Things are slowly falling into place but, as you can well imagine, creating a new "life infrastructure" in a different country has been a massive assignment – and one that we've willingly taken on. After all, to make this kind of move, you want to give yourself the gift of being all in.

The BIG stuff is in place – becoming a legal resident, finding digs, buying a car, securing health insurance (cheap!), shipping our goods (we opted to send only bottom-line essentials from the U.S. – I’ll talk about that at another time).

And now absorbing the countless new ways of "doing things"…. like taking a number and waiting in line patiently. Learning to be comfortable with the 60-degree Atlantic surf, being okay with dogs trotting loose and my favourite – hanging the wash out to dry!

This last one is ubiquitous in Portugal – with give-or-take 300-days of yearly sunshine, often breezy conditions and pricey electricity (but not anywhere close to the cost in the U.S.), it's no wonder most every apartment and other dwellings have a version of a clothesline… or a rack that attaches to the outside of a window. Other European countries do it as well of course but in this respect, Portugal appears to be an overachiever (perhaps because it’s warmer year-round here than most of its European neighbours?).

At any rate, we inherited a clothesline and decided that before we committed to buying and installing a dryer, it made sense for us to first live through a winter here in the south of the country. Could it be that most Portuguese have a preference for line-dried clothes?

Clothesline Nostalgia

When I was a kid, one of my chores was hanging clothes on the clothesline. I loved it! I was out in our backyard alone away from the humdrum of the household. It was peaceful, usually sunshiny with a slight breeze. There was nothing to do but be in total awareness of how I was positioning the clothes, sheets and towels – making sure to maximize exposure of everything so they'd dry optimally.

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I wouldn't have known to say it back then, but as I revisit those memories, I'd call this activity very zen. Zen – a word hailing from Japanese and derived from Sanskrit, zen is loosely translated as "contemplation" or "meditative state". Yeah! That's what it felt like … a calm and easy state of being.

Then I grew up and got a dryer

Once I went to college, clotheslines were left behind as dryers spun into my life. Whether it was dorms, apartments, laundromats, or houses … dryers were the way. It appears that the custom of using dryers dug itself deep into the American zeitgeist. In fact, there are numerous clothesline bans in areas of the U.S. (the states with the most bans include Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Nevada). Altogether about 20 states have some restrictions on clotheslines. Countless homeowners associations (HOAs) have bylaws that prohibit your mentionables and unmentionables from being hung out to dry.

The main argument against clotheslines visible to your neighbours is that they're unsightly – compromising landscaping in neighbourhoods and (gasp!) possibly lowering property values.

I have to say, from my perch in Portugal, the perspective on clotheslines is the polar opposite here… they/we don't have to hide the fact that we use sheets and wear underwear! I like that authenticity. Of course, as you look at the pictures here you can see that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder … and that old, antiquated blemished buildings can (and do!) have a beauty all their own.

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In the end, having experienced a winter and the rains that come with it, we did opt for a dryer so we would have the choice of hanging or tumbling – although my Portuguese housekeeper insists on using the clothesline. Even though it takes more of her time to hang the clothes, she wants them to have that line-dried freshness for us.

Anyway, sharing this with you is a refreshing departure from so much of what's been happening in the U.S. lately, eh?

So did you or do you have clotheslines in your life or have ever given it a second thought? In the U.S. it could be a generation thing. Here in Portugal, it’s a way of living.

Becca Williams is settling into a small town living in Lagos, a seaside town on Portugal’s southern coast. Contact her at


Becca Williams is originally from America but is now settling into small town living in Lagos, a seaside town on Portugal’s southern coast. Contact her at

Becca Williams