It’s a disposable world we live in … or so retailers would have us believe. Clothing, shoes, and accessories are cheap and abundant here in the U.S. of A., and we seem to like it that way. We turn a blind eye to cost-suppressing labor practices and schnarf up the low-quality, low-cost goodies. And since we can get undies for $3 a throw at Target, sundresses for $14 at H&M, and stilettos for $23 at Payless, we may not spend much effort caring for the items we ALREADY possess.
My folks spent their anniversary in Paris last year, and came back with tales of $300 men’s dress shirts and $500 women’s pencil skirts. Basics from Macy’s-equivalents were costing that much, and my parents were flabbergasted. But, as many of you know, that is how it has always been outside the U.S. People expect to pay more for their garb, which causes them to take two steps that we don’t: They purchase fewer items with greater discernment, and take excellent care of the items they purchase.
I believe that if you treat your stuff like shit, you’ll have shit for stuff. Obviously, there will be unavoidable red wine mishaps and undetected invasions of ravenous moths. But more often than not, potential stuff-ruiners are completely reversible.
Below are some of my best practices for stuff maintenance. These focus on cleanliness, and if you’re interested repair/maintenance pop over to part 2.
If you are not aware of the mystical powers of Palmolive, let me enlighten you: Palmolive is created from fairy dust and unicorn eyelashes. This stuff will remove recent grease, ground-in tomato, and stains of practically every type short of Sharpie. Keep a bottle at home, even if you prefer something else for washing your dishes. If you stain a non-dry cleanable, bring it home, moisten with cold water, and douse in Palmolive. Let it sit overnight or longer, then wash in the machine. You will be ASTONISHED by what this fabulous elixir can salvage.
2. Tide pens
I basically have to mummify myself in napkins if I want to avoid slobbing food all over my clothes during meals. My Tide pen is great for stain triage, and will keep a food mishap under control until I can get home, strip, and marinate the stain in Palmolive.
3. Leather cleaner
Shoe stores such as Clark’s and high-end bag retailers such as Coach will try to sell you leather cleaners and conditioners and waxes when you invest in their wares. Unless you already possess these leather condiments, plunk down the extra $20. I’m no good at religiously massaging my handbags with soft sponges and chamois, but I’ve found that minor scuffs can be miraculously healed with a timely application of conditioner.
4. Lint rollers
Show your love for your pets by carrying photos, not by showcasing their fur on your outfits. As I know only too well, the world’s most pulled-together outfit can be ruined by down-leavings from a winter parka. Keep one at work, one at home, maybe even one in your car. Lint rollers are your friends.
5. Old toothbrushes
I’ve found multitudinous unexpected uses for these babies. I dip them in Tarn-X to get the gunk out of sterling jewelery crevices and dunk them in shoe polish when tending to my strappy shoes. I once owned a pair of Camper sandals lined in pale yellow satin, and by the end of each summer there was, inevitably, a grey-brown outline of my foot embedded in the fabric. A little warm water and (you guessed it) Palmolive, half an hour of toothbrush scrubbing, and an overnight dry … they were good as new. Hang onto your old toothbrushes when you swap in a new one. You just never know when they’ll come in handy.