took down the line and installed it on my balcony, where for many years I dried my clothes. All year long. No one complained. At least to me.

Now we have our very own patio, and I hang out the laundry when I please and when the weather cooperates. This year I had to wait until the end of April when the pile of snow as high as the garages finally melted.

In her story, Hughes also mentioned a website, www.laundrylist.org, devoted to “the right to dry.” The site belongs to Alexander Lee, who founded a nonprofit organization called Project Laundry List.

A poll on the site asks, “What is your No. 1 reason for air drying your clothes?” The choices are: saves time, saves money, saves energy, slows climate change, it is fun and relaxing, (to) avoid dryer fires, I need the exercise, clothes last longer and smell better. All true. The site also offers a monthly newsletter.

As I was researching clotheslines, I found that there are rules about the manner in which the clothes are put on the line. It’s called “clothesline etiquette.”

Wipe off the clothesline with a damp cloth.

Hang whites with whites and hang shirts by the tail.

Never hang clothes out on a Sunday.

If you have more than one line, hang the undies in the middle so they will not offend anyone.

To conserve on clothespins, pin one item to the next rather than using two pins for each item.

Help save the Earth. Hang out your clothes.


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Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com