Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The cost of a thing

There's a great Emerson quote often cited in simple living blogs, to the effect that the cost of a thing is the amount of life you exchange for it. I've been reflecting on this profound principle in the rather banal context of bed sheets.

When we bought our bed last year, we also bought bed sheets as it is bigger than beds we have previously used. We got cotton sheets (my request) in shades if grey and white (my boyfriend's). We have a duvet that is so good at insulating that it is too hot for most of the year, and except for the very coldest months we sleep under the empty duvet cover with assorted blankets on top.

It's in this context that I am making my first quilt. I'm aiming for something warm and breathable which we can use during spring, autumn and cooler summer nights (like this August). But I've also been thinking about those sheets.

You see, what I didn't take into consideration when we bought them was laundry. We have two sets if bedsheets, each eith a light grey duvet cover, grey and white pillow cases, and a dark grey fitted sheet . Unfortunately these cannot be washed together because the dark grey runs, making the white and light grey linens murky. So I now have a situation where, in order to change the bed every week, I have to do two small loads of laundry each week. A whole laundry load for a single sheet? It's almost painful. The energy, water, wear on the machine and extra work for me is frustrating.

I've worked out, though, that if we make the beds with plain white sheets in the way my mother grew up with, I could cut out three quarters of all bed linen laundry. I would need four white sheets and three sets of white pillow cases. I'm thinking this might be my next project after the quilt is done- it would save me a helluva lot if time, and a not insignificant amount of money. I could change the bedsheets every week, and do one load of laundry every fortnight, cutting out three loads of laundry. This is not an insignificant saving and would simplify my bed linen cupboard, laundry routine and bed-making each morning.

So far, so good. I am happy to invest in some plain white sheets and pillow cases in order to cut running costs - and I could even make them myself, far less work than the patchwork quilt. But but but. I checked out prices of white cotton at my favourite fabric shop, and it would cost me three times more than a shop-bought fitted sheet. But I can't do apple-pie style beds with fitted sheets. However, you may recall that I do have a large amount of cotton large enough to back the patchwork quilt which I bought for about €6 if memory serves - one tenth of what it would cost if bought in the main shop. Therefore I could keep haunting the 'puces' (fleas) or odds-and-sods-room of the fabric shop until I find enough lengths of white cotton. But that is unfortunately dress-making cotton, rather thinner than I would like... Hmmm. Could I convert a bought fitted sheet into a plain sheet?

1 comment:

  1. I think there are a couple of other options.

    Firstly, why just wash one sheet on its own? Why not include all your dark clothing in the wash with the dark grey sheet, or your lights in the wash with the light grey? I grew up with the idea that bedding & towels were washed separately from everything else, but when I started thinking about it, I could see no good reason for it, so now I bung anything that needs washing in with anything else (except dog bedding, I draw a line there!).

    A second option is to buy one more set of your grey bedding so you have a total of three sets. You can still change the bedding every week but only actually need to do a wash every two weeks - then at least you would have two sheets in one load of laundry.

    I really like the concept of how much life you spend in order to buy a thing - certainly makes you think about purchases in a slightly different way. I remember working out my actual hourly rate in my last job (after taxes etc) and then working out how many hours I had to work to pay for that new pair of boots, or an expensive bottle of perfume. It soon cured me of my consumption habit!



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