My Minimalism Journey

The Napkin Story

In my previous post Farm Girl Vintage, Part III I mentioned my past challenges with nearly OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) level of desire for order and neatness in my life.

When we lived in Seattle, WA I used to entertain, a lot. Game nights, holiday get-togethers at my house, random dinner parties, birthday party hosting, baby shower hosting, work parties, etc., etc. I was very social – and if I was not throwing party, I was attending a party or going to some event. Notice, I mentioned that “I” was very social, as I learned years later, Terry the Quilting Husband was only playing along, he would have preferred more quiet time at home with me and the dogs. (There is the Thanksgiving he always teases me about – when we out of obligation, courtesy and my desire, attended 3 – 4 Thanksgiving celebrations at various friends’ homes all in one day!)

I enjoyed the gatherings, but when I hosted it was secretly very stressful as I always wanted to have everything  absolutely perfect for my guests. I would spend hours before hosting a party making sure everything was perfect. I would read magazine articles about tips for being the perfect host (Martha Stewart in her heyday would have been proud…or perhaps have some concerns about my sanity).

One of the “perfect host” tips was to have a perfectly set table. I always kept a perfectly set dining room table, even when no one was coming over to dine. All the plates, flatware, and cloth napkins perfectly arranged (at least I refrained from keeping glassware set out to gather dust…) in anticipation for the next get together.

The cloth napkins, oh the cloth napkins. They were always freshly pressed, perfectly arranged in their napkin rings and never to be used. Yes, you read correctly, never to be used.

When people came over for dinner, I would pull out disposable napkins and place them next to the cloth napkins. I did not realize how much weirdness this was, but my friends quietly accepted my weirdness and would use the paper napkins while the cloth napkins remained untouched.

Then my sister visited…

My younger sister Rianna is awesome and has helped me evolve to a more “chilled-out” person. I had a dinner party in her honor when she visited with some of my closest Seattle friends.

Rianna did not know of my “napkin weirdness” and sat down at the dining table to eat and proceeded to remove the cloth napkin from its napkin ring and place it on her lap.

A hush fell over the dining room table…

My sister tells the story much better than I but it was like she had climbed on top of the table and started dancing through our plates of food – it was that shocking to me and my other guests (who unfortunately I had obviously trained to accept my weirdness). I am sure I behaved very tensely for a moment but I had no choice but to see the silliness of the situation – being upset that someone was actually using a cloth napkin I had set out on the table.

My sister was patient and understanding (though she thought it was hysterical once she realized what happened). When she returned home from her visit she sent me a HUGE collection of cloth napkins and kindly suggested I actually USE them.

Fast forward many years. Now having embraced minimalism, living with less, and a desire to be thoughtful to the environment, I have completely given up paper napkins and only use cloth napkins!

As you can see from the photo below, they are very well used. We even use napkins several times before throwing them into the washing machine (unless we have a really messy meal).


We do not entertain like we used to and we are very happy with that (notice I said “we” – Terry the Quilting Husband is over the moon that he gets to mainly spend time hanging out with just me and the dogs).

I still keep my house fairly neat and I like things in order. If you read my series of posts on My Minimalism Journey you will see that I have much less things (so they are even easier to keep in order – ha!). I accept that order makes me happy but I try not to be obsessed about it and continually try to let go of perfection (I no longer iron my cloth napkins and I donated all my napkin rings to a local charity thrift shop!)


Paper Towels

As I was thinking about writing this post, one of my blogging buddies who writes an awesome blog about living thrifty, @Devise.Create.Connect, posted this about paper towels: THINGS I DON’T BUY ANYMORE TO SAVE MONEY: PAPER TOWELS.

I realized that in addition to using cloth napkins, we also switched to using old tea towels and old wash cloths to clean the house; and crocheted washcloths for dishes. We keep a supply of paper towels for anything super messy and for draining fat/oil when cooking (i.e. for bacon).

We used to go through a lot of paper towels and now a roll of paper towels seems to last us forever.

Signs of Spring

It feels like it has been an endless Winter, but yesterday in my neighbor’s garden, I witnessed signs of Spring! The crocus are popping up:


The Easter Schnauzer Bunny?

This probably belongs on Sassy the Highly Opinionated Miniature Schnauzer’s blog, Schnauzer Snips, but Terry and I were at the grocery store on Friday and came across this in the Easter display:


Yes, nestled among the stuffed animal rabbits, chickens (or is that a duck?) and sheep, was an “Easter Schnaubunny”. No we did not buy it, as tempting as it was!

24 thoughts on “The Napkin Story”

  1. I loved reading the napkin story. I love cloth napkins and have made several sets (when I bought a serger and saw how easy the edges were to do!) and always use cloth ones for my infrequent company. Since most of my meals are eaten standing at the kitchen counter (yeah, a bad habit we live-aloners have), paper towels are handy.

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m only a bit past the mid-point on the entertaining-crazy scale. I do like to have a clean house (and I find that entertaining is a great reason to do a bit!) and I try to always have my table set, at worst, the morning of the dinner party. But we use paper napkins because 1) store-bought cloth napkins are usually distressingly humongous (note the distress — there is something wrong there, too) and 2) I am not up for making my own napkins.

    For just us, we used to use men’s handkerchiefs as our table napkins, and yes, they’d get used several times before going in the wash. Once they wore out, we started using paper ones, but … wait for it … they get torn in half before use. !!!

    And YES on the paper towels. They are good to have around for crazy messes and bacon, but a roll can last us a very long time. Very unlike at our daughters’ homes, where I think they go through a roll in a couple of days.

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    1. Thanks Melanie for your comments – you were my kindred spirit in table-setting :-). If I was having people for dinner I would set the table before they came now – ha! Glad you are environmentally frugal like me on the paper towels 🙂

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  3. Oh too funny! I believe I went through a similar stage with my perfectly displayed beautiful table. I didn’t last for long because I’m not fond of dusting. We do however use cloth napkins. My oldest daughter and I use to have fun going to antique shops looking for napkins. For awhile my collection kept growing and growing. Eventually I ran out of storage space and had to trim it down. Now we have our favorite stack that keeps getting recycled. We use them multiple times. Paper towel is not used in our home very often. We use cotton kitchen towels in their place. We also use a set of white dish cloths that I purchased at the French Store for cleaning.

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  4. You are such a delight Tierney. It is so fun to read this and just hear your voice recapping the story. You know me, I am probably the opposite of you…I just like my stuff! That’s what makes the world go ’round. I do have to say, I appreciate Terry’s thoughts on entertaining and such. I really like my quiet times at home with old Jimmy. I’m not too big on company any more.
    I cannot wait to spend time with you in May. I miss you.

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    1. I know I cannot wait for May and our annual retreat! Thanks for reading and commenting Linda! (and now you know I am even crazier than you thought I was!) 😉


  5. Hahahaha! We are so obsessed with cloth napkins (only white will do) that a few years ago I bought several types and tested them for how well they washed: did mustard come out, did they look like they needed ironing, etc. We use them all the time, and have set aside a few to be used for company since even after my research we have some that get stained over time. So you aren’t the only napkin obsessive out there 🙂

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  6. thanks for sharing your ‘quirkiness’ with us! LOVE the napkin story. I only use cloth napkins also and am a true minimalist these days. If Mr W turns his back to me there is a real chance that something might end up up-cycled, recycled or simply tossed.

    Your Farmers Daughter blocks are perfect. Such precision sewing. Color me impressed. 🙂

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