Dirty Laundry Now and Back Then…Options?

Many probably agree that options are a good thing. It’s difficult for me to envision life without choices, but is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Many reading would likely answer yes. Maybe it is a distant memory of eating too much of a favorite food or another type of binge. It really doesn’t matter excess can be its own hassle regardless of how much we want or like something.

The issue appears to be where or actually if that perfect balance of not too many, but more than enough can truly exist.

Here’s an example too which many can relate. The other day we made a trip to the store to purchase among other items, laundry detergent. It’s a product that we purchase in bulk according to store specials and our array of coupons. For us the type of detergent is about maximizing the quantity for the least dollars of what we found offers the best performance for our needs with for the lowest unit cost. Most of the staples we purchase are identified in that same manner of maximizing the quality to cost ratio. It seems strange to some that for many products we only buy generic.  With others it is a store brand from a certain retailer, but the store brand of the same product from another retailer is one that we will not purchase. It depends upon the product and intended usage.  It’s a judgment call but in many instances 100 units of a product at the same price of 50 units of the same product with a different brand might be the lesser value.

That’s nothing new to most, and with few exceptions I really do not have an uncompromising brand loyalty.

Well the above speaks only to the most basic of personal finances which influence the amount of choice.

The quandary with this particular purchase, however, had nothing to do with financial measures. There were no questions about which size to purchase. One aisle had practically everything:  the 128 oz, the 132 oz, a 100 oz here, an 80 oz there, and a 90 oz bonus size in this facing. Neither my wife nor I carry smart phones, so for size issues with non perishable goods I start at the top and she at the bottom dividing ounces by cost in our head. My experience has been that unit pricing figures on the labels are often incorrect, so we do the math ourselves. With sales and couponing that data changes as well.

The unit cost problem did not exist on this trip. The size on sale had the lowest cost per unit by far. Our coupons matched that specific size. We tend to track costs of regular purchases (A history prof with graduate level courses in Statistics married to a Political Scientist with all of the graphs and charts within that discipline makes our cost tracking a result of our professions, her parents and their frugal habits passed down to daughter, and my strawberry farm mentality of waste not, want not, really makes the awareness a no brainer for us).

We had no intention to purchase cases of the product. Four bottles would leave us stocked for quite some time.  Our savings would be in excess of 60 percent from if we purchased the detergent only on an as needed basis without regard to sales and coupons. Store inventory was not a problem as one side of an entire aisle had been stocked with the exact size of the product which was on sale.

It was a great deal, and it should have been a simple trip to the store.

It was simple until you start asking yourself some important but yet trivial questions. All varieties say, and I know from experience with this brand, will actually clean the clothes quite well.  Quality is not an issue.  Still do I want my clothes to smell Fresh or would I prefer them to smell Clean along with being clean? We can also be clean and smell like Lemon Fresh, Summer Breeze, Tropical Rainforest, Spring Meadow, Ocean Mist, Lavender, Summer Blossoms, Spring Flowers (guess they are picked out of the meadow), Bold, or Vibrant?  A few of the scents offered additional options as well. Should the detergent be Gentle, Caring, Deep Cleaning, Ultra Cleaning, Revitalizing, or Rejuvenating?  In addition some had outdoor and indoor touch, feel, or smell qualifiers.


For me outdoor laundry promises bring back memories of Grandma’s old washtub and that washboard. Actually the experience was not bad, but if I were going to go back to the time of dunk, slap that bar of soap against the item in your hand once forward and once backward, scrub against the board, plunge, scrub against the board, plunge, inspect, repeat cycle if necessary, plunge into clean water, wring excess water, snap into the air 4 times, place in tub with handles to be carried to clothes line to hang and dry, I would not use store bought detergent. I’d try to recreate the stuff Mom used after learning how to make it from her Mom.  Seriously, dirt saw that soap and ran. It smelled like a paper mill housing skunks when they rendered that soap, but it had no smell in bar form. Unlike store bought soap, the homemade also took care of cleaning the dirty mouth of a kid so well that dirty words ceased to be formed.

It was only a day or so ago, but I can’t recall what scents and types of clothes care we purchased. We did emerge from the store with our 4 bottles, 2 bottles each of a different option, before reaching the age of retirement and even before the store closed.

Makes You Think…

All of those options; all of those choices; yet each is easily forgettable. Just like the washing machines I have used in my lifetime, all are mostly forgotten except for one of my first after moving away.  I remember that machine but only because I used parts from 4 discarded machines to make a working washer.

I can still smell that homemade soap being rendered, however. I can still picture the cracks in the wooden handle on that old washboard. I can hear how different things sounded from when Mom or Grandma scrubbed versus me or my Dad or Grandfather for that matter. I can even taste that soap after I dropped a piece of iron on my foot. They used a potato sack to stop the bleeding with direct pressure while shoving my foot into an igloo ice chest to stop swelling. Once bleeding stopped, Mom pulled her red, painful looking hands from the ice and then took the soap to my mouth. The taste did prevent me from a hollerin’ when she later poured that antiseptic which burned like fire on the wound. I think they ultimately outlawed that stuff, but no scrapes or cuts ever became infected at my house.

I reckon its time I tossed a load of clothes into the machine. I wonder if I’ll be able to ID the scent.

Options…When is Enough Too Much?