Do your pillowcases match?

thDespite the no-kissing rule I imposed last week, DF has come down with the same crud I’ve still got. Maybe it was inevitable, which makes me grumpy when I think about all the kisses I skipped.

He went to work for a couple of hours the day after Christmas, saying he planned to wash the sheets when he got back. Sort of like locking the barn after the horses were gone, really, but he thought a good dose of Clorox might help get rid of some of the cooties.

Feeling generous, I put the sheets in myself after he left – including the pillowcases even though they aren’t white. In fact, they’re five different colors. Suddenly I realized that this would never have happened when I was a kid or a young married woman. Sheets and pillowcases had to match.

Guess what? I no longer care. How about you?

Linens were pretty straightforward when I was a kid. We owned one set of sheets for each bed and they all got washed on Saturday. My mom believed in hospital corners and taught us early the proper way to make a bed. You could probably have bounced a quarter off our mattresses.

But we each had one pillow and one quilt (handmade by my great-grandmother). The bedspread was from Sears and was always tidy, never allowed to touch the floor on one side. Had my mom seen such a thing she would have called us in from play and made us fix it so it “looked nice.” She came up rough, so having nice things was almost a religion for her.

While writing for the “Habitat” section of the newspaper I was startled to find out about things like dust ruffles, shams, duvets, and decorative pillows in multiple shapes and sizes. Modern beds looked like explosions of fabric, with untidy heaps of pillows that would have horrified my mother: They looked so messy.

I never adopted that look, which is just as well: All that extra fabric would have been just so many more dust-catchers, making asthmatic me wheezier than ever. However, I did have the luxury of two sets of sheets per bed, in case I didn’t find time to wash every Saturday. (Usually I did, though.)

Frugal linens

When I fled my marriage I took one set of sheets with me and bought another set at a yard sale ($3); my comforter, bought at a church rummage sale, cost me $5. One of the older sheets eventually developed holes and I had to mix-and-match. It bothered me a lot less than I thought. In fact, it bothered me not at all: Who was going to see?

This is not intended as a slam against those who like the sheets to match the curtains and contrast with the dust ruffle and area rugs. It’s just another example of how a “who cares?” attitude can save you a ton of money.

The old me would never have thrown colored pillowcases in with a white (i.e.,  Cloroxed) laundry. But that would have meant either doing a second load or making sure I had enough extra pillowcases to tide us over until next washday.

The white flannel sheets came out nice and bright and the pillowcases were maybe a little faded. But once again: I no longer care, and DF is not the kind of guy who wants everything to coordinate. In fact, he laughed the first time I asked if he thought it would be okay to throw the pillowcases into the bleach wash. Like my mom (and me!), he thinks Clorox = clean. When the house smells like a public swimming pool we’re both happy.

A few minutes ago he came indoors from putting a ham onto the Weber grill, for sandwiches and for a bunch of other dishes, including the hoppin’ john we’ll eat on Jan 1 to bring good luck in the year to come. He smelled of cold air and smoke, and snow was melting on his sleeve. I suggested doing away with the no-kissing ban now that we’re  both sick.

He obliged with a nice long buss and a big hug. Then he smiled and said, “Hope we both had the same thing.”

If not, there’s always Clorox.

So how about it, readers: Is matching linens a real thing with you, or don’t you care? Has this changed as you got older, the way it did with me?

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  1. Cathy in NJ

    My sheets and pillowcases always match because I only buy white or shades of white sheets. I have allergies and read that dyes in sheets could cause problems. How? I have no clue. But ok, if all the sheets are white then there are no dyes and I can do everything in one laundry load. So with one article about allergies, buying sheets became simpler and laundry became simpler and I can always use bleach. But if the pillowcases are off white and the sheets are bright white I don’t care.

  2. I usually just buy white sheets and it keeps it really simple. Nothing like getting into a bright clean white bed that has been dried outside ~It is the best feeling.

    • Donna Freedman

      I’m with you on the air-drying! A few times a month we also put the comforter and blanket out on the clothesline, too. Getting into a bed that smells like the outdoors is indeed wonderful.

