Thursday, July 5, 2012

I'm Back -- And A Lesson in Multi-Tasking

I've been away for awhile, juggling three part-time jobs, and finally, at last, found a job with health insurance, decent pay and good benefits, all in one place.  

So it's time to dust off the blog and start posting again.

Thanks to you all for your patience.  I hope I will not disappoint you again in the future now that I can pay my bills and things are looking a little more predictable from day to day!

Today's topic came to me easily, and I plan to revisit it often:  possessions which can multitask or be used for many purposes.  

For example, if you own a good, large Thermos, you really do not also need a teapot, and large, white bowls can be used for any occasion -- no need to have special bowls for party or holiday themes.  The Swiss Army Knife or the Leatherman tool are other multi-tasking miracles which need no introduction.  Any item which serves many purposes saves space and prevents clutter.

Lately it's been hot, just brutally hot around here, and we have been raising the air conditioning as warm as we can stand it, while still keeping the air just dehumidified enough for comfort ... and when my T-shirts started sticking to me, it struck me:

I have a few sarongs.  So I dug them out.

Sarongs were my hippie-skirt of choice back in college.  Whether paired with a tank top and Birkenstock sandals in summer, or cowboy boots, leggings and a sweater in chilly weather, a sarong is a flattering skirt or sundress on almost anyone for causal wear.  They fold up flat, take up very little space, and can be used for so many things.

My first encounter with a sarong was during moving-in week at my college dorm during the fall of freshman year.  I arrived early and unpacked, and as I stood chatting in the hall with some other young women, here came a slender figure down the hall toward us, a petite girl wrapped in a stunning green sari, carrying a bookbag and pushing a small footlocker on wheels with a single suitcase balanced atop it.  

We met, and it turned out she was assigned to the room across from me.  After we visited for awhile, she began to unpack, and I sat enchanted as sari after sari came out of her small items of luggage, one after another, like a magician's handkerchief trick.  She also had some western clothes -- a few jeans, tops and sweaters, as well as a winter coat, spare shoes, books, personal items and the few dishes and pots needed by a dorm student to use the hall kitchenette when the cafeteria was closed on weekends.  I was amazed at how efficiently she had packed all her things, considering that she did not expect to visit her home and family in India again until graduation -- four years later -- due to the expense.  

We became friends, and in time I learned that some of these garments were called "sarongs," and she was kind enough to show me not only how to properly tie and wear both a sari and a sarong, but at the end of the semester, she left me with a lovely batik sarong as a very gracious gift.  

Over the years, I have accumulated a few more sarongs in different colors and prints, but after more than three decades, I never cease to be amazed at the versatility of this garment. 

This simple cotton, hemp, or silk rectangle can be worn as a dress or skirt ... it can be a tablecloth or curtain ... it can serve as a light blanket or be rolled up to serve as a travel pillow.   It can be a shawl, headwrap, scarf or or bathrobe.  It can be tied into a bundle to carry purchases ... used as a nursing shawl or baby wrap ... draped over a branch as a sun shade ... laid on the ground as a picnic blanket ... tossed on the couch as a throw ... and many more uses.

A nice sarong costs about $10-$25 USD online.  Three or four sarongs can get a lot of mileage as a summer wardrobe basic, yet they will fit in a shoebox or a small drawer or basket.  They can even serve as curtains when not being worn.

I carry a sarong with me anytime I travel, winter or summer. I fold it into a long, narrow rectangle, then roll it to the size of a soup can, secure it with a rubber band and toss it in my purse. By doing this, I never have to pack a bathrobe, beach towel, pool cover-up, travel pillow or shawl -- the sarong does it all! And if I get separated from my main bag, or delayed overnight with a cancelled flight, I always have an emergency dress or skirt right there in my purse (I also carry toiletries, prescriptions and a change of underwear in my purse when I travel).   

Sarongs are not just for women.  A sarong in a solid color or a "manly" print takes up very little space and also works for men as an after-bath wrap, summer wear around the house or if you are working outdoors or on the beach (men in Thailand wear them all the time), or a beach towel.

If you learn to wrap and tuck them properly -- it just takes a little practice -- they really do stay firmly in place and do not fall off.  

Consider the possibilities of having so many dresses, skirts, bathrobes, curtains tablecloths and more tucked into a shoebox-sized space in a drawer.  Try to imagine how many items you could do without if you had a few sarongs of your own.


Monday, February 27, 2012

"Use The Good Stuff"

I follow the philosophy of, "USE the good stuff.  Use it now. What are you saving it for?  Get rid of your mismatched plastic plates from college and use the china you inherited from Grandma.  You're a grownup.  You can do that."

But sometimes we end up with more of the "good stuff" than we can actually use.

Tonight's post will be brief.  I recently spoke to a woman whose elderly mother cherished, but almost never used, her own wedding china and crystal, and the china and crystal she inherited from her mother, and the set she inherited from her grandmother.  She used these things less than one hundred times in her long life: for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

The very last time this lovely lady's cherished dishes were used was at the reception given by her daughter at her mother's home after her mother's funeral.

And now the daughter wonders what to do with all these things she has, in her turn, inherited.

Think of the cubic feet taken up by generations of china, "good towels," and "good linens."  Things "too good to use."  Think of the extra square feet in the house you bought, the extra dollars on the mortgage you pay, the extra cubic feet of space lost to relax in, the extra expense of cabinet work or china cabinets to house these collections, and the extra utilities consumed in heating and cooling these storage shelves decade after decade, while you follow the tradition of using the "good stuff" only on major holidays and use yet another set of "casual" dishes for daily meals.

Wouldn't it make more sense to keep one favorite dinner seating -- perhaps up to eight people, no more?
Few people entertain huge numbers of people on a regular basis these days.  If you have an occasion where you simply must have dessert cups and wine glasses for fifty, rent plates and glassware!

Meanwhile, scout out children, nieces, cousins and nephews of marriageable age.  Talk about how the various sets of china and crystal have been in the family for generations, and wouldn't it be nicer to have a complete set of granny's lovely old dishes, and keep them in the family, than to hope their wedding guests purchase some of the new china and crystal they chose for their wedding registry, and then inevitably have to fill in the missing bits at great expense?

If you have a family which passes on a lot of these things, imagine how much clutter you could eliminate from your home if you matched up ancient china sets, cleaned them properly, and passed then on to the next generation.