Is this an eyesore to you?

Our bedding, hanging to dry off our back balcony.

Yesterday, while listening to CJAD, local radio personality Ric Peterson was animating a discussion on the use of clothes lines. His wife wants one, he does not, claiming that they are an “eyesore.” He invited listeners to call in and give their opinion on the issue. I was surprised to hear so many in agreement with him and with the idea that they should be banned. One listener was quite pleased to be living in area where they are simply not allowed.

This offends me on deeply personal level. In the realm of household chores, there is little that is more sensible than hanging your clothing to dry. It reduces your power bills and is better for the environment. It’s what I grew up with and yet, somewhere between my childhood and now, someone came along and and declared the sight of clothes lines to be “ugly.”

There is something disturbing about the mentality that seems to come with certain types of communities: doors cannot be painted certain colours, lawns must be maintained a certain way, campers aren’t allowed in the driveway, and clothes aren’t allowed to be hung on a line. All of these things seem to force someone’s idea of what a perfect neighbourhood should be.

Neighbourhoods, no matter where you find them, are by nature messy places. One person lets his lawn grow wild because he doesn’t believe in grooming it. Another neighbour has more gnomes than you’ve ever seen. Another guy painted his garage door like a giant Greek flag during the last World Cup. Another house needs paint but hasn’t gotten it down because Dad’s been out of work for the last six months. And another neighbour’s cat took a dump in your flowerbed.

Somewhere along the line, someone saw these quirks of neighbourhood life and declared them to be problems that needed correction. And so bylaws were created for new housing developments and neighbourhoods were built that tried to keep everything the same as much as possible.

Suddenly, people are fighting for the things they took for granted before. Now obviously clothes lines may not be practical for every neighbourhood or housing, but the idea that you’d actually have to justify it just strikes me as so wrong somehow.

A municipality that places so many restrictions on what you can do in your own home says that you’re not living in a neighbourhood at all but rather a collection of investments and your house is not a home but just a shiny box with all your possessions locked inside.


10 thoughts on “Is this an eyesore to you?

  1. Thanks for your post. Hanging clothes on a clothesline. What a trivial thing. Should be simple. It brings up a lot of things for me. First, childhood memories of my mother and my grandmother, hanging the sheets they had washed by hands, on a line outside in the back of our farm. And me, the little girl, playing, hiding behind the sheets as they whipped the air. Fast forward to now, my husband is a diehard green guy, and big advocate of clothesline drying. For more, check out my blog on wordpress . . . and the post on “Dryer”.


  2. I do it, and in my wealthy snooty town I am quite SURE that I am the only person who does it. It’s not just the saving of energy, it’s the S-M-E-L-L.
    they can’t bottle the smell of sheets dried on a line.

  3. i love a clothesline, and wish i had one. there’s nothing like the sun to really bleach your whites.

    i can’t imagine not having clotheslines about – we used to wash and hang the quilts every year. yes, we still have quilts. my grandmother made them and they’re still perfectly serviceable. 😛

  4. I think certain people associate them with poverty and squalor…they don’t want to be reminded of ‘the bad old days,’ or they’re still revelling in the 1950s consumer goods revolution mindset. Sure, dryers are great during rain or snow…but sunlight and wind are free, and electricity isn’t.

    and, more to the point, talk radio is not a nuanced medium where reasoned debate occurs. And the people that call in…oy. don’t get me started.

  5. so i awake this Sunday, open my Boston Globe and what do I see, an article about the dyoing out of clotheslines, how we should bring them back, save energy, etc. It mentioned the evils of controlling how everyone lives (i.e. paint colours, clothes on railings, RV on your lawn etc.)

    You prescient little bugger you.

  6. AJ – Thing is, while most talk radio stations have their right-wing blowhard-in-residence (Tommy Schnurmacher for Montreal, Lowell Green for Ottawa, and so on), Ric Peterson usually comes off as the more even-handed of the local hosts. I was surprised to hear him come down on the side of consumption and enforced neighbourhood aesthetics, even if the discussion was a little bit tongue in cheek.

    jo – well, you know, i like to keep my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Or the latest movie trailers. One of the two.

  7. Clotheslines are great, and I wish we could have one. The only reason we can’t (or more accurately, “don’t”) is because of the way our house and yard are set up. There isn’t really a place for one.

    But our neighbours all have them, and that’s just fine. I just wish that somebody would invent a self-lubricating axel on the damn wheel part. Damn those things can be loud!

    One of our neighbours has some kind of OCD thing I think, because she sorts all of the laundry before hanging it on the line. It’s a nice effect though — all the little square things together (grouped by color), then the towels (grouped by color) then the shirts (grouped by color), etc.

  8. I agree there’s nothing quite like the sweet fresh smell of sheets off the line. My Nana still hangs her sheets in the dead of winter. Now that’s fresh.

  9. Growing up, I had a few frozen shirts, thanks to unexpected frost in early fall. My parents took down their line shortly after getting their first dog, who had free run of the backyard. High winds and old pins meant a lot of laundry falling onto deposits of dog turds. They never did put it back up but I think they keep one at their camp (or as they call it in the rest of Canada – cottage).

    We’re also a little particular above what goes on the line – underwear, for example, goes on the indoor drying rack.

    I’m glad to see that I’m not crazy here in thinking it’s a little absurd to ban clotheslines.

  10. Socks ( because they are tedious to hang) and underwear (except the pretty pink ones) go into the drier. Also, I hate when the socks get all starchy on the line and I like ’em soft. Everything else- on the line!!!!
    The ‘great ‘ city of Kanata had a clothes line bylaw. I thought it was ridicoulus. It was kind off funny however to drive bye and see how people would hang their laundry out in their garages with the doors open to dry.

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