Today vs. One Day and How We Survived the Norovirus

Last week I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom on linens.

We had the perfect storm of an aggressive stomach bug, a child that hasn’t mastered the skill of vomiting into a bucket and our hang dry laundry system that in this winter weather means 14 hours for wash to dry of a bed sheet and 24 hours for a towel.

We don’t have a lot of spare linens.

Our linen closet consists of two sets of sheets per bed, four towel sets in white (bath, hand, face), three beach towels that we use at the pool and double as guest towels and a fantastic little hooded towel Henry received as a gift with two matching face towels.

The stomach bug wiped out our beach towels in a few hours. Henry’s hooded towel was next along with the folded up extra sheets. We had a good stack of kitchen linens clean so our tea towels helped for two rounds.

The only thing left to use was cloth napkins and placements. Or my nice white towels. Or clothing.

I was also solo parenting and we live on an island without a 24 hour anything to go get back up towels or what not. Options were not good.

God bless sisters that store their home effects in your spare bedroom. As I lamented my linen situation to my sister over Skype she told me about four dark purple and gray towels that were stored in our guest room dresser.

Saved. And as luck would have it the vomiting ended that night. The savior towels were left unscathed.

The virus has since made its way through the adults in our home. This is how we’re preparing for the holidays: get the terrible illnesses out of the way before December.

When this virus has finally run its course (just working its way through the mister right now) I’ll be washing all of our linens on hot and then taking them to the laundromat for dryer time.

Do we need more linens in our home for the what-if scenario of a stomach virus?

Am I foolish to own white towels at this juncture in my life?

Most people would say yes to both of these after debating over using their own clothing as a vomit mat for their son.

And yet, I’m not running out to buy more towels. I’m also not frantically getting a dryer installed.

My lesson from this: we survived. Without a lot of towels. Without a dryer.

A few years ago I would have used this as a reason to hit up Bed Bath & Beyond for dark towels or started pricing out dryers.

Today I’m comfortable knowing that these things rarely happen and I can’t plan for every eventuality.

That’s one of my lessons from downsizing and getting rid of closets worth of things that I worried I might need one day.

One day you might need them.

One day you might use them.

But if you want to live your life for One Day, you’ll miss a lot of Todays.

You’ll spend a lot of time preparing for the 3% of things that might happen instead of enjoying the 97% of things that do happen.

Any disaster scenarios you’ve given up preparing for? Besides earthquake, flood and fire of course.

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  • Ah … (I’m sorry you’ve not been well — NO fun!)

    I have ALWAYS lived in a bomb shelter mentality. What if … One Day … But ….

    I’m slowly starting to try and get away from that … recently it is 100% based on the lack of supplies that were available in Delhi, India. When I found something or brought something from the U.S. that we “NEEDED” I never parted with it (and it is ALL now with us here in Singapore…. gasp).

  • I’m so sorry to hear about the virus activity, but really impressed with how well you’ve handled it. And no, I don’t think you need dark towels although I’m still not convinced about the dryer;) I’m living in 2400 sq. feet of “one day” stuff — from craft supplies to tools to appliances — and peeling through each onion layer one day at a time to understand what I really need today. I’m inspired by your story!

  • Oh boy, have we been there! It gets worse with two because they often get it at the same time or within a day or so of the other. Ugh! Here’s what we do as minimalists: shower curtain liners are your best friend. If you have any non-carpeted areas, put the kiddo in there. We often cover our couch with the shower liner, and let it be non-stop movie time. Since our couch is on tile (well, vinyl now), that saves a lot of cleaning. We clean up anything not in a bucket with rags we can toss. However, we do have a dryer, and that is definitely helpful in those times. I also suggest washing in bleach (I try to use eco-everything, but make this exception for bleach) as stomach viruses are highly contagious and can live on surfaces for well over a week. Good luck, and glad to hear you’re on the mend!

    • Okay, I’m getting a few shower curtain liners. That makes sense and they’re small. We actually don’t need them for our showers (glass doors) but man, they would have been helpful for our couch last week. I’ll be borrowing a friend’s steam cleaner to deal with that mess.

