Tuesday, September 6, 2011

{Please Don't Buy Me Towels}

Jamey and I didn't register for wedding gifts.  The practice of registering did exist at the time but we didn't really care about matching towels and coordinating China.  We still don't.

My parents gave us a set of stoneware dishes for a wedding gift.  My mom had used her grocery store points to buy me the entire 12-piece set.  She bought a lot of groceries since there were seven of us.  That set was/is perfect.  Not too fancy, plenty sturdy and bought with love and anticipation.  Some of the plates and bowls have broken since, so we've replaced them with plain, white dishes found at discount stores.  I was given a set of china by a great Aunt several years after we were married and I do use that for special occasions, but if I hadn't been given any I don't think I'd have any today.

As far as towels go, we were given a small set of light blue bath towels and a set of peach ones as wedding gifts.  Those are our company towels and, yes, they are 14 years old.  Our every day towels followed us from home or were picked up at Kmart years ago.  They're fraying and tearing, but they're still absorbent and isn't that the point?


When I was hanging up a load of wet towels and wash cloths the other day, I stood back and looked at them.  I wondered what some people might think about our towels.  Would they think we don't care about our things?  Would they think we're poor or backwards in some way?  Would they look at my stained (canning) dish towels and wash cloths and think we're, dare I say it, icky?

Before I had kids, I told myself that my kids' wash cloths (for after meals) would never look like this.  Oops.

None of these things are true, but I can't help but wonder.  Instead of these ponderings making me ashamed or self-conscious, they make me sad.  I wish such unimportant things weren't so important to people.  When we buy new things, where do the old things go?  And what about our money?  Doesn't it go companies that are already making millions?  Hm.


I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you have old, frayed and stained towels or if you're dishes are chipped and mis-matched (by choice or not), that's okay.

In fact, I think it's pretty cool.  Pin It

35 comments:

  1. Wow, you must have some super high quality towels! I had some dishcloths a while back that literally fell apart after about a years use. If there's nothing left to them, guess that's when you need new ones? :) I bought cotton yarn and had my sister knit me some ( I don't knit) and they've lasted much longer!

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  2. Why yes, well said. We DO have matching bath towels because registering is just what's done these days and we didn't think much of it. But my canning towels? They look just like yours. My dish clothes look better only because they are brown and no stains can be seen :)

    By the way, those old, raggy bath towels are the best. Our towels are big and kind of fluffy but I asked my grandma if she had any raggy ones for me to have because that's what I prefer!

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  3. I must be way cool than because if you take what you have and doubler it,it will look just like mine do.I was able to pick up some fairly nice towels at a garage sale and where do you think I found them after they came up missing--in the garage--my sons grrrrrrr. my plates are pretty well mix-matched too except the rose pattern set I HATE TO DIG OUT BUT JERRY BOUGHT THEM FOR ME-I THINK I SHOULD CHANGE THESE OUT FOR MY USED ONES,I MEAN,WHAT AM I SAVING THEM FOR,A RAINY DAY.WELL,THE RAINY DAY HAS COME

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  4. We bought a matching set of stoneware to replace the corelle set I had (hubby didn't like the corelle, so I sold it on e-bay). After breaking some of the stoneware ones by setting them down or putting them in the sink, I started picking up used corelle. We are totally mismatched now. I would rather spend my $ on bigger toys! LOL a tractor or something electronic!

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  5. This post came at a perfect time. We've been married 5 years and our towels are starting to look rough and I was thinking we needed some new ones, but you're right. They still work, so why spend money on something we don't really need. Thanks for the reminder!

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  6. I didn't register either. It felt kind of snotty to me, telling people what to buy for me. Since both my husband and I are the last kids in each family, we tend to inherit lots of things like dishes and towels from older siblings as they upgrade.

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  7. I suppose throwing out the used towels that are not pristinely white or tossing chipped dishes are all part of "keeping up with the Jones." Does trying to do that make any of us happier? Really happier? We need to overlook the silly hype and advertising the media bombards us with and get back to the basics of what's truly important to living a content, joyful, meaningful life. (Was I just sermonizing??)

