Thursday, June 25

Cutting Down on Cups and Napkins

Still not done with current crafty project, but figured I’d use the lull to mention some “solutions” I’ve implemented in our home (mostly using a favorite of mine: cardboard from the recycle pile)

Problem #1:
Way too many cups and glasses used every day, especially after summer—and hot hot weather—arrived again! The top dishwasher rack was constantly full of “dirty” plastic kiddie cups. “Dirty” as in, used once for a meal or a snack, then off to be washed.

Everyone gets a “cup for a day” and a labeled parking spot (circles cut out of a cereal box) for when the cup isn’t in use. IMG_4368

We do give them a quick rinse after each use – who wants orange juice residue from snack time mixing with milk at dinner?!? – but I see no need to suds them up if the same person will be using the same glass all day. (Jenny, lover of Germ-X, are you shuddering as you read this?)

Every night, they’re put in the dishwasher. Last summer, I used a little rectangle, folded in half, with a person’s name on it. Not that summer is the only time to do this; honestly, I don’t remember why we quit last time. Probably the little nametags got buried under counter contents and so the system fell apart…

Problem #2:
Way too many paper napkins or paper towels being used at meal times!

Cloth napkins. Some I made – the bright floral, green-backgrounded ones. Some were wedding gifts – neatly tucked away in the drawer, never being used! The rest… (OK, Jenny, you’ll really flip your lid on this one) are old handkerchiefs. Old used handkerchiefs.IMG_4347

But I figure, they’re washed so they’re clean, right? Plus they used to belong to my Oma and Opa (German grandparents) so every time I see the “napkins,” I’m reminded of the wonderful people they used to belong to. The girls especially like using my Oma’s cute, smaller ones (note Heidi’s down below). Oh, and another bonus of using old handkerchiefs: after several decades of being laundered, they are so soft!

But then there was Problem #2-B:
Constantly running out of cloth napkins, because they’d get mixed up after clearing the table and then be tossed in the hamper for laundering, even though they maybe weren’t even used!

Same as the cups, the napkins got labeled – napkin rings made of toilet paper rolls, cut into thirds – and got a designated spot when not in use. Some people’s still get tossed in the hamper after almost every meal(ahem, Lucy); other people’s stay a little cleaner and last a little longer.


Perhaps, some afternoon, the girls and I will sit down and make “pretty” napkin rings and coasters, but for now, the crude cardboard versions do the job just fine.

flip flopsOh, and while I’m on the topic of repurposing  “garbage” for a new useful function, I came across the most amazing transformation of broken flip-flops, saved from the trash and turned into alphabet stamps, manicure toe separators, and window bumpers; see Lisa @ cuci cuci coo’s description and photos here

Do you have any tips on cutting down on waste? Or making home stuff more efficient? …Or keeping my $%@# kitchen counters cleared off?!?


  1. Very clever- the cups especially! Our dishwasher at the end of each day looks like we run a daycare. Ugh. I too plan to do cloth napkins (which are real napkins not the paper ones that we called serviettes back in Singapore but are called napkins here) when the kids are older. Right now the kids use terry washcloths for their entire bodies after meals. Cardboard napkin rings rock! When they get icky, you can toss them and make new ones!

    Still holding my breath for Not-Bunny-Not-Dustpan.

  2. Terry washcloths - now there's a good idea!

    N-B-N-D coming soon. Just have to tack down a few ribbon ends...

  3. I love the parking spots for cups idea! We use cloth napkins also, so I should make some crude cardboard rings since I don't see myself making "pretty" ones in the near future. That flip flop post you linked to is wonderful, now I'm wishing for worn-out flip-floops!

  4. Ooh! What a nice surprise to see myself in this post!

    That's a GREAT idea to have cup parking spaces! I always wish that I had different colored/patterned cups and glasses to keep them all straight, but we too always end up just tossing them in the dishwasher. Now it's just a matter of training my husband and daughter to actually use the parking spots!

    I've been using only cloth napkins for about a year now and LOVE them! I have napkin rings from my grandmother, so it's a great way to think of her every day. But the cardboard rings are a great idea!

    Out of curiousity, what fabric did you use to make your napkins? Just plain cotton? I'd like to make more and I think maybe a blend would stain a little less...who knows?

  5. Honestly, I don't remember anymore what I used. I saw it at Hobby Lobby and liked it and bought it.

    I will say, it's not quite as absorbent as the other napkins we used. Not sure if it's still coated with some sort of "sizing" or other coating, or if that's intrinsic to the fabric itself.

    Other nice thing about a blend is it might be less wrinkly after washings. While there is something so satisfying about ironing napkins (perhaps because it reminds me of my childhood, one of the first things I "got" to iron), who has time for that?!?



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