  3. I hate bedspreads because they are black fur catchers from my dog. I simply put a white fitted sheet on the bottom mattress, use white sheets and a comforter on the top, and I am all set. I used to put pillows galore on the bed, but now I simply prefer my clorox pillowcases.
    PS. Your mom sounds like mine!! And may you and your SO have many more bussing moments.

    • Donna Freedman

      We’re still using that $5 comforter I bought 10 years ago. I’ve mended a tear or two but it looks as though it’ll hold up for a while longer.
      Thanks for the good wishes, and give your dog a scratch behind the ears for me.

  4. Gave up on matching. The bottom sheet wear out faster, so try to just coordinate. Husband insists on flannel, but I like a percale pillow case, so the pillow cases don’t match either. No clorox, but do like the alergene cycle with steam and minimal ecos laundry soap. Should get the germs without the chemicals.

  5. I’m a bed-as-nirvana junkie and confess to having a zillion pillows in all sizes, a glorious down comforter and indigo and wine-colored sheets and pillow cases( from Maiwa, Vancouver, B.C.) that are works of art. Perhaps being surrounded by so much excess is why I have trouble sleeping. All white would be more like zzz-ing on a summer cloud. Mismatched bedclothes would resemble sleeping on a rainbow. Thanks for this illuminating post! 🙂

  6. I used to be a ‘matchy-match’ girl. But now that I am married in a house filled with boys, these things seem quite ridiculous. I’ve relaxed quite a bit in other areas, too – I used to freak out if hats didn’t match mittens and snowpants didn’t match jackets, but now I don’t care. As long as they do what they’re supposed to do, who cares?

    • Also had a house of boys and having matching sheet sets or towels sets went out the window 20 years ago. I think as you get older you realize that that it isn’t necessary to try to keep your home looking like a magazine. It is the same way with our looks. I can’t compete with the perfection of a photo-shop models, and I can’t keep my house looking like those you see in magazines and on TV. Better to figure this out earlier rather than later in life as it makes for a happier home life.

  7. Gipssy Lupin

    My sheets usually match because when I find a good price, I buy multiples in the same color, usually white or light blue. Occasionally we will wear out a bottom sheet, and the top sheet and cases are fine. In that case I will try to find coordinating bottom sheets on sale. I often look for inexpensive fitted sheets since we do seem to wear them out at a faster rate. If anyone knows where I can find those (king size) at a reduced price, please share.

    • Donna Freedman

      Good idea, buying multiples on sale….And I forgot to mention in the article that the worn-out sheets become cleaning rags. I expect that’s the case with other readers as well. Right now I’m using some cut-up flannel sheets that I bought at least 15 years ago. They do hang on.

    • Try Target. We are blanket hogs, so we put king flat sheets on our queen-sized bed.

      • We also use king flat sheets, blankets and comforters on our King bed. No more blanket battles!

    • I buy my extras at the St. Vincent’s Church second hand store. Extra pillow cases can be had for a dollar or two at the Community Aid store. At present, we have every color and every pattern, and nothing in white.

  8. My mom taught me to make a bed like yours taught you. However, once away at college, I stopped making my bed except on the day I was washing sheets. I do like to keep two sets of sheets. Beyond that, things do not need to match. I use a comforter in the winter and only use the top sheet in the summer because I try not to use the a/c. I try to be frugal. I don’t understand all the extra pillows either. Never have and never had them.

  9. Tina in NJ

    We buy sheets in sets, so they start out matching. (If memory serves, the current set was a Christmas present some time ago.) When one navy case developed a whole, we got two more in a different shade of navy. Who’s going to see? We have quilts because that’s what I do. In winter, the quilt is covered by crocheted afghans my MIL made, so it can’t be seen.

  10. My sheets often do not match my pillow cases. We usually have 6 pillows. There have been more in the past, but they tend to wear out as I put them through the washer and dryer every couple of months. I use one to support the bad knee I’m ignoring. I also switch sides and ends several times per night. Also, if one pillow gets hot, I will switch.

  11. I used to have one of those beds with tons of pillows. Then I got married and replaced some pillows with a man. LOL!

    Our pillow cases and sheets don’t match, though they are in the same colors. Ivories and sages right now. They go fine with the gorgeous new quilt Hubby got me for Christmas. We have some quilts made by my grandma, but they are full size and our bed is a queen.

