When my son was little, I used to encourage him to use things for the things they were designed to do. This sounds terribly non-imaginative, or as if I were stifling his creativity, but children need to have limits. He’d use a piece of pancake as a bookmark, or a pair of scissors as a pancake cutting tool. Even if he’d just used them to trim pyracantha plants (which are poisonous.)
Luckily, my son lived to become an adult and is leading a happy life in his own house. Having safely shepherded him through the wacky idea state, I’ve begun to delight in finding multiple, rational uses for tools or products. In this case, the product is something called a Pee Pad, which is a training aid for puppies. I have a cat who’s paper trained. Don’t ask.
I found a big box of the 20-inch plastic-backed pads for an amazing price, and have found great uses for them that do not involve cats or pee. These pads aren’t scented and aren’t treated in any way.
1. Put them in your lap to protect your pants/skirt/dress from glue, paint, or glitter in the studio. Tiny bits seem to adhere to the fabric-like surface. If you teach, take a few to pass out to those who forgot their aprons.
2. Put your very wet canvas or watercolor down to dry. No worry about leaving drips or stains on your studio table or carpet.
3. Clip them around your kid’s necks with a clothespin (if you are older) or binder clip (if you are younger) to keep them clean during art projects or messy meals, depending on their age.
4. Use them to put over your shoulder when you pick up your friend’s baby. Not all babies come with a spit-up cloth–this one is big enough to protect both of you. Also good if your friend brings over her small dog and it’s raining out–a trip across this pet door mat will soak up foot prints.
5. Just scrubbed the counters? Unpack your wet chicken packages, drippy berries, or leaking milk onto these to keep the counter clean.
6. Keep two in the car. They are great for protecting the seat if it’s raining and you have gallon jugs or other large, wet grocery items to load. Put on the seat if your gym towel is soaked and you don’t want to leave perspiration stains on the care seat.
7. Use as a big napkin for breakfast in bed. Catches drips, saves the percales. Also good for eating cookies or popcorn in bed. Just fold and put on the floor, you can shake it out and re-use the next day. No more crumbs in bed!
8. Use them for a lobster feast! The plastic backing keeps your clothes from getting buttered better than a napkin.
9. Take a few on trips. Budget hotel doesn’t have a bathmat? Use this. Eating at a park picnic table that hasn’t been scrubbed in a while? Use them as placemats. Going to eat in the car or in an airplane? Use as lapkins (napkins in your lap), or on the tray table. Last week, I saw a mom changing her baby on the tray table.
10. Wearing black this season? Pin one around your neck when you are dressed, but still need to put on your makeup. All that powdery foundation, eye shadow and blush won’t have to be brushed from your bosom.
Don’t use them to make a dress for Project Runway; it will get you eliminated. You never know how useful something is until you have a lot of them.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist. She has a cat who is paper-trained.