RITUALS / PRAISE FOR LINEN NAPKINS
Over the years, I've had the conversation many times on the merits and pitfalls of using linen napkins. The first time was with my first collage roommate and the last is still to come. The conversation always starts with high praise for linen's beauty at the table, but then quickly dives into the pitfalls.
Here is a short version of what we generally talk about. Cloth napkins do take some upkeep. They need to be washed and they need to be stored and folded. Ironing is nice for formal events, but not necessary. All that maintenance takes about 10 minutes of extra effort per week. To put that in context, that's about the same amount of time it takes to water an herb garden, make a smoothie, or call a friend. But for the time starved, it's a couple of minutes extra that could be used for something else. So here is the real question - What does that extra few minutes of maintaining linens per week get you? Is the work worth it? Here are a few that come to mind.
It gives you options for setting a table.
Options that come from having several styles and colors of napkins that can match a mood, a particular table setting arrangement, or kind of food. Having options like these is important as it invites mindfulness into the daily ritual of setting the table.
It is economical.
Over time, having to purchase paper napkins or paper towels can be expensive, and cost will exceed the investment in purchasing linen napkins pretty quickly. Linen is one of the most durable fibers around so the investment is long term.
It is environmentally friendly.
Resources like water and electricity are needed to launder napkins, but over time, the collective amount of paper used for napkins does make a impact on forestry resources.
Most all, using cloth appeals to the psychology of ritual that covets predictability, beauty, and tradition.
There are few things more pleasurable and reassuring than daily rituals like setting the table. Selecting napkins, feeling and folding them in your hands, using them over and over, laundering, and storing are all markers of ritual. Ritual is a way to structure tasks around the house and it helps develop pride over time of a job well done.
Paper napkins are faster and more convenient, but using cloth invites a slower more mindful approach to daily life. Try it and see.