But bliss does have a flip side. Brands with a quick and repetitive sales model often design their goods with "planned obsolescence" in mind. Design decisions like quality and durability of materials and sewing craft are planned to erode quickly. This means that a great bedding set or sweater might look beautiful on first use, but colors will fade, fibers shrink or get itchy, and buttons will fall out quickly. Thus begins the cycle of consumption that requires more visits to Goodwill, stresses your monthly budget, and occupies a never-ending place on your to-do list. It's truly a treadmill. Further, in order to produce these goods at such an enticing price, other corners must be cut. Fast goods are often produced in slum factories in developing countries where children and young woman work for less than living wage. The dye process for some textiles uses harsh chemicals that are dumped into water sources and the soil. All this for fast profits.
The alternative this would be hand-crafted goods. Instead of big highs and big lows, slow goods are long-wearing, predictable, and actually improve their durability over time. They fit into a lifestyle built on ritual, routine, community, and commitment. It takes time to cook, to iron (on occasion), to do laundry and make the bed. Fabrics are savored and collected and become like old friends. Over time, that one pair of favorite linen napkins, for example, will also be less expensive to use and maintain than a slew of paper napkins or cheaper cloth napkins. Your shopping routine will become simple and cost-effective when you live with things that don't often need replacement.
So this is the dilemma. Go for the bright shiny object with the great price or a more authentic and carefully made object that will last longer? I think you know which we prefer. What about you?
Every so often, I get an urge to make my bed. Not in the way of getting new bedding or even in changing the bedroom decor. I mean how the bedding comes together and is arranged - in short, how the bed is made. Bed-making is probably way down on your list - just a chore that needs to get done. But perhaps the drudgery of bed-making has a silver lining. I think it does. There are two really important things to having a great bed: comfort and beauty.
First, the comfort. You want your bed to be a sanctuary that provides bliss any time of the day. That's asking a lot, but there is a way to get there. The first is making sure that the sheets stay relatively clean. In my 1970's childhood household, sheets were washed once per week and I've tried to stay true to this schedule. Just the idea of slipping into clean sheets produces a tiny burst of joy, yes?
Comfort is also influenced by what fabrics you choose to sleep with. Most sheeting is cotton or linen since they breath, are soft and long wearing. Linen breaths more than cotton and gets softer over time. Either works well. Sheeting should not be made from synthetics since they are the opposite of these. On the next layer, you can add a blanket which should also be made from natural fiber. Wash once a month. Your comforter or duvet insert can be either polyester or down. I recommend having a light and heavier weight insert to use seasonally. During the dog days of summer, the duvet cover can be used by itself as a bedspread - no insert needed. As a last layer, don't forget a bed throw either on the bed itself or nearby. Having a throw around is a little personal luxury that's all about portable comfort. I often will use a throw during the day when napping or reading and sometimes at night if it's very cold.
The key to comfort? Cleanliness, quality fabrics and layering.
Achieving a beautiful bed is harder to define, since it is very subjective. A beautiful bed is in the eye of the beholder. There are a couple of bedmaking components that enhance beauty, no matter how you define it. The first is keeping everything in good shape. By good shape, I mean keeping pillows, duvets, blankets and all free of rips, tears, stains and in generally good condition. It is surprising how these tiny imperfections impact perception.
The next part of making a beautiful bed is the care and craft of layering and folding the bedding as you make it. This is really a simple act but one that will do wonders for the overall appearance of the bed afterwards. Laying down your flat sheet and tucking the sheeting well is like laying a smooth and well crafted foundation for a home. If this initial part is done well then the entire bed will benefit. We recommend hospital corners for your sheeting. Y’know, the way nurses used to fold sheets before fitted sheets were invented. Not to worry, your bed will not look like it belongs in a hospital. Use this technique with your flat sheet and/or comforter. It might seem minor or a waste of time given no body will actually see these corners. But herein lies the secret to great beauty, I think. beauty is made in the details and when no one seems to be looking.
To get this look, follow these steps:
- Lay the sheet on the mattress and tuck it in at the foot of the bed.
- Grab the corner of the sheet still sticking out and pull it up so that it sits on top of the mattress (we’ll call this the triangle).
- Tuck in the remainder of the sheet corner that you didn’t pull up.
- Tuck in the triangle.
- Repeat at the other corner.
By Sydney Lawson
Over the years, I've had the conversation many times on the merits and pitfalls of using linen napkins. The first time was with my first collage roommate and the last is still to come. The conversation seems to go like this. Cloth napkins do take some upkeep. They need to be washed and they need to be stored and folded. Ironing is nice for formal events, but not necessary. All that maintenance takes about 10 minutes of extra effort per week. To put that in context, that's about the same amount of time it takes to water an herb garden, make a smoothie, or call a friend. But for the time starved, it's a couple of minutes extra that could be used for something else. The real question becomes what does that extra few minutes per week get you? Is the work worth it? Here are a few that come to mind.
It gets you options for setting a table. Options that come from having several styles and colors of napkins that can match a mood, a particular table setting arrangement, or kind of food. Having options like these is important as it invites mindfulness into the daily ritual of setting the table.
Something else it gives is economy. Over time, having to purchase paper napkins or paper towels can be expensive, and cost will exceed the investment in purchasing linen napkins pretty quickly. Linen is one of the most durable fibers around so the investment is long term.
Using cloth is environmentally friendly. Resources like water and electricity are needed to launder napkins, but over time, the collective amount of paper used for napkins does make a impact on forestry resources.
Most all, cloth appeals to the psychology of ritual that covets predictability, beauty, and tradition. There are few things more pleasurable and reassuring than daily rituals like setting the table. Selecting napkins, feeling and folding them in your hands, using them over and over, laundering, and storing are all markers of ritual. Ritual is a way to structure tasks around the house and it helps develop pride over time of a job well done.
Paper napkins are faster and more convenient, but using cloth invites a slower more mindful approach to daily life. Try it and see. Here are a couple of Modernplum favorites for late summer.