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The Dartmouth
May 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Loads of Fun

I had a few apprehensions about starting college: leaving my friends and family, taking hard classes, sharing a room, doing my own wash.

Laundry was one of my biggest fears about college life. Living at home, all I had to do was throw my clothes down the laundry chute (yes, my house has an old laundry chute) and a few days later, the clothes would miraculously appear on my bed, folded nicely and smelling of mountain air, or whatever scent the on-sale detergent happened to be.

But don't get the wrong idea; I was not one of those spoiled kids who had never seen a washing machine prior to coming to college. For years, doing a load every so often had been one of my chores around the house. However, it was one thing to throw in a white wash every few weeks when my dad asked me; it was quite another to be the sole person responsible for every article of clothing I would throw down the chute. Wait a minute, there's no laundry chute in college? My wash anxiety grew.

My family, of course, was not going to have me make this transition unaided. My mother and I had a long talk on the back porch about all the particulars of laundry: how you wash this kind of fabric, how you treat that kind of stain. I took notes and hoped for the best. My older and wiser sister, who left the Big Red just as I entered the Big Green, gave me a laundry basket for my high school graduation present. It was a sturdy plastic thing, seafoam green with yellow handles, ergonomically designed to fit the contours of one's hips. "Ooh," my parents marveled, "we don't have laundry baskets this nice." Aren't I a lucky girl?

And so, I headed off to college prepared to conquer this laundry thing. When it came time to do my first loads of wash in the dorm, I set off to the laundry room with my fingers crossed and my lists of instructions resting inside my designer laundry basket. That first load came out okay. So did the second, nmthe third and all the many loads that have since followed.

As it turned out, doing laundry was one of my favorite activities of freshman year. It made me feel responsible -- I didn't have to cook for myself, I didn't have to support myself, I didn't have to clean my bathroom -- but I did have to do my own laundry. And oddly enough, I got a kick out of how domestic it felt to do loads of wash. I'd happily set out my drying rack, then blast Billy Joel as I folded my freshly washed clothes and put them away. What had I been so worried about? This was easy. This was fun!

Three years later, I still like that feeling that I'm able to take care of myself each time I throw a load in. And I still like restocking my closet and drawers with clothes fresh out of the dryer. But some of the novelty has worn off. Instead of doing laundry every two weeks on the dot, now I try to put it off as long as possible. It isn't that I run out of clothes (I'm ashamed to admit how long I could go without recycling an outfit), just that as beautiful as my laundry basket is, it can hold only so much. So when it threatens to overflow, I haul it down four flights of stairs to the laundry room.

And then the real fun begins. If I'm lucky, there are empty washers and dryers just waiting for my clothes. If I'm not so lucky, there are washers and dryers crammed full of other people's clothing, clean but waiting for retrieval. My sister didn't warn me about the moral questions involved with doing laundry at college. Do I empty the machine of someone else's clothes so that I can start my own wash? Or do I come back later and hope the person gets the items before I return? I'll confess I'm one of those people who takes someone else's laundry out (if it's done, of course) and shoves mine in. Yes, I feel uneasy about touching someone else's underwear, and yes, I wouldn't want anyone to touch mine, but I have to do my laundry, damn it! I can promise you, however, that I'm always very careful with the laundry I'm moving. I do it quickly so I'm never caught in the act, but I'm careful never to let a single sock drop on the floor.

Now that I'm such a laundry pro, I no longer take my notes of instructions with me. Although I still try to pay attention to the washing instructions on the labels, I'm pretty lax about separating colors. Gray shirt? Yeah, that's close enough to white. Black shirt? What the hell, throw it in with the white wash anyway.

I still use a drying rack for delicates and other items I don't want shrunk by the merciless dryers. The shirts that get air-dried can be a little wrinkled as a result, but that's okay. I've only used an iron once in my entire time at Dartmouth. That was for an event my freshman fall when I was onstage during the Bradley-Gore town meeting. Since the event was going to be on national TV, I figured my clothes better be wrinkle-free. But I haven't touched an iron since.

I know now that there was no reason to worry about wash.