August 25, 2008


When I was a newlywed, we lived in an old duplex and I remember hanging the sheets out on the ancient clothesline out back ... I think back to how sweet and soft those cotton sheets were, and how homey it made things. I have fond memories of that clothesline.

Today, I might be breaking the law for using it.

Apparently, all over the U.S. and elsewhere (Canada, for example) legislation as well as homeowner's association regulations, etc., have been implemented to purportedly protect property values. The Kansas City Star quotes one Baltimore, Maryland, resident complaining that a neighbor's use of a backyard clothesline "makes our community look like Dundalk."

Apparently, having to see your neighbor's clean laundry on the line quietly became unacceptable in modern society. Until now.

Slowly, communities are taking back their right to dry their clothes on a line in the back yard. Just last week, the New York Times reported on Southampton Town Board member Anne Throne-Holst, who successfully spearheaded a campaign to rescind the "anti-clothesline" legislation that had been on the books for six years.

In Colorado, the state legislature passed a new law that allows backyard clotheslines, effective this month (August 2008), as long as they meet homeowner associations' aesthetic guidelines.

Meanwhile, up north, those crazy Canadians are actually risking it -- it's being reported that they are just blatantly breaking the law, using their backyard clotheslines with pride.

Apparently, clotheslines are extremely controversial. So much so that an actual movement has been growing -- the 'Right to Dry' movement, where neighborhood by neighborhood, folks are standing up for their right to have and use clotheslines in their backyard in lieu of their electric or gas dryers.

So, are clotheslines okay in your neighborhood? Check with your homeowner's association, as well as your local representatives. Maybe you're forbidden to have one right now.


Fallibility said...

This is one of those things that completely bemuses me (I live Europe) - whatever happened to the 'land of the free'? And I'm still baffled as to how laundry offends the senses.

Brenda said...

Yes they are still fine where I live in Canada. I live in an older 'blue-collar' type neighbourhood so I don't think anyone is going to get up in arms about a clothesline. When we apologized to our neighbour for our messy backyard (because we are in the middle of an addition), I believe his exact words were, 'No dude, I'm not that kind of neighbour! It's your backyard.' :) But I'm pretty sure even around here in the new subdivisions it's an issue. I think with everyone starting to care more about environmental issues, the push to allow them will eventually win out.

Rebecca said...

Hi Brenda and Fallibility -
First, thanks for writing! You made my day! I can still be amazed at technology these days ... I'm corresponding here with someone in Canada, and someone somewhere in Europe, and I suppose this should be old news to me by now, but I still find it fascinating and wonderful.

Okay, enough on that LOL ... I agree, Brenda, I think that the Right to Dry movement will be successful, and I'm still shocked that there's even a fight.

I like to see clotheslines, silly me, I like the clothes moving in the wind - I think there's something artistic about them. Clotheslines make me want to grab my drawing bag and start to sketch, quite frankly.

So, I suppose I also have an aesthetic perspective on clotheslines, just on the other end of the continuum from the Baltimore woman mentioned in the Kansas City Star article.

And Fallibility, I love my country and I love Texas, my home state ... but I'm not blind to how snooty and materialistic our society has become. It's not pretty and I hope that I'm challenging it in my own small way, by writing this blog. The simple life, I think, is not only a better life - it is a wise life.

Enough soapbox! You both have a great week, and thanks again for writing!


Ginny said...

It is illegal in my neighborhood! I hate it to because I don't dry a lot of my clothes just because of shrinkage. It is a pain hanging in my basement, especially in the summer when it is damp downstairs.

I'm in Michigan by the way. I don't think it is like that all over Mi, but it is by me.

Rebecca said...

Hi Ginny,
I don't envy you the cold winters, but I think having a basement would be grand!! Here's hoping the Right to Dry Movement comes to your area soon!

Alvina said...

Unfortunately I’ve missed this news. I am confused why there are anti-clothesline rules? Why did this happen? I think if everyone would need a place for washing clothes. I can not imagine if everyone had to have a clothes dryer or should go to the laundry. It will add costs to be incurred every month. I hope you can post the continuation of this case. Thanks

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Alvina,
Whether or not it's illegal to use a clothesline depends upon where you live.

As for updating the status of this issue, great idea!

I'll get to work on it and post something about how things have changed (or not) since this post was written.

Thanks for writing!

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