Monday, November 04, 2013


I was on call this weekend, which meant staying close to home and attending to domestic matters.  I am mildly obsessed with laundry, probably because of our time in Kalamazoo, Michigan with two infants and no washing machine.  Twice a week, I lugged all our household wash, plus diapers to the laundromat and back.  Did I mention that I also had to bring the babies?  And the diaper pail? And that we lived in a second-floor apartment? And no, this wasn't 1915, but 1993.

Last year, my washing machine died and puzzled three repairmen.  Now my dryer is on the fritz.  It works sometimes, but quits after a few minutes if I put anything heavy into it, and needs at least twenty minutes to rest before it will start again.  This is the second time this dryer has broken, and I'm not interested in paying to have it repaired, and even if I were, it would have to get in line behind the refrigerator and the dishwasher.

Lots of people live perfectly well without clothes driers and I am no stranger to the clothesline myself, but carrying heavy clothes up and down two flights of stairs is a pain in the ass, which is why I'd love to copy the Portuguese method and hang a clothes drying system outside a window.

The materials are simple:  two brackets, wire cable, pulleys, and a turnbuckle for connecting the two ends of your cable.  I have searched google in vain for instructions because I don't feel confident enough to design one myself and the correct bracket does not seem to be available in the United States.  With this arrangement we would definitely get the Charlottesville Side-eye, although I'm used to that after fifteen years in this city. Then again, I could just install an indoor rack.  This ceiling-mounted one is tempting, or this simpler one.  I also like this wall mounted accordion style drier.  I could also erect a small drying rack on the back roof.  Pros: arguably easier to climb out the window than to descend two flights of stairs (and yet infinitely more ridiculous).  No worries about dog shit in the back yard.  Cons:  Would blow into the neighbor's yard on first really windy day.

Nowadays, clotheslines are frowned on, or even banned in some neighborhoods.  It takes a special kind of asshole to make a rule against fresh air laundry drying.  Clean clothes, swinging in the breeze on a sunny day are a lovely sight, although I concede that sad, neglected laundry that has been left out in the rain does look pretty awful.

Yesterday afternoon, while inflated with espresso, I began to see exciting possibilities in allowing our dryer to die its slow death and getting rid of it altogether.  We could use the space it occupies for something else, like storage, or an air-drying system, or just space to put laundry supplies.

Our laundry area
PS After extensive searching, I found a website devoted to urban clotheslines, that carries a product similar to, although  not exactly what I want, but their prices are outrageous.  Over $200 for two brackets and some cable?  I don't think so.

What do you think?  Would you give up your drier?  Would you attach a European-style laundry drying system to the outside of your house?  Would your neighbors shun you if you did so?


  1. I have an old Sears Retractable clothesline in the basement as well as a nice line outside, on the side of the house Pat installed. I suspect our drier is also dying a somewhat slow death, but having just gotten the washer repaired, I am just not going to pay it any mind.

  2. Luckily I live in a crummy neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks, between a redneck and a spinster, so nobody cares that I hang my clothes out on a line. Mine is the kind with several lines strung between two t-shaped poles.
    Any chance you could string a pulley type line from the laundry room window to a tree or utility pole outside? (I'm talking about one like this:

    1. For some reason, the image of living "between a redneck and a spinster" is making me giggle!

  3. I'm still traumatized by the child who would stand crying next to the dryer while his favorite batman shirt dried, so I don't think I could ever give the dryer up for good because what if you need something dry in a hurry? You'd have to iron it dry! But I wouldn't mind having a line outside. You can't beat the fresh scent.

    I remember going to the laundromat at 9 am on Saturday mornings and there would be old men drinking beer.

    1. Yes, there's no last-minute laundering without a dryer. That's definitely one reason to keep one in the house.

  4. One of my girls and I both have pretty bad seasonal allergies, so drying outside on a line would not work for us, which is a shame since sun-dried clothes smell so good.

    Instead, I have a drying rack that I use inside for some of the laundry, but not all, since we have so much it takes so long to dry inside. I air dry lingerie, my running gear, fleece, and anything I'm worrying about shrinking in the dryer.

  5. Your idea for clothes lines is very environment friendly; we did that for years with two children in school. But now I like my washer and dryer; a front load washer uses a lot less water and you can wash more clothes cuz there is no post in the center. You can set a good trend with your neighbors and drying clothes in the sun.

  6. Our neighbors are too far away to give a crap what we do--and we line dry almost everything (weather permitting), and so do most of them. I think the whole clothesline-frowning is more of an urban and subdivision thing. Country folks around here have no gripe with it.
    Years ago I had a similar laundry situation--WHAT a drag. Especially for you with babies.

  7. Visible clotheslines are not allowed here, but even if they were, I picture all the clothes being dumped in the dirt and leaves in the backyard. No thanks. The idea of hanging them to dry in the house is appealing in the winter - it might tend to humidify the air a bit. But, considering that house centipedes are legion around here and that they gravitate to anything wet...well, let's just say I'm not going to go there.

    I went 2 years without a dishwasher, handwashing dishes for 7 people, 3 times a day, every day; and I'd do it again. But I cannot live without my dryer for more than 24 hours. I just can't.