When I was young, I always imagined living in a Victorian home, with gloriously decorated rooms, matching curtains, Tiffany lighting fixtures, beautiful table settings…wood trim, wood floors, wood staircase.
Yeah…that didn’t happen. The reality is I live in a typical Chicago-style bungalow, with carpeted floors, and a whole lot of clutter.
My husband likes collecting things. He’s not a hoarder but he does have a lot of stuff (all which has been useful at the appropriate time). I told him from the beginning that all of his “collections” must reside in the basement. Even so, I look at my house and see shelves of books, CDs (who even listens to CDs anymore?), knickknacks, picture frames…and piles of paper in various places (the piles of paper are mostly my fault). It’s clutter.
I feel like that’s one subject in our marriage where we never fully met eye to eye. I always admired minimalism. Simplicity. But truthfully, minimalism and simplicity aren’t realistic in my life. It’s not possible. Yet I still aspire to cleanliness and tidiness, with everything in its place.
But I also love color and life – like house plants and paintings and soft places to sit.
My husband loves the look of a place that’s lived in…a place that invites people to come in and make themselves at home. A place that’s not intimidating, a place where it’s okay to wear your shoes or go barefoot – it doesn’t matter!
I think a major reason why my house is what it is…is because we had children. One year we bought the house, the next year, we had a child. We didn’t have time to focus on making the house our perfect little home that you’d see in Modern Architecture or Better Homes magazines. We had too many other things to think about, like changing diapers, doing dishes, working, paying bills, the list goes on.
Many have told me that when you live in a house, it’s a work in progress and there’s no need to rush the improvements. So we’re not rushing.
I remember one day we went to my brother’s house for a birthday party, or maybe it was a baptism? Anyway, what I remember were the napkins. My sister-in-law set up all the tables (big family – five kids) and each setting had its plate, drinking glass, utensils, and a cute little frayed-edge napkin for each. You could tell she sewed them herself with leftover fabrics, but honestly, it was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen, and it made everything look so…elegant! I never forgot that. I wanted to make some for myself. I remember going home and finding some scrap fabric and sewing my own napkins (before I properly learned how to use the sewing machine). They’re uneven, not seamed, and they’re all weird sizes but they did the job for a while.
Fast forward five years or so (who even knows?)…
My outdoor walks (and various world events) caused me to become a more environmentally-conscious individual. I looked for easy ways to be more environmentally friendly in my home. Those napkins came to mind. Obviously, I needed no convincing of how classy they looked. They instantly made my table look better. They’re charming, you know? They work for any setting whether formal or casual. This is one thing I could do to up the ante in my cluttered, lived-in house, and accomplish an eco-friendly goal.
Then, I realized how sustainable cloth napkins are. I mean, they last forever – practically. My plan for my first set of hand-dyed napkins was to sell them at a craft show. But my husband stopped me, “Those are awesome, I want to keep them for us!” A couple of years later, and we’re still using them. We use them every day, for every meal.
I must confess the feeling of no longer needing to buy paper napkins is such a rush. Paper napkins last…maybe two meals, if you’re lucky. I was glad to strike that off my grocery list.
Cloth napkins…such a small, tiny part of our lifestyle. But every time I set the table for dinner, I put out my ice-dyed napkins, and they make me smile. They’re colorful and beautiful.
I know our house will take a lot more work before it becomes our dream house, but it is our home – it is the picture of us, our lives, our love. It’s where we live and where we want to be – it’s part of our life journey.
How to Care For Cloth Napkins
• Because cloth napkins are really absorbent, (cotton napkins are made of cellulose fiber, which means more fiber per square (than paper) inch to pick up water or other liquids), they don’t get dirtied after just one use (barring the occasional spilled milk or messy bbq entree). I wash them with the rest of my laundry once per week.
• Always wash them in cold water. You can throw them in the dryer, or line-dry them in the warmer months to save further on energy costs! There’s nothing like the fresh scent of outdoor-line-dried linens!
• Want to take your eco-friendly ways outside the home? Take a cloth napkin to work with you on your lunch break, or anytime you go to a restaurant!