When well executed, laundry switching not criminal

Mm, it’s delicious to be back.

By now, you’ve taken the time to reacquaint yourself with your abode, to appreciate the absence of your parents’ endless questions about when you’re waking up or eating lunch or why you’re not studying, and the conclusion of the series of random messages from old flames that say, “Hey! It’s been a while! How’s college? Let’s catch up!”

Or, if you’re like me, you realize that your room is just as messy as you left it, and as you happen upon your hamper filled with the clothes you could have lugged home to be washed, you realize that there is one thing that sucks about college: Yo’ momma ain’t around to do yo’ laundry no mo’. In that light, let us saunter over to the laundry room for today’s adventure.

The scene: You’ve walked in to the laundry room, clothes and detergent in hand, ready to assert your adulthood. You survey the machines; none sport the inviting “Price 1.25.” There is, however, one clad in a questionable “0 minutes.” It’s calling out to you. You open the door of the machine, and then close it. There are someone else’s wet clothes inside. But the cycle has ended. And you need the machine. And there’s no one else around …

This is when you encounter the ever paramount question: To take them out, or not to take them out?

Last year, in the basement of Farnam entryway B, I found myself at a similar crossroads. I needed to transfer my clothes from a washer to a dryer, but there were no empty dryers. There was, however, a dryer that had completed its cycle. But someone’s clothes were still inside. Naive and optimistic, I figured that like pirate jokes and most other situations in life, the “How?” is as equally as important as the “What?.” I carefully removed the clothes from the dryer but figured that if I folded them it would make up for the fact that I partially invaded someone’s privacy by touching the clothes in the first place.

After folding, I set the pile of crisp, warm clothes on the counter, and sat on a machine a few yards away, curious to see the owner’s reaction. Soon, he arrived, looked at the dryer that his clothes were previously in, and noticed that a new cycle had begun. He looked around, and upon seeing the carefully sorted piled on the counter, did not react at all. He simply shoved the clothes into his laundry bag — unfolding them in the process.


There was love embedded in each and every crease of those Gap khakis and salmon striped shirts. All was rejected, without so much as a whimsical smirk as if to say, “How extraordinary! My soul is quietly tickled.”

So it was unnecessary to fold the clothes. I get that now. But taking them out wasn’t wrong at all.

Let’s be straight about the way things roll in the laundry room. When faced with the question of whether or not to relocate Stranger X’s articles, I say go for it. But there are boundaries.

1. Don’t put the clothes on the floor when you take them out. This shouldn’t require an explanation. There are plenty of other places to put the clothes. The floor? That’s just lazy or malicious. If you accidentally drop some of the person’s clothes on the floor, get the dirt off it! Don’t be whack.

2. When taking someone else’s laundry out of the machine, make sure you get all of it. Most times, the reason why one of your argyle socks disappears or you acquired a lovely new bra is because you or the person before you neglected to empty the machine.

3. The person can’t see you moving their laundry, so make the magic happen quickly. There’s a strange necessity for anonymity in laundry touching; kind of like how people try really hard not to touch each other on the subway. One savvy student I know even puts clothes he takes out on the next washer over, as to further decrease the chances of discovery.

4. If you’re a guy, you can’t take girls’ stuff out of the machines. It kind of sucks for you, but Yale is 50.75 percent male, right? If there’s a girl in the laundry room with you, perhaps try to recruit them to take the clothes out for you.

A few weeks after my unfortunate and misguided attempt, I saw a note on top of one of the machines in the laundry room. It read: “To the person who took my clothes out of the dryer and folded them last week, thanks. I really appreciate it. It was just like how my mom does it.” He even signed his name.

It tickled my soul. At least somebody saw the love and decided to pay it forward. That, or there’s somebody out there as nutty as I am. Either option is comforting.

Kristen Ng is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.


  • Anonymous

    While I never shared your squeamishness for this act, I must suggest one more rule of thumb:

    Never turn on a dryer with someone else's clothes in it! You may think you're doing them a favor but maybe just maybe they have something in their load that isn't supposed to go in the dryer, or should go at low heat. So take things out of the washer, maybe set them in a dryer, but don't turn it on!


  • Anonymous

    "Yo’ momma ain’t around to do yo’ laundry no mo’."

    hmm….i wonder if this would be considered rascist by some?

  • Anonymous

    Don't worry, anonymous. I can't imagine anyone actually ponying up $$$ to pay to dry a rando's clothes :)

  • Anonymous

    When I was an undergrad out in CA, a similar phenomenon began in my freshman dorm: one person folded another person's laundry when they took it out and it began a chain reaction of people "paying it forward." What is impressive is that it actually lasted a couple months before running out of steam. Anyway, nice to see that there are some good souls here at Yale too.

  • Anonymous

    why is this a big deal? i just take the clothes out and put them on the cleanest surface i can find, and if someone asks me if i did it, i say yes. i don't think we should have to wait around for people who want to do laundry over the course of more than a couple of hours. while there's nothing wrong with leisurely laundry-doing, those who are so concerned with others touching their clothes should bear the burden of sitting in the room with them.

  • Anonymous

    I wrote the original post requesting people to not turn on dryers for other people. You're right that it isn't a problem here at Yale because you have to pay for laundry here. I'm a grad student here and went to undergrad at another esteemed Ivy a few states down the road, where the laundry machines in the dorms were free, so people putting your clothes on high in the dryer was a constant problem!!

  • Anonymous

    Why is Yale so obsessed with people being "racist"? Dropping one's R's is hardly the mark of a particular ethnic group, and even if it were, what would the implication be? That X race can't do their laundry without their mothers' help?

  • Anonymous

    #4 is a joke, right? If not, it's hilarious.

  • Anonymous

    I don't know if I lack the proper respect for the fairer sex, but I see no problem taking girls' clothes out as well. -a male.

  • a female

    To Stephen B;

    Well sir, thats because you like the idea of having random girls touch your underwear and of touching random girls' underwear…correct?

    Many of us don't share such sentiments