The versatility of the humble clothespin

I’ve always wondered what it was like to have my clothes clipped to a line outdoors in the sun and the breeze, to bring ’em in when the clouds threaten, and to experience the real  springtime-fresh scent that laundry and fabric softener manufacturers add in a chemical-laden attempt to connect consumers with nature and simple living.

The only clothespins I recall from my childhood were in my father’s darkroom, and they were used to hang freshly processed rolls of film for drying. We used drying racks and hangers for clothes that shouldn’t be tossed in the drier. As I’ve yet to live in a home where a clothes line would be permissible, the indoor hanging method has continued and expanded. Very little lands in the drier as laundry days fill the racks, rungs, and spare hangers with all variety of garments that have the luxury of time on their side to literally hang out to dry.

So here I sit wracking my brain as I try to remember when and why a package of classic wooden pins with metal springs was purchased in the first place. It sat untouched beneath the kitchen sink for a year or two before I finally cracked it open and placed a handful in the “junk” drawer. Having gotten tired of wrestling with metal binder clips for securing open bags of cereal and chips, these wooden options created a new sense of ease. They are the most versatile and the most frequently used clips in the house.

wooden clothespinwooden clothespin

A clothespin hangs on the sink-side dish rack waiting for the reusable cloth coffee filter to be rinsed and hung to dry. Meanwhile, another clip secures a bag of loose tea.


reusable bags hang outside to dry

The few plastic bags that enter the house arrive via the biweekly veggie box. (Oh, how I wish we could eliminate this plastic intake once and for all!) These bags are routinely washed when emptied, reused, and washed again and again, along with their reusable cloth counterparts and their occasional Ziplock counterparts. (The latter are used for travel and bulky bulk purchases.) On foggy wet days, they hang to dry from the ledge above the sink, but when the sun is shining, they get clothespinned to a length of bamboo amidst the backdoor garden.

liberated spaces business cards with clothespin

Wooden clothespins are also great in the office for holding small pieces of paper or cards. When I return from a networking event, I put the business cards I acquired in one clip so they’re all together when it’s time for follow-ups and entering them into my database. In this instance (above), a little shameless self-promotion to show you how nicely the clothespin works!

Have you got other ideas for unconventional uses for the common around the house? I’d love to hear about them!

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  1. Avatar
    Sven Reply

    Growing up in Europe there’s definitely a different relationship to air-drying your laundry. I had to come to the U.S. to be introduced to the idea that laundry hanging out to dry could actually be considered a nuisance. It’s so weird that people would be turned off by the sight of their neighbors’ laundry but have no problem throwing toxic dryer sheets on their clothes. Not to mention all the energy it takes to run a dryer. Then again, I see more and more dryers in European households now, so the appeal to convenience is universal. However, aesthetically speaking, there’s nothing more beautiful than some small village somewhere in Italy with clotheslines between houses.

  2. deb
    deb Reply

    Sven, I hear you about the beauty of laundry hanging out to dry. I do find it strange to see what society considers to be private and not-so-private things to share. The intimacy of many peoples’ lives are all over their facebook pages, yet their T-shirts, undies, socks, and jeans are something to be hidden from neighbors’ view?

    I started off wanting this to be a post about laundry, but since I can’t hang mine outside, you can see how and where I digressed : )

  3. Avatar
    boomers1earth Reply

    There is truly nothing like it – air dried linens and clothes. You’re so right, the fragrance cannot be duplicated, no matter how much the chemical alternatives try. Thank you for the photos and suggestions for clothespin use. Our grandson (20 months) finds them to be a fascinating toy. You have a terrific blog, by the way.

    • deb
      deb Reply

      And thank you, too, for stopping by and leaving a note! I’m intrigued by your blog and look forward to gaining inspiration and following your journey.

  4. Avatar
    Tom Hlavacek Reply

    Just a couple thoughts. I lived in Italy and laundry hanging outside or even over a street is simply part of the landscape. If you were blindholded and your captors took off the blindholds, and you saw laundry hanging from the balconies and over the walkways…well, you must be in Italy.

    I was recently in the midwest, and the people I stayed with never open up a window. So it is climate controlled all year round with no natural air flow. You don’t know what you don’t know.

    Energy costs. Europeans pay a higher cost in kilowatt hours used than we Americans. So it is another place to save $$.

    Good job Deb.

    Tom Hlavacek, Opfenbach, Germany

  5. deb
    deb Reply

    Tom, energy savings is always a good motivator. Energy is comparatively inexpensive here in the states, so people don’t think twice about the extra fluff cycle on their driers. When cost is involved, resourcefulness and creativity set in. And when people are outdoors more often, I’m sure they talk with their neighbors with more regularity, too!

  6. Avatar
    Nancy Reply

    I created a clothesline between supports of open shelves in my barn/potting shed. Clothes pins hold up the gardening gloves to dry after digging in the soil. Plus they are easy to access. Another uncommon use for a common item is using cake baking pans to store spices and other small items on a lazy susan shelf. This way they are contained and easy to find. I put larger jars in the spaces created by these figure 8s. Sadly, I will never be my mother and bake homemade 3 layer cakes. If the inspiration hits, I know where to find the pans!

    • deb
      deb Reply

      Nancy, I love your use of round cake pans for storing spices and the thought that it’s triggered! In my mind’s eye, to maximize the vertical space, I envision the use of two baking pans – with contents grouped by “type” of spices and herbs – that can stack on each other. This is especially doable if at least three jars of the same tall height serve as supports from the pan below.

  7. Avatar
    Rebekah Brown Reply

    The hills hoist is an Australian icon, and even through wet winters we get by without a dryer. We have a wood heater at the moment though- heaven for finishing things off.Our power is relatively expensive although we have a lot of Hydro where we live – the irony. The hoist has short lines in the middle for hiding dedicates and large lines for sheets on the outside, then you hoist it up by the handle to catch the sun and breeze – the pegs help keep everything in your own backyard when it really blows! We have a cup of pegs in the top drawer for all sorts of similar jobs to yours, Deb – plus holding bike tyre patches and on plastic packs of frozen peas (we have RedCycle here which takes this kind of thin plastic back in Supermarket bins to reuse for school furniture – imperfect but a start) Love the blog, and San Fran!

    • deb
      deb Reply

      Thank you for writing, Rebekah!Funny you should appear during my first visit to Australia, though it’s mighty cold here in Melbourne at the moment. I truly wish we had a hoist or clothes line at our home in SF, but our situation doesn’t allow for that to happen. Instead, we have some wonderful wooden drying racks that take over our spare room on laundry day. Oh, to have sun-kissed sheets! One of these days!

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