Laundry Room Blues

Communal laundry room booking system. Works great until someone grabs the key from the lock-box just before your scheduled time.

Last week when I went to do the laundry at my scheduled time I found that the key was already taken and someone was using the laundry room.  I assumed that the previous slot was just running a little late so I went back to the apartment and waited a bit.  I checked back several times and then realized that my slot had been stolen!  Scandalous!  And also frustrating since I’d already stripped the only set of sheets we have off the bed and put them in the bag with all our sweaty gym clothes and there were no available slots for three days.  Good thing I collect blankets on transatlantic flights.

Apparently I’m not the first person in Sweden to have such an experience.  On Sunday we were at the Nordiska Museum in Stockholm and they had a special exhibit entitled “Tvättstugan” which is the Swedish word for Laundry.  Surprisingly the exhibit was pretty interesting and gave us some more insight into Swedish life.  The exhibit explained the history of the laundry room in Sweden along with various stories of people’s experiences, frustrations and confrontations in the laundry room.

The laundry room makes many Swedes angry and frustrated.

In the 50’s the government put together a set of guidelines for what they considered to be acceptable living conditions for all citizens.  One of the guidelines was that all Swedes should have easy access to facilities to wash themselves and their clothes.  Thus almost every apartment building in Sweden has a communal laundry facility which is normally included in your rent payments, so there are almost no laundromats anywhere in the country.  And since over 40% of Swedes live in apartments there are many thousands of laundry rooms and stories about them.

We learned from the exhibit that it is very common to leave anonymous notes to express frustration at fellow laundry room users.  Apparently this stems from Swedish desire to avoid conflict and to remain anonymous.  The exhibit had many examples of notes that people had left – some were actually quite funny.  There is even a Swedish website (similar to the English-language Passive Aggressive Notes) that showcases some notes that have been left for others in laundry rooms across the country.  I guess next time my slot gets stolen I’ll have to do the Swedish thing and leave a strongly-worded note.  Probably it won’t matter much that my Swedish is really poor – I think poor spelling and grammar are hallmarks of a good passive aggressive note.

Most of the exhibit's signage was affixed to old washers and dryers. This sign explains the rise in reported laundry room conflicts.


  1. It’s just not nice when people don’t play by clearly understood rules. Maybe you should pile up your stinky socks outside their door.

    Also, Kristina and i love the pic of Graham looking all grumpy and Swedish.

    And the Passive-Aggressive Notes site is our new favourite. Truly inspired.

  2. Sorry to hear about the laundry time thief. I think I would be compelled to wait around before my laundry time to make sure that no one takes it if that happens. That is so annoying!!!

    Love the exhibit sign!!! Do you think they have anything equivalent for stolen cake/food from the fridge at work???

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