Hanging in the Breeze

Recently my friend, Janet Givens, posted a blog about clotheslines—their pros and cons—and that fact that they’ve been banned in various locations.

In Venice, not only is line drying clothes part of their lifestyle, it’s an art!

On a system of pulleys:

Some clotheslines run parallel to buildings (click on photo to enlarge)
While others are strung across the canals, from one building to another (click on photo to enlarge)

You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.” During your growing up years, did you ever receive the caution to keep private things private?

© lauriebuchanan.com

71 thoughts on “Hanging in the Breeze

  1. Good for the Italians! It’s the same in Spain as most people live in flats and there is no other way to get your washing dry. We are supposed to be more and more environmentally friendly, so wind power is the best. I still hang my washing in my garden, weather permitting.
    Nice to have you back, Laurie! ☺

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Yeah – and mostly I ignore it.

    So much misinformation results from hiding stuff – it is such a drag on development generally.

    To me, it makes more sense to be as open as possible, it helps both others and me, in the long term.
    Hence all my medical records online in the matter of my cancer journey – let others make of them as they will.

    • Ted — I absolutely agree that “so much misinformation results from hiding stuff.” Also, I so appreciate that your cancer journey is online so that others may benefit from it! 🙂

  3. Great clothesline captures in Venice Laurie! Growing up, we hung our laundry out summer and winter. In the summer, we watched the sky for unexpected thundershowers that could send us all running for the clotheslines to bring in the laundry, shaking them vigourously to dislodge any bumblebees. In the winter, the bounty was brought in frozen with strict instructions not to bend the upright stiff fabric as it would break. Clothing was hung in artful order regardless of the season. However, secrets and privacy were not part of washing metaphors. Privacy only came into play once the garments were folded and left neatly stacked at the end of your bed where they were then put into your drawers by you – because your dresser drawers were private. In fact, they were the only real private place to keep anything at all in our farm house that had curtains for inside doors, mostly left open, except to change, so that the wood heat could circulate.

  4. Beautiful photos! I loved Venice, although I was only there for a brief time several years ago.

    Of course, I know the adage, but I don’t think anyone has ever said it to me.
    My first book, Breaking the Bonds, was largely based on people’s “dirty laundry” (their troubled marriages) being aired. 🙂

  5. Oh, yes. My parents trusted no one and wouldn’t even loan the neighbors a hammer if they needed one in fear that they’d never see this important tool again. Asking for help was considered being weak.

    Me? Though I still have trouble asking for help sometimes, I find “honesty is the best policy.” And I LOVE clotheslines. They are honest down to a thread.

  6. I am European … I like to air my clean laundry in public! When I visit my Mum it’s heavenly to feel and smell towels that have been blown on the line.

  7. Amish and Mennonite observed a certain order on the clothes line too, underclothing hidden behind larger items – and hung early in the morning. Mother liked to get her clothes on the line before neighbors, a sign, I believe, that she was “on the ball.”

    “What will people think?” floated through the breezes of my childhood. Families kept secrets, feared others’ reproach.

  8. Oh how I loved, loved, loved Venice. It felt so magical. I can’t remember being urged to keep things quiet outside the family, but do remember feeling shame if I vented my “dirty laundry” or emotional thoughts to the family. Emotions were not accepted without some shaming, at least at times.

  9. Growing up in Northern Illinois at a time when it still had open fields and prairies, my mother hung clothes on a clothesline with a pulley system. The clothesline stretched from the back of the house to a tree at the rear of the yard. I remember especially lines of cloth diapers flapping in the wind and drying in the sun.
    Yes, on both the Polish and German sides of the family, any difficult or negative aspects of family history were kept private. As one of my family’s genealogy researchers, I have uncovered several sad episodes that were never revealed to me. In fact, in the last year of my mother’s life, one of my sisters shared an unknown and painful experience my mother went through as a young woman. While in my own family of origin, we were quite aware of what was acceptable to share and what should be kept within the family. I wonder how far back in our ancestral lineage this practice went.

    • Audrey — I can easily picture “lines of cloth diapers flapping in the wind and drying in the sun.”

      I can also identify with wondering how far back our ancestral lineage painful things were kept secret.

  10. When I was growing up in Toronto, Mom hung out the actual laundry – sometimes even in winter before she got a clothes dryer. The stiff frozen clothes were a bit awkward to bring in. But in the spring and summer I used to help Mom hang out the laundry.
    When I lived in Aurora, Ontario, it was illegal to hang out your clothes laundry. But I did anyway on a small scale. You couldn’t see the backyard from the street as the garage was in the way and I had the line strung across the patio between the back garage wall and the house wall, so it wasn’t visible from some of the neighbours either. I believe one of the Aurora mayors got that law rescinded a few years after I moved back to Toronto. Now I hang out a good portion of my laundry in the backyard from spring to fall – but not in the winter. The clothes line runs from pole to pole the length of my backyard. But my friend in Petit Codiac, New Brunswick has her clothesline going out the window from her house’s laundry room.

  11. We were just in Cuba, and there, like every warm country I’ve ever visited, people hang out their clothes. Today, in America, it seems to be a symbol of poverty, which is sad. My mother-in-law was hanging out her clothes in nice weather (this is Chicago, after all) well into her late eighties! We did at on the West Side of Chgo — as did all our neighbors.

