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Friday, March 18, 2011


There is nothing like the smell of dried clothes taken down from a clothesline--nothing. And yet, hardly anyone hangs out clothes to dry anymore: Reason?  With the advent of dryers and advanced technology plus a new age of people, hanging clothes out to dry has gone by the wayside. Excuses are: It takes too long, I don't want to do it, have no room outside and on and on. And it is becoming such a lost art and activity.

I well remember both my grandmother and my mother hanging out clothes on the clothesline to dry. Both of them used a clothespin bag that hung on the clothesline: It was full of wooden clothespins. Whether I was at my grandmother's house or at my own as a child, I loved hiding behind the sheets and catching that wonderful smell. Indescribable unless you know it.

Remember in winter, that my mother would bring in a wooden fold-out clothes dryer and place this near the floor furnace. She had to for if it were freezing outside, clothes wouldn't dry.
Oh and there were rules as to how to hang clothes on the clotheslines too; if they weren't hung just right, you would be forever scorned. Heaven forbid!

Here are some old clothesline rules:

You always took the wet clothes and bedding out of the laundry basket one by one and shook them before hanging them on the line.
You always hung sheets together--never randomly. Ever.
Shirts were clothespinned from the bottom of the shirt--never from the top. Never.
Before you hung any clolthes at all, you had to wash the lines with a clean wet cloth.
Underwear was hung behind sheets for it was considered risque' then.
You had to check frequently to see what clothes or bedding was dry.
Definitely you had to hang clothes straight--never sloppy.
If company were coming to your house, you had to scurry outside and take down the clothes, fold them and put them out of sight.
When you took all of the clothes and bedding off the clothesline, you folded everything, put it back into the basket and brought it all inside. Later would come the task of ironing all of it.

When I first got married, we lived in an upstairs apartment but it did have a clothesline on the porch. And I well remember my mother in law telling me that I had hung some clothes wrong. The guilt trip was on and stayed for a long time.
When we moved into our first house, it had a big backyard complete with clotheslines: I was in heaven! But I was also about five houses up the street from my mother in law which meant that everytime I hung out clothes on the line, I felt like someone was staring at my back.

In the house where I live now, there are clotheslines downstairs in my basement and yes, I do have a dryer! I hang up things that are delicate and would be destroyed in the dryer. Were there clotheslines outside? Yes, they were on the carport and the former owners had installed wooden blinds to keep the viewers from seeing the clothes: Worked for me too for years.

No outside clotheslines here now and oh, how I miss them. Times are so different and yet, I do have several friends who hang out their clothes and ask me if I'd like to have them do my sheets. My answer is always a resounding "YES!"

If you have room in your backyard, try having some clotheslines installed: You'd be surprised at how wonderful your clothes smell, how wonderful it is to see sheets taking an almost flight and you'd be reliving a dying tradition.

Sherry Hill


  1. While young homemakers may never have hung their clothes outside on a line, most older people (50+) must remember this was once a "fact" of life. Thanks for reminding everyone that it's still an option for clothes drying that can has several advantages including, importantly, substantial savings in energy use. I'm happy to have a clothesline and I use it a lot.

  2. Yes it was a fact of life, it saves energy as you said and today's generation needs reintroduced to it. Thanks for your comment.