Sunday, March 10, 2013

Loads of Fun

Sweden is a country that plans ahead. Whether it’s arranging a coffee date with a friend at least several days in advance or crafting a Saturday schedule around Systembolaget’s early-afternoon close, not many activities are spontaneous here.

Planning even extends to doing laundry, which took me a lot of getting used to when I rented my first Swedish apartment.

Laundry is serious business in Sweden. If you fail to clean out a dryer’s lint filter, spill detergent on top of a washer or encroach a few minutes into someone’s pre-booked time, there will be a dispute. Some arguments have escalated to the point they’ve actually landed people in prison.

You can get banned for doing too much laundry, too. Some people, such as Sweden’s Prime Minister, just love laundry.

Like most complexes in the U.S., Swedish apartment buildings have communal laundry facilities. Unlike U.S. complexes, though, you have to book a time — sometimes many days in advance — and stick to it.

I suppose there are some advantages to planned laundry. You know you’ll have the washers and dryers all to yourself for a specific duration, and at least here I don’t need to stockpile coins the way I used to in California apartment complexes. I just still find it a little annoying and sometimes downright inconvenient to have to schedule my laundry so specifically.

In some apartment buildings, like the first one we lived in, you book via a paper list. Small buildings like that one in Falköping usually have slots per day of at least several hours.

Our new building in Stockholm houses the facility for several in the neighborhood, so there are a lot more people using it on a regular basis. For each of the two washers and dryers, there is a metal board of dates and times with 2.5-hour slots between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. 
And don’t even think of trying to clean clothes after hours. The rather blunt sign below is posted in our facility and I hear some facilities’ power even shuts off automatically at night.

“Other times, it is absolutely forbidden to use any machine. Think of your neighbors close to the laundry room and accept this.”

Each apartment has a numbered lock and you can put it in any open slot to book the time, so you can obviously only book one 2.5-hour slot at a time — which is as challenging as it sounds. You can only do laundry spontaneously if nobody has booked a slot or if they haven’t started washing within 30 minutes of the start of their time.

Our facility has two “stations” and each one features a tumble dryer and a drying cabinet. Maybe the most annoying thing about doing laundry here, though, is that the washers don’t have built-in centrifuges. That means clothes come out sopping wet and you need to put them in a standalone spinner for five minutes per load. 

That adds an extra 10 minutes you have to be in the laundry room to facilitate the transfer process from washer to dryer. I guess in theory the specialized centrifuge cycle means the clothes would require less drying time, but it’s still inconvenient.

Laundry is a chore few people enjoy, and it’s even less enjoyable when it must be planned so precisely.