    Remember the TV ads–“What will your neighbors say when they see your dingy wash on the line….” or some such! We also watched the sky for weather, and sometimes dragged the clothes off for some spatters, then put back on when sun came out, then–Whoops! rain again. Ugh. That was not fun.

    Dad made a special pole with a notch in it so we could lift the line up high off the ground as it got heavier and heavier with more clothes. When my 30 year-old son was in preschool — kids THEN didn’t know what a clothes pin was! I love the smell and feel of sheets hung outside. So crisp & fresh!

  12. Stunning pictures!! You know living on the farm we rely on our clothesline especially for bedding, rugs, and the boys hockey equipment! I never heard of them being banned anywhere. That is sad!
    I remember my grandmother saying…”keep your voice down, the neighbors don’t need to know our business” once while speaking with my grandfather in the backyard of their house regarding their garden. Other than that, I can’t recall ever being spoken to about privacy. Great post! Tina

  13. I’m not sure if I’d call what I did art, but my freshly washed laundry is now hanging in the sun.

    Hmm, have I ever heard about keep private things private–and how. My mom tried to hammer that lesson into my skull. Unfortunately for her, she was raising a fiction author who draws inspiration from her life.

    • Leanne — I just betcha there’s loads (pun use of laundry term) of ways to incorporate line-drying laundry in writing!

      (A few decades later, I think my mom must have shared her hammer with your mom)…

  14. I agree they can be very artful. I guess there’s information that can be useful to other people (like medical records) and other that should be up to the individual and those closest… I like to hang clothes out but in England with the weather it’s a bit complicated…:)

  15. Love the photos, Laurie. They remind me a bit of the photos taken in New York City in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And of the huge lines next to Amish homesteads, often on pulleys.

    Yes, I think I was taught to keep private things private. But I wrote a memoir anyway. People can handle more truth than we think they can. Especially when it doesn’t claim to the the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    • Shirley — I love that you wrote a memoir anyway (Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World). And I concur — “People can handle more truth than we think they can.” 🙂

  16. great pictures! We have always used a clothesline, there is not one in the new house YET…so we are using drying racks in the hall and kitchen. We moved into the new kitchen last night – one drawer pull short – otherwise complete and are now working on a new clothesline in the garden.
    Welcome home and what a great comeback!

    • Patricia — I just read your review of “The Passage: A Novel” by Michael Hurley. Fantastic!

      I’m so happy to hear that you’re moved into your new kitchen – Woohoo! — life is good! 🙂

      • The Passage is very good and today’s review THE EAGLE TREE is quite amazing and it is about my hometown. 2 in a row

        Kitchen is great! Life is very Good. Roof to go

  17. Laurie, I grew up, like so many, with laundry hanging on the line to be gathered and folded, put neatly away. Then came the electric dryer and what a boon to the busy house wife, dry clothes anytime night and day. I, as an adult have used both methods and find them equally useful for one reason or another. One thing I’ve never, ever done, was to hang my Dirty Laundry in public. Literally or figuratively, neither one makes good sense to me.

  18. I have seen that in Venice and Sorrento perhaps it’s an Italian thing . I have also seen a pulley system for groceries and even the odd dog or cat 😿 …amazing.
    I think since I have become a ‘lady of a certain age ‘seeing washing blowing in the wind is thereputic and I agree with you the smell of fresh linen is hypnotic .
    I don’t really mind about my dirty laundry being aired tell the world I say, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone .

  19. I love clotheslines Laurie, until my clothes props fail or a squirrel chews through the line. 🙂 Since I’m in my late fifties, I remember when life was much more private. Now, with social media, so much is out there. To be honest, I once enjoyed Facebook very much, until my son started going through a very bad separation and divorce, and then I saw the way that social media becomes a weapon. I’m off Facebook now and hope I never return, even when I am lured by others who tell me what amazing photographs I’m missing. I lived without seeing constant photos for decades, I think I will survive being off of Facebook now…but I do like blogging, and have been very committed to never using it in a negative way. I appreciate the good thoughts I find on your blog.

    • Timelesslady — I resonate strongly with what you shared here. I’m on Facebook because as an writer, it (and other social media venues) are part of one’s “author platform.”

  20. Succinct and interesting post, Laurie.

    Because I’m in an apartment, I often hang the shrinkable clothes indoors on light fixtures and chairs. I’m hiding the secrets openly in my home, but I don’t invite many into the house.

    There’s probably something symbolic in there.

    Hanging clothes outdoors, for me, has always been natural and logical. Why use electricity when you don’t need to? Plus, that smell of clean clothes wafts through the air like Frebreeze+.

    On a side note, I’m off to Greece then Italy on June 21. I’ll be swinging by Venice (which is not enough time . .. but such is the nature of leading traveling tours.)

    I hope I see clothes hanging from lines, secrets slapping openly.

  21. Reminds me of my time in Russia in ’94. They hung their dirty laundry off their balconies to air out as they did not have washing machines. I guess catharsis comes in many forms both physically and figuratively. In either form, it is unpleasant to encounter. I must side with Sandi on this. No matter what it takes, only clean laundry should be aired in public.

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