The Basic Rules For Clotheslines

As soon as the sun starts getting higher and the snow starts melting, a certain, old feeling creeps into my heart. Its that “hanging out the wash” kind of a feeling, and as soon as it is possibly warm enough to just maybe dry instead of freeze the clothes I’ve  hung out to dry, the urge to get my basket, apron and pins and hang out a load or two becomes hard to resist.

In fact, the first three questions I asked Scott when he called me during our engagement to tell me about the rental he was thinking of taking for us, were if it had a real mail box, if I might be able to have a garden, and if having a clothesline was possible. When he answered yes to all three, there wasn’t much else that mattered!

Hanging out the wash to dry has always been one of my favorite chores. I’m not sure if it is the good feeling you have inside, standing out there in the fresh air, or the wonderful, wonderful smell of air-dried towels and bedding that makes me love it so much, but whatever it is, I do think I would hang all my wash out to dry. Except, of course, for that small detail of not actually having a clothesline yet (these are apparently extinct in some corners of this world, or I’m asking too much for my line to be sturdy-like, so it can bear up the weight of more than a couple towels at a time.), I think I might do just that and have everything smelling sweet and fresh as God’s good, clean air can make them!

Of course, while the “rules of clotheslines” aren’t quite so well-followed or as socially important as they may have been at one time, I can’t help but think of them a time or two, especially when I, horror of horrors, hung my wash out on the weekend.

THE BASIC RULES FOR CLOTHESLINES OF THE PAST:

1.  You had to wash the clothes line before hanging any clothes – walk the entire lengths of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.
2.  You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang “whites” with “whites,” and hang them first.
3.  You never hung a shirt by the shoulders  – always by the tail!. What would the neighbors think?
4.  Wash day on a Monday! . .. . Never hang clothes on the weekend, for heaven’s sake!
5.  Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle
6.   It didn’t matter if it was sub zero weather  … clothes would “freeze-dry.”
7.  Always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes!  Pins left on the lines were “tacky!”
8.  If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item.
9.  Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.
10. Fresh sheets on the bed guarantee a good nights rest!

I’m not the only one who loves clotheslines or hanging up the wash to dry. It seems like I’m in good company there, and with having a certain attraction (addiction, Scott says) to mail boxes. For some of us, hanging out the wash is a way of life. For some of us, its a sort of tradition of the simple, quiet life that our hearts love– a tradition we can’t quite give up most days. For others, it was only reality for Grandma, when what you hung on the line told the story of your life.

A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.

It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.

For then you’d see the “fancy sheets
And towels upon the line;
You’d see the “company table cloths”
With intricate designs.

The line announced a baby’s birth
From folks who lived inside –
As brand new infant clothes were hung,
So carefully with pride!

The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed,
You’d know how much they’d grown!

It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.

It also said, “Gone on vacation now”
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare!

New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way .. . .

But clotheslines now are of the past,
For dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody’s guess!

I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung out on the line.

The Clothesline Said So Much, by Marilyn K. Walker

With Spring just around the corner (or in my wishful thoughts, it is at least), and with the mountain of laundry I just had to dry in the drier, I got to thinking about clotheslines, and the basic rules of when hanging out the wash was the weekly chore of every housewife across the country. That’s when I think the most of that list and the accompanying poem that have made me smile over the years, and of all the happy summers I spent hanging out my wash to dry.  And just as soon as it is warm enough, I’m sure those wash day heart stirrings will be hard to resist. Only, of course, I don’t think I’ll try.

Chantel

Chantel

Social Media Manager at Virtual Assistant
A born and raised country girl who is lucky to be married to her best friend. Mommy to our sweet baby Charlotte. Blogger. Virtual Assistant. Writer and Social Media Manager for @kindredgrace & Adornabelle
Chantel

@cbrankshire

country girl married to my cowboy sweetheart. Blogger. Virtual Assistant. Writer and Social Media Manager for @kindredgrace.
The air is growing cooler every night, and the best days of the garden are seemingly over for yet another... http://t.co/O1rgyJDwhH - 35 mins ago
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conversations between sisters in Christ

  1. JNC says

    Hanging clothes has been one of my favorite chores throughout my married life. After praying over pairs of socks for the entire family (7 of us) for many years) I now have only a few pairs to pray over……….still, I am reminded in other ways to pray for the ones that no longer have socks hanging on my clothes line. God Bless

