"I love seeing their things wafting in the breeze," she told the Almanac. "It's your life on the line. ... All of us who do it are connected on some level. I feel connected to all people and my children when I use my clothesline."
With a $5 clothesline and $5 in clothespins, Ms. Breen says, her return on her investment is the feel and fragrance of air-dried fabrics, bleaching without bleach and a fossil-fuel-free experience. And for her, it isn't a seasonal thing. "When you have a rain, that's almost the best thing (for the clothes) — to be sprinkled on."
A working clothesline may be a fading tradition in the United States, but it lives on here and there in the communities served by the Almanac.
"We've always hung our clothesline out in the backyard," says Menlo Park resident Brielle Johnck, adding: "I've had my days when I'd like to move it to the front yard."
One Palo Alto family she knows of does line-dry its clothing out in front, to Ms. Johnck's delight: "I just want to knock on their door and say 'Hallelujah.'"
Atherton resident and clothesline user Margaret Winters says she is emulating her grandmother. "A clothesline is one of the ways to grab a bit of yesterday."
Some see a slum
The clothesline nook in the hardware store is probably one to skip for local residents whose homes are not free-standing. Outdoor clotheslines are not welcome and often are disallowed under homeowners' association rules for townhouse and condo communities.
Charles "Bill" Wallau, 80 years old and a spokesman for the Park Lane community on Willow Road, says they are OK for ground-floor units as long as they aren't visible to neighbors.
Not for the upper floors, though. "It looks like hell," he says, then adds wistfully: "I was brought up with no dryer. You went to bed and the sheets smelled so nice."
Another local condo spokesperson was less conflicted: "It's not the slums!" Asked to elaborate, the person replies: "Because people wouldn't want to have other people's underwear and bras hanging outside!"
Single-family homes do not always mean a clothesline-welcoming community.
In environmentally conscious Portola Valley Ranch, clotheslines are akin to cars on blocks: they have to be out of sight of neighbors, according to article VII of the subdivision's covenants, conditions and restrictions.
And don't try it at all in the mansion territory of the secluded Blue Oaks subdivision in Portola Valley. "No exterior clothesline shall be erected or maintained, and there shall be no outside drying or laundering of clothes," Kathy Morgan reads from the book of regulations at the subdivision manager's office.