Friday, October 9, 2009

It’s the Little Things

The move is behind us. All that remains now is a maze of boxes to unpack once the cleaning is complete. In the meantime, we make do with a few essentials that were last packed and first unpacked. Among the many things we're currently doing without – they were used for packing material – are cloth napkins. Sure, it's a little thing, but one which makes life comfortable, makes mealtime homier.

For expedience, we're currently using paper napkins and, until this move, I had forgotten just how nice cloth napkins are. Not only do they save on paper use, they're so much softer and face-friendly. Now, some may say laundering napkins has its own environmental impact, and food stains can be hard to remove. Neither argument deters me. First of all, the few napkins we use each week are not enough to over-burden regular laundry loads. In fact, in our two-person household, it's often difficult to make a full load, so the napkins added to smaller loads actually make laundering more efficient. Besides, we don't change napkins for every meal – more on that later. As for stains, I use dark-coloured napkins for meals which might stain the napkins – such as those which include gravies or tomato sauces – and save the light-coloured napkins for meals which aren't likely to stain.

For everyday meals we use simple napkins. In fact, some everyday napkins can be made from salvageable portions of old tea towels or from remnant cloth purchased at fabric stores (usually for much-reduced prices). For entertaining or special occasions, I bring out the nice linens. Inevitably those special linens begin showing signs of wear and discolouration. That's when they become everyday napkins and new linens replace them.

Depending on the type of usage (read: messiness factor,) we don't usually replace the napkins for each meal. Sometimes, napkins will be used for a few days. Napkins rings which are easily differentiated help keep each napkin with its original user. For instance, on our everyday set of napkin rings, I've affixed a sticker to the bottom of one to distinguish the two wooden holders from each other. Guests, of course, get fresh linens and the "good" napkin rings (without stickers).

Now, all I have to do is get the china unpacked so I can free up our napkins. At least I won't have to wash newsprint ink from those dishes!