      • If you don’t have shower curtain liners, hardware stores usually carry these big sheets of plastic used to put down for painting. It’s cheaper than buying a few shower curtain liners, and it can be tossed once puked on. Heck, even a cheap plastic tarp would work :)

        • You know.. we might have another home birth so I have to get some plastic painting sheets for our bed (mattress protection) anyways. Will get a multipack and save rest for if/when another vomit fest strikes. Or when we paint!

      • You can always use anything plastic you got at home, like plastic table cloth. I have a couple of old ones that I keep stored for the kids’ craft time. I also keep cotton rags made of old clothes to use to mop and clean the house. They would probably do well to wipe vomit away and then no need to wash them; just chunk them into the trash can.

        I am on my way to minimalist too and have tackled our closets and craft room. I don’t like dark colored towels either, but I have a few that were my husband’s before we got married. I keep them around too for the dirty jobs. Mop floors or messes and then I chuck them instead of washing them. So yeah, slowly I am getting rid of stuff.

  • Perhaps it is still minimalist to keep an extra two to four white towels that are not in rotation with the rest for guests, emergencies, and to replace the towels you use when they wear out.

    Over the last three years, I have keep a small box in our master closet that I consider “the store”. It contains things like extra shampoo, pens, hair ties, paper, a coloring book or two for my 6 year old, an emergency gift or two, etc… I do not want to hoard a bunch of supplies, but a few extras contained with a limit work well. I prefer this small stash to be mostly consumables. Perhaps some extra towels in a box like this. When I run out of a supply, I look in my little “store” to see if I have it before I go out to a store.

    If much time goes by and an item does not get used, it’s an opportunity to be generous. At one time, I got a few to many school supplies because they were on sale. When I cleared out stuff that had been in the box too long, I donated these supplies to my daughters school.

  • We live in a region that gives us the whole array of weathers – we could be wiped out by tornados and floods during the summer and buried under 10 feet of snow in less than a few days. Not being prepared for the “one day”, in the major sense, is not a good option.

    Now that doesn’t mean I have a bunker full of food and doubles of everything I own, but it does mean keeping a few extra things on hand – towels, blankets, water and basic food essentials are some of these.

    While, I don’t believe in stock piling my house full of things I might not need, unless there’s an emergency, it is nice to have a few things extra in case someone else has an emergency. A few years back I was able to help furnish an apartment with the basics (with just one other neighbor) when another neighbors apartment caught on fire. We had the place set up with food, cooking supplies, towels, bath things, an air mattress, sheets and pillows – even a litter box, litter and food for her cat – in about an hour, before the woman even got home and before the red cross woman had gone more than 5 feet from her car (the apartment was a vacancy the landlord immediately “gave” to the woman”. This was mainly because we had recently gotten married and moved cross country and found we had a lot of doubles from our college days and were actually preparing a big Goodwill drop off in a few days, but it still felt awesome!

  • This 97% idea is why I like living in a modest-sized home. There’s plenty of room for our family of five, but not much extra for guests to stay over. We cram our guests in here and there when they come through, and it works out. I wouldn’t want a bigger home to accommodate overnight guests, when the vast majority of the time it is just our family.

    Maybe I would feel differently if I looooved hosting guests, but that is just not my thing. I like it every once in a while, but that’s about it. So I’m glad my house fits the bill for just that.

  • we have all white towels with exception of 4 green beach towels. we use them freely as they can be washed of anything and soaked. just use them! they’ll weather your storm. glad you’re well again.

    • We have white towels, too. For a decade now. I bleach them occasionally, they are still white, and still our best towels! I have 6 kids if that means anything!

  • I wouldnt love it, but I wouldnt worry about using my clothing as puke cleaner-uppers. I think I said this before when you had a post about buying second hand clothing, or taking hand me down bras; I feel like if you put something through the wash and thats not getting it clean enough for you, it doesnt matter where the mess originated. Dirt is dirt, and yes puke is gross, but when you vomit onto yourself (or get vomitted on by your kids) you wash what your wearing and get on with life.
    Or maybe we’re just sullied with daily kid mess (jam/juice/puke/sweat/dirt/pee and yep sometimes poop) and our standards have gone out the window.

