I love hanging clothes on the clothesline. First, saving energy makes me feel virtuous & warm & fuzzy & At One With the Earth. Not that I’m going to go all radical homemaker on you. Although, come to think of it, I can also churn butter.
Another thing I like about using the clothesline is that it forces me to have a disciplined routine. In the winter, I forget to do laundry and then I’ve got a pile of 4 loads to do at once and zero pairs of wearable jeans. With the clothesline, I know that each morning I need to throw a load of wash in, so that I can have it outside by late morning and dry by dusk. Hanging the clothes and taking it down is a relaxing, almost meditative task, and it’s an excuse to get outside even when there’s tons to do in the house. My girls are much more likely to play outside when I’m out there with them, so the clothesline often gets all of us outside when we normally wouldn’t. And by the time I’m finished, the girls have gotten wrapped up in playing, and they stay outside without me. I also like folding the clothes as I pull them off the line. When I use the dryer, I end up with piles of dried laundry that I fold late at night while watching tv, so it interferes with my lovely vegetative “me” time. During clothesline season, I can just chill out in the evening (unless I decide to freakishly pursue every summer camp in the area).
Oh, and on a laundry-related note, the girls have their own little baskets, so once I’ve folded the clothes, they’re in charge of putting them away. Because that is the part of laundry that I hate most. It’s a good system, especially if you’re not a super-pristine homemaking type. Which I am not.
Okay, remember the other day, when I said that I’d written a post and then decided that I couldn’t use it? It’s because it was the story of how I started using the clothesline, and it involves my neighbor, Mary. I decided that I couldn’t devote another post to her without her permission. So, I’ve since confessed to her that I have a blog and that she’s been mentioned. Lucky for me, she says that I can write whatever I want but that she’s unlikely to read it because she’s not big on technology. So, here’s the story:
Last year, I decided to put the rusted, unsightly old clothesline pole in my backyard to good use by stringing up a new clothesline. I thought that this would be a relatively simple operation. It turns out that the art of the clothesline is simple to learn but difficult to master. At least according to Mary.
First, I went out and bought some clothesline and a package of clothes pins and considered myself, you know, pretty done. Phew! Good job! Didn’t occur to me that we’d need a pulley for the other end of our clothesline–it goes straight from the back of our house, and someone had removed the old one. W installed it, because he is both adorable and handy. I mean, he might be even more handy than adorable. But it’s a tough call. Anyway, W got it set up.
Mary [rapturously]: Oh! You have a clothesline! Wonderful, wonderful! You’ll love it!
Mary’s husband [chuckling]: Now there are two of you in the neighborhood.
Mary: Oh, Katie. . . it’s a little bit slack. . . you know, you should probably get one of those gizmos to tighten it up.
Katie: Yes, we realized now. W’s got one, so it will be up soon.
Mary [calling from her porch]: Oh, Katie! I have a little something for you. . . it’s for Mother’s Day, but it’s only a kitsch. What we used to call a kitsch. . . do you know what I mean?
Katie: Oh, yes. Like, kitschy.
Mary [handing me a lovely gift basket with poofy tissue paper]: Here.
[Inside the gift bag, a huge bag of clothes pins that are far superior to the ones I’d purchased. Bigger, sturdier: just better.]
Next time, after W’s tinkered once more:
Mary [looking apologetic]: Oh. . . that’s a little better. But maybe another kind of rope?
Katie: Yeah, I think we realized that it’s too elastic. W’s got another one, but he wants to re-do the whole thing, and I . . .
Mary: I know. These poor men! You can’t mention it again for a little while.
Katie: Exactly. I’m driving him crazy.
Mary: Ah, that’s it! It looks great!
Katie: Thanks. It’s still hanging a little bit in the middle. . .
Mary: You need a spreader! It will hold the two lines together. I think I’ve got an extra one. . . .
[a metal spreader, at least 20 years old if it’s a day, appears on the back steps. It is far superior to anything I’ve seen offered for sale in today’s robust clothesline supplies market.]
Next time, with the new rope:
Mary: Oh, perfect! You’re all set now! [pause] But, you know, Katie, you want to give your clothes a good shake before you hang them. [She makes two fists and pantomimes one vigorous snap of the imaginary clothes.]
A day or two later, while I am hanging items, and carefully shaking each one first:
Mary [and you can tell that it pains her to say this, but it is for my own good]: Now, for those dress shirts, you might want to hang them up by the bottom. That way any marks from the clothespins will just be tucked into the pants.
A day or two later, while I am hanging dress shirts upside-down after vigorously shaking them out:
Mary [furrowing brow thoughtfully while inspecting my progress]: You know, Katie, sometimes it helps to just toss them in the dryer for 5 minutes. Just to, you know, fluff them up a little bit.
Several days later I am hanging clothes on the line:
Mary [calling from her porch]: Oh, Katie! Excellent! You’re really getting the hang of it now!
I spend the rest of the day beaming with pride.