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New Hampshire used to have an active “Right to dry” community that wanted the legislature to say that yes, people can dry their clothes on outdoor lines in their back yard. That’s necessary because many homeowners associations regard clotheslines as something that shouts “I am poor” and might affect property values, the ultimate sin in modern America. They forbid them, forcing people to use power-hungry drying machines, which seems kind of dumb as the world tries to become more energy efficient.

At least one bill was submitted in NH to outlaw bans on clotheslines but it died in committee, presumably because most of the legislature is made up of old men who have never done laundry in their lives and because homeowner associations have lobbyists while fans of sun-dried sheets do not. As always, people who shout “live free or die!” at the drop of a motorcycle helmet are comfortable when rights that they don’t like are restricted.

After that the most vocal supporter of the movement left the state and it withered away.

But it hasn’t died everywhere, it seems. The American Bar Association journal has a story in their “property law” section (here it is) that 19 states have right-to-dry laws. That list includes all our more liberal neighbors but it’s not strictly political: some very right-wing states like Arizona and Louisiana have them. It’s kind of embarrassing that supposedly freedom-loving New Hampshire lacks it even though we do have a law saying homeowners associations can’t prevent you from flying an American flag.

Realistically, this is an issue that will have almost no effect on energy usage. Drying clothes on a line is a real pain and most people won’t do it even if given the chance. But it’s the principle that counts, right?

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