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June 04, 2010

Making the difficult decisions

98013981_5497376e86Hi, my name is Robin. I have a five-person family and it's been 24 days since we washed any laundry at our house.

That's not a good beginning, is it? A few weeks ago our washing machine appeared to be messing with us. It's a front loader with a dryer stacked on top of it, and we need that configuration because that's what will fit in our laundry/cleaning supplies closet. So our cantankerous washer, it wasn't spinning the water out of the laundry. Then it would begin a load and stop midway through, leaving the clothing sitting in warm, soapy water. I could neither convince it to finish the load nor rescue the clothes to finish by hand without releasing a tidal wave onto our kitchen floor. Finally, it wouldn't begin a load at all. We thought it was a broken locking mechanism. We propped it shut all classy with a kitchen chair weighted down with my heaviest cookbooks. That worked for exactly two loads. Then it wouldn't operate at all.

In moments of crisis like this, there are only two kinds of people: Handy and Not Handy. Both my lovely husband and I fall solidly in the latter category. We did the only thing we could do: we called the repairman. He helpfully let us know that we're just past the warranty expiration, and that we've somehow magically fried the washer's motherboard. It has shorted out and will not recognize the door lock when it engages, thereby refusing to fill the machine with water. It will cost about $500 to repair.

The whole machine only cost $550 three-and-a-half years ago.

Oh! And the part is backordered for two weeks!

We look into buying a new machine. Replacing it with the exact same model will take several weeks, because it's not the current model and is therefore a special order. Replacing it with the newer model will take only a few days. The newer model is a few inches less deep, meaning it will fit even better in our closet than the just-barely measurement we're pretending is sufficient right now. And the salesman swears that the stacking kit will still let it hold our current dryer.

But the new model is over $700. But it can be here in just a few days, and then we'll have a brand-new machine. We sigh. We place the order.

It arrives and: surprise! The dryer won't stack on it. We send it back. We place a special order for the machine we already have. We buy the extended warranty. We grumble, and strategize our wardrobes for another 11 days of waiting.

So here come the difficult decisions: just how many times can jeans be worn between washings? (Not nearly enough, especially in this humidity.)

If the two-year-old wore that outfit yesterday but didn't spill on it, and wanted to sleep in it, and now really wants to wear it to school today because it's purple and she suddenly loves purple, do you let her wear it for the second day in a row? (Why yes, yes you do.)

If the four-year-old is of a mind to sleep nude, do you object? (No! Less laundry!)

We held a barbecue at our house over Memorial Day weekend and I relayed this saga to a friend while we stood in my kitchen. She immediately grabbed her husband, he of the magical Handy variety, and repeated the story to him. He disappeared somewhere, and returned to announce we can buy the motherboard ourselves for $179. Then he made an offer: he'll install it for us this weekend in exchange for his favorite baked goods.

We ordered a motherboard and canceled the second washer order. I added flour and sugar to the end-of-the-week shopping list and by the end of this weekend we should be back in business. It's been 24 days and I did only one emergency load of unders, bras and the lovely husband's dress socks in a friend's machine. Not bad, all things considered.

But I look forward to next week, after we get all caught up (ha!), when I can go back to my toughest laundry decision being:

should I run a load tonight or can it wait until tomorrow?

(image source: Johnnie Utah)

Robin blogs at The Not-Ever-Still Life, where she will never brag about her electronics skills but will occasionally acknowledge her culinary talents. She wonders if you would like to powerwash her deck in exchange for homemade cheesecake. You can contact her on her blog or on Twitter @noteverstill to barter.

This is an original post to DC Metro Moms.

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