  2. says

    I feel very strongly that I was born in the wrong place at the wrong time! lol I was born and raised in the city, and in the post-feminist generation wearing pants all the time. Lo and behold, now that I’m out on my own (just graduated from college) and living in my own apartment, I have finally made the switch to the skirts I always dreamed of, which was a much easier transition when I didn’t have my unbelieving, un-understanding family around, and started busying myself with homemaker-type things. I belong in the country in an earlier era! lol

    I LOVE MY CLOTHESLINE!!! Even though I live in a little second-floor apartment, I am blessed to have a patio with a railing and several other places for me to loop a clothesline onto. It kind of “spiderwebs” around and I have about 4 different spans of line to pin onto. I hang my shirts and such out front, closer to view, and leave my undies and such in the back, closest to the door. It faces west, so if I do the wash right before midday, I can hang it to start drip-drying and let the sun then switch over and shine in and finish the rest. I love it!!!

  3. Anna D. says

    Chantel,
    I just have to say it seems like this post was straight from my own heart. I couldn’t have put it better! There is just something about holding on to traditions of the past.

  4. says

    Very cool post! I don’t have a dryer myself, much too space and energy-consuming for apartment life…

    Any specific tips for hanging clothes INSIDE? I suppose the standing rack is the best option. I do have a balcony where I can hang them outside for a few months of the year…

    • Chantel says

      Elizabeth, I’ve mostly used standing racks inside- the ones that fold up nicely and can be easily tucked out of sight, but also have used/seen used retractable clotheslines and those, I think may be even a little more handy!

        • says

          I too, live in a small apartment with a balcony! If you have a railing and anywhere you can loop a line onto (or install a simple hook in the outside wall), you can kind of spiderweb a line around and then easily dismantle it! I tend to leave mine up in the summer, but it works great! Good luck!

  5. Emily U says

    I love clotheslines! I miss them so much in my newlywed city apartment. And of course, I’ve always followed most of the rules, although I didn’t know they were written! I used to do all the laundry for my family of twelve–I’ve never washed the line (can’t believe I’ve never thought of it!), nor is getting the laundry before a certain time or not doing laundry on weekends feasible with that kind of volume (although I’ve always made it a matter of principle not to do any laundry on Sunday), but I always take the clothespins in, and, of course, save pins and space by using one pin for two items.

    Nice tribute to the clothesline!

  6. says

    I just had to leave another reply….Here is another good reason to use a clothesline instead of the dryer…. I’ve been fussing at my oldest son about his laundry. I ask the children to bring their dirty clothes to the laundry room and if they don’t, it doesn’t get washed. Well, Monday he did not bring his down and by Wednesday realized that he had nothing clean to wear. Wednesday night he had to do his own laundry. Today, Thursday, I had a few extra towels to wash and upon opening the dryer discovered that it was full of gum! Evidently, the whole package of gum was in his pants and survived the washing machine, but melted in the dryer. I just spent the last hour cleaning it. From now on he will have to hang his clothes to dry.

  7. Samantha R says

    I love this!! I’m a girl who loves to hang the clothes up outside on the line. I really dislike using the drier and try to avoid it but sometimes it’s inevitable when there are 3 loads to do in one day during winter. We have a rack for inside by the fire and that helps!
    The “rules” were fun to read through and laugh at! :)

  8. says

    Believe it or not, in some of our municipalities in Canada (I think mostly in the larger cities), it is actually ILLEGAL to have a clothesline in your yard. I believe the reason has something to do with bringing down property value, or something equally as foolish.

    Oh for the simple days when the economical, quiet and practical ways were also considered lovely and charming, not a *nuisance*.

  9. Janet says

    Wow, I really enjoyed this post. And the rules of clothelines were spot on. that is how I was taught – I am still doing it today!

  10. Helen says

    It’s been a long time since I’ve had the pleasure of using a clothesline, but I remember those rules. They were followed in our household until I left for college (well, with the exception of not hanging out clothes on the weekend–there was too much laundry to follow that rule).

  11. sweetmomma says

    Ohhh! I’ve already had you beat by about a month! The first warm day possible I was out with my clothes pins and damp garments and little four month old baby boy reveling in the joys of my own line! Little Elisha was just looking up at me curiously as if to say “What’s so exciting Mommy? Why am I in a basket with all these wet clothes?!”
    Thank you so much for a delightful post Chantel! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that enjoys the snapping sheets sound of windy days!
    Much Love!

  12. says

    I have such a fondness for clotheslines. Growing up in the South, without the luxury of air conditioning, we learned the coolest place to be on those days when the temperature soared into triple digits. We would stand between the recently hung sheets and towels that provided natural air conditioning. Simple pleasures truly are the best.

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