Mourning our Maytag

Our humble and hard-working washer finally gave out, reminding us that they just don't make 'em like that anymore

The author's broken down Maytag / Photo by Gail Rosenblum

In the end, the finest appliance I ever owned made a quiet exit from our Minneapolis house, loaded into the back of a large delivery truck and carted off to be unceremoniously picked apart, or worse.

I can say with certainty that no one else under my roof felt anything close to the sadness I experienced at its removal. A resounding chant of “Good riddance!” was more like it.

Our basement Maytag washing machine was nearly 25 years old (a quarter century!) when we bought our funky city house a decade ago. It was the first thing we planned to replace. But we never got around to it with more urgent issues to address (ice dams, aging pipes, uncooperative toilets, a houseful of blended teenagers demanding their space).

So, quietly and with the dignity best exemplified by the aged, it just kept doing its job, sucking ground-in dirt from soccer jerseys, gently freshening delicates, and reserving judgment on lighters catapulted out of pockets in the final powerful spin. Yep, kids. I found them. And all those dollar bills and coins you forgot to remove? They went to charity. Thanks so very much!

Over the years, Mark — our knowledgeable and supremely optimistic Maytag repair man – arrived periodically to keep our Maytag washing machine chugging. An adjustment here, a new part there – crushing the hopes of family members wishing the old thing would finally die and we’d get something shiny and new.

A month ago, even I knew it was time.

Our sleep was abruptly interrupted by a smoke alarm. We rushed downstairs and examined every likely suspect: Old lightbulbs hanging precariously above us? The dryer? Extension cords?

But the smell led us to a surprising place: Nooooo! Not you!


A burned-out motor, most likely due to wiring eroding with age, took down my best appliance friend.

Mark arrived as soon as he could and gently confirmed what I suspected. There just was no way to fix it now that wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive — if he could even find the replacement part for a nearly 35-year-old washing machine.

A week later, my husband and I found ourselves in a bright appliance store with a friendly young saleswoman returning every few minutes to sing the praises of this one — Pet Pro System! — and that one – 10-Year Limited Warranty!

Ten years. The average lifespan of the washing machine today. Most other appliances aren’t much better, maybe hitting their teen years before breaking down.

I admit to an unusual attachment to old stuff. I’ve got clothes and jewelry so old they’re back in style. Photos on the fridge of babies now in grad school.

I donated my cherished 2003 green Rav 4 to the Wheels for Women Program at Newgate School — in 2019. To this day I miss it – and its user-friendly radio dials. Our new car’s dashboard belongs in an airplane cockpit. Yes, I do know how I sound.

And, yes, we wouldn’t have to mine too deeply the connection between my distress with throw-away culture and the steady stream of Medicare brochures arriving in my mailbox daily. But I digress.

We bought a new washing machine.

It’s got a huge basin to accommodate even the largest bedding. It sings to us when we push start.

It wants me to love it so I’m really going to try. I’ll get there. It just won’t be a clean break.

Gail Rosenblum retired from the Star Tribune earlier this year after 23 years as a columnist and editor. She now runs nonprofit, which produces films and teaching lessons to create a new generation of Upstanders. You can reach Gail at [email protected].