Opinions, Column

Laundry Politics and the Great Laundry Debate of Gonzaga Hall

On a weekend night that should’ve featured chaotic decisions, my friends and I instead gathered for a debate. Under the fluorescent lights of Gonzaga Hall, we discussed a critical subject: the politics of the laundry room.

“The person whose laundry it is should be there before or as soon as the timer runs out,” I argued. 

“Well, what if they’ve had a tough day and laundry slips their mind? We should give them the benefit of the doubt,” my friend passively replied, using a guise of generosity. 

Now I look like the a—hole. 

A third friend responded, “No, I’m with Elise on this one. If I respect their time, they need to respect mine.”

Others stood silently, nodding along or scrunching their foreheads as they thought through their laundry room stances. One tried to offer a happy medium, saying you should wait about 10 minutes before taking out someone’s clothes.

This logic, however, is flawed. It is possible that you arrive at the laundry room long after a stranger’s laundry has finished washing—there is no telling whether the laundry has been done  for two seconds or two hours. 

We were a friend group divided. 

But we hadn’t yet considered the political environment of the laundry room. Those who remove others’ laundry are high-volume “polluters.” They dirty the laundry room by discarding wet piles of fabric and forgotten single socks onto its questionable surfaces.

I hate to admit it, but I am guilty of adding to this corner of overlooked items. Once, I removed a whole comforter from the dryer. That blanket sat in the corner for the entire fall semester. I dumped it out, expecting someone to reclaim it the same day. Instead, I contaminated the room’s atmosphere. The gathering of sopping, wrinkled clothes continues to head toward the point of no return. 

The liberals of the laundry room want to give time and charity to their fellow laundry-doers. They seek to keep the room clean and don’t remove others’ clothes even when all the washers or dryers are full. They are patient progressives. The conservatives, on the other hand, feel their time is wasted by the laziness of others and quickly dump any waiting laundry. They are self-concerned individualists. 

Which faction do you subscribe to? Did you do your own laundry at home, or is college your first experience with doing laundry? Do you use Tide Pods, or do you know how laundry detergent works? Do you separate your whites and darks, or roll the dice? Do you believe that $3.50 is too much for two separate loads? Do you take a chance on the scorching dryers from hell, or use a drying rack and risk a lake formation in your cramped double? If you use the dryers, do you remove the gray fuzz from the lint catcher like a good citizen, or do you abandon it? These “political” questions determine our laundry affinities—our place on the laundry political spectrum. 

Laundry divides us. My group and I did not lose any friendships in the Great Laundry Debate of Gonzaga’s second floor, but we formed new alliances. The hall’s backdrop of flickering lights, unfulfilled work orders, and an anonymous stench all perfectly complemented our childish curiosity about laundry politics. By using a simple debate about laundry, we prepared ourselves for harder, more mature disagreements.

If we could agree upon an answer to laundry’s greatest mysteries, find common ground within its politics, or discern for ourselves what we believed on this futile topic—maybe, just maybe, politicking about laundry could prepare us for the complexities of adulthood. 

The Great Laundry Debate ended with an understanding from all of us, whether a liberal, conservative, or laundry moderate, that you cannot please all. There is no one set of laundry etiquette truths. Although we could not find definitive common ground, my friends and I went to bed satisfied with our debate. 

We were united in our separation. Our divulgence of laundry-related revelations provided a deeper bond for our friendship. It offered a look into our future adult selves, and it provided us a glimpse of maturity—beyond just washed clothes.

February 19, 2023