Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Join Me for National Hanging Out Day

Have you heard about National Hanging Out Day?  If you are like most of my readers and are embracing the sustainable living lifestyle, you probably call this another name, like "Wash Day."  For the uninformed, this is the annual "holiday" celebrating the time-honored tradition of hanging one's wash outside to dry.

Why celebrate something as simple as hanging your clothes out to dry?  It seems like celebrating cooking dinner, taking a walk after work, or other mundane things -- and that might be the point.  We seem to have lost touch with some of the more basic functions of living, to the point that they seem odd or even threatening.

Take the simple clothes line.  Although sun-dried clothes seem as nonthreatening and wholesome as possible, there are still suburbs and subdivisions that discourage or even disallow hanging clothes out to dry.  Reasons typically center around property values, which is something I've never understood.  A clothes line itself is not particularly unattractive or even particularly obtrusive, and to me it is an amenity that adds to the value rather than subtract.

And while I understand that it is unattractive to see a neighbor's clothes hang outside day after day, in the same way Christmas lights in March are annoying, I think the problem lies more in a mistaken belief that possession of a washer and drier indicates affluence.  I'm here to say, in 2012, it does nothing of the sort.

It is pretty easy to understand.  Until the 1940s at the earliest, most people hung their laundry on a clothes line, and laundry day, even with the early automatic washers, was still a chore.  But there was a poetry and a sense of community to it:  everyone, from farm to urban apartment, hung their laundry out to dry, and often the birth of a baby was "announced" via the diapers that appeared on the line.

Once post-war consumption made a washer and drier a symbol of the American Dream (along with a car in the garage, a tract home, and a lawn mower to take care of that postage stamp lawn), hanging clothes out to dry meant being a bit behind the times, perhaps a bit poor.  And I would imagine that the sense of poverty correlated with what you hung on the line.  It is easy to justify hanging sheets outside for that summery smell, and they are relatively attractive, but hang underwear outside and you mark yourself as perhaps not having a drier and, just maybe, not fully participating in the American Dream.

Well, I have an American Dream too, and it includes keeping as much of my money for myself and my family as possible.  It includes the luxury of taking time out of my day to stand in the sun with a basket of clean clothes that I snap across the line and pin while I soak up some Vitamin D and some fresh air.  It includes the freedom to admit, yes, we wear underwear -- and we wash it regularly too.  (Aren't you glad?)

My drier is now enjoying its summer vacation while I hang my laundry outside to dry whenever possible.  National Hanging Out Day is just the start of that.

Readers:  What is the craziest objection you've ever heard to line drying your clothes?  How did you counter it?

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  1. I cannot imagine not being *allowed* to hang washing out on a line. That one thing would stop me from living in an area that had that rule. I am in Australia though and here that is what we do, we hang our washing up outside. Even in winter my washing gets hung outdoors, maybe under cover if it is raining. I know not everyone has our weather but I don't get the dryer thing and am so glad I don't need one.


  2. I live in a townhouse with an HOA that does not allow "closelines". We have attached an umbrella cloths dryer to our banister on the back steps. No one has ever mentioned it...problem or not. My husband is from England and even in rainy England hardly anyone has a dryer! We are so spoiled here in America!

  3. I grew up with clothes on the line outdoors and in winter or on rainy days, we hung them in the basement. As a young wife and mother, I too hung my clothes outside to dry. Then came allergies. My son was terribly allergic to pollen. The allergist said that hanging clothes outside just trapped all that pollen and brought it into the house. He couldn't get away from it. End of clotheslines:(