Off Beat Stories

Nov 20, 2009 4:59 PM by Doug Shimell

Neighbors threaten woman over her use of a clothesline

Residents and town officials in Perkasie, Pennsylvania don't want to see Carin Froelich's unmentionables, but she is determined to show them.

"It's your freedom, it's your right," Froelich said.

Though it's not illegal, more and more people across the country are being bullied and criticized by local government officials, house associations, and neighbors for drying their laundry the old-fashioned way: On a clothesline.

Froelich is one of the socially persecuted air-dryers.

A Perkasie town official asked the 54-year-old to stop putting her laundry outside on a clothesline to dry.

Neighbors left her anonymous notes saying they did not want to see her underwear "flapping about."

"They felt that it looked like trailer trash," said Froelich, who lives in a neat suburban neighborhood. "They said they didn't want to look at my 'unmentionables.'"

Froelich wasn't even hanging her undies outside.

She hung underwear inside her home instead so that they could dry by her wood stove.

Froelich says one of the notes even told her to move because of the hanging laundry in her backyard.

Perkasie's mayor John Hollenbach says that won't be necessary.

"We have no ordinance against hanging laundry outside," said Hollenbach who admits that his wife hangs their laundry outside. "We like how it smells. It's nice, clean and fresh."

Maine, Vermont, Utah, Colorado, Florida and Hawaii have taken such laundry snobs to task by passing laws forbidding clothesline discrimination.

But sun-dryers in the other 44 states must beware.

About 60 million Americans live in places where housing associations crack down on the outdoor laundry practices.

Kevin Firth, a 27-year-old carpenter from Dublin, Pennsylvania, said he was fined $100 by his condo association for putting up a clothesline in a common area.

"It made me angry and upset," said Firth. "I like having the laundry drying in the sun. It's something I have always done since I was a little kid."

In response to such incidents, a group called Project Laundry List is representing people across the country like Firth and Froelich.

It argues that people save money and reduce carbon emissions by not using electric of gas dryers.

"You save money, you save energy, so you're saving the planet at the same time," Froelich said.

Using clotheslines could significantly reduce U.S. energy consumption, argues Project Laundry List's Executive Director, Alexander Lee.

Dryer use accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. residential electricity use, she said.

Froelich plans on taking her laundry fight to the youth of America.

She just finished penning a book about the fight and will try and recruit eco-minded kids and teens to join the crusade.

"They do a great job recycling, now it's time to get into laundry," she said.

 

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