I mentioned once before that I, too, was a victim of the Great Depression -- not that I went through it personally (I’m not THAT old), but I was raised by parents who did. The suffering continued.
Alice and Mitch’s ultra-conservative approach to buying, using and disposing of consumables has stuck with me to this day. I am tortured by excess: Do I really need this extra lemon? Do I remember how to darn socks? Can’t I wrap that gift in the cat food bag?
I have horrified my own children with a very cynical approach to food safety in general and expiration dates in particular: “They just put that there to sell more yogurt.” I consume every single part of a piece of fruit, down to the stem and seeds.
In short, I really don’t belong in America. Especially not in Texas, where we like to keep our larders full. When we say "conservative," we mean politics, not purchasing patterns.
As time goes by, the world is discovering the wisdom of the Alice & Mitch lifestyle. If we don’t want to be pitching tents on top of landfills in the future, or lurching through smoke-filled megalopolises like Will Smith and Wall-E, we might want to take heed.
I started a list of tips for green living in September . But since then I’ve thought of a few more steps that were (a) maddeningly old fashioned to a wannabe hipster like myself, and (b) based on the best sort of eco-consciousness.
Welcome to going green, old school, part deux!
Anything other than soap is hogwash. The 1960’s were the boom days for Proctor and Gamble, Betty Crocker, Kraft and Johnson & Johnson. Most of us were ready and willing to buy all the little conveniences like instant breakfast, spray-on furniture polish, plastic bags, and press-on nails.
Alice & Mitch would have none of it. My mother used Ivory soap to wash her floors and vinegar to wash the windows until 1995. She believed then, and I believe now, that anything you put on a surface that doesn’t get rinsed off actually attracts dirt.
She saved a fortune on Windex and floor cleaner, and all those other concoctions that are living under my sink. And her house, in her heyday, was as clean as it gets.
If you’re not using it, out it goes. My parents never collected much in the way of worldly goods. But what they did have got used -- or it got gone.
I was bemused to read that a principle of feng shui states that unused objects collect negative energy (which in Alice's world meant dust). Now, we all know what happens when the sorting and sifting, the passing along and the reassigning of material goods stops.
The @#$@# piles up. The stacks get higher, the closets fuller.
No one talks about how much energy it takes to keep your worldly goods in check. This is one of those life lessons I’m just learning now -- The less I bring in, the fewer decisions I have to make, the fewer “What the heck is this now?” looks I get from my kids, and the easier goes my life.
So this is my new version of saving energy. What's yours?
Cloth Napkins - A Modern-Day Guide
People think cloth napkins are only for company, but they’re not. They’re really a very practical, very economical way to keep yourself tidy, and save on paper napkins and towels in the mix. What’s more, they can be beautiful, and much more useful than the flyaway things in the grocery store. If you’re fond of eating outside, no need to anchor.
Here’s the routine, again from the house of Alice & Mitch:
1. Get a few sets of napkins. For every day, you’ll want a color that won’t show every smudge and smear (but honestly, they don’t get as gross as you would imagine) • 2. Give each person in your family a napkin they can call their own, at least for the next 2-3 meals • 3. After eating, fold and store where their rightful owners can find them -- or use individual napkin rings to distinguish. Each child could create his/her own? • 4. Wash with the rest of the kitchen linens. And ironing? Only for neatniks -- not a BH best practice. At all.
Beyond Her Napkins are a great way to go green. Colors and patterns vary, depending on where we source our blanks and what images we're fond of at the time. See them all on the Beyond Her website.
Her Point of View
Designer Paule Hewlett takes on design, culture and modern life.
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"Life is too short for ugly dish towels. Really, ugly anything."