Last autumn, I declared an end to buying Kleenex, tissues, what have you. I decided to switch the household over to hankies for two reasons: waste, and the horrible bits of Kleenex that end up in the wash after someone has left it in a pocket, and then you have to put the whole load through the dryer instead of hanging it up. I also like hankies. I like the softness of much-washed cotton against my nose when I have a horrible cold (much softer than paper). I like how they remind me of my dad, and both my grandfathers, hanky-carriers all. I only ever met one man in my generation, more than twenty years ago, who used a hanky. If we all used hankies, the boreal forest and all the little warblers who use it as their nursery would be safer.
A lot of effort in this world goes into manufacturing things that will be used once and then get thrown out. The facial tissue is one of those things. Greenpeace has estimated that North Americans use 22 kg of tissue paper products (facial tissue, paper towel, toilet paper, paper napkins) a year. They issue a green guide to tissue, also available as an app. This is helpful when trying to find recycled paper products in shops. But, in my opinion, no waste is better than less waste, and so I am trying to eliminate the purchase of this sort of product as much as I can. We do have paper towel in the house, but Itry to ignore it and use rags instead. Our everyday napkins are cloth ones, and once I find red linen napkins for Christmas use I won’t be buying festive paper napkins any more either. The spouse lives in constant fear that the very next “improvement” I bring to our lives will be washable toilet paper. I washed dirty cloth diapers for years and I have no desire to embark on that again, so I think he’s safe. Hankies seemed like an easy change to make.
I sat down at the computer and ordered three and a half dozen hankies from the UK, somewhat like these. Somehow, British hankies seemed more genuine than the American ones, and the British reviews gave me useful info on how the handkerchiefs would iron up. I had increased our hanky supply a few years ago, but in an incredibly labour-intensive way. I cut up the skirt of an old cotton nightgown, cut out several hankies, hemmed them and monogrammed them. This was a good project for winter evenings, but I didn’t want to make 42 handkerchiefs thus.
Now we have a box of hankies in the bathroom, and everyone can help themselves whenever they want. One of the nice things about a box of Kleenex is the feeling of abundance, that there are masses of tissues there when you need them. Including the hankies that we owned before, we have about 60 hankies in the house. Our collection includes some really cute children’s hankies sent by relatives in the Netherlands.
The size of the collection means that the hanky box is easy to keep filled and no one needs to stint. The box would be even easier to fill if I did not divert the hankies into the ironing pile on the way. I love an ironed hanky, and I really enjoy ironing, so it’s no hardship. I learned how to iron from my mum and dad, and practiced first on hankies and tea towels. I still iron these items, and I find the task calming. I am teaching the children how to iron in the same way. Life in the slow lane means that tasks like this are possible. I really appreciate the chance to take the time.
And what happened to that lone hanky-user that I encountered all those years ago? Reader, I married him.