    • Well, I did get vomited on a few times. So really, putting down a layer of my own clothing wouldn’t be that different. 😉
      We cloth diapered (most of which I bought 2nd hand) so I’m not squeamish about those things. Agreed, if your washer isn’t getting it clean enough for you then nothing will.

  • Just use the white towels, thats what bleach is for. I have white for all my linens, its easier to use bleach than buy extra products to get every little stain out.

  • I never thought to use bath towels for vomiting for the kids. I use their mattress pads. I use the flat, flannel style ones that can easily be laid OVER their bedding, on the floor, couch, wherever. They don’t leak through, and they’re not full of plushness for the vomit to get stuck into, so they clean and dry quickly, even without a dryer. I don’t feel I’m preparing for the 3%, as we use these daily for bed protection and for the never-ending potty training. And changing surfaces for baby. Or kids who want to play with water in the kitchen (my boys love doing hotwheel carwashes) With a 5 year old, 2 year old and baby on the way, we have 6 in stock and they’re always used.

    • Oh, and you can cut them up and they don’t fray.. I’ve cut them for changing tables, carseat/stroller pads, even tiny pads to tuck into their undies.

  • That sucks going through being sick with little ones.
    We live in Nj, and with the recent devastating effects of hurricane Sandy, I prepared with a vast food and water emergency supply. However while searching for the perfect pair of black plattaform shoes for a job interview, I realized I didn’t own one anymore I lamented having given them away, since I NEED them now. But honestly at the time I got rid of them, I wasn’t sure that I would even use them again. Point is I made peace witht he fact to live in the now, and since now I need a pair of shoes, off I go hunting.

  • As a family of five we each have 1 bath towel and 1 beach towel and I have 4 hand towels for the house (2 for each bathroom). We don’t have any washcloths, because I don’t find them necessary and we also don’t use paper towels so instead I have a few dishcloths which we use for wiping countertops, messy faces and drying dishes. We have a bin of cut up old towels and such under the kitchen sink that we use for daily cleaning and messes and if the mess is gross enough we just toss them in the trash.
    Each of our beds just has one set of sheets because I wash the bedding the same day I take it off the bed and I don’t see any reason we can’t have an unmade bed for a few hours. Occasionally I get lazy and don’t finish the whole load of laundry or everyone decides to smear peanut butter on or pee in their sheets the same day and I just pull the throw blankets off the sofa and we sleep on bare mattresses for the night.
    When we are running low on clean towels I definitely have used dirty clothes to clean spit up messes or potty training accidents and I probably wouldn’t hesitate to do so if there was vomit involved.
    I personally would rather get creative in the rare event of an emergency illness than stockpile for it and have to deal with that excess on a daily basis.

    PS. We too have white towels and I sometimes question it with young children. If you’ve cloth diapered though you know that sun does wonders to naturally bleach out stains!

  • oh boy, puking kids! Glad to hear everyone is (almost) better. My son is sick right now and I definitely got some, um, stuff on me. And I feel like for the first year of both my kids’ lives I constantly had at least spit-up if not poop on me. So I probably would have used my clothing without hesitation! I just wrote about my minimalist maternity wardrobe and giving away pretty much every other piece of clothing I own. So I have less than 15 pieces of clothing right now and three pairs of shoes, and certainly nothing for any occasion dressier than the grocery store. But that is how I have always dressed! And I just tell myself that if I really need something for a wedding, funeral, etc. I can just go buy it. Which I hardly ever do, but knowing I have that option allows me to live with just exactly what I need.
    Also, on the white towels, not foolish at all–you can always whiten them with bleach or the sun! I personally have a small collection of vintage printed towels, which hide all dirt, but I occasionally fantasize about having all white linens throughout the house.

  • I would use the white towels. If you wash it right away, you should be good. (Especially if you’ve already puked the spaghetti and it’s just bile left.) White is always better than light colours anyway because you can bleach it if you’re desperate! We used to have a white futon cover because it was easier to clean with young kids.