    Oh, and Hubby does the laundry and he LOVES Clorox.

  12. In the past matching sets of sheets were the style. Now, home fashion blogs show mismatched sheets, although in matching or coordinating hues or patterns. I have only have had one bottom sheet wear out, ever! It was the most expensive set of sheets I ever owned, 100% cotton and NOT wrinkle proof, so no chemicals.

    I have always slept with two king-sized pillows and two regular. The king pillows are for each side to support a knee for the sake of my back. My head is on one regular pillow and the other is on my left side so my left lower arm can rest on it since I have a badly torn rotator cuff.

    However, in the past month, I have gone to a twin sized bed. Having pillows beside me no longer works. So, I have a bathrobe I can put under my knee and still have enough to lie on or throw over me so the wad for my knee does not fall off the bed as a pillow surely would.
    Oh, I did have two small pillows on the king-sized bed that were removed at night or just thrown to the back side of the bed. After all, I was the only one in the bed and not a restless sleeper.

    The rule for linens I abided by was three sets: one on the bed, one in the wash, and one on the shelf. I hate putting sheets back on after washing and drying and before I can get back into bed at night.

    Matching linens does not have to be; they just come that way.

  13. My mother still makes her bed every…single…day. I just shut the door. In fact, right now I don’t even have a bed spread. The HORROR!! lol

    I went to a set of white sheets and a set of light gray flannel sheets. I actually use the flannel top sheet as a light weight blanket in the summer. I’ve never understood the pillowcase thing. Most folks I know have two pillows and sets are always short and the case size seems skimpy. I went to the fabric store and purchased material that will make four pillowcases. A couple different fabrics and I now have plenty. Not the most frugal solution, but they are nice size and slip on easily now.

  14. Never did understand the “explosion of pillows” (nice phrasing, btw!) on modern designed beds. You just have to take them all off before you go to sleep… and who is seeing your bed during the day?

    We’re currently enjoying hand-me-down linens from our folks. They upgraded to slightly trendier / nicer sheets, towels, and comforters… and we were happy to take the gently used stuff they no longer need! Linens are expensive!

  15. Most of our sheets are mix/match. I left a marriage 2 years ago, and started over with 50% of our possessions. I met needs and a few wants by shopping the second hand market. Sheets, all linens, are expensive and the quality pales compared to years past. Yes, bottom sheets and cases wear out fast-those become rags if all cotton, tomato ties if not. The flat sheet continues to be used, eventually being turned into new cases for any of the beds here. I have trouble finding just a bottom sheet, JCP and Sears seem to no longer sell just that. I am able to find them, sometimes new in package at the thrift shops. The second hand sheets cost me very little, I mend as we go. I also convert my worn out, flannel nightgowns into pillow cases, usually able to produce at least one standard size case out of it. We have an interesting blend on the beds at the moment.

    • Try Target. We are blanket hogs, so we put king flat sheets on our queen-sized bed.

  16. Linens, furniture, dishes…nothing matches around here, and I like it that way! When we first bought our king-sized bed, we bought new sheets, bedspread and comforter in coordinating colors – blues – but everything since, and the linens for our other beds, are a mixture of hand-me-downs and thrift store finds. We prefer natural fibers, and that’s the place to find 100% cotton (and sometimes even linen, but that’s rare).

    Our older son bought himself matching sheets when he got his new bed, and wants to coordinate the cases on his nest of pillows, though I don’t think he’s gotten around to that. I think he’s up to four or five pillows now, but he uses them to lounge out in bed when he’s not sleeping.

    My husband and I have one pillow each, and the cases don’t match – sometimes not even each other! I have an extra that I sometimes curl up with, but it gets in the way when I don’t want it and is usually relegated to the closet.

  17. My weakness is fabrics, anything in fabrics. I love towels and sheets and yes, they do match and my current three (yes, three) sets have a beach theme. I don’t bleach sheets or hardly anything at all unless there is a stain.

    I do remember washing whites separately but now I have maybe three items of clothes that are actually “white” so I don’t bother with a separate wash for them. Rather my clothing washes are pretty much separated into “darker” and “lighter”.

