We thought we were moving here to simplify our lives. No more (real) work, no more schedules, no more responsibilities. Just carefree days of doing what we want when we want where we want. While that’s largely true, our dream of simplicity is a little complicated.
We have no clothes dryer, so after washing everything goes to the line outside. This is simple, right? Fresh laundry, kissed by the sun and embraced by the breeze. And it dries very quickly under the intense Mediterranean sun. Hanging it out is a practice in zen. Shaking each item out, determining the best position, placing the clothes pins just so – all done to try and minimize wrinkles and maximize sun exposure. No matter how hard you try to hang them as precisely as possible, they still have to be ironed. We’ve even taken to ironing dish towels and sheets because they look so much better and the iron is out anyway. You bond with this laundry in a way that you don’t when you dump them in the washer and throw them in the dryer. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but I do know that at the end of the day snuggling into sheets that have been dried by the fresh air is a wonderful way to start dreaming.
There are no herbie curbies here, so every scrap of trash we generate we have to take to the communal dumpsters. Fortunately, they’re conveniently located in multiple areas so we can take a bag with us when we go on a walk or in the car. The dumpsters are labeled with what you can put in them. We haven’t quite figured that out yet, so we discreetly dump our trash in the one that says something like non differenza, thinking that must mean it doesn’t matter what goes in. I kind of like this practice of disposing of trash as you go. Each time I throw a bag in the dumpster I feel a sense of accomplishment. Like I know my house is fresh and garbage free and there’s one chore checked off my list.
Water is a precious resource here and people treat it with respect. The water here is perfectly fine for drinking (not the case everywhere), but to conserve, we get our drinking water from the stations that are around town. It’s the coolest thing. You buy a prepaid card from the gelato place (don’t ask me why) and for .05 a liter you fill your own bottles. They have a choice of naturale (still) and frizzante (sparkling). We have twelve bottles and we get six of each. Luckily for us there’s a water filling station at the end of our street, right next to the Jesus statue. We walk up the hill to the station, put our card in and fill our bottles. Then carry the whole thing back home. It’s a workout. If we’re going somewhere in the car, we’ll cheat and take them with us to fill on the way home. Still a workout getting the bottles back in the house. They have these little carriers that hold six bottles. So you’re carrying six full glass bottles. It’s heavy. It’s also surprising how much water we go through. We refill those bottles every three days or so.
Again to conserve water, we try not to use the dishwasher. We wash almost every dish by hand. This is not that great a departure for us. In Atlanta we washed almost everything by hand anyway. With just two people, it takes a while to fill up a dishwasher. But the really cool thing is, here they have these draining racks built in above the sink. So you wash and stick your clean dishes up above and close the doors and it’s all done. No dishes draining on the counter or drying required. I’ve gotten really inventive and decided to store my plates up there. Why take up precious cabinet space when there’s a perfectly good place to store them right there?
Ice is pretty much non-existent here. I’m sure ice makers exist, but I imagine that’s considered an extravagance. We make our own ice using ice trays. I fill up gallon zip lock bags and stuff them into the extra freezer upstairs. One of the chores in our house when I was growing up was to “make the ice”. That meant filling everyone’s glass up with ice at meal times then refilling the old metal ice trays. Those are still the best, in my opinion. The fancy silicone ones are nice, but it’s a little tricky getting the cubes out. Those old metal ones had the handy lever on them that released the cubes from the tray. Only problem was if you had wet hands when you were doing it, your skin would stick. Heaven forbid you stick your tongue on it, which every kid did at one time or another. I make the ice here everyday. That stuff is golden and you can’t have too much. Especially when happy hour rolls around and you want a nice chilled Aperol Spritz, Negroni, or Gin and Tonic. Then you’re really happy you go to such pains to have an ice stash.
Living simply doesn’t mean living easy. To me, it means eliminating some of the conveniences that made my life almost robotic. Now when I take the laundry out to hang I brush up against the lavender hedge and smell that divine aroma. I hear the church bells ringing while I’m doing the dishes. I greet friends and neighbors as I’m refilling the water bottles. I’m busy doing the things I have to do to keep the house up and savoring the beauty that surrounds me. The extra work involved in doing these things is not a burden to me. And it makes me wonder if all the modern contrivances designed to give us more time and make things easier have only served to make us less appreciative of what’s around us. At least that’s what I tell myself after a day of living simply.