What Do We Do When Restrictions Keep Us from Good Stewardship?

We want to put up a clothesline to dry our clothes outside in warm weather so we don’t have to waste gas or electricity using a dryer. However, our housing subdivision prohibits clotheslines. What do we do?

Drying clothes outside on a line or a rack is so pleasantly old-fashioned. There’s a lot to be said for it. It’s solar-powered. You get to spend time outdoors. It’s cheap. And you don’t need those wasteful dryer sheets to give your clothes that fresh-laundered smell.

Restrictive covenants banning clotheslines were put in place starting in the 1960s as a way to protect property values, but bans are now being challenged and in many cases have been struck down as part of solar energy initiatives. In some states, guarantees of solar energy use have been interpreted to include the use of solar energy for drying.

If your community has a restrictive covenant, another way to approach the situation is to talk to your neighbors and explain what you would like to do and why, telling them that one day a week you would like to be able to place a clothes rack or line in your back yard for a couple of hours to dry your clothes. The reason you are doing this is to limit your electrical usage or natural gas consumption and to rely on solar energy for clothes drying. If they express any concerns, explain that the drying will not be visible from the front of the house. If you show that you are concerned about aesthetics, most neighbors will be willing to show some flexibility. (And I agree: using a clothes dryer on a sunny, 90-degree summer day feels like a waste of solar energy!)

About the Author

Rolf Bouma is an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church who teaches religion, ethics, and ecology in the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan.

See comments (1)


That’s a good question. There are all kinds of rules and restrictions, whether you live in a condo, in the city, or suburbs.  You can't keep farm animals within the city limits.  Your appeal should be to your neighborhood association (they endorse and enforce the rules) or condo board.  If you don’t receive satisfaction from them, and if this is an important issue for you, consider moving to a neighborhood that allows clothes lines.