Here we have two miscellaneous household categories: linens and gift wrapping supplies. I decluttered them on the same day, and gift wrap seemed too minor to give a post of its own, so I’m grouping them together.
Gift wrap: not a lot to say. I culled a lot of secondhand tissue paper and ribbon scraps. Everything fits neatly in a box up in the closet.
Onto linens. This is a voluminous category! I took up the whole living room floor with towels, sheets, napkins and tablecloths, and various blankets. I included cleaning cloths and kitchen towels as well – basically any ‘household fabric’ items.
I have a confession. I don’t think all the things I kept inherently bring me joy. We have a lot of flannel rags made from cut-up pyjamas that we use for cleaning Edith’s mealtime messes, and I have a motley collection of stained tea-towels. Yes, it’s nice to envision a cupboard stocked with stylish new towels that all match. Maybe that would give me more joy. But I also know that towels stain very quickly, and the thought of buying new ones to watch them get stained really doesn’t thrill me. Meanwhile, we have all we need, and given my zero waste efforts I feel like keeping and using what I have is the approach with most integrity.
Kondo talks about this issue in her second book, Spark Joy. She addresses practical items that are necessary to keep but may not give joy, as well as sentimental items that you feel you should discard but just can’t seem to. In the latter case, in particular, she talks about approaching your items ‘with integrity’, which will ultimately enable you to discard them later when the time is right. Although my towels aren’t hugely sentimental to me, I am trying to embrace this idea of ‘integrity’ in my approach to things. I think the overall goal of this approach – although overtly to identify and keep items that give you joy – is actually, beyond that, to teach you how to identify your true feelings about your belongings, and act on them honestly.
In the past, I think I would have made these old towels into a prompt for guilt: You shouldn’t have new towels when you have perfectly good ones already. Now, though, I’ve admitted to myself how I really feel about them, which is something less than love. I am permitting myself to replace them if I wish. But I am also freely choosing to keep and use them, because they are doing good service in our home and I value letting them finish their term. Although the end result is the same, I feel this approach is different than what I would have done previously, and that having approached these items with honesty about my feelings, I will be able to let them go more easily when it seems appropriate.
Now, as for my linen closet, it was once again a case of somehow everything fitting just right in a way it wasn’t before, even though I didn’t think I had discarded very much. I used to keep some bedding in another closet, but have consolidated all bedding and towels here now. I arranged them with the darker colours on the bottom and lighter on the top, with our most-used items on the middle shelves where they are easiest to reach. I think it looks very inviting!
As a final anecdote, on the lower left you can see – just atop the folded leftmost blanket – a patterned sheet that I believe came via my grandparents on my dad’s side. They were world travellers and I think this sheet came from somewhere in Asia or the Middle East; I’m not entirely sure. It’s printed cotton and I’ve always thought it was beautiful, albeit not really my decorating style. I kept it for that reason; I love it. A few days after tidying my linens, I suddenly had the inspiration to pin the sheet up as a sun awning, stretched between two clotheslines, on our balcony so Edith and I could sit out there in the morning in the shade. It worked beautifully, lifting and billowing in the wind and shading an area beneath, feeling surprisingly exotic. Edith entertained herself a long time playing, and I lounged and dreamed of holidays past. Since having that sheet, the only other time I’ve used it is to put down when workmen were traipsing around spreading grime. Somehow, tidying it up – and deciding to ‘keep it with confidence’, as Kondo says – seemed to spark inspiration to use and enjoy it properly.
Linens marks the roughly halfway point in my list of categories, so I think I’ll take a short break and treat myself.