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  8. The practice of registering has been around for a very long time. My parents were married over 50 years ago and they had a wedding registry! We've been married 16 years, we have very few items that we received as wedding gifts, they simply wore out. It seems that we are continually replacing towels, bath and kitchen around here. I'm not a "keeper", and generally I'm not sentimentally attached to things- if something is showing signs of wear and tear or gets stained it's out of here!

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  9. Love this post.

    Awhile back, you posted something similar about your cookie sheets. Now, every time I use my old, well-worn cookie sheets, instead of sighing about how "used" they are, I think of how happy I am that I cook for my family.

    It's all about perspective, isn't it? :)

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  10. Yes, yes, yes! It irks me to spend money on 'frivolous things'. I share in the stock of chipped and frayed!

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  11. Oh, I really liked this post. My towels and washcloths look very much the same. None of them match and they are all well worn. I've thought about getting new, matching, more attractive towels & washclothes. But, the fact is they wouldn't stay new and attractive either.

    (Side note: I rarely buy paper towels & I use old towels to wipe up spills & messes instead. My friend Jamie is always amazed at that. But, I grew up using 'rags' instead of a lot of paper products)

    Also, you mentioned wondering what people would think if they saw your towels. Would they think you didn't care, were backwards, etc. You hit on a question that runs through my mind a lot. But, I ask it in regard to our van. You see I put a nice, long scratch down the side of my van about 2 years ago. (Trying to make room to pass another car in an alley and I scraped against a railing. Ooops.) My husband has patched it somewhat so it doesn't rust as quickly. It doesn't look nice. But, it's just paint & metal, right? I just haven't been able to justify spending over $1000 to make paint and metal look nice again. But, I often wonder if people look at us and think that it shows a lack of care.

    I'm still not sure what to think on that one.

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  12. You hit the nail right on the head! It saddens me so much when we are judged on the state of our belongings. I have a Nana here in the U.K who has to have everything perfect. She is known as ' Mrs Hygiene'. On every telephone call she will run through a list of all the jobs she has done in the house- including cleaning the skirting boards- so depressing!
    I wish that i had not wasted so many years allowing her attitude to ruin my contentedness at getting through the day with 5 children.
    She is 82 now and lives alone, still haughty and overproud. When i look at her, i think 'how sad' that all she has to show is her perfect home but no close relationships. I pray for her and do love her but i wish never to be like her.

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  13. Yeah for you. Old, worn, used things tell better stories anyway.

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  14. I am not a towel matcher, either. I got a whole cedar chest full of towels when we got married, and I saved them for when we built our house. We've been married 20 years next month, with 3 children. You can always tell when my husband has done the laundry- exactly 6 loads since we've been married- two after each child- because we'd have to buy new towels shortly after-wards. He believes more bleach is better, and ruined many of my flamingo pink towels with bleach, complete with burning a hole through them with the bleach!!I used to wonder what people thought when they'd ride up into the yard and see my towels, with a hole large enough to put your head through in them. I figured the same as you, the do the job of drying, right?

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  15. We too have old fraying 15 yr old towels. Most are from college or have followed us home from the parents house. My mother-in-law was simply horrified that we didn't have nice towels a couple years ago. She kept insisting we allow her to buy us towels for Christmas. I always turned her down saying that the ones we have work just fine, don't waste your money on new towels. Then I finally broke down and let her purchase us new towels. Not because they were necessary, but because I couldn't stand to hear about it anymore! I love her to death, but I've learned that sometimes you just have to let her have her way! :) So now we have beautiful new towels that the kids are bound to destroy in the next couple years because that's what happens when you have a family. Oh! We kept the fraying old ones and use them most of the time. The new ones only come out when they come for a visit and recently as we're trying to sell our home! I don't think it makes one cheap or icky! It just means your a good steward of what you have! Why waste perfectly useful items?

