Laundry Love

laundry love
Photo via Laundry Love

Sunday was laundry day. As a graduate student, I hated Sunday evenings, especially snowy, slushy, and cold evenings. My only concerns were having enough quarters, remembering to take detergent with me, readings for my classes so I could make use of the time, and fitting everything in a bag I could carry. For those of us who can afford it, it’s a chore. But for most living below the poverty line, doing their laundry is a luxury they cannot afford.

The act of doing laundry at a coin-operated laundromat turns a private activity into a public one. Laundromats can be viewed as a space for complex cultural intersection of class,* and the simple act of providing laundry services to someone who is struggling financially creates intersections for understanding and compassion, and it raises awareness to a social problem.

In a culture that is obsessed with cleanliness (just look at any grocery store’s shelves for the range of cleaning products that are available), clean clothes are an essential that we often take for granted. How many times have we walked by a homeless person and “seen” them as — well, a person, same as you and me?

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Laundry Love dares to air our collective dirty laundry. It helps us see the potential and value in every human being one wash load at a time. Greg Russinger and Charles Lee established JustOne as a non-profit organization in 2006 and imagined a world where one human being living in poverty would know the care of another. Laundry Love started with the wish of one homeless man — T-Bone (Eric), living in Ventura, CA — who just wanted to be seen as a person. Laundry Love partners with local laundromats in cleaning the clothes of those living on the streets, in shelters, and in cars. To learn more or get involved, visit their website and view this introductory video:

*Kenen, Regina. "Soapsuds, Space, and Sociability: A Participant Observation of the Laundromat." 1982

Aparna Datey is fascinated with well designed everyday objects (such as spoons and door handles) and textures (such as hand woven textiles and ceramics). She has a Masters in Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree in Architecture from India. Currently she is an Academic Advisor at the Center for International Education at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She enjoys hiking, knitting, making fused glass jewelry, and cooking. She loves to travel with her family, and on a recent visit to India, was lucky enough to see a tiger in the wild!

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