A Dysfunctional Life in the Sticks
Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 22, 2008 5:30PM

Clean Clothes for Christmas

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I hate going to the laundromat.  I hate it passionately.  There is nothing that makes me and my failings feel quite so exposed as having to drag my dirty laundry to a public laundromat and sit there for two hours contemplating my sins.  

 For a couple of really bad years, I didn't go at all.  When all the sheets got too awful, I slept on the mattress pad, and then the bare mattress itself.  I did this for so long, the coils in the mattress actually started coming through the top.  The pillows turned brown without pillowcases.  In the winter, I huddled under a pile of blankets and quilts like a ragpicker.   Retrieved for cold weather, the grimy mattress pad kept creeping off the mattress and letting the steel springs poke me. It was all horribly uncomfortable, but compared to my fear of  the laundromat, it didn't seem like a real hardship at the time. 

Eventually my therapy kicked in to a point where I realized I quite enjoy having fresh-smelling sheets, and clean clothes, at least enough to where I can force myself to go the the laundromat every three or four months.  With four sets of sheets, that allows a once-a-month change, which may be disgraceful in normal homes, but is pretty high-class in Dogpatch.

But due to my various - er - quirks, I have a narrow window of  time in which I can stand to venture out with my bags of dirty laundry.  It must be a weekday mid-morning, to face the least amount of people possible at the laundromat during daylight, and the weather must not include an active snowfall, blowing snow, sleet, or anything approaching freezing rain. This being Vermont, that kind of weather prevails all winter, and winter lasts from October to May.  

 I stuffed all my dirty clothes into dirty pillowcases over a month ago, and they have been sitting around collecting dust ever since.  I have done  only a little hand-washing since Labor Day.  I am down to a few last garments that are even older and more ripped than what I usually wear.  The sheets on the bed have been there since before Halloween.  I really kind of wanted to change them before Christmas arrives.   It's a pretty good present. 

It isn't a cheap one, either.  Doing laundry  in coin-operated washers   seems staggeringly expensive to me these days, which increases my loathing for the whole process.  At times, I've wondered if it wouldn't be cheaper  to throw out the damn towels and sheets, and buy new ones (not that I'd do this, even if I could - it's just a wild fantasy).  And if there's ever a way to get Americans to accept the  dollar coin, it's to make them all depend on public laundromats.  The washers and dryers still quaintly run on quarters.  But they have a voracious appetite, and feeding in $4 or $5 per load takes time, forethought, and a fair amount of disposable income. 

I know I should try, but I have been unable to find anything pleasant about the laundromat trip - not dragging the heavy bags hither and thither, nor feeding the washers their pounds of quarters, nor the interminable wait through all the cycles of spinning wet to dry, filthy to fresh.  Back at Dogpatch, I must find places to stow everything away before it is covered with animal hair again.  It's only later - getting into bed, or putting on clean things after a  rare shower, that it seems worth the effort and expense.

We've had bad weather for days.  Tomorrow I have to go forage for pet food and cat litter, because I can't deal with the big grocery store on the day before Christmas.   So the only way I can have clean clothes for Christmas is to go to the laundromat the day after that.   I don't know if going to the laundromat on Christmas Eve is going to be better, worse or the same awful it always is.  

You can keep your sugarplums.  I want clean flannel sheets, a washcloth that doesn't stand up by itself, a sweat-free shirt, maybe even a pair of matched socks. 

If only Santa Claus had a wash and fold service.


UPDATE:  I was so sure I was going to the laundromat on Christmas Eve, until the  wretched weather service had to butt in and give me a  winter weather advisory that extends all the way into Christmas, involving snow, sleet, freezing rain, and high wind.    Pshh.   But I have lots of dog and cat food now, and I really would have done it, with your encouragement, and I thank you all.  Merry Christmas!





