Originally Published Here: Laundry Lines and Italian Life | Gilman Global Experience Blog
April Pre-departure Meeting Before Leaving for Italy
Dr. Jackson: “You will not have a dryer in your Italian apartment. You will have a washing machine and a clothesline or drying racks. Please be prepared to line dry your clothes. This takes longer than your electric dryer so pack accordingly.”
Me: “What. The. Heck. No thank you, I need my dryer. Sun dried clothes are scratchy and stinky. I remember farm life! Why would they not have dryers? It’s 2017!”
Six Days Later in Florence
My second load of laundry is presently hanging on the terrace clothing lines. The windows and doors are all opened and I can feel the gentle evening breeze that is cooling the apartment and drying my clothes at the same time. I’m sitting on the terrace listening to the birds chirp and watching the little old lady three doors down hang her bedding out. She waves with a smile. I return the gesture and think to myself, “This is nice.”
Adapt to Thrive
I decided before arriving here that I would fully accept Italy as-is. If that meant line drying my clothing, I would line dry my clothing. If the locals do it – then I can do it, too. To impose my American way of living into this experience would shortchange the learning experience. What would I tell my children? I’d say, “Buck up and get the clothes pins!” I’m only here for a short time and a few weeks of line dried clothing won’t kill me.
A Slower Lifestyle
Florence is a busy place with thousands of people trying to navigate some of the most narrow streets and sidewalks I’ve ever seen. Yet, even still, in the hustle and bustle of modern Florence life, neighbors wave at each other while they are both hanging wet laundry out to dry on the terrace. The Italians seem to have preserved slow living which can allow for self care.
This slower lifestyle can be observed in other normalcies of the Italian day-to-day. Shops take three hour breaks between lunch and dinner to rest, recover, and reset for the evening crowd. The general public are not auto-dependent; instead, they chose to walk or utilize a bike/scooter/vespa. Whole families can be observed moving about the city without a personal automobile.
Yesterday I walked through a piazza and watched children kick a ball around, teens playing chess, college students at the shuffleboard, adults playing cards, and elderly chuckling about who knows what – probably the American woman walking in circles around the piazza looking as lost as she was. The collective observation: no one was in a hurry to go anywhere. They were simply enjoying the slowness of the early evening hours. Another word popped to mind: community. Another realization of what we’re missing in America.
Embrace the Chaos, Protect the Serene
The hustle of a Florence day does exist, but the Italians seem to have done a great job accepting the chaos of current life while protecting the serenity of a slower lifestyle and the duty for self care. I see the two as one in the same. A symbiotic relationship. I’m looking forward to watching my entire worldview shift a bit – maybe a lot. I believe in “going with the flow” (embracing the chaos of life) but I’ve neglected the duty to “protect the serene.”
Grab the Clothespins!
Turns out I really enjoy hanging the laundry out to dry. It forces me to slow down to take care of myself via my laundry. Slow living and self-care is something many Americans sacrifice – self included. We are all so busy busy busy in America, we don’t even have time to smile at our next door neighbor while we hang our laundry out to dry. It is in these small moments, these seemingly inconsequential interactions, where I find the most to reflect on and consider regarding Italian life and how different it can be from American culture.
Since returning home, I have installed a few laundry lines and we have all taken to enjoying hanging the laundry out together. I am actively looking for more ways to slow down our daily grind and carving out moments like this so we can spend more time together as a family. Even if it is just the time we spend talking while we switch out the laundry.