Yesterday, I made a passing reference to The Laundry Agreement. A couple of eagle-eyed readers noticed a further reference in the screenshot I posted to illustrate the article. Kevin and Samantha both searched for answers at GRS, but couldn’t find them. I guess that means I’ve never mentioned the Laundry Agreement before.

The Laundry Agreement is a unique arrangement that Kris and I have used for fifteen years to play to our individual strengths in our marriage: I pay Kris to do my laundry.

Setting up my Quicken install
The Laundry Agreement. What could it possibly mean?

To remind new readers, Kris and I keep separate finances, and always have. (As a result, we’ve never had a fight about money.) Some people hate separate finances, and that’s fine, but this system works for us. It keeps our marriage strong.

We’ve also hired a housekeeper to come in for a few hours every two weeks. Some people are shocked by this, but those who know me understand why this is a smart choice. I am by nature a slob. Despite my best intentions, I leave a mess wherever I go. (When I was a boy, my father called me Pig-Pen, and he called my closet “the rat’s nest”.) The housekeeper — which we cut when I was digging out of debt — is a small price to pay for marital harmony.

No surprise then that I’m not very good with laundry. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t wash my clothes until I’d worn everything I owned at least once. How do I know? Because that’s how I used to operate. I had mounds of dirty clothes in the laundry baskets, but nothing clean in my closets and drawers. Once every month or two, I’d spend an entire day doing massive loads of laundry. I hated it. So did Kris.

Sometimes, I’d start a load or two — and then forget about them. When Kris went to do her own laundry several days later, she’d discover my damp and mildewed clothes still in the washer.

Enough was enough.

Eventually, she came to me with a proposal. “J.D.,” she said, “I’ll do your laundry, but on one condition.”

“What’s that?” I asked, fearing it would be something dreadful. Like cleaning the bathtub every week. Or mopping the floors. Or eating broccoli.

“In exchange, you have to put gas in my car whenever it’s empty,” Kris said.

I tried to stifle a laugh. “No problem!” I said.

And you have to pay for that gas,” Kris said.

“Ah,” I said. I thought about it. Kris was offering to do my laundry every week (but no ironing) if I would always make sure her gas tank was full, a chore that needed to be done only once a month (because Kris has never driven very much), a chore I didn’t mind in the least. At that time — in 1995 or 1996 — my cost would be about $15 per month. That seemed plenty fair.

“I’ll do it,” I said, and for the past fifteen years, we’ve maintained this arrangement. Kris does my laundry, and I put fuel in her car. It works out well for me, and it works out well for her. Kris says she kind of likes doing the laundry — and emptying the dishwasher.

Note: My cost for this Laundry Agreement has doubled in the past fifteen years — I now spend about $30 per month to put gas in Kris’ car — but Kris says it evens out because my new exercise regiment creates double the dirty clothes.

Goofy? Perhaps. But aren’t all relationships? Surely you and your partner have some kind of strange financial arrangements unique to your situation. I find it hard to believe that Kris and I are the only ones who do this sort of thing. Fess up!

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