The Magic of Loose Change: When Being a Lazy Hausfrau Pays Off

The washing machine and dryer live on the second floor of our apartment (it’s a row house apartment), on the landing. This is not exactly aesthetically pleasing, but it is convenient as all get-out so I don’t let it get to me too much. When we first moved in here, I hung two matching shower curtains on a rod in front of the machines in an attempt to obscure the view, but they’re not quite long enough, and anyhow, it’s annoying to slide curtains back and forth all the time. So what we have is matching curtains hanging in front of these machines and obscuring nothing at all. (I could buy longer curtains, but that would involve effort and spending money, so it’s never going to happen. Let’s move on.)

The washing machine is a top-loader and, hence, nothing ever rests on top of it, but the dryer is a front-loading machine, and is permanently covered with things: stacks of clothes that I mean to do something with, some day (sew a button back on, donate to some worthy cause), small tins that hold the things I don’t have a better place for (tubes of lip balm, collar stays, ponytail holders, buttons that fell off things that need to be sewn back on). There are also often a couple of books there, and maybe some coupons I clipped from the back of the cardboard boxes the toothpaste came in. Usually you can find some cellophane wrappers for things that got unwrapped while standing there and should have been put in the trash but didn’t, in addition to old receipts (should have gone into recycling, but didn’t) and little random bits of metal like the broken pulls of zippers or bent-into-uselessness barrettes (also should have been recycled, but weren’t). Inevitably, this is also where there are random coins have been put as I emptied pockets just before doing a load of laundry.

This week, I had a day where I engaged in some fitful housecleaning and among other tasks, I straightened up the top of the dryer. It is still covered with things, but now there are somewhat fewer cellophane wrappers and broken barrettes. I learned that there was precisely $1.69 in change on top of the dresser. Since this is a genuinely useful amount of money (it’s enough for one bus ride downtown), I took the money and put it into my wallet.

Some days later — today — I took my daughter downtown with me. We had a plan. We would go to the fancy grocery store and purchase some of the fancy things we can’t get anywhere else in town (duck bacon, vanilla powder) and a can of coffee; we would go to an art supply shop where my daughter had a gift card to use (a gift I’d given her for Chanukkah); and then we’d go to the public library. First we went to the grocery store, where I bought the three items on my list plus an issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I did not buy the Chimpanzee Puffs Cereal my daughter found tempting, nor did I buy another little jar of tea tree oil salve, which I found tempting. At the art supply store, my daughter picked out a small plastic wind-up toy in the shape of a fish, of which I don’t quite approve, and a small two-sided slate chalkboard, of which I do approve. The fish cost $4.00 and the chalkboard cost $5.40. I had explained to her that she had $10 on her gift card, and that she had to be careful to not pick out more than $10 worth of merchandise. She is pretty good about this kind of thing, so I was not worried at all about her nudging me for more money. But then we both remembered that she doesn’t have any small, skinny chalks at home. The only chalk she has right now are the big fat kind that are great for drawing on the sidewalk, but which would be annoying to use on the little hand-held chalkboard she was buying.

I said, “I tell you what, let’s go get a box of chalk, I’ll pay for it. It’ll be fine.” She looked a little worried. “Is chalk expensive?” she asked. “It’s not so expensive,” I said. So we picked out a little box of chalk and went to the cash register. She gave the cashier her gift card, and the cashier rang up our items. “Ok, the total is a little over,” she said. “How much?” I asked. I could see my daughter looking very worried. “It’s $11.64 with tax,” she said.

I said, “Sweetie, it’s a miracle. I have, I happen to know, exactly $1.64 in my change purse.” I counted out the coins. “How do you know that’s what you have in your change purse?” she asked. And I explained about how I’d taken the coins from on top of the dryer and put them in my wallet. “It was $1.64,” I said. “So $1.64 plus your ten dollar gift card means we’ve got exactly $11.64. The dryer paid for the chalk. It’s a miracle!”

Everyone smiled.

The moral of the story is, If you let yourself be slovenly for just the right length of time, sometimes it will, literally, pay off.

On a related note:


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