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In Praise of Airing Your Laundry, in Portugal and in Life

Word on the street is that an increasing number of cities are banning the practice of air-drying laundry outside houses.

“It looks like something country peasants would do,” city governors have sneered. “We are a developed, modern metropolis. Our people’s laundry should be dried by machines, not by the breeze. And it should certainly NOT be seen.”

Lines of laundry are beautiful!
Lines of laundry are beautiful!

But with such a law, legislators are erasing rainbows from the streets! Really, few things give so much joy as the vision of a red dress, blue jeans, and yellow underwear fluttering tranquilly outside of a third story window of cobblestone alley.

And Lisbon, Portugal is full of such glory. Walk along it’s streets through these photos and gaze! What do you see in those hanging clothes? Do you see the explosion of color and graceful movement? Do you see the injection of poignant humanity into the otherwise stony cityscape? Do you feel a thrill as you peek inside the lives and intimate drawers of the city’s inhabitants? How can such a lovely gesture be banned?

Letting it all hang out in Portugal.
Letting it all hang out in Portugal.

Now of course, this issue of drying clothes has likely already reminded you of the phrase, “Don’t air your dirty laundry.” And with this saying we move from the question of literal laundry to figurative laundry. Deep dark secrets. Personal stuff. The truth.

This kind of emotional laundry is particularly relevant in the halls of these foreign hostels. Here, you meet stranger after stranger and need to decide: “How much will I reveal about myself? How much do I want to see of this new person’s darkness or light?”

Laundry drying in Portugal.
Laundry drying in Portugal.

Lately I’ve found myself hiding my figurative laundry upon meeting folks… hesitant, for a flurry of reasons, to talk about all the crazy things I’ve seen in eight months traveling around the world, even as I proclaim them across these blog pages. Like a lot of people, I get shy and worried that people won’t care or may not try to understand.

But maybe we all need to take a lesson from the families of Lisbon whose trousers and shirts and bras we strode by today: There is a bravery inherent in displaying your laundry, and there’s also a necessity in it! You can’t hide your socks or your experiences inside forever, or they’ll get moldy and you’ll become both smelly and bitter.

So let’s raise that fluttering laundry high and have the courage to air it and share it with the world! Off to a communal hostel dinner to try to put this in practice. You try it, too!


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Amy H.

Saturday 16th of June 2012

My grandma always air-dry the clothes outside. I was like, "OH NO, you're doing it in the dryer."


Thursday 22nd of March 2012

I can actually relate to this article. In Dominican Republic they sometimes air dry laundry as well. (:


Monday 19th of July 2010

How can such a lovely gesture be banned?

To take a quote from the movie "Euro Trip," because "America was founded by a bunch of prudes." Just kidding.

About a week before this, I was at another tournament in China. When I took the train between Shanghai and Nanjing, many of the high rise apartment buildings I saw had laundry hanging on clotheslines and off balconies.

Dryers may be more convenient, but clotheslines reduce your electric bill, especially with the dry heat we have in my neck of the woods (110-115 degrees with less than 10% humidity).


Sunday 4th of July 2010

Wave that laundry proudly I say....dirty and clean!

Imported Blogger Comments

Thursday 27th of May 2010

iNdi@ said... i'm all for drying stuff on the breeze fluttering laundry is not only pretty but a social document!

April 5, 2010 12:15 AM

Adam said... Great idea! Count me in.

April 5, 2010 1:51 AM

David said... Speaking of which, I've never seen in Any G-strings or thongs being air dried. Just a thought. They're not getting well represented on the hangers!!

April 5, 2010 9:40 PM

Louisa said... Not only is air-drying laundry colorful, it's also much more eco-friendly. Why waste all that electricity on a dryer when you have free, abundant sunshine, and a clothesline?

April 8, 2010 4:57 AM

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