A Special Report

I’ve been told I have to repost this from kniedzw‘s journal. Apparently the logic is is “so your readers will know how crazy you are,” but you guys already know that, right? Right. So we don’t need evidence, and we can just move on.

. . . <sigh> No. I know teleidoplex. She’ll come after me if I don’t follow through. Very well, then, I give you a bit of domestic silliness.


Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2011 19:37:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: swan_tower
To: kniedzw
Subject: A Special Report from the Castle N Laundry Commission

The following is an analysis of the t-shirt wearing habits of Kyle N., as based on laundry data collected since the beginning of calendar year 2011. It covers 19 loads of laundry, and includes all t-shirt content during that period except one load of laundry from mid-February (omitted because it was washed and folded by the subject himself, offering the commission’s investigator no chance to record the relevant data).

During the period under study, there were 91 distinct t-shirt wearing events, as documented by the number of shirts that appeared in the laundry basket. However, those events were distributed across only 30 individual shirts, most of them seeing wear multiple times. The distribution is as follows:

7 shirts were worn once
6 shirts were worn twice
4 shirts were worn three times
8 shirts were worn four times
4 shirts were worn five times
1 shirt was worn eight times

A full list of these shirts may be found in Appendix A of the report.

The mean number of wearings for a given shirt was 3.03. The median was 3.5. The mode was 4. A census of the dresser drawer reveals that the subject possesses 98 t-shirts in three drawers; 68 of these were not worn at all during the period under study, which amounts to 69% of the total.

Breaking the total shirt collection down by color, we find the following categories:

white [1] — 28 shirts
black [2] — 27 shirts
blue — 18 shirts
grey [2] — 10 shirts
red — 6 shirts
green — 3 shirts
brown — 3 shirts
cream [1] — 1 shirt
orange — 1 shirt
multicolored — 1 shirt

[1] A large number of the white shirts were sufficiently discolored as to make it difficult to separate them from shirts which are cream-colored. For the purposes of this study, the only shirt counted as “cream” is the alphabet shirt, a recent purchase whose color is not in doubt.
[2] Similarly, many of the black shirts have faded to a sufficient degree that they may arguably be called grey. Two borderline cases were placed into the latter category; otherwise the investigator gave semi-black shirts the benefit of the doubt.

White shirts returned the most extreme statistics: they comprise the largest category in the drawers, but only one was worn during the period of the study, on a single occasion. White shirts therefore comprise 3.3% of t-shirts worn, and 1.1% of t-shirt wearing events; furthermore, only 3.6% of the white t-shirt collection saw use during this period.

The statistics for black shirts are potentially complicated by the subject’s ownership of two identical black Strange Horizons shirts, which cannot be distinguished by any practical means. However, the commission found that the two were regularly found in conjunction, both appearing in the laundry basket during any given period, so this analysis assumes an equal distribution of wearing across the two.

Counting the identical pair as two separate items, 12 black shirts saw use during this period, which is 44.4% of the total black shirt collection. They made up 40% of t-shirts worn, and 42.9% of t-shirt wearing events.

Taking colored shirts as a single grouping, 16 saw wear, comprising 37.2% of the total colored-shirt collection; they constituted 53% of t-shirts worn, and 47.3% of t-shirt wearing events. Breaking them down into individual categories, the numbers are thus:

blue: 6 worn; 33.3% of blue shirt collection; 20% of shirts worn; 30% of wearing events
grey: 4 worn; 40% of grey shirt collection; 13.3% of shirts worn; 8.8% of wearing events
red: 2 worn; 33.3% of red shirt collection; 6.7% of shirts worn; 6.6% of wearing events
brown: 2 worn; 66.6% of brown shirt collection; 6.7% of shirts worn; 9.9% of wearing events
green: 2 worn; 66.6% of green shirt collection; 6.7% of shirts worn; 4.4% of wearing events
cream: 1 worn; 100% of cream shirt collection; 3.3% of shirts worn; 4.4% of wearing events

It should be noted that the most popular shirt in the subject’s collection is blue: the Oshiro dojo shirt, which saw eight distinct uses during this period.

The data strongly supports an “accessibility” model of t-shirt selection: the specimens worn most often are those in the top layer or two of a drawer. T-shirts placed deeper in the drawer are only worn when those from superposed layers are in the laundry basket, making laundry frequency the biggest determinant of t-shirt-wearing diversity. This is a self-reinforcing cycle, as the shirts which have been worn will be returned to the top of a drawer, where they are almost certain to be chosen again before long. Two factors disrupted this pattern: first, the purchase of new shirts during the study introduced “false variety,” broadening the number of distinct items worn without involving a larger percentage of the existing collection. Second, in late March or early April the subject folded a stack of black shirts, but left them on top of the dresser rather than placing them in a drawer. This caused two previously unworn shirts and one that had seen only a single incident of use to be introduced into the rotation. Otherwise, the only factor likely to produce much “churn” seems to be the delay of laundry, which is undesirable for other reasons.

The commission firmly recommends a substantial reduction in the t-shirt population. The white shirts, in particular, make up almost an entire drawer which sees only the most negligible use. Based on the evidence, the subject could get by with only thirty t-shirts; however, the commission recognizes the undesirability of such a large reduction in the eyes of the subject. It therefore recommends fifty to sixty t-shirts, the number having been chosen on the following basis: such a collection will fit into two dresser drawers (freeing one up for other kinds of clothing and thereby simplifying the broader clothing-storage situation in the bedroom), while still leaving room for new acquisitions, thus forestalling the need for further cuts in the near future.