    But I remember that my grandmother actually ironed her sheets and pillowcases, my mother ironed only the pillowcases and I certainly iron neither. Interesting how things have changed.

    • Donna Freedman

      I’ve never known anyone to iron sheets. Maybe it has to do with the fabrics changing? Percale doesn’t need an iron and heaven knows it’ll just get wrinkled an hour after you lie on it.

      • I actually had a friend who would not only iron her sheets and towels, but dish towels as well. NEVER understood it – life is way too short!!

  18. I bought a bunch of lovely white cotton sheets back in the 80’s and 90’s at garage/estate sales when people were getting rid of their parent’s stuff (a box full for $10 or less) and it was still considered icky to buy used linens. These were typically the “best sheets” saved for – well, for what? I wash them with everything else once a week and bleach them separately once a season or so. And I never make the bed. The Shakers made the beds after airing them (so the dust mites in the mattresses and pillows didn’t get the damp habitat they thrive in), but my bedroom is just for sleeping and making love, so it doesn’t need to look like either a hospital room or a military barracks. Billows of rich white cotton on a mahogany bed (Salvation Army) is prettier. I wonder why people started “making the bed” in the first place?

    • I love how this discussion keeps going. Clearly, sheets, pillows and beds are important to us!

      As far as making the bed is concerned, both my husband and I love to enter ours freshly made bed at night. We’re both artists and not particularly neat-freaks, but as we walk by our bedroom we love to see the sweet straight lines of the comforter and the bouquet of pillows arranged aesthetically at the head of the bed. We’re like that with table linens, too. Taking the time to “decorate” the dinner table, and light a candle before we plunge in to a meal. Maybe it’s a visual thing.

      • Donna Freedman

        I like seeing the sheets smoothed out and looking oh-so-inviting, and I like putting the comforter out on the line during the day so it smells fresh. It’s a pleasure to anticipate going to bed.

    • I didn’t make our bed for many years, but now I find I prefer it that way. I don’t tuck in or arrange the pillows or anything, but I like to straighten the covers and pull them up.

      I often sit on the bed to read or work on craft projects, and a neat bed is easier to sit on and keep track of my things. And making the bed keeps the majority of the cat hair and other debris out of the bed so they don’t irritate me when I’m trying to sleep.

  19. Debbie Wetzel

    I have two sets of same colored sheets for each bed; different colors for each bedroom. I store the 2nd set in one of the pillowcases on a shelf. When I change the sheets, the ‘shelf’ linens go on the bed and the newly laundered set goes on the shelf. When the sheets get worn, they find their way into a quilt.

  20. Robin Gonzalez

    My sheets only match with cases when I find good sales on the set. Hubby is the sewing person in the family and he doesn’t like a top sheet for some reason. So, he often takes the top sheet and makes extra cases. Then they last longer than bed sheet, so we always have extra unmatched. I don’t do ruffles, duvets, etc. As I am a plain person and don’t like all the fluff. Last month a neighbor had my hubby upholster a chair and she had fabric left over. She ask him to make 6 pillow cases from the material for her bed. They didn’t match either and she doesn’t care. I am sure you will find alot of us are alike and as you get older (sorry), I think, there are more important things than trying to be perfect-LOL!

    • Robin, I gave up perfection 20 years ago for Lent, and I have not missed it!

      • I would just like to politely suggest that maybe people who do like lots of pillows or matching fabrics are not out to achieve “perfection” or to impress anyone. They just like visual things and do it for themselves.

        • Donna Freedman

          Yep, which is why I wrote “This is not intended as a slam against those who like the sheets to match the curtains and contrast with the dust ruffle and area rugs.” Do what works for you, I say — and don’t be told (i.e., sold) the One True Way a bedroom should look.

        • Thanks for saying this, Anne. I’m one of those people and truly couldn’t care less what others think about my pillows. Also, pillows plopped here and there do seem to ease some of the aches of we sexagenarians, and colorful linens, mismatched or not, may even cheer us up a bit. <3

  21. Vicky Fox

    Now that it’s mostly just me, I don’t care about everything matching. I was fortunate enough to pick up a set of jersey knit sheets for $10.00 on clearance, and I haven’t had to replace them in over 4 years. They get washed and dried and put right back on the bed.

