Friday, October 1, 2010

There's Something About Clotheslines

I made a huge mistake the other day.  I oiled my clothesline pulley. I got out the WD40 and sprayed the moving parts. For weeks I had thought that the squeak it made was annoying.  Wrong. Oh, so wrong.

My clothesline now moves noiselessly.  And to my chagrin, in its silence it has lost its charm...its essence...its authenticity...its squeaky 'you know that sound in your soul' clotheslineness.

As a child growing up in the 50s, clotheslines were the norm.  One of my earliest memories was venturing to the ditch in front of our house where on that particular and every other Monday morning warm sudsy water poured out from my mother's washing machine.  The clothes would be hung on a long line that stretched to the end of the backyard. In winter, I can remember the clothes being frozen on the line, stiff and brittle with frosty ice.

I believe that clotheslines mark both a social and environmental evolution. There was a time when a clothes dryer was a status symbol, and the use of a clothesline an indication of lower economic status. Eventually dryers became the norm. I remember a time in suburban  Ottawa when clotheslines were actually banned as unsightly and inconvenient reminders of the reality of daily life.

And now, the 'green' generation has discovered that if you hang your laundry outside in the air and the wind and the sunshine, it will not only dry, but it will smell wonderful and, guess what, it's free!

Clotheslines also say something about the reality of the lives of women.  As a young stay-at-home mother I had time to hang my laundry on the line.  Later as a working mother, I depended upon my clothes dryer. Now, in my 50s, I again have the time to hang my laundry on the line, and cherish the sun and wind and intoxicating aroma of nature-dried laundry.

And there's another side to the clothesline that appeals to the little bit of obsessive-compulsive in all of us. It demands to be orderly: Sheets bisected and hung straight to dry, pillowcases following; towels arranged by size; shirts, underwear, socks, each grouped together. I'll be the first to admit that I have rehung items on my line because to my mind, they were obviously out of order.  (Question to self: Would men do this?)

I love my clothesline.  I love being out of doors to hang the laundry. I appreciate that I am blessed to have the time to make use of nature.  I revel in the wonderful aroma of freshly dried laundry.

There's just something about clotheslines....


  1. I love all the vintage dresses.

    -a clothesline dried sheet lover.

  2. This is your brother writing.
    Hear, hear.
    Wonderfully written; excellent insights.
    You should send this piece to a newspaper . . .
    (And Breanna will love it!)

  3. That is priceless, Susan, and so beautifully crafted - well done! I too have rearranged clothes on the line to keep the order perfect (are we sick?). As I write this there are sheets on my line soaking up nature's goodness. I've always said hanging clothes on the line and pushing a baby in a carriage were my two favourite mothering things to do. At my birthday party, my family strung up clotheslines at the farm and hung knitted and smocked items that I had produced through the years - very touching. Thanks for sharing. ♥ Aunt Mary

  4. beautifully said!Our backyard is too small and shady to accommodate a clothesline, so I use my neighbour's across the street! I love the flapping sound of sheets in the wind and the gorgeous fresh aroma as I fold the crisp cotton. sevetral years ago, my dear friend Debbie lost her son Michael to a work place accident. She had a hard time packing his clothes up and giving them away, so I suggested we hang them on the line and take a photo, which we did , favourite t-shirts, jeans , pj bottoms along with his stuffed puppy.. I painted a picture of that composition with his apple tree and the garden gate opening to where Michael now was a healing process and allowed Deb to send his clothes away and to have the reminder hanging on her wall. love Allison

  5. That was so well-written; I'm sharing! Lisa

  6. Love clothes hanging on the line.
    My grandmother and her neighbors where "anal" about how clothes were hung on the line.
    Big to small left to right and yes items where hung in groups, towels, hand towels then the wash cloths. Grandpas white t-shirts then his tighty whities then his white socks.
    Grandma had T-post lines with four lines. Wind direction dictated where things were hung. For example, if the lines ran north and south and the wind was coming out of the west then the sheets where hung on the line closest to the rising sun. That way the sheets did not blow into and wrap up in the clothes in front of them they blew freely.
    I know one cannot make this stuff up.

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