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Hey, Bub! There's always the tub!
Your laundery quandary make me sad
but I agree Laundromats are quite bad.
One of the best presents I ever gave myself was a used washer/drier. If you have hook-ups, go to Craig's list!
Just do it! I hate it just as much and can't think of anything worse, except cleaning out the refrigerator and washing floors, but it will be worth it! I do have a washing machine now, but no dryer. I use the clothes line. The truly horrible part for me is hanging it all to dry, especially the socks! :0
I just wash mine and hang 'em on the line. It works for me!!
Laundromats used to depress me also. Wednesday evenings did not seem that popular -- don't know about the daytime hours.
Where to begin?
First of all, I LOVE your writing style and the droll, quirky point of view behind it.
And now that I've heard about your laundry adventures, it's clear that we are soulmates. (Oddly, one of my other good buddies here at OS is m.a. h., who refuses to sleep on any sheets with less than a 500 thread count...but she has other redeeming qualities.) I HATE doing laundry and, like you, put it off as long as possible. Fortunately, I do have a washer/dryer (though I prefer the clothesline), but in the summer we actually have to truck in our water, so I try to use as little as possible. I also find laundromats incredibly depressing. But I'm thinking that a laundromat on Christmas Eve might be kind of atmospheric in a sad country song, Edward Hopper painting kind of way. So I say go -- you'll not only get clean sheets, but also some really great blog material.
Quick story: Sometimes I put off doing laundry for so long, I actually revert to wearing my husband's underwear. (He has more underwear than I do; I've lost many pairs to the dogs, who ignore his, but like to rip mine apart.) Anyway, one day I went down to the city on some errands, forgetting that I was wearing men's underwear, and I stopped in at a Loehmann's, where they were having a big sale. The place was jammed. At Loehmann's there's just one big communal dressing room. I went in with my items, staked out a spot and stripped down to my skivvies...oops. San Franciscans are famously accustomed to people in various phases of sexual identity...still, I got some weird looks. The next day I went out and bought some more underwear for myself (still avoiding laundry), which I used to buy at Macy's back when we lived in civilization. Now they come from the lingerie department of our local hardware.
Incidentally, on the subject of hygiene, I'm just getting over a case of ringworm, most likely contracted from sheets that are shared with two large dogs. (So far, they demand only 300-count cotton)
Ha, Your birthday is one day later than mine. After reading the comments here, I see there are other OSer's as bad as me, about doing laundry. Although I haven't been to a laundry in years, I spent many a two hour cycle at one or another. The best way I know to appreciate the laundromat is to take your clothes down to the creek and beat them on a rock with a stick. Then hang them in a nearby tree to dry. After this the laundromat won't look so bad, but only by a small margin.
I have the same issues with the vacuum cleaner.
Have a happy clean clothes Christmas. Make it a well deserved gift to yourself!
Catamitebastard - you wrote me a poem! I have used the tub. I have used a pot. The spin cycles of each are not very hot.

voicegal - I have a large washing machine (bought in the early 90's specifically to take dog beds) which hasn't been used since the Great Dogpatch Freeze of 2000. I was going to get it fixed, but then the pipes to it broke again in 2002. Someday.

screamin mama - cleaning out the refrigerator, ack. I had forgotten this chore. I don't miss it at all. You wash floors? How is that done?

suzy - my clothesline went down in the avalanche that took out the back stoop per the back door post, but again, someday. During the summer I hand-wash things and hang them on hangers from a maple tree branch. Drying takes hours outside instead of days inside. Much better.

Dorinda - I will never want to go to the laundromat enough to go in the evening. Not even if the dogs and the cat all peed on my bed.

Laurel - well. Where to begin? Some people would term my point of view a severe personality disorder, but bless your heart. You are too kind. I was starting to give myself all kinds of reasons why I wouldn't actually follow through on my laundry plans tomorrow, but you snapped me out of it with the magic words "blog material." Who could resist that? And your underwear story is fabulous. I want to know what kind of lingerie you get at the hardware store. I'm thinking it's denim. Ringworm - ha! How about ticks? That's another post. Okay, I'm going tomorrow, and will see how it compares to Edward Hopper. Thank you.

Michael, you must have the same birthday as Marlon Brando. I have actually considered doing the laundry down at the creek, but I'm afraid of the beaver family. Oddly, I'm quite fond of my vacuum cleaner. I rarely use it, but I like it. Thank you for your encouraging words.
mumblytypeg, if only I lived nearer. I have the opposite issue. i love laundromats...i have no idea why but i love the sound of the dryers while I read my book. i find it comforting in some fetal kind of way. where i live there is also a woman at the laundromat who will do your laundry for you for a surprisingly reasonable price if you're busy...too bad you don't have someone like that. (its funny but last year on christmas day I had guests arriving the day after christmas so I went to the laundromat on christmas day and i loved it...i had the place to myself and practiced my bad spanish with the lady who works was truly lovely....)

With ya here. Most depressing place on Earth.
Had my washer/dryer for 30 years and they were used then. Whirlpool--lasts forever. Except the washer has reached "forever". Thankfully, spouse goes to the laundromat, and after the first, we will get another used one via Craigslist.
Laundromats and grocery stores- banes to the agoraphobic existence :) you must go...but at what cost
Laundromats are the most loathesome of all places, but I hope you are able to get your clean sheets. If I lived anywhere near you, I would bring you some nice, new flannel ones, with extra pillowcases.
This is why I insist that any place where I live has to have laundry facilities. It's still expensive, but I gotta have those clean clothes, sheets and towels. And I can go about my business when all I have to do means going two doors down and feeding the machine more coins. But with the price of clothing now, it really IS more economic to wash the clothes you have rather than buy a new wardrobe every three months or so.