A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Drying clothes- ins and outs, thereof

I grew up in industrial towns in India. A step away from villages ,  a few away from the large cities. We lived in large homes with huge backyards chock-a-block with fruit trees and sunny clothes lines. In the absence of driers and in the abundance of hot sunshine, all our clothes were dried in the sun.

Each morning the clothes would be washed, hung out in the sun and in the afternoon they would be brought in, fragrant from the heat, crisp fresh, and oh-so dry. I loved sleeping in the fragrant sheets that had been dried in the sun.

When we moved to the large city of Kolkata, we lived in units and apartments for the first time in our life. Amongst all the adjustments we went through one thing that my mum carried on about was the prevalence of people drying their clothes out on their balconies. She decried the ugliness it imparted to the look of the high rises. She complained long and loud about people drying their clean linen in public. She went on and on about how “common” the world had become, how there was no “elegance” anywhere, anymore. People she talked to did not relate to her grievances. Even today, in Kolkata and Mumbai and other cities of India millions of people dry their clothes out on their tiny city balconies, most still do not have driers and even if they do, cannot really depend on the  power supply being strong and continuous enough to actually be used.

In India,as in the rest of Asia, even today there is no awareness that drying clothes where they can be seen from the street constitutes a social solecism. Most will even laugh at the idea that it is ugly. Ugly? In clean clothes drying out in the sun? Say what? 

When I first came to Australia and started living in units, I was a spitting image of my mother’s sentiments about drying clothes. We had a drier, and as I started using it, I learned how quickly dryers destroys clothes. They shrink, get all flaky, lose shape, and generally become unwearable very quickly. As we lived in apartments for a while I had an ongoing battle with myself, my balcony aesthetics, my need to be environmentally friendly, my need for clothes that hold on to their shape through more than a few washes. I started a life long strategising of how to dry my clothes and where. (There was no communal clothesline in that building.)

In Sydney,  one does not dry clothes on balconies. Well, many people do, but the strata management write you letters asking you to refrain from such practice. People complain if clothes drying on balconies can be seen from the street, or, common areas of strata complexes. At the same time, more and more multi level complexes are being built, with no outdoor clotheslines. One is meant to use a drier.

My love-hate, mostly hate, relationship with driers has continued. Unlike my yesteryears, I no longer see why we cannot dry our clothes on balconies. An eyesore? Perhaps, but how often do we spend time staring at other peoples balconies? I have seen houses with backyards, and hence, clotheslines, which are clearly visible from a road. A house opposite one in which I lived faced a corner, and their backyard was directly in front of my front gate. They dried their clothes in their backyard, which I felt, could be just as much of an eyesore, as far as I am concerned as drying clothes on a balcony. They had no fence, and no trees. So every weekend we would be treated to visions of triumphantly flapping clothes of a family with three growing children. But it was accepted because it was their backyard. So, it seemed to me, that the eyesore factor is not relevant, the location is.

I do not want to use a drier, for the sake of preserving my clothes in better condition. As well as helping keep the Earth in better condition. If the inevitable march of urbanisation means more high rise buildings with no communal clotheslines, (** ) perhaps we need to accept that it makes sense to revamp our notions of acceptability. Perhaps, then, balconies should be designed so that clothes can be dried there.

Am I alone in this rant? What do you feel when you catch sight of clothes drying on a balcony of a high rise?

(**) In Sydney, many modern houses in medium density housing areas have such pocket sized backyards that putting up a clothesline would require great ingenuity. So the problem begins to expand. An agent once told me, “Just use a drier ma’am, let me show you the laundry…”


Comments on: "Mundane matters: moments of house keeping" (12)

  1. The politics of laundry! We moved from one of the wettest regions in the UK to one of the driest places on earth, and I love the fact that I can hang my washing out and it’s dry in a couple of hours. I’ve never owned a drier, not even when my boys were in cloth nappies, and I actually like seeing washing drying on a line. There’s few sights make me smile more than rows of enormous white knickers flapping in the breeze! 😉

    • True. I love the sight of laundry drying on a line. I love the smell of fresh crisp laundry just in from a couple of hours in the hot sunshine…… 🙂

      Thanks for commenting, and staying in touch!

  2. Reblogged this on Thinkings or thoughts? and commented:
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  3. Living in the tropics we need a dryer in the wet season – but other than that, I like line drying.

    I don’t like to see laundry draped over balconies for the world to see and agree with your mother 😉

    • Most people would agree with my mother! I think it is not pretty, but to me, it is more practical to have laundry drying on the balcony rather than in a dryer. Monsoons are a challenge, as would be snow!

  4. Read this cos my mother re-blogged it, and whilst I gotta say I agree with you, what about if you lived in an apartment with NO balcony (as I have done)? Then we dry our clothes inside on a clothes horse. Hell, I do that in the UK too, since if you hang the clothes out, you are simply inviting the rain!!!! Solutions…!

    • I dry clothes on a clothes horse indoors, as well, as my current balcony is so tiny it may be declared non existent. And the funny thing is, with a little bit of thinking, the balcony could have been larger, and the kitchen smaller, and all would have been well. I do believe that in this building, and the balconies put in as an afterthought. The only solution would be if town planning and residential architecture is done by people who know how to bring their life experience to their work. Perhaps an outdoors clothesline with a transparent roof?

    • Thanks to your mother for re blogging !!!! 🙂

      Yes, we do need to find a solution. Aesthetics is a matter of judgement, and when we feel strongly about the environmental impact, we will get used to “unsightly” clothes drying on balconies. Maybe that will be a good thing!

  5. Oooh intersting post. I love the smell of clothes having dried in the air and I don’t really like driers. But I can understand the importance of dryers when its freezing cold or snowing outside as it is now. I use a clothes horse indoors and I’ve love to have a laundry line on my balcony in teh spring and summer but the local government has forbidden this in the region of town where I live. Apparantly it’s insightly when in reality it’s far more environmentally friendly. It just doesn’t make sense to be honest. 😦

  6. I don’t think I’d have a problem with laundry hanging out to dry. Maybe unmentionables, but shirts, pants… I don’t think so. I live in sunny California but I never line dry. I am too impatient but it does smell better is is so much easier on the clothes.

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