The Old System:
There are things I’ve wondered about, and things I’ve worried about in undertaking this move, but perhaps the greatest of these has been: how will I do laundry for 3 kids, 1 sloppy husband, and my marginally-messy self with no dryer, and a washing machine that has a drum approximately the diameter of a dinnerplate? And if you think I'm lying, or exaggerating my worries, consider this: I took a glossy wide-angle picture of my washer and dryer the night we moved out.
I don’t mean to trivialize the overseas experience by any means, but laundry is a daily part of life, and a daily part of my life that I was feeling like I spent too much time on in America, where I had the $2600 top-of-the-line Kenmore HE4 High-Efficiency washing and drying machine system you see above with like, four cubic feet of capacity for each machine.
The New System:
Washer-dryer capacity is measured in kilos here, so I don’t have a mathematical comparison of the two systems, but suffice to say that I could wash an American king-sized quilt and a set of sheets in my old washer, and here, I think people take their blankets to the cleaners when they need washing. I’ve seen signs in the windows advertising blanket washing for £7, I think. That’s $14, people.
When shopping for apartments in April, it was the first thing I noticed. Most of the apartments we looked at had washers, but none of them—NONE of them—had dryers. How could this be, I wondered? How do people with children, living in a climate where it rains all winter long (and apparently, half the summer, too) wash clothes and sheets and towels with any sort of efficiency or regularity without a dryer? Were their homes just jungles of drying laundry inside? I couldn’t imagine it. See, in addition to my laundry issues I also wage an ongoing, extremely unsuccessful battle against clutter at my house. If Laundry teams up with Clutter on me, I might as well wave a white pair of undershorts out my front window and surrender: the war is lost.
And one little aside about the towels: do people here honestly dry off daily with crispy air-dried towels and not mind at all? Really?
I asked Fiona (my landlord) where she dried clothes in the wintertime and she said she just hung them around the house on the radiators. At my next-door neighbor’s house I spotted fluffy towels on the back of her couch, waiting to be taken upstairs, and so I asked her if she had a dryer. Well. You would’ve thought I caught her eating dirt or something. I swear ta God, y’all, this lovely woman and mother of three busy children was embarrassed about her dryer. “Oh, I’m just lazy,” she said. “But it's convenient, you know. This way I only have to have one set of sheets for each bed because I can dry them and put them back on the same day.”
And that’s what it comes down to, I realized. Being happy you only have to have one set of sheets. People here use less. Less everything. They don’t need walk-in closets to store their extra clothes because they don’t keep extra clothes. They don’t have enormous pantries because they don’t load up their minivan with groceries at Costco—they walk to the store and haul their food home on the bus or roll it up the street in a little cart. They don’t have eight combined cubic feet of washing and drying system because they don’t need it. And neither do I.
So I have learned something already, and that’s good.
But I am still totally buying a dryer.