Life really boils down to simple things. And it’s these simple things that we don’t even notice that make day to day living run smoothly. Or not.

Take, for example, the laundry. It’s not like I have to carry my basket of clothes to the river with a board and a bar of soap. But laundry is not as coonvenient here!

From the outside, our washing machine looks normal. It’s white and pretty much the same size as the machines at home. But, for some reason, it fits only about 6 items of clothing. Well, technically I can squeeze in up to about 10 things, but I’ve learned I shouldn’t do that if I want the clothes to actually be…….clean…….! And the detergent. Oh the detergent. There are three separate compartments for detergent. 3 DETERGENTS????

This made no sense to me at all. Plus, I can’t read the detergent bottles to know how and when to use each kind. So I bought one to try it out. Big mistake. HUGE. The first load I did, I overloaded the washer (you know, with like 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, some underwear and a pair of socks), poured in a capful of the detergent I bought–I knew it was for clothes because of the nice picture of a sweater on the front–turned the dial to the setting B90, which I had read was for a regular was cycle, and pushed “GO!”. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

More than 2 hours later, the washing machine finished. Yes, you read that correctly folks, 2 hours! I know what you’re thinking. Another 45 minutes in the dryer and you’re good to go. Dryer! HA! Surely you hear me snorting and laughing at you through my computer. There are no dryers in Europe. Well, certainly there isn’t one in our apartment. So, we do the whole old-fashioned, hang it on the line thing. You know, with the cute little clothespins. As a teacher in the U.S., my only real experience with clothespins is to hang students’ work up in my classroom. But alas, clothespins really ARE used for clothes. Hmmmm, who knew?

Now, like you, I’ve seen those TV commercials where they say if you use this dryer sheet, your clothes will look and feel as if they had been dried outside. Obviously the people who write these commercials have never hung their clothes outside to dry. They don’t look and feel all special. They LOOK a little more faded and FEEL scratchy. Who are they kidding?

So, after my first load, Mark informed me he was unhappy with the state of his clothes:
“What happened to the clothes? They’re all scratchy on my poor, soft skin”, he tells me. As if only HIS clothes felt that way and I wouldn’t know.
“I don’t know. I followed the directions on the washing machine and hung them up and this is how they came out”, I explained.
“Well, we’re gonna have to work on this”, he decided.
By “we” he meant “me”, I assure you. He wasn’t going anywhere near that scary, white machine.
“Well, go ahead. I mean, you’re the one who went to college for science. Perhaps you could scientifically blend together the detergents in such a way as to make our clothes soft again”, I told him.

So, off to another store we went. I guess when the washing machine has 3 detergent compartments, they really do intend for you to use 3 detergents. So we bought two more. And at home, I sat down to try to read them. I learned the one I had started with the prefix “pre”, meaning before. Ahhhh. I had used only the detergent that is before washing. There is another one for the real wash and then, of course, the ever important FABRIC SOFTENER. At home, I only use fabric softener because it makes the clothes smell that much better. But here, I guess fabric softener really is for softening, making clothes soft. Hmmmmm. Imagine that.

I went into my laboratory, worked out my combinations of detergents and exactly how many clothes could be put into the washer and still come out clean and began my experimentations. They seemed to work. But I was still having one more problem. Clothespins leave little clothespin marks on the clothes and they are difficult to iron out. I looked at people on the streets and noticed that the tops of their shirts did not have these marks, like mine and Mark’s did. Hmmm, another mystery.

So I did the unthinkable. I spied on the neighbors. After they hung their clothes outside and went back into their apartments, I went outside to carefully observe their techniques and took notes. AHA! You hang the shirts upside down and fold the edge over the top of the line. And the shorts. The shorts! You hang those right side up, but fold the top part over the line. Then the marks don’t show so much. And the underwear…well we won’t discuss that!


Now I know. I follow all these rules, with the three detergents and the small loads and the upside down shirts, but still, our clothes are never as soft as they are at home. So when we come visit, don’t be surprised if we want to spend all our time sitting next to the dryer, running our fingers through soft clothes and towels…

**Edited for you, Mr. Herron :)**
Here is the writing on the detergent bottle:

Guess which detergent goes 1st, 2nd, and 3rd: