Your Weekly Organasm: It’s Raining Here In New York, Exposing My Weird Obsession With Protecting My Stuff From Water, Light, And Everything Else

Here’s some of the silly/stupid/crazy stuff I do to keep my stuff looking new for as long as possible.
Publish date:
May 28, 2013
new york, waterproof, materialism, rainy days

Whenever I see my fashion designer friend Kim, I get insanely jealous. It isn’t just because her clothes cost more than my rent, or that she always has the perfect outfit for every occasion. Her casual, savoir-faire attitude towards her own fabulous threads is what drives me up the wall.

There was the time she showed up for a day at the beach wearing a designer caftan and a hat with perfectly floppy curves. I had about 10 minutes to admire her look before she jumped into the water, still wearing that glorious hat. I warned her about it, but she shook off my concern.

“Whatever,” she said. Even though she was swimming with her head above water, the hat got drenched and it was never the same again. Now, excuse me while I weep. RIP, beautiful hat.

Of course, it’s none of my business what Kim does with her stuff. I just happen to be really obsessive about taking care of my things. Water damage, in particular, scares me. When I get caught in the rain, I’ll obsess over my purse, shoes and even my pantyhose. I remember a time when I stripped down to bare feet, then wrapped all of those things into my coat to save them from getting dirt- and water-stained.

This was really stupid, since I might have cut my feet on broken glass and picked up bacteria, dog poop and all sorts of disgusting things from the ground. My only defense for this total lack of common sense is that I can take antibiotics and I’m washable, but some of my stuff is not.

Considering my neuroses, I’m functional and (as you know) I’m quite the problem solver. I thought you might be curious, so here’s some of the silly/stupid/crazy stuff I do to keep my stuff looking new for as long as possible.

I buy really cute rain gear.

I’m the kind of person who likes to tear the tags off recent purchases and use them immediately. This is really not a good idea when the weather forecast predicts rain, and you can hardly stop yourself from pulling your best and newest things out of your closet like some child. I’ve found that the first, best and only way to prevent this is by buying rain gear that’s so cute I can’t wait to use them at the first hint of rain. I now own multiple raincoats, a waterproof windbreaker and small collection of rain and snow boots. I also use Collonil Waterstop on some of my leather items so I can wear them out in the rain if I really, really want to. It’s an expensive habit, but it helps save all my other clothes and shoes.

I will waterproof almost anything.

I’m a sucker for products that clean and protect my clothes, shoes and other accessories. Right now, I’m seriously excited about Nikwax, which has a wide range of products to waterproof all the things. They have stuff I never knew I needed, like TX Direct to make raincoats even more water-repellent; Fabric & Leather Proof for things that are a mix of leather and fabric; Cotton Proof for cotton and canvas; and Map Proof for -- get this -- maps and other paper products. I think I’m the most excited about the idea of using Cotton Proof on my Converse and the bottoms of my jeans, because they get so wretched when I wear them in the rain.

So far, I only have TX Direct and Tech Wash, which is their wash-in cleaner. I used both on a jacket that was so old it had lost its water repellency. After treatment, I wore it for a day out in the rain. It worked beautifully, with the water beading up on the surface instead of just soaking straight through.

I know a sure-fire way to get water stains out of fabric.

My weapon of choice is rubbing alcohol, which is one of those great, cheap household products (like vinegar and coconut oil) that have a 101 uses. You can use it to clean your sofa, whether it’s made of microfiber or fabric upholstery. I’ve found that it works beautifully for cleaning your leather shoes, and to get rid of water stains when you’ve worn them out in the rain. It even works on silk. I found this out when I got a giant water stain on my red, 100% silk, dry-clean only dress. After the neighborhood dry cleaner tried and failed (twice) to get the stain out, I used rubbing alcohol and was able to save the dress for future parties.

I have a shoe dryer.

I mentioned this in a previous post, but my DryGuy is so good to me, I have to mention it twice. This product is aces because if you get your gloves and shoes wet, you can use this to dry them out quickly and gently without getting the material crispy. This means leather as well as canvas shoes like Toms or Converse. I don’t know about you, but shoes with crispy dried-out material feel disgusting, and I can’t wear them when that happens.

My clothes live in the dark.

I’ve seen clothes fade in the sun, and I would do almost anything to prevent this from ever happening to me. This means that I switch on the lights in my closet as infrequently as possible, and my clothes and shoes live behind closed doors when I’m not wearing them.

Shoe cobblers are my friend.

There’s nothing sadder than shoes with heels that have been worn down to ugly little nubs -- especially when the rest of the shoe looks perfect. So, I inspect the heels whenever I take them off. If the surface is scraped or the heel is wobbly, they go straight to the shoe hospital. My cobbler will not only fix them, he will often shine and waterproof them for a nominal fee. And whenever I buy a new pair, I get them resoled at the earliest opportunity. It adds YEARS to the life of the shoe, so really, I’m saving money.

I’ve developed the ability to get long-term use out of my pantyhose.

Remember when I said I took off my pantyhose to protect them from the city streets? I wasn’t kidding. Even though they’re delicate, I try to get 20 uses out of each one. I don’t think I do anything groundbreaking, but here’s what I do. Before I put them on, I pass my fingers over all the nails on my hands and feet, looking for rough edges that might snag on my hose. Then, I cut and file them if they’re not already short and smooth. Next, I put on the hose, going inch by inch. After that, it’s just matter of being careful not to bump into things, and maybe even moving some furniture so they don’t get in the way.

I use a lot of coasters.

A lot of my furniture is from Ikea, but I have a few precious pieces, such as my coffee table and dining room set. I have a fear of water rings, so when I host a party, I’ll walk around the room, shoving coasters under sweating beer bottles. I thought I was being perfectly subtle, but when a friend gave me a set of coasters as a gift, I’ve come to realize that I’m being an asshole and I should just stop.

So, sometimes, I let it go.

I have hardwood floors in my home, and they’re not perfect. Parts of them are warped from water damage, and there are nicks and scratches everywhere. Before I moved in, I considered sanding and refinishing the floors to make them perfectly smooth, but I decided against it. Ultimately, I didn’t want to drive myself crazy by trying to protect those floors. I can just picture myself glaring at my friends for not taking off their heavy, clunky shoes when they come over, or jumping up nervously every time someone spills a drop of water on the ground. I refuse to be that person, so I’ve decided to live with slightly imperfect floors that I don’t need to think twice about.

Min Lee is dodging the rain and obsessing over her stuff on twitter @minjams