    I think it was about 6 months after Paul passed that I went out for a bit of shopping with a friend, and we went into Linens and Things. To put everything together to match was over $500.00. No flipping way. Plus, some of the stuff I saw in there was like someone threw up in technicolor. I’m just happy to have a bed to sleep in that’s comfortable and inviting. Extra pillows to sit up and read, and clearance plush throws for extra warmth. No more fussing. I’ve been through enough altrady 😉

  22. I just checked. Apparently they do. Because we have exactly two pillows and the pillowcases come with the sheet set. Since our sheets wear out before pillowcases, I assume we have extra pillowcases somewhere.

  23. Donna Freedman

    I was disappointed to find a small tear in the bottom sheet. Already! These sheets are only a couple of years old! 🙁
    Sewed it up and am hoping for the best.

    • Our last fitted sheet really did disintegrate entirely. I think we got it when we were first married, so it succumbed to fabric fatigue at 14 or 15 years of age. I guess we’re at a point at which we could buy a replacement fitted sheet since we’re harder on them than on the other parts of sheet sets. I had never really thought about it before. In any case, I got a replacement sheet set for Christmas, so maybe I’ll worry about this in another 14 years.

  24. I only have one set at a time (due to the dog making holes and bleeding frequently on them) so they do match for the most part. But I don’t care if they do or not – and am a younger person. My mother, on the other hand, just this Christmas bought me 2 sets of matching towels since for some reason mine weren’t good enough. This after she had bought me new dishes, because those didn’t match either (same style, just different colors). Now she’s complaining about my silverware not matching. GEEZ!

  25. A friend surprised me with a gift of a very comfortable expensive king sized bed a few years ago which I have all to myself. I mostly have white or cream bedlinen, none of it matching. I only ever use cotton. Some of the pillowcases are over twenty years old but still good. I only ever throw out bedding when it is torn. Comfort for me is much more important than how it looks. Thanks again for a most interesting post.

  26. I can’t buy sheet sets – I need a queen size fitted and I prefer a king size flat – so I buy separates. I also tend to buy sheets and pillowcases at the thrift stores – one in particular about 45 minutes from me, tends to yield lovely, EXPENSIVE, nearly new sheets and pillowcases for $3-5 a pop.

    So nothing really…matches, but at the same time, I tend to buy complementary colors – and I’ve done quite well in finding oddball sheets that go well with my existing linens and blankets.

  27. john smith

    No, my pillowcases don’t have to match. My sheets do but it is because I only own a couple of sets. I have to go to a laundry in another town. So, I save up several weeks worth. Sometimes, I don’t do laundry for 3 or 4 weeks. I have enough uniforms, towels, and underwear to last that long.

  28. My Mom taught me to store extra quilts and bedding in between the mattress and box springs. Gets them out of the closet and you never
    know they are there. If you want to elevate you head area of the mattress put an extra quilt there.
    Does anyone have any extra storage ideas?
    Mom used to buy toilet paper and paper towels on sale and put them
    behind the head board of the bed and the wall. No one knew they
    were there.

    • I’m pregnant and have pains in my hips from sleeping on my sides. An extra fleece blanket folded in quarters and put under the fitted sheet in the right spot has done wonders for my ability to sleep. 🙂

  29. None of my stuff matches.. it tends to mostly all have the same sort of colors, but…. no. Right now I have light purple walls, pink/green/mauve floral insulated curtaisn (free!) green comforter, Yellow flannel sheets, pink/purple/white plaid wool blanket…. I don’t care if it matches or not. It’s my room… It keeps me warm. It’s clean : ) DDs room is all about pink- I try to make sure if/when I get her stuff it has pink in it, it makes her happy. Almost all of our stuff is from Freecycle/thrift shops, tag sales.

    • Oh- I wanted to add- I am using queen size sheets on a full size bed and they work fine. I down sized the bed when I had to replace it and the queen sheets work fine, just a little extra tucking, but really no problem.

  30. My husband and I prefer not to tuck the sheets and blankets in, and our sheets and blankets tend to stay together in a layered mass. Works great until something slides out of alignment. 🙂 Anyway, our version of “making the bed” is to pull the layers up over the bed and straighten it out so it looks neat. 🙂

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