Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ode To A Clothesline

What a breath of fresh air, literally, now that clothesline season is back in full force.  I know some people let their clothes freeze solid on the line during the winter, and I think that's great--but mine was broken until about a week and a half ago and so I'm just once again starting to take deep breaths of springtime olfactory delight when I fall asleep on line-dried sheets or dry myself with that rough, outdoorsy scratchiness of towels straight in from outside.  I love my clothesline so much that my husband is getting tired of hearing me randomly blurt out "I love being able to use our clothesline again!"  And I felt it had to be expressed here, in words and images.

Five Reasons I Love My Clothesline

1)  The way the clothes smell when you bring them inside.  I think I already covered this, but it has to be included; isn't it everyone's favourite thing about clotheslines?  That smell of fresh air, ruddy cheeks, freshly mown grass, dried leaves, hyacinth perfume, bird song, and puffy cumulus clouds.  An aroma like that just cannot be duplicated anywhere else, other than in freshly washed fabric, blown in the wind and lovingly gathered in a basket.

2) Saving money and electricity.  Once the clothesline is operational again, I don't ever want to use the dryer.  Even with an energy efficient one, it still uses a lot of electricity, which means I subsequently contribute more carbon emissions into our saturated atmosphere and I end up with a higher municipal electric bill (and those puppies are bad enough as it is!).  It isn't any less convenient to do laundry this way, it just might take a little more planning, but as I may have mentioned before, I love to plan.  Just check the weather forecast for the next few days and the night before a nice day, pop a load into the washer before bed.  When you get up, you can put it on the line, then take it off by lunchtime to stick another load on for the afternoon.  Who really needs to do more laundry than that a day, if you remember to do some every nice day that you have?

Note the fleece baby clothes and the absence of emerged leaves in the background--oh! To have a truly warm spring arrive...
3)  Keeping your clothes more organized.  Now, I realize that this may sound at first like I have some sort of a problem, but I swear it works really well.  When I am hanging the wet clothes on the line, I like to pre-sort them into certain categories.  For example, large and small items, pants, shirts, onesies, socks, underwear, etc.  Then I keep each item with its own kind.  When you then come back to pull them in, they are already in a very efficient, handy order.  When you fold them (which is also easier, since the legs of your skinny jeans are not tangled around the sleeves of your favourite henley, and your diaper cover velcro is not firmly attached to a knit acrylic sweater), you can stack them according to where they need to go without losing time sorting them.  Oh Craig, you're looking for your socks?  They're all here.  Need to run a few things down to the kids' room?  Here they are, all in a pre-established pile.  I love it.  (Some people I know, based on other aspects of my life, such as my old work desk that was covered in used tea bags, papers, photos of family, spare socks, and bits of random leaves and other plants that I collected in my wanderings, may have trouble believing me to be this obsessive.  But I swear, I can be quite organized in other areas!)

Here they are: Susannah's onesies (and sleepers in the background) are sorted before they're even dry!

4) The quiet, contemplative time it give a busy schedule.  Now I do not claim to particularly enjoy doing laundry.  Quite the opposite, in fact, I'd much rather wash dishes.  But clotheslines make laundry fun again.  Why?  Yes, it may take longer, but those 10-15 minutes that you spend pinning the clothes on the line and then taking them off to bring inside are 10-15 minutes of peace, fresh air, and opportunity to quietly think without interruption that you really wouldn't have otherwise.  I like putting the clothes on the line when Susannah is napping (9:30-10:30 am, and 2-3 pm) and James is either playing quietly in the yard or asleep.  I listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood: to birds singing and leaves rustling in the breeze and neighbours walking their dogs and taking out the garbage and puttering about in their yards.  I breathe the fresh air and think about what I need to get done that day, or how much I love my family, or about the book that I can't wait to get back to, or about my prayer life, or just about how much I like doing laundry again.  It's a mindless but focused activity that just feels good and gives me a quick breather.  Ahhhhhh.

I think the photo says it all. :)
Not sure I can really express how much I love this picture and the little bum that fits in these covers.
5)  A glimpse into a person's life.  Now I'm not particularly nosy, it's more that I have a keen interest in other people and a vivid imagination, and as a biologist, maybe a stronger than normal appreciation for detailed observations.  But when I see a neighbour's clothes out on the line, I absolutely love that it is an opportunity to peek into his or her life and form a picture in my mind of what that life is like.  Clothes tell a story about the person who wears (or line dries!) them, and some very personal information can be hung out for all to see as it flaps in the breeze.  One glimpse of a clothesline is like the briefest character sketch about the people surrounding you every day, and gives you a chance to get to know each of them a little more deeply than you previously did.  It reminds me of what one of my aunts, who has a heart for things poetic, said a few years ago after the fall time change: "I've made friends with November."  She was referring to the fact that after the clocks go back, you can easily see inside the homes of others when it's dark outside and their lights are on.  You can see them gathered around a kitchen table together as a family, or cleaning the living room, or reading near a cozy fire.  It isn't that you want to know their business, so much, as that you can appreciate the simple beauty of knowing that these people (who you may or may not speak to on a regular basis) are just like you, living just as you do, a few doors down from you.  It makes the world seem smaller, more friendly, more connected in these days of such a busy pace of life.  And I love a good story.

Lamby (and his twin brother) is a very important member of our family.


  1. My favourite advantage is definitely how lovely things smell when they come in off the line.

    Dislikes include: Jeans stiff as a board off the line.

  2. I'm right there with ya! I absolutely looooooooooooove our clothesline. It gives me peace.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I definitely agree with you on the "gives me peace" part. I love those few quiet moments where you can think about whatever you want or not think at all, and just repetitively put those clothes on the line. :)

  3. This makes me nostalgic. When our babies were little, we used cloth diapers, washed them in a wringer washer, and hung them on the line to dry. To me, those days were wonderful. Thanks for another great post.

    1. Thank you Susan! I don't think that there is anything cuter than cloth diapers and little children's underwear on a clothesline (except for maybe tiny baby clothes). It makes my heart melt a little every time I see them out there! :)

  4. An immense moonlike of commendation, reserve it up.
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