Monday, April 17, 2006

An incentive to cut an expense... or increase it?

I think I've mentioned before that one of my little luxuries in life is that I don't do my own laundry. Every week, I FedEx a box of dirty clothes to my mother along with a return label, and 2 days later, everything comes back clean, ironed, and folded. Oh, if only that were true... though that would be a prodigious expense!
Ok, what I really do is drop off a bag of laundry at the corner laundromat for them to wash, dry and fold. For years, I always did my own laundry, whether it meant walking down the street or just down to the basement. But then I was inspired by one of my friends, someone who is very disciplined about how she spends her time, when I discovered that she had this weekend ritual of dropping off her laundry and picking it up that night or the next day, and I realized how wonderful it would be not to have to waste so much time hanging around a laundromat when I could be doing better things. And the costs, I realized, weren't really that much more, depending on the size of the load. Everything comes back smelling fresh and clean and it's all folded and packed neatly into the bag. So once I started doing my laundry this way, I never looked back, except for a few times when I needed to wash something faster than the service would do it, or I wanted to do a blanket or something for which I knew they'd charge way too much.
The thing is, when you entrust all your clothes to strangers (even when you get to know the owners of the laundromat as I have, I think it's usually their kids or someone else actually doing the wash) you kind of have to close your mind to any contemplation of what they are actually doing with your clothes. I like to think of my clothes as going through the whole washing-drying-folding process in some kind of sanitary isolation zone, where they travel unseen, untouched and generally unbesmirched by the germs of others, even if said germs would be killed off in the process. Kind of like a hygienic cone of silence. But when you bring your laundry home and find a stray sock in there that is not your own, it starts to poke holes in that fantasy. And when your laundry bag turns out to contain, as mine did tonight, not just a stray sock, but rather 4 1/2 pairs of alien socks and one alien towel, it's really impossible not to be quite disturbed.
So instead of paying $0.50 per pound/ $5 minimum for drop-off service, I may go back to $1.50 and up for washing and $1.00 and up for drying, plus a couple hours of my precious time to do it myself. I was planning to do this anyway in a few months once I move into the condo where the machines will be in the basement. So maybe I should just start getting used to it now.
But there is one idea that I may hold out for the future... remember Frank the lawyer? One of the things he spends his money on (besides hookers, I guess) is a cleaning lady. She cleans his apartment, washes what few dishes he might dirty, AND does his laundry. I've always been tempted yet reluctant to consider this kind of household help. After all, I'm not a working mom with house full of kids, I'm just a single person with a small apartment and especially in my current space, and at my current income level, there is no way I could justify paying someone to do my housework for me. And I may never be able to justify it. But maybe someday, a few raises from now, I'll decide it would be worth it to get those couple of hours a week back...

Which reminds me that I really want to see this new movie called "Friends with Money" in which Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who works as a cleaning lady... this seems like the ultimate personal finance movie, yet I don't think I've seen anyone blogging about it yet! What's up with that?! Has anyone seen it?


jargonscout said...

Our family grew up on the less-affluent end of the spectrum, but we certainly knew many people with "cleaning ladies." In fact, I would always wonder what it would be like to have to "pick up the floor" so that the cleaning lady could vacuum for you!

As I'm the next generation in an immigrant family, I could probably afford one now. But I just can't see myself ever doing it. Even after the kids come round.

As for laundry, I absolutely hate it. Unlike cleaning, which can actually be relaxing or cathartic, laundry is tedious and annoying. Waiting for things to spin and dry is the pits. So that may be an option eventually.

But I still would feel so guilty. I guess I'm just a do-it-yourself-er by heart.

Nina Smith said...

I haven't seen Friends with Money yet, but who wouldn't want someone as cute as Jennifer Aniston cleaning their house.

Personally, laundry has been an easy one for me to squeeze into my day (I work from home) but cleaning... ah yes, with this task, I believe time is money.

Jem said...

A friend did my laundry after I was in a car accident. I'm grateful to be able to do my own laundry now. It bothers me to have other people wash my underwear. But cleaning the toilet? I'd be happy to have anyone else do that.

IRA said...

John at Our Money Matters beat me to the punch and wrote a post about Friends with Money last week.

He and Jane are also featured on Money Blogger Podcast this week.

I have a cleaning service come about once a month. They do a much better job than I ever could on stuff like the bathrooms, floors, etc. And they tend to straighten things up for me. But I don't let them touch the laundry or the dishes. I have coworkers who ask their cleaning folks to do their laundry every week, change their sheets, put away dishes, etc. But that kind of stuff weirds me out. My friend just told me the other day that one of her roommates never washes her hands after using the bathroom. You hear a flush, and then she immediately comes out. Ugh.

HoustonHedonist said...

Wash and fold is one of my few "luxuries". In my apartment, I could either put a stackable washer and dryer in my kitchen, or use the space for a mini-pantry. Since I love cooking, I went with the extra shelves.

After several years of dragging my stuff down to the laundry room and watching it spin, I figured that my time was worth more than the cost of dropping my clothes off at the cleaners.

CollegeGrad said...

For exactly one semester, I operated a home-cleaning business in college (sophomore year) and I made a ton of money! You wouldn't believe the amount of people who want people to do their laundry, dishes, and light cleaning around the house. If the work didn't take so long, I probably would have continued for another semester or so, but it was eating into my study time.

Anywho, I always found it interesting that people from such diverse background used my services. Before then, I always associated cleaning help with rich people. But most of my clients were far from it, they just didn't want to clean.


communicatrix said...

I saw Friends With Money and have a frugal tip for you: wait to rent it.

In addition to Jennifer Aniston being completely unbelievable in her role, it's an uneven movie with a shaky script.

There are some interesting scenes and lines about how money works (or doesn't) in friendships. Just not enough to warrant a full-price ticket.

Anonymous said...

I do my own laundry in brooklyn because I couldn't find anyone to do it the "right" way which is "my" way.

Although I've thought about opening my own service, because without pause, everytime I'm folding at the laundrymat, someone compliments me on how I's weird....there is nothing special to it.

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