Clotheslines: Hanging Logic Out To Dry
If you haven’t heard of Senate Bill 2178, don’t feel bad. The session has just begun. But when I heard about it, I scratched my head – not because I disagree with it, but because I can’t believe such a bill actually is necessary.
So what does the measure do? It permits the installation of clotheslines in any residential dwelling or townhouse.
That’s it. For those interested in conserving energy, it’s a no-brainer, right? Clothes dryers gobble up energy like a starving dog attacks a steak. According to HECO.com, a family of four can save $32 a month simply by hanging their laundry on a clothesline instead of using the dryer eight times a week.
How did we as a society get to the point where hanging laundry became a community taboo?
So it would seem quite sensible to allow people the option of using nature’s clothes dryer rather than the plug-in kind.
But nothing is ever that simple. The bill offers an “out” for “reasonable restrictions” on placement and use of clotheslines. Those restrictions deemed reasonable are defined as “any restriction that is necessary to protect public health and safety, buildings from damage, historic or aesthetic values, and shorelines under certain circumstances.”
What about those “aesthetic values”? Whose aesthetic values are we talking about? The property manager? The community or condo association? Your neighbor across the street? This loophole is so large you could drive a truck through it.
I got to thinking: How did we as a society get to the point where hanging laundry became a community taboo? Where I live, the rule is you can put up a clothesline only if it’s screened from view and not visible from neigh- boring properties or from the streets. I’m assuming this is to shelter neighbors and passersby from views of aesthetically unpleasing underwear or too-bright-for-good-taste sheets.
When we were kids, almost every family I knew had a clothesline in their yard or on their lanai, and not for environmental reasons. It was what families did if they couldn’t afford a dryer or chose not to “waste money” on such a frivolous contraption when the sun and trade winds would do the job for free.
I admit I hated the job. It was a drag to trudge to the back yard with a plastic hamper heavy with sodden clothes, towels and sheets. The routine was mind-numbingly tedious: Bend down, grab a piece of laundry, shake it out, pin to line. Repeat.
Then I’d leave all that stuff on the line, conveniently for getting about it until someone (usually Mom) nagged me to go get it. By then everything was stiff from baking in the tropical sun. What a chore. What a bore. And I was a lazy brat who’d do anything to avoid it.
So I think my mom would find it hilarious that I’m actually writing a pro-clothesline column. Hey, Mom, quit laughing, it’s better for the environment!
I think what actually bothers me most is that somehow along the way many of us have become insufferable snobs. Having a dryer became the norm. Hanging your clothes on a line now is seen by a lot of folks as “no class,” a sign you’re too poor to afford one of the basics of modern life.
I’m not saying I agree or disagree with the bill. I’m just saying if it advances, give it some teeth. Otherwise it’s status quo.
Maybe it’s time to turn the tables, to go back to basics. Maybe we can come up with new standards of aesthetic values. After all, what’s more beautiful than the sight of people caring for their environment?