Coins

My wife and I have known a couple of friends for years who have been roommates since college. They went to the same grad school, took the same degree path, and work in the same profession. And like any relationship, whether a mere friendship or even a decades-old marriage, it’s amazing to see how two different human beings have learned to live together.

And they aren’t just good at figuring out how to keep the peace in their apartment or maintain conversation. They’ve learned how to better manage laundry. Yeah, I said it; the bane of so many people’s existence: laundry. And to make matters worse, the apartment house that they live in uses a coin-operated laundry set-up. Granted, it’s in the basement of the house so they don’t have to travel far to do this chore, but it is still a pain.

Here’s how the system worked when they moved in eight years ago:

First, my friends would go to the bank and purchase a roll or two of quarters. This is easy if the bank is next door — but it’s not. No, their bank is a couple of miles away, which means driving over. When they have time. And remember.

Then, with quarters in hand, they head to the laundry room in the basement and pay the meter enough to wash their clothing. Usually a lot of money. Which means a lot of trips to the bank. And a lot of trips down the stairs.

Later that month, their landlord empties the laundry coin meter. Then, she rolls the quarters, gets in her car and drives to the bank and deposits the money in her account. She’s made some money, sure, but it has cost her some time, too.

Rinse. Repeat.

Their landlord did this for years. YEARS. Until my friends moved in. And after getting a tour of how the laundry worked, they offered the landlord a suggestion. Are you ready for this? Because the amount of friction they were about to eliminate is staggering. This was their idea:

They would go to the bank the first time and get all the quarters they need. They will pay the meters and wash their clothing. And at the end of the month the landlord will fetch the coins, add them up and then GIVE THEM BACK. Of course, the amount of money she collects will get added to that month’s rent, and my friends just make their check out for rent+coins. They still only write one check, and the landlord still gets all her money. No more trips to the bank. No more rolling quarters. No more gas and time and frustration and friction. Easy, obvious and mind-bogglingly simple.

What’s my point? I’m not sure, honestly. But this story illustrates one of the big pillars of the frictionless lifestyle: observe. By just paying attention to the frustrating situations and systems in their new apartment, my friends removed something that would have become a monthly — or even weekly — source of stress for them. Just by observing how it all works and then recommending a small adjustment to the process.

How many opportunities like this do we pass up in our lives each day? How many rough spots in our workflow at our desk to we simple ignore because we’re too busy “getting things done”?

Stop and look for “coins”. Always be observing. Always consider your methods and systems to be works in progress, not set in stone. Observe, reflect on it and then experiment with solutions. That’s how you become frictionless.