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  16. Just found your site love your towel post..with 6 kids and lots of wash to do I always wondered why my towels and tea towels always looked like yours..(no offense), and everyone else had towels that looked cleaner and fluffier and less raggy..maybe they just use the stained ones for rags and go out and by new ones?? thankyou for this post and for making me feel like I am not the only one.
    Thank you for being game enough to be real and post your story warts and all..
    Nell

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  17. I have a fancy set of cook wear I got as a wedding gift, but my favorite pan is an old cast iron one I got at a yardsale for a dollar. When I commented o the seller that the pan was well seasoned, she said it belonged to her grandmother and must be at least 65 years old. I just love imagining how many meals it has made.

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  18. Okay I'll admit it. We have nice towels. But only because I refuse to buy new towels. My husband gets irritated with me because I won't buy new things and goes out and buys them himself. It's weird.

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  19. I LOVE your towels. They look like mine. I trim my frayed edges frequently. I just keep the scissors on the dryer. :) You keep on keeping on. You're not alone, I promise.

    Blessings!

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  20. Thank you for this post. You are so right. Something about hanging those towels on the line gets me to thinking about how ugly they are, but I can't justify buying new ones, because these still work perfectly fine. I know quite well why I think about new ones as well, it's those nice ones I see when I visit others. That green-eyed monster keeps raising his head and sometimes it's kinda hard to beat him back. Thanks for the encouragement. It's sad when going to church is discouraging in this particular way (even worse if you're Mennonite and supposed to be living more simply). Your honesty is very refreshing.
    Crystal

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  21. We still have many of our "original" towels as well, but most have been turned into clean-up towels (after 18 years). I have gone to plain white towels in the house...that way even "mismatched" ones sorta match, just like with dishes. The exception are the five kids' towels. Those are each a different color so I can tell who left theirs on the floor and they can easily tell them apart, too. My dish towels are mostly stained, also from canning. We did originally register (that was just what you did in our church...didn't know any different though I would do things differently now) but for stoneware and useful items. No china or fancy stuff. We were both broke college students and needed necessities.

    I enjoy reading how others make their useful items last and don't worry about looks...makes me feel a bit less "different" myself.

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  22. I often look at my stained & well used dish rags & towels & dream of having pretty ones. Then I wake up & realize, just as you said, that they get the job done, and the new ones will just get dirty too so why bother? As for dishes, I proudly use the ones that my mother gave me- the corelle ware she & my dad got when they got married some 37 years ago. I am not sure how many place settings there were originally, but when I got them @ 10 years ago there were 7 of each piece. Kind of perfect seeing as we are now a family of 7 (& planning to stay that way Lord willing :-) )
    Andrea

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  23. Thank you. I needed to hear this.

    When I was single, I loved, loved, loved having pretty dishtowels, but haven't had any for a five years (plus have a husband and kid who grab anything to clean up a mess, which is a blessing since, hey, they're cleaning up a mess, right?), and have been feeling it as I fold and use them. But they still do the job, so thanks. I needed that. :)

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  24. This is my first visit to your blog and I just wanted to say what a great post I think this is.

    You're welcome to visit us any time. I'll serve dinner on the hand-me-down plates I bought for a dollar each for my brother when he went away to college -- oh I think about 16 years ago now. They went through his single days, years with his family, back to my mama who used them for years and then to me.

    As for fraying towels....all but a few of mine have either been hemmed or serged...lol.

    Thanks for the timely reminder that there are indeed more important things in life than the state of ones towels.

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  25. What a great thing to read. I have always been a consumer but in the past few years....maybe because of the economy...I find myself trying not to buy just to buy. Just this weekend I cleaned out my towel closet and saw all of my mismatched and oft frayed towels and thought for a brief moment "what would people think". I promptly told myself "who cares!". It is freeing!

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  26. I like to have nice things, but I don't define nice as "new" necessarily. Our towels are white and still going strong 13 years after they were given to us for wedding gifts. I'm proud of my laundering skills! I am proud to see my old clothes turned into rags, in turn stained by use, on the line. It means I'm not using disposable stuff or throwing away old clothes.

