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The washing machine problem

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Punp

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I'm really, really aware of how unimportant this problem is but I'm really struggling to wrap my head around it. The question is one of optimisation and the problem is not specifically about a washing machine.

Assume the following:
* You must make the most of your washing powder and electricity, so it's preferrable to do a full load of washing
* You must separate white and coloured clothes so the dyes don't stain the white clothing (this is not a segregation allegory)
* I have loads of colourful clothes, but only one white t-shirt and a pair of white socks.
* I currently have enough clothes to wear on a daily basis.
* I wear the white tee once a week and it is neccessary to wash it weekly.
* I can't just throw away my white tee because it's sentimenal.
* I cannot wash the clothes in any other way (for argument's sake, I don't have a wash basin or a hose).

The problem:
* It is wasteful to wash just my tee and socks on their own.
* If I buy five more white tees then I will have a full load of washing - though I do not need those extra clothes.

Some questions:
* What is 'wasteful'? Do I mean resources or monetarily? Who is it detrimental to? (Myself, the environment)
* If monetarily, what costs more over the long term?
* If environmentally, is buying five more white tees more damaging to the environment than a half-filled washing machine?
* Are there other ways to reduce how many loads must be washed, and if so does this mitigate the suboptimal loads?
* Even if the question of "what is wasteful" is decided, the question of optimisation is still there. What is more optimal?
* Does filling a washing load to capacity mean it is optimised? What if one day I buy another white t-shirt and I start the problem again?

Potential solutions:
* Wear only white clothing (all washing then will be optimised)
* Buy more white clothing to make an optimised wash (at the risk of overflow when I buy more white clothing)

Analogous problems:
* The beef industry produces extra cow hides. Because vegans are using synthetics many of these cow hides must be thrown into landfill instead of used in the leather industry. If we use more leather, there is now a surplus of beef.
* I have more milk than cookies. I must open a new packet of cookies. Now I need more milk.

I can't fully explain why this is so perplexing to me. It's not limited to a washing machine problem and I feel it applies to a lot of optimisation problems. I genuinely feel like I'm trying to pass a Voight-Kampff test and failing.

Please help me understand why this is interesting and suggest any other analogous problems.
 
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Punp

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TL;DR I think the above problem outlines a very basic human flaw in the need for optimisation which encourages accellerated consumption. It's a mental trap.
 
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bnuungus

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ok but seriously just use cold water when washing with cold water detergent and the colors dont bleed. you also use less energy bc you didn't heat up the water
 
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handoferis

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several ways out here:

- only wash your white stuff with colour clothes that are well washed and have done all their bleeding already (if you are really scared, you can test with the socks to be sure your choices won't cause colour bleed)
- wash your white stuff with bedding, which is usually not super dark colours (or with towels! sneaking into the towel wash works wonders)
- fuck a machine, get a board and just do your one top in the sink like old days

this question of optimisation seems like a problem, but you just need to look at it from a different vantage point
 
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RisingThumb

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What is wasteful depends on your morality and your situation. Financial waste in buying and binning old clothes may be relevant, or may be irrelevant if your time produces significantly more value than the time spent in cleaning them. Environmental waste only matters if you take the environment into consideration, which if you're at all concerned about the future of Humanity, you'll support. Ultimately I have no stake either side of the pie, so I just go with the financially optimal solution for my efforts.

Additionally consider what circumstances require you to wear a white shirt and white socks. You can change the circumstances so you don't- i.e. get a software developer job.
 
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Punp

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Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the inputs. My concern is less about solving the washing machine problem with real clothing - it was a model problem to represent the issue. I think the real anxiety surfaces in the intense need to make things work perfectly optimised when this idea of microscopic optimisation is a very human requirement and heavily flawed.
 
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bnuungus

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Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the inputs. My concern is less about solving the washing machine problem with real clothing - it was a model problem to represent the issue. I think the real anxiety surfaces in the intense need to make things work perfectly optimised when this idea of microscopic optimisation is a very human requirement and heavily flawed.
i mean given the replies i guess you could say that the best way to go about optimization is to sometimes approach the problem from an entirely different viewpoint
 
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handoferis

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Analogous problems:
* The beef industry produces extra cow hides. Because vegans are using synthetics many of these cow hides must be thrown into landfill instead of used in the leather industry. If we use more leather, there is now a surplus of beef.
* I have more milk than cookies. I must open a new packet of cookies. Now I need more milk.

To look at these ones:

  • The beef/leather problem is pretty much irrelevant as vegans are such a vanishingly small proportion of people, and the synthetics industry already existed and was rather large (but catering to poors instead of morons)
  • Stop eating cookies you fat fuck

boom, optimized
 
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RisingThumb

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Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the inputs. My concern is less about solving the washing machine problem with real clothing - it was a model problem to represent the issue. I think the real anxiety surfaces in the intense need to make things work perfectly optimised when this idea of microscopic optimisation is a very human requirement and heavily flawed.
Performance optimisation occurs in programming, but there's 2 things that's often said about it. Firstly, YAGNI... which is an abbreviation for You Aren't Gonna Need It. Quite often this is true. Then there's "premature optimisation", which might be what's happening here, you're optimising prematurely before it's actually an issue. If it's not causing financial issues or environmental issues that's measurably significant, you're probably prematurely optimising.
 
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ignika98

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See, the real problem here is that you're trying to think like a computer. Just do whatever is most convenient for you. Optimization isn't just about eliminating waste, it's also about getting a task done with the least amount of effort possible.
 
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Chao Tse-Tung

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Is color bleeding still really an issue in modern day?? I've never in my life (nor did my family ever) separate colors to wash, and I only ever recall one time something bled color, and it was some ultra-cheap shitty Chinese beach towel.

Maybe I've just gotten incredibly lucky, but I was fully under the impression that separating laundry was an antiquated and useless thing except in the cases of specific (really fancy and really shitty) clothes.
 
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Chao Tse-Tung

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Me when I want to make hotdogs but hotdogs are sold in multiples of 5 and hotdog buns are sold in multiples of 6. This world is sick.

You:
 
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Punp

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  • The beef/leather problem is pretty much irrelevant as vegans are such a vanishingly small proportion of people, and the synthetics industry already existed and was rather large (but catering to poors instead of morons)
Damn, I was about to um ackshally you on how meat consumption is declining but that just isn't the case. Thanks for the blackpill.

Is color bleeding still really an issue in modern day?? I've never in my life (nor did my family ever) separate colors to wash, and I only ever recall one time something bled color, and it was some ultra-cheap shitty Chinese beach towel.

Maybe I've just gotten incredibly lucky, but I was fully under the impression that separating laundry was an antiquated and useless thing except in the cases of specific (really fancy and really shitty) clothes.
It certainly feels like whites I don't isolate become beige or grey. It's not worth mixing for the slight chance that everything turns pink.


Performance optimisation occurs in programming, but there's 2 things that's often said about it. Firstly, YAGNI... which is an abbreviation for You Aren't Gonna Need It. Quite often this is true. Then there's "premature optimisation", which might be what's happening here, you're optimising prematurely before it's actually an issue. If it's not causing financial issues or environmental issues that's measurably significant, you're probably prematurely optimising.
I think this is the advice I needed. Thank you! It's a problem I run into frequently as a programmer.
 
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