Hanging me out to dry … and liking it
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Hanging me out to dry … and liking it

Growing up in America, I always associated clothes-hanging with somehow being lower class.

Not only did I never live in a household that hung clothes, but I never lived in a neighborhood in which I saw clothes hanging on a line. When we moved to Israel, we moved into a house that had a clothesline, all of our neighbors hung their clothes out to dry, and so I figured that clothes-hanging was part of my patriotic duty.

Israeli culture encourages clothes-hanging. Clothespins are sold in every grocery store throughout the year. When we first made aliyah, I thought that if we own a dryer, it doesn’t make sense to hang up clothes during the rainy season. When I saw someone buying clothespins during the winter, therefore, I was surprised. But then I realized that if you listen to the weather reports and get those clothes out there early and then keep transferring them to run after the sun you can (go crazy and) dry your clothes outside even during the winter. (Indeed, there are middle-class Israelis who do not own a dryer.)

Of course it has happened that the weather guys have been wrong and my clothes were soaked by a sudden rainfall, but I try not to think about those times.

There are different kinds of clotheslines. We own lines that are affixed to stationery brackets in our yard. My neighbor uses a pulley system from the second floor of her home. Portable plastic clothes racks are popular for people who rent, and have no permanent lines. With the portable racks you can easily follow the sun, and if rain suddenly threatens, you just move the whole thing indoors.

The lifespan of a clothespin is alarmingly short. Good, old-fashioned, long-lasting wooden pins are hard to come by. Colorful cheap plastic ones are pleasing to the eye, but they must be replaced frequently. I always forget that there is a strict corollary between the price of the clothespins and their sturdiness, and so I usually succumb to the tantalizing sales at the shuk.

I figure: how bad can they be? The answer: very bad.

The right way to hang clothes is to stretch the garment out and put pins at its edges. In an effort to protest against forced labor, my children sometimes will just cram their clothes onto the line all bunched up. Yet during the long summer months even this sloppy way works, because the sun essentially bakes the clothes dry within an hour or two.

Recently, perhaps because of the dismal clothespin situation, I made a startling discovery: For most clothing, I do not need pins. Unless the day is particularly windy, all I need to do is drape the item over the line and that’s it: I’ve saved both on pinning (and unpinning) time as well as on my expenditures for those seductive but minimal-use clothespins.

Okay, I’ll admit it: There is the sticky problem of lint. When you use a clothes dryer, the lint magically flies off the clothes into the lint holder. When you dry your clothes on the line, the gosh-darned lint sometimes refuses to fall off the clothes. You would think that my children would understand that they have perfectly clean clothes, and if there is a little lint all they have to do is brush it off.

Nothing doing.

The shrieks of agony that come from my children when they see some lint on their clothes could tear your heart out. Sarah is called upon to do emergency lint-removal, all the while muttering under her breath: “This is it. Next time it’s the dryer.” In fact, I will often grant heavily linted items a few precious minutes of dryer time before hanging them up.

See, I can be reasonable.

The truth of the matter is that I actually like to hang clothes. I enjoy the fresh air, I get to accomplish a household chore, and I feel like I’ve done my small part for the environment. In keeping with my inclination toward full disclosure, however, I should add what my children tell me about this subject: “Face it Dad, you’re cheap.”

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