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  27. I keep a couple "nice" (read: unstained and hole-free) towels at the back of the cupboard for guests. The rest are nice soft worn ones like those hanging on your line. When they're REALLY old, they get used for the animals, and then they're cut up into rags for canning and other householdy stuff. It's hard to truly kill a towel in my house. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

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  28. I love your post ~ Howarever, I do bleach quite a bit each of my white things - I take care of our towels and sheets very well. We have been married for 12 years ~ The wedding gifts we received were dish towels and body towels that we still have today - I have, however, sparingly used the BOLD and BEAUTIFUL YELLOW BATH towels we received for our wedding gift back in 1999. They are still beautiful - When my mother visits from 2000 miles away or when company comes over to stay a night. I am proud of my two huge drawers of dishtowels - I get bored with the same old towels - It's my ADD trait I thing *undiagnosed* - I have certainly appreciated your candor on your towels and not buying new ones - I admire your frugality - It's fantastic. I love the stores - and cheap/clearanced seasonal dishtowels for the fall and thanksgiving, I must admit (b/c I feel safe on your blog) - I GO CRAZY FOR! Williams Sonoma is right up the street, and after T-giving, I am there catching the 75% off sales - It so mch fun - But then, you got me good - I NEED TO GIVE MORE AWAY than I actually do - I clean out my daughter's and sons drawers and give to a family homeless shelter often - but household goods? Not so much. Great idea/food for thought! Thanks so much!

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  29. Oh my, those lines could be mine. And I to thought I'd never have ratty towels. How hard is it to buy new ones? But when they still work? Hard for me to spend the money on new ones!

    Thanks for your constant inspiration!
    Gina

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  30. We have lots of mix and match items in our house, especially towels/linens/bowls/plates. We also have 6 children at home - and 2 grown up.

    This doesn't stop me from buying more though. :o) I love new linens and towels particularly.

    I don't think that I have any from when I was married though. I think about the only thing that we still have is a decorative glass bowl and plate ( that is like a total favourite ) from our engagement party. That is where I put all our fresh fruit.

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  31. After 27 years of marriage, not too many towels remain from when we were first married. Actually, only one that was a bath sheet from my mother in law that I didn't use as often as the rest because it took so long to dry. I like to see my towels on the line, and remember where we were in our life when we got those towels. The peach [now tattered beige] was when we bought our first house in 1995, and one tea towel was a gift from my eldest sister who has passed away. Many are now in the rag-bin. They all have a story on the line, an evolution of a family.

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  32. I am both convicted and humbled. Only until recently have I been evaluating,for ourselves, your words. This is a wonderful post and I have bookmarked it to remind me. Thank you for speaking to my soul.

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  33. I just found your blog today and this post rings true with me. I do tend to replace our bath towels about every 5 years or so (I like them soft and fluffy and after 5 years they tend to get hardish). I always use the old ones for good projects: My beach blanket is a rag quilt made of old towels, bathrobes, aprons, bibs, cleaning rags, etc.
    As for dishes, my grandpas wife gave me her old set of every day dishes 16 years ago and then her china that she no longer wanted 14 years ago. I have sometimes looked at other sets that are more beautiful or a prettier color (they are plain black), but can't justify buying new ones when the old ones work absolutely fine and there is really no reason.

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  34. Just visiting you again today Jane...and clicked on this post from your sidebar. *Love* it! I have a towel story to share...like most of the other commenters on this post...how fun! My oldest towel is my beach towel from childhood. It's still employed in our home for many things...mostly for wiping up messes, etc...it's got to be 35 years old! Yes, you read that correctly. I remember the Christmas I received it under the tree...thanks for bringing up a happy childhood memory.

    Love to you!
    Camille

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  35. Just remember, when you buy new things from companies that "make millions", some of that goes to employ people who really need jobs. That said, I have a towel that I bought for college with some high school graduation money. It has been overseas with me where it was handwashed and hung on the line and looked like a luxury item compared with what the neighbors had. This winter it served as a draft-block at the back door. After being washed, Hubby mistakenly put it out for use in the bathroom. It's getting thin, but still looks pretty good.
    -- A Nomadic Blogger on the Move

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