  • I’m sorry to hear about the nasty virus you had to go through. But I love your quote: “But if you want to live your life for One Day, you’ll miss a lot of Todays.” That piece of advice works for so many situations. I’ve tried to justify keeping a few extra towels from time to time for when 3 people come stay over at once – which *never* happens.

  • We keep a stack of old, frayed towels in our garage, plus we have a rag bag. With two dogs and two kids, they get a lot of use and if the mess is something really gross, then I just toss the towel/rag after I use it.

    I use white towels and consider them the most minimalist as they don’t fade and can be bleached, if necessary.

  • I remember when my daughter learned to puke in a bowl it was a huge developmental milestone!

    One thing about stomach flu I finally learned: It is wickedly contagious BUT it’s completely transmitted by contact. The virus isn’t airborne, you have to touch something contaminated and then touch your mouth or face. If you wipe down surfaces like a lunatic and treat your hands like they’re contaminated with toxic waste at all times, you won’t get sick. Not only have I not gotten stomach flu since I learned this, I have had three rounds of the virus where one toddler got sick and no one else in the family did, even the other toddler! (And I got stomach flu on a regular basis for decades. This information has been life-altering!)

  • Firstly, I’m glad you are all on the mend!
    I’ve learnt over the last couple of years that I’m probably one of those people who rather than like to have things ‘just in case’ actually thrive on ‘winging it’. So, without a doubt I’d be in the category of not buying additional towels. I’ve been caught out doing this (running almost on empty as such) – but not often – my fridge is a perfect example of this. It’s also quite a challenge in looking at additional ways of solving the problem, which there are always many.
    You’ve had your dose of the bug this year, I reckon you’re clear for at least 12 months now! Fingers crossed!

  • I did a serious cull of our towel/rag/linen collection a couple of years ago, based on the fact that I am able to do laundry on an as-needed basis. I’ve also kept Oliver’s wardrobe deliberately minimalist – for example, he has only four pair of pants and two pair of PJs in his current size. When our washing machine broke a few weeks ago (and took almost two weeks to be replaced), I’ll admit that it was a struggle. When a particularly messy daycare day wiped out three of Oliver’s four pair of pants, and when we completely ran out of post-meal cleaning rags, I was ready to run out and buy more of everything. But you know what? We survived. We made do with slightly dirty clothes. We used disposable diapers and wipes. I cleaned up messes with paper towel. And I came to the conclusion that we don’t need more stuff, because the odds of having another washing machine failure in the near future are incredibly slim.

    Now if we’d had a stomach bug on top of all that…

  • there are lots of things I would do without but, having parented 5 kids, 4 of them are adults now, for me owning a clothes dryer is essential. We have had the same dryer for a long time. We’ve been through pin worms and lice both of those require hot water and hot dryer. If we lived somewhere tropical I might feel different but live on the east coast of NS:) We don’t have a car and are minimalist in lots of other ways but I plan to keep on owning a dryer (the dishwasher though won’t be replaced when it wears out).

  • Hotels use white towels because they can be cleaned with patience and bleach and borax and what-have-you.

    You need more towels. It’s one thing to be minimalist, another to be cheap. What if you need to shelter a guest or two?

    Three towel “sets” per person in the house–one to use, one on the hanger ready to go, one as a spare. PER PERSON. Then you need at least two sets per guest–figure two guests, that’s two more sets. Stick with white–clorox soak and a good scrub will clean the worst stain.

    I agree with those who say GET A DRYER too. It KILLS GERMS on your clothing.

  • So much time has passed since you posted this, but I just had to add my 2-cents…
    Getting a dryer depends a great deal on WHERE you live… It’s not a one-size fits all appliance.
    Where I lived in the southern US, humidity was in the high-90’s most of the time. I used a drying rack for my synthetics and light cottons, but jeans would mildew before they ever dried!
    On the other hand, when I traveled in Western Australia, the air was so dry, you could hang your clothes ANY time of day in the shade and they were dry in an hour!

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