Monday, November 18, 2019

Dirty Laundry

We've experienced and adapted to many changes since moving to Switzerland: language, food, being away from family. But one change that we are reminded of daily is our move from living in a single family home (we've owned and rented) to becoming apartment dwellers.

There are good parts and bad parts to both living situations. We no longer have yard maintenance or home improvement pressures. But we do have neighbors above, below, and on either side of us. The neighbors below us smoke so the blow back on a hot summer day when the windows are open is none too fun (or healthy!). The neighbor next door blares his Heavy Metal music upon arrival home from work most evenings which is annoying, especially because I don't count Heavy Metal as music 😄. And when the neighbors above relentlessly scrape furniture across the floor day and night, we wonder what is inspiring their constant Feng Shui frenzy.

But probably the biggest adjustment we've had to endure living in a multi-unit apartment building is the shared laundry. 

When we first arrived in Switzerland two years ago, we were housed in a hotel for two weeks (with the dog!). That was when we discovered that there are no public, self operated Laundromats. None. There are dry cleaning shops that do laundry on the side, but the cost is outrageous.

After the hotel experience we were placed in a corporate apartment for our first year. Luckily it was equipped with a tiny washing machine and dryer. It was convenient in terms of when you can do your laundry, but inconvenient on how much laundry you can do at a time or how dry you can get it. Little did we know how much we'd miss those little machines...

For the last year we've been in a building that has shared laundry facilities. In fact, a large segment of Swiss population live in flats with shared laundry. In theory it is great. In reality it can be a little tricky.

First of all there is the scheduling.

There are five apartments in our section of the building and every apartment is allowed one day a week to do their laundry. Because both Joe and I work full-time, our laundry day is Saturday. Lucky for us, it was available when we moved in. But Saturday is also the only day we can shop - all grocery stores, with the exception of the ones at the train stations, are closed on Sundays. Add to that, Maureen and I take German on Saturday mornings. Saturdays are busy.

Unfortunately, Heavy Metal neighbor has his laundry day on Friday and he doesn't always seem to know when Friday ends and Saturday begins. We've been met with his laundry in a machine or still hanging up on many a Saturday mornings:

Things got so bad at one point, we had to send Mr. Metal a letter (in German!) asking him to please respect our laundry time. It sort of worked...he gets the last of his stuff out by 8am or so, as opposed to noon, so there's that.

But doing your laundry in the basement of your own building is not THAT bad. With a washer and dryer and a drying room equipped with a de-humidifier, we can get a weeks worth of laundry for 3 people done in one day (provided your neighbor takes his stuff out early enough!)

And, I have to say that the Swiss laundry detergent is good stuff. It gets everything clean without stain boosters or extra bleaching agents. And it is actually cheap at Lidl.

The way they handle the billing for the laundry room use is interesting. Monthly, all residents pay an equal amount into a pool of money managed by the landlord/management company. Then once a year the landlord/management company calculate the energy usage of the residents in the building, especially the laundry room. We each have a 'key' that we have to plug into the wall to make the machines work - and calculates how much energy we used/money we owe. Then they split up the 'Nebenkosten' whereby we may get money back or owe something. It's all very mysterious. We just hope we're not getting swindled. :)

The key to clean clothes!

I can't do a post on dirty laundry without sharing an update on something dirty that was growing in our laundry room. About 6 months ago, I shared about the mold in our shared space and its effect on my health - 6 months of respiratory infections!

  I'm happy to report that the building management cleaned it all up!

...and after!
So. Much. Better. On. Multiple. Levels.

Today's poem is about what happens when we bring the laundry back upstairs to our apartment to get us through the next week:


clean clothes
we don't lack 

©2019, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.


  1. There are things we just don't know when we move to another country, right? When I was in Costa Rica with students, we had laundry done by someone, per help with our hosts. It came back beautifully folded, but damp. Things don't dry well in CR! Sending sympathy for those annoying neighbors, but glad you do have Saturdays at least & very glad that the mold is cleared up! Have a lovely week ahead, Bridget!

    1. Thank you, Linda! I wouldn't be able to stand the constant dampness of Costa Rica I think - I bet mold is rampant there as well! =)

  2. Wonderful cultural insight. Thanks Bridget!

    1. Thank you, Chris! Just goes to show you that dealing with neighbors can be tricky no matter the culture. =)

  3. Did the landlord clean the mold voluntarily or did you ask them to do it?

    1. We complained to the landlord a few months ago via email and got no response. Then they rolled out a new app service and we complained on that. It was fixed within a few weeks then. Modern technology! Thanks for reading and commenting, Jeanette. =)

  4. Oh, my goodness. I loved reading this. What a small thing to us becomes such a different thing somewhere else. Love the poem at the end that summarizes the experience...very similar to a haibun.

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Linda! Laundry is a relatable constant no matter where you live. Hope to 'see' you here again, soon. =)