Tom and I have differing clothesline philosophies: I want a permanent line in the backyard, he doesn’t. My ideal line would involve the classic t-shaped wooden beams at each end, strung up as trellises to grow beans. Tom doesn’t like how they look, and thinks a permanent structure would take up too much space. Our first house already had a clothesline in the yard, but when we moved to this house we compromised, and put up a retractable line. We got a really long one (forty feet), which reaches from under the deck, across the yard, to the cherry tree. It holds an entire load of clothes, and disappears when the clothes are dry. A crafty person could make such a thing themselves, but the self-winding line from the local hardware store is inexpensive, and works great. I installed it myself, in spite of my irrational fear of power tools.
If you don’t already have a clothesline, putting one up would be a lovely way to celebrate the spring season. If you’re in a DIY mode, click here for a simple line you can put up with un-electrified hand tools and take down when not in use, requiring just two eye rings and a sailor’s cleat. Be sure to use coated rope made for clotheslines, as plain cotton or nylon quickly stretches out, and eventually mildews. Because of our deck configuration, our line is really too low, but it still works just fine. The ideal clothesline height is as high as you can comfortably reach–remember the wet laundry will drag it down a fair bit. 6 or 7 feet is typical.
Small spaces can inspire creativity in clothesline tactics: retractable/removable lines don’t require a straight shot across a long yard–they can be zigzagged between trees, fence posts, whatever you have. For large loads or sheets, we commandeer extra space by hanging laundry from deck railings, chairs, and over tree branches.
If you’re interested in constructing a permanent line, there is plenty of inspiration/how-to in this new Mother Earth News article.
Does your Home Owner’s Association or local government prohibit clotheslines where you live? Then we want to encourage gentle nonviolent resistance (see my recent post on Laundry Outlaws). Consider hanging your clothes in spite of the ban (in as nice a way as you can), educate your neighbors (sweetly), and register your HOA in the Right to Dry registry. Find more information there on beginning a neighborhood campaign to overturn the ban. Remember the steps of non-violent action attributed to Gandhi: First they’ll ignore you, then they’ll laugh at you, then they’ll fight you, then you’ll win. (If all goes well, we’ll skip the fighting part.)
Together we can re-create the standards of beauty that define our neighborhoods. Using the earth’s natural cycles of sun and air to refresh the clothes we and our children wear every day, and the cloth beneath which we sleep–how beautiful is that?
I’ve loved hearing all of your laundry stories! If you have a creative clothesline idea, please share…