As the House of Beautiful Business, we’re naturally biased towards beauty, but we also realize there is no beauty without ugliness. To be authentic is to embrace the ugly along with the beautiful—and revel in the transforming power of both. More on that in November in Lisbon!
But for now, let’s start with a subset or sibling of ugly: dirt. Dirt is highly subjective: What is dirty to one person might seem spiffy clean to another. In fact, an employee of the cleaning products company Kärcher once pointed out that cleanliness is often just a diffusion of dirt.
Dirt is a cultural concept, as the articles in this issue illustrate. From the wisdom of the late Tolulope Ilesanmi, a professional cleaner, to gossip and its surprising value for organizations, the commercial history of menstruation, and some telling data about our cleaning habits (are you one of the 37 percent of people who change their bed sheets once per week?), we’re celebrating dirt in all its literal and metaphoric splendor.
Let’s dig into the dirt!
Your House of Beautiful Business
The Dirty Laundry List
A quirky compilation for romantic readers. How many more socks are you slated to lose in your lifetime? Find out.
Gossip is Good
It turns out there’s an upside to dishing. Prosocial gossip is a good way to educate the people around you—and maybe even save a life.
Monthly female bleeding is as natural as a human physical process gets. But it’s not treated that way. Read more
For Tolulope Ilesanmi, who died of a sudden heart attack last year, cleaning was a spiritual practice. “What is most in need of cleaning in the world is the intangible,” he said. In 2015, House curator Tim Leberecht interviewed him for a video series on business romantics. Watch
The Laundress: Dona Olivia
This straight-up tourist piece showcasing lovely Lisbon has some great footage (at 24:46 minutes in) of the city’s last professional washerwoman. Now almost 90, with a face full of good humor and hands still strong enough to wring a load of towels, Dona Olivia in her beautiful outdoor laundry may awaken a latent desire to plunge your hands into warm, soapy water and experience the satisfaction of coming clean.
The Church: The Magdalene Laundries
The now notorious Magdalene Laundries were part of a network of “charities”run by the Catholic Church in Ireland between 1922 and 1996. The women who worked there—in dangerous conditions, for little or no pay, sometimes held against their will—were doing penance for their purported sins, which often meant wedlock pregnancy or otherwise not conforming to social mores. The girls were typically orphans, or deserted or abused children. The last 220 survivors recently convened in Dublin at a two-day conference sponsored by the Irish government, in a moving testimony to these women’s refusal to be shamed by an institution with a lot of dirty laundry to air.
The Feds: Money Laundering
In the early part of the twentieth century, “laundering money” was not an illicit activity reserved for criminals: The U.S. Treasury had a laundry in the basement of its building where the women of the “redemptive department” cleaned up to $80,000 grimy paper bills a day, saving the government a quarter of a million dollars a year—and pleasing the soft hands of the nation’s bankers. Read more
P.S. We’re delighted to announce the new speakers we just added to the House line-up: Lacey Leone McLaughlin, co-founder and CEO of Flerish, a personal coaching app built on the growth principles of LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman;Verena Bahlsen (photo, right), co-founder of Herrmann’s, a restaurant, food incubator, and film studio that serves as Bahlsen’s (maker of the tasty biscuits!) innovation hub; Shermin Voshmgir (photo, left), founder of BlockchainHub and director of the Research Institute for Crypto Economics at the Vienna University of Economics; and Elad Verbin, founding partner and lead scientist at Berlin Innovation Ventures and a vocal advocate of what he calls a "humanistic token economy."
Nik Macmillan, Norman Rockwell, Mohmmad Metri, Tolulope Ilesanmi,
Blockchain for Science, Herrmann's