The criteria by which the selection is to be made are left up to the discretion of the subject; however, the commission will make bold to offer the following suggestions. Based on the subject’s personality, it seems most advisable to concentrate t-shirt retention in the following areas:

1) Shirts with significant personal meaning (e.g. Boston Red Sox World Series)
2) Shirts with humor and/or conversational value (e.g. those acquired from Woot)

Reductions might be focused on other categories:

1) Shirts which have seen significant wear and tear (e.g. holes, fraying collars, etc)
2) Shirts with generic personal meaning (e.g. random conference swag)
3) Duplicate shirts

The actual approach to reduction, however, is left up to the discretion of the subject. The commission welcomes discussion of the topic, and hopes that the assembled data proves useful.

APPENDIX — Wearing incidents by individual shirt

black shirts:
Bubba Ho-Tep — 3
Jim’s Big Ego — 3
Penguin — 4
EFF — 4
Strange Horizons (2) — 10
LISA — 5
Watchmen — 4
Tori Amos — 2
Pi — 2
Dublin — 1
Freedom — 1

colored shirts:
Respect — 1
ICFA — 4
Akamai — 2
dojo — 8
Jaws — 3
Terminus — 2

raven — 1
Delorean — 4
future — 2
Batman — 1

Mesoamericans — 4
Communist Party –2

huckleberry — 5
Usenix — 4

alphabet — 4

white shirts:
dojo — 1

Two disclaimers: first, I never took a statistics class, and second, I take no responsibility for any negative consequences that may arise from others applying similar methodology to their own spouses. Use at your own risk.

0 Responses to “A Special Report”

  1. starlady38

    Generating churn in my clothing worn is always a significant problem, and I doubt I own 98 articles of clothing total.

    In other words, this is awesome.

    • Marie Brennan

      I freely admit I don’t regularly wear every piece of clothing I own. But I do carry out periodic culls, and try to get rid of the stuff that doesn’t see much use.

      • starlady38

        Yeah, I try to do the same. I carried out an epic cull of clothes and books before I moved out here, and it was very freeing.

  2. la_marquise_de_

    Laughs like several drains.
    So like the home life of my own dear marquis. (Except that his favourite t-shirt is probably black.)
    He is baffled by my mirth.

    • Marie Brennan

      I was surprised that black shirts weren’t more popular, but I think it’s because he’s taken to buying shirts from Woot and Threadless, many of which are colored.

  3. mrissa

    Churn has been greatly reduced at my house of late, because certain nameless parties have only one pair of athletic pants and have recently started participating in an athletic league. So he washes his suitable pants with all the other dark-colored things he’s been wearing that week and then wears them all again the next week. I fear the result of this will be seven fewer shirts as he wears them all to bits in a short time.

    • marycatelli

      Is there a particular reason why purchase of another, or even two more, pairs is inadvisable?

    • Marie Brennan

      Heh. Yes, many factors can affect this. In fact, I suspect the low wearing frequency of white shirts is a self-reinforcing cycle: low concentration of white garments means we do white laundry very infrequently, so he doesn’t get reminded of his white shirts’ existence.

  4. ckd

    Have you sent this to AIR yet?

  5. teleidoplex

    At least we understand each other.

    It… scares me, that we understand each other. No. It scares _me_ that I understand _you._ It scares me more how much I admire you for doing this at all.

  6. marycatelli

    Figuring out ways to not just grab the stuff on top and so distribute more churn is always fun. I try not to do the laundry until I’m just about out of something, but it’s usually one thing. And completely good clothes just sit there while others are worn to pieces.

    • Marie Brennan

      I prefer to do one load of laundry at a time, rather than ALL the laundry (which then ALL has to be folded at once — that’s the real hurdle), so that method isn’t terribly suitable for this household.

  7. pameladean

    This is stupendous.

    I am presently responsible only for my own laundry, but I have found that churn is significantly increased if one puts the clean T-shirts away in the bottom rather than the top of the drawer.

    This method does sometimes lead to one’s hurling all the shirts onto the bed to find a favorite one; and by the time the favorite has been donned, the shirts on the bed are occupied by cats and will probably have to be washed. The obvious solution to this problem is to create a flat space not generally occupied by cats to put the shirts on, but the number of actions necessar to accomplish this is enormous and always ends in the necessity of removing books from the house, so it’s unlikely to happen.


    • Marie Brennan

      We are a cat-deprived household, so that’s less of a concern. But yes, several friends have pointed out that such methods do increase churn. (I imagine they work even better if the drawers are not stuffed so full you can barely close them.)

  8. Marie Brennan

    I don’t pick out ‘s shirts each morning, so I have no control over how he selects them. And I wasn’t about to go rearranging the stacks and skewing my data, now was I?

    • clodfobble

      Ask him which is more important: the mathematical beauty of even shirt-use distribution, or the illogical entropy of fashion (*twirl and snap*)! Surely the man can be reasoned with.

  9. Anonymous

    I read Charmed Life first. And, though I did not read the books as a child, I read them more or less as they were published when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I never liked Lives as much as CL, perhaps for the reasons you mentioned: CL had a certain cosiness that I enjoyed, and Lives had that hard edge that made me a little uncomfortable. But I look forward to reading more of these posts – anything about DWJ is a good thing!

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