Monday, September 29, 2014

Fluff and Fold Justification

The fluff and fold's very neat work on my fitted sheets.
"Fluff and fold. The only way to live. I drop it off. I pick it up. It's a delight."

I hire people for very, very little of life's tasks, but there's one thing my wife introduced me to years ago that I cannot give up. Won't give up. "Fluff and Fold," aka, the neighborhood laundromat that will pick up your dirty laundry and drop it off clean and neatly folded later that day. It is something I consider to be a great monetary choice if one does not have a washer in her own apartment. Not only is it far less likely a load will be ruined by a prior user's overzealous use of bleach, but the hours it saves is absolutely worth the cost. It took me a long time to arrive at this conclusion, but I now know it is the best choice.

When I first moved to New York City, each visit home to New England would require a very large suitcase. In the suitcase was a dirty laundry bag stuffed to the breaking point so that I could wash as much as possible for free at my mother's house. I thought this was a very good use of money and time until one trip when my mother's dryer started acting up and I was forced to dry my laundry at the nearest laundromat, which was still in the next town over. When my father picked me up, he asked me if the trouble I was taking was really worth the money saved. "Yes, of course!" I replied in surprise, "isn't that why people bring laundry to their parents' house?"

Not one to accept a commonly held belief without proper vetting, my father pushed further, asking me for a cost breakdown of how much time and money it costs to wash laundry in the city if one does not have a washer in her building. I told him the number of quarters for each load, the number of loads I usually did, the cost I thought the soap broke down to and the usual number of quarters required for the dryers. Adding everything up, he pointed out I wasn't saving that much money -- certainly less than $10. I complained that I hating lugging the detergent and the huge loads to the laundromat, and he reminded me that even if my suitcase had wheels, I was still lugging it somewhere. I protested that I didn't want to waste hours at the laundromat babysitting my clothing, and he pointed out that I was still wasting time that could have been better spent with my family while I was home. Now, my father is the epitome of frugal yankee, so when he pointed out that there was more to consider than just the cost of the laundry, I had to listen.

A year later I was quite used to my laundromat routine. I had jobs to search for, or a book to read, or music to learn, and I changed my mindset from considering the time as wasted hours to considering it to be an easy time to focus on a chosen task without the interruptions possible in my apartment. I found a 24 hour place nearby that worked well with my irregular schedule and figured out the best times to go. I mastered the dryers to use as few quarters as possible while still getting things dry. I changed loads faster than I had imagined possible. I felt smart about not sending my laundry out to be cleaned and folded, or dragging it out of the city to my mother's house. I never quite learned to enjoy it, but I made peace with the task.

A while later I moved in with my wife during our engagement. Before I moved in she had only visited the laundromat to pick up her fluff and fold laundry, and she tried to convince me to stop doing mine on my own. I tried to convince her it wasn't so bad and it saved money. But the laundromat experience in her neighborhood was a bit different. The only one nearby was cramped and always busy. It wasn't open 24 hours a day, and when it was open, I had trouble focusing on my own tasks because some kind of drama was always playing out either by the washers or on the sidewalk. My schedule was still irregular and I hated spending time away from the tasks that needed my attention at home or spending time away from my wife when we had little time together. When an entire load of my clothing was ruined by someone else's misuse of bleach, I finally gave in and started using the fluff and fold.

It isn't the cheapest option for getting things clean, but it certainly is the easiest. As opposed to spending about $10 on laundry if I did it myself, doing my laundry by simply handing over a bag costs around $30 for the same amount of laundry. Add that up for the year and it's an expense one might argue that we should cut back on. However, unlike when I used to babysit my laundry, I am now far more busy. I work many more hours and I volunteer for a good deal of the time I'm not working. With these changes, I can fully justify my time being worth $20 for the two hours I could spend on this task. Also, it's still less expensive to do laundry this easy way than to pay more for an apartment with a washer and dryer in the apartment.

I'm sure that one day in the future we'll have our very own washer and dryer and when we do, I will absolutely be as frugal as can be with it. I'll use cold water. I'll wash more that just one pair of jeans. I'll air dry as much as possible. I might even venture into making my own laundry detergent. But until then, I agree with Seinfeld -- fluff and fold is the only way to live.

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"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut