Hang to dry and other things your mother taught you

Image: Vogue

The other night, after a delicious, wine-soaked feast at Soffritto in Newtown I stumbled home with a friend. On the walk we discussed life's many mysteries: why aren't we staggeringly wealthy, or even just a little bit wealthy, and how should you treat a fancy handbag?

My friend is in the market for a new bag, and a colleague suggested Marc by Marc Jacobs, a perfect choice for a cool, not-out-of-reachedly-priced designer handbag. The catch is she's trying to replace her work bag that's right now stuffed with a laptop, a pair of heels, two puppies, and possibly a small child. Being a freelancer, she desk-surfs, so anything she needs for work has to be carried in and out of the city on her shoulder.

I told her a lovely bag should only be filled with small things: a wallet, a phone, keys and lipgloss. Anything else should go in a separate tote. Every night she should empty her lovely bag, restuff it with tissue, put it back in its cotton bag, sing it a lullaby, and store it on its side in an uncluttered part of her closet.

Do you think I spend too much time caring for inanimate objects? Think of it this way: before I had a child to love, I had my handbags.

I get it. You blow $500 on a bag and you expect it to take crazy amounts of abuse. But expensive doesn't equal indestructible. In most cases expensive does mean that if you treat it nicely, it'll last long enough that you can tell your future daughters, no, they can't borrow it.

This long preamble serves to introduce one of my favourite topics: looking after your stuff. Brace yourselves. Things are about to get exciting.

1. Knits

If you wash your jumpers in a washing machine, even if it's on gentle cycle, please don't tell me about it. A little part of me dies when I hear stuff like that.

Every month or two, I like to take a morning and handwash all my knits. Crazy, yes? Well, everything I know about handwashing, I learned from the inimitable, crazier-than-I Martha Stewart. I'll reserve my commentary and hand over to the guru and her ultimate knit-care video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np3jCTcZ8NA

2. Silk, wool and other things that hate water

If you're putting silk dresses or wool blazers in the washing machine, see #1. Find a drycleaner and fork over the cash, or make the sad decision to only buy horrible stretch polyester sweats and live alone with lots of cats, knowing that even they think your clothes are ugly.

3. Stains

If you've stained something that doesn't hate water (see #2), the solution depends on the stain:

Ballpoint pens - Spray hairspray on the mark until the fabric's wet and scrub it gently with a toothbrush. Be careful because sometimes the ink will bleed outward and create a wider stain.

Blood (from all that sword fighting you do) - Put  it in cold water right away and soak it for a couple of days. Then even when you wash it, wash it in cold because hot will set the stain.

Oil - Oil is the worst. I've tried a few different techniques for oil. You can sprinkle baking soda or baby powder on the stain, rub it in gently, blow it off and repeat until the oil gets soaked up. You can also try putting a piece of paper towel over the powder and ironing it on low.

My favourite method is to sprinkle powdered laundry detergent on the stain, wet it a bit to get the powder damp, ball up the garment, and leave it for a day or two. Then wash it normally in cold and cross your fingers.

Failing these tricks, go to your friendly neighbourhood drycleaner.

4. Shoes

Nobody wants to go out and spend more money at the cobbler when they've just bought new shoes, but if you do, I promise you'll only need to do it again every couple of years. Also your shoes will last long enough to achieve "vintage" status.

In between cobbler visits, regularly use waterproofingspray and shoe polish. Using some interwebs voodoo, I found 94 colours of polish here.

5. Handbags

Lots of don'ts: don't load them like they're pack mules, don't spill stuff on them, don't put them on the ground, and as I said before, store them lovingly every night.

I'll stop now. I may be no less crazy than the cat lady in #2, but if you saw me wandering down the street in a crisply pressed dress and spit-shined brogues, you wouldn't think crazy, you'd think, "She's obsessively groomed like someone who watches a lot of Martha Stewart Living."