My mom likes to show my friends an embarrassing picture of me. I’m 3 years old, hanging on to my favorite blanket as it’s drying on the line.
Laundry hanging on the line, drying in the breeze, was a frequent part of my childhood, and probably yours too. I didn’t even think about it. It was just something that everyone did.
But when I hung a laundry line in my own backyard this summer, I realized that hanging laundry outside has become a hot button issue, not just in my neighborhood, but all over the country. Two hours after I hung my first load, there was a knock on my door. A neighbor I had only met once was on the porch, arms waving, furious. He was disgusted that we had hung a laundry line. He said we were bringing down property values and that only “poor white trash” would resort to hanging their socks and T-shirts outside in the breeze.
I was flabbergasted. But also confused. I might have believed that I was junking up the neighborhood, except that the line was in my back yard, not visible to the street, and visible to this one neighbor from only one room in his house.
After some research, I realized that many people share his sentiment. Homeowners associations all over the country have banned laundry lines, saying they disturb neighbors and bring down property values. Considering almost 57 million Americans live in a subdivision governed by a homeowners association, it is tantamount to an all-out attack on a staple of frugal living– the laundry line.
It seems the simple laundry line has fallen out of favor, now that more than 80 percent of all Americans think a clothes dryer is a necessity. How far we’ve come from summer afternoons hanging laundry in my grandmother’s backyard. And, from the days when an iron clothesline secured in a concrete foundation was a staple in most backyards.
Simply put, homeowners associations and municipalities that have clothesline restrictions associate laundry lines with poor people. After all, the thinking goes, only the poorest Americans don’t have access to a dryer and if you have a dryer, why wouldn’t you want to use it?
I guess I’m old fashioned. I thought line drying just made my clothes smell nice. Why pay Tide or some other company for dryer sheets that try to mimic the smell of outdoors when you can get the real thing for free?
Plus, in an era when households are loaded with consumer debt and are watching their energy bills spiral upwards, line drying is an eco-friendly, simple way to save money.
If you are like me and love your laundry line, take heart: you aren’t the only one left. Some are taking up the mantle of line drying. The states of Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire have proposed legislation protecting residents’ rights to have and use laundry lines. A nonprofit, LaundryList.org, has sprouted up to fight for those whose right to line dry are under attack.
Even if you live in an homeowners association, you can lobby to have the rules changed. But you have to convince your neighbors that your socks swaying in the breeze won’t bring down their property value, which can be a hard argument to make in a shaky housing market.
I’m lucky that I don’t live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association. I just have a neighbor with some very particular ideas about what I should or shouldn’t do on my property. I refused to take down the line and eventually he gave up.
That fight has saved me about $100 a year in energy costs and makes my clothes last longer. Dryers are really hard on fabrics. Where do you think all of that lint comes from?
I am convinced that everyone needs to fight for their and their neighbors’ right to hang their laundry out to dry. Why should you fight for your right to line dry? Because you are also fighting for your right to lead a simpler life, and in most cases, a more frugal and earth-friendly life. How can you afford not to?