reusable living :: napkins

We live in a disposable society.  From dishes and bags to hygienic products and cleaning products.  It seems that every year more and more disposable options come on to the market promising to save us time in our busy schedules.  But...have you ever found yourself frustratingly out of paper towels or ziplock bags??  Have you ever been overwhelmed by the long list of items that you need to pick up at your neighborhood Target store??

I have a theory about theory is that all of these disposable things don't really make our lives simpler.  When they are readily available, they can most definitely make things easier, but in the long run, I think they make our lives more complicated.  It's time consuming to keep all these different things in stock in your cupboards and closets, and speaking of cupboards and closets, all of those different disposable things take up a lot of space.  There's also the financial aspect--as cheap as they may seem, have you ever calculated how much money you spend every year on things that you use once and then throw away??  I think we would all be a bit disgusted with the numbers.  And let's not even get into the landfills that could be filled with disposable products alone...yeah, let's not go there. 

So, what do we do about it?!  As crazy as it may sound...there are lots of pretty simple solutions and a lot of them are things that our grandmothers and/or great grandmothers used to do...before the age of disposables.  Now, for many of us, life looks very different than it did for our grandmothers.  Rather than being home all day cooking, cleaning, and child rearing, many of us spend our days, or a portion of our days, working away from home and the times that we are home are packed full of housework, food preparation, and family time.  I get it.  The idea of adding one more thing to the washing list, be it dishes or laundry, sounds far from simple.  Yet, as crazy as it may sound, I do believe that kicking the disposable addiction can truly add a bit of simplicity to our busy lives.  

With that...I thought I'd start a series entitled "reusable living" with each post highlighting a different way to simplify your life by moving away from disposables and going back to the way things used to be done.  All of these things may not be for everyone, or even for you, but I do hope that you'll find one or two that may be helpful and inspiring.  

I thought I'd start this series with one of our favorite daily reusable: cloth napkins.  Now, if you grew up like me, cloth napkins were reserved for holidays and family gatherings.  Don't get me wrong, cloth napkins definitely class up a meal and make it special, but why can't we use them every day!?  Most would say that the reason is because they have to be washed and that adds extra time and tasks to our already busy schedules.  But, that's where I disagree for two reasons.  

  1. Napkins do not need to be washed after every meal.  In our house we each have a designated napkin and we use it until it starts to look like it needs washing.  Sometimes that's a week, other times it's after a messy meal.  Either way, they don't need to be washed after every meal.  With a small family, this means a set of napkins can last for several days.  Obviously, when guests come over you can wash their napkins after the meal, but for those in your house, wash as needed. 
  2. Napkins are super easy to wash.  Just accumulate napkins that can be thrown in with your bathroom towels, kitchen towels, or sheets and you're golden!  They don't need a load of their own and they hardly take up space in your washer.  If you have a few sets of napkins, it's easy to just wash them as you do your other laundry and the folding is slick as well.  

Why we love them:

  • They work so much better and are much softer than paper ones!  Use a cloth napkin while eating BBQ will change your life--no more paper stuck to your sticky fingers.  
  • They make our dining experiences more formal and more special.  
  • As for simplifying our lives, I feel that they do that by eliminating the need for and space for paper napkins.  Instead of having both cloth and paper, we now just have cloth, which saves space and makes for less decision making, thus making things a bit simpler.  

A few tips:

  • For designating napkins for different people in your house, there are a few options.  You could have a different set of napkins for each person so that each person has their own design or color.  Or you can use a different napkin ring for each person.  That's our plan.  
  • If you don't already have a few sets of napkins, they are pretty easy to come by.  Look at discount stores for them or make your own.  For kids you could even make smaller napkins by cutting up and re-hemming larger ones.  You don't have to buy nice napkins to get started, just get some simple cotton linen ones and you'll be set.  
  • Dark colors or patterned napkins are nice as they don't show stains as much.  

Try it out!  You may fall in love and never turn back.