Asian-style guest linen rental for Asian-style U.S. cities?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, says not to store guest linens because they take up a lot of space relative to their infrequent use and they’ll smell like mildew after months in storage. Just rent them when guests show up, says Kondo, implying that the typical Japanese reader would find a convenient rental option nearby.

Via the magic of population growth and increased concentration of American economic activity in a handful of places, we’re building Asian-style cities (in terms of population density, if not infrastructure quality). An increasing percentage of Americans going forward will be living in minimum-size apartments.

Is there a business opportunity here? Offer a roll-out mattress and fresh linens for rent. Base the rentals at laundries that have the in-house capability to wash everything. Put a national brand name on it so that consumers know what quality to expect.

Readers: What do you think of this idea? It is apparently a sustainable business in Japan.

8 thoughts on “Asian-style guest linen rental for Asian-style U.S. cities?

  1. May or may not fly here. A set of new sheets at the Home Store is ~$30. The linen rental place would have to beat that cost by a significant amount to justify the nuisance of returning them when you’re done. Or they’d have to provide delivery/pickup, also eating into the margins.

    • There is zero chance it would fly here. Half the customers would rent linens or mattresses to sully them.

      Japanese in Kanto/Kansai areas live in rabbit hutches and own very little in terms of things. They grab food on the run constantly and dine out rather than cook much. Weekly, they rent space for socializing (private karaoke room, love hotel). They live in a way to avoid spending much time at home in a space that is effectively just for sleeping.

      This Kondo fad is a bit mystifying. Many Americans just need to stop buying so much crap they don’t really need. Tops on the list are large houses and new cars, way before worrying about “things”. This ultra-minimalist japanese zen rock garden dogma makes no sense. If you have some storage space you have a multifactorial optimization problem, not a spiritual exercise in possessions auditing.

  2. How about just putting extra bed linens in a couple of resealable bags? That’s what my grandma used to do and they always smelled fresh and clean. And you can reuse the bags!

  3. Given $2000 per square foot in any job center, you’re better off buying new clothing & throwing it away every day than keeping any of it around. Just put it on your ever expanding home equity line of credit.

  4. The Japanese version of the book refers to futons, not linens. I don’t want to pull out my copy of the English version, but I suspect that either a translator (or you?) has localized the original, and used “linens” as an awkward and innacurate alternative to “bedding.”

    In Japan you have sets of shiki and kake futons, plus covers and extra blankets, along with pillows, enough to handle two or more guests, and these usually take up the closet space for an entire room. The bedding needs to be pulled out and made up, and then put away during the day, since the space has other uses then. When the guests leave it needs to be hung out for few hours in the sun, if the sun is shining, or dried with a futon dryer, a sort of heated reverse vaccuum cleaner, and then put away.

    And yes, the bedding can smell ripe sometimes, even in well-off homes. Don’t get me started on the futons used in mountain lodges where the only way to bring in new ones is by helicopter or on the backs of muscular male college students working as mules for the summer.

    I wasn’t aware that rental services were available in Japan, but it’s a brilliant idea: You not only free up space and save on initial bedding costs, but you send a subtle message to your guests (who are 99 percent relatives, who in turn are 70 percent unwelcome visitors) that their stay is costing you out-of-pocket money, so, Hey, don’t overstay your welcome!

    Here’s a nationwide Japanese futon rental chain that I just found:

    They have a sort of futon car wash oven thing to clean returned futons. Cost for a basic model is about $10 a day with a minimum of 5 days (they’ll pick it up after 1 day, but you have to pay for 5).

    • The translation does say “bedding”: “mattress or fold-up bed, duvet, pillow, blanket, sheets” (page 131)

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