1 On the Purchase of New Pillows | The Billfold

On the Purchase of New Pillows


Like Civil War bandages.

That’s how my boyfriend describes the way pillows look when they turn all mottled and brownish. “What is coming out of our heads that make them so gross?” he asks. This question is unanswerable, and most of our pillows look like Civil War bandages.

When we moved in together, PT and I combined our pillows without thinking about it. We just put pillowcases on them and piled them on the bed. Two of them went to the bed in the furnished extra room that we rent out as often as we can (n.b. we have not used Airbnb yet!). Some were mine and some were his, but all of them—save for the one Ikea pillow I picked up at some point in the past seven years in New York—were of unknown provenance; and they were gross.

On a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, we went to Ikea for new pillows. I knew that the one good one I had was a Gosa Pinje, the phrase lodged in my head, somewhere between where I keep my stray bits of Yiddish and the names of record labels (metacategory: nonsense words that still convey meaning), and I murmured this to myself as we strolled through the store. “Gosa Pinje, Gosa Pinje, Gosa Pinje.”

Turns out Gosa Pinje comes in both back sleeper and side sleeper varieties. “Why even bother naming a thing if it doesn’t mean enough?” PT grumbled. It didn’t matter! We bought two, standard size, $9.99 each.

The next Sunday, we got around to putting them on our bed, and had to choose two of the six extant pillows to discard. We unsheathed them from their pillow cases, put the previously owned Gosa Pinje in the “keep” pile, and looked at the rest. They were all kinda icky: splotchy, brown, embarrassing reminders of humanity’s capacity for secretion.

“How do we do this?” I asked. We took turns putting our faces down on the pillows, imagining ourselves sleeping.

“This is our life now, Baby,” said PT.

“This is not a thing they taught me how to do in grownup school,” I said. “They did not cover this in Career and Personal Planning.”

Then we actually had to make some decisions.

“This one definitely goes.”

“Oh, but I’m kind of fond of this one.”

“It is lumpy and disgusting.”

“I kind of like how lumpy it is.”

“So which ones do you want to get rid of?”

We were both paralyzed with potential regret: what if we had preferences that we didn’t even know? What if our subconscious selves were drawn to specific pillows that our waking selves couldn’t identify? What if we got rid of the wrong pillows?

The lumpy one went, as did one with the word “medium” written all over it in fake-fancy scrawl. We reluctantly hid the remaining war bandages with pillowcases; covering our shame with the triumph of brand-new vintage pillowcases thanks to my grandparents’ hoarding techniques (my sheets are the very same ones that Sally Draper has in season five of Mad Men.

“Maybe we should replace all of them?” PT asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “but like, with the fancy, $80 pillows.”

“But not from Ikea.”

“No, like from…” I realized I have no idea where one is supposed to buy non-Ikea pillows. Macys?

[Flashback to being sick in my fourth year of undergrad in Toronto, and weirdly not having any pillows because I had lost them in a move. I decided that I absolutely could not be sick in bed without pillows so I, in the dead of winter, got on the subway and went to the Bay in the Eatons Centre where Sarah Jessica Parker was having some event to promote her new perfume and the place was mobbed and I was sick-addled and pillows all seemed unreasonably expensive so I went home without any pillows, and instead with something useful but unnecessary, like a new bath mat]

This morning, we stuffed the two discarded pillows down the garbage chute.


Dory Kornfeld is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning at Columbia. Her best side gig is teaching economics to IBEW union members at the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies. She also makes quilts for all the weddings and the babies. Her halfhearted tumblr is greenpeugeot.tumblr.com.

Photo: Shimelle


30 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Rowan (#70)

I get pillows at Marshall’s, FWIW.

potatopotato (#5,255)

@Lily Rowan: This is where I buy all the things that I don’t know where else they sell them. Marshalls always has those things.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@potatopotato And for cheap!

ThatJenn (#916)

I buy all of my pillows at Target for some reason I have never actually questioned.

And I need to buy a new mattress, and I am sad about that.

Stina (#686)

@ThatJenn Ooh I need a new mattress too. Although I “need” one because it is ten years old and while it feels ok to me, I know when/if I got a new one I’d go “This is amazing! Why did I wait so long? blah blah blah”

thegirlieshow (#5,285)

@ThatJenn I’m also a fan of Target pillows, for equally indistinct reasons.

@ThatJenn This is exactly what I came down here to say! I think mine was $6.99, it’s comfy, what more do I need?

ThatJenn (#916)

@Stina My mattress was fabulous for 7.5 years, started to sag a tiny bit a couple months ago, and suddenly has deep indentations where we sleep since last month. It’s definitely time and my back has been actively reminding me since I noticed (probably just me noticing it more, but the timing is quite inconvenient as I don’t think we’ll have a chance to shop for a few weeks. Oh, well – it’ll just make it feel all the better when it’s time).

Stina (#686)

Because I am THAT person….” They were all kinda icky: splotchy, brown, embarrassing reminders of humanity’s capacity for secretion.”

That is mold. Perhaps your secretions created it, if you drool a lot you get moisture on the pillow, moisture leads to mold which is the yellowy brown splotches. Or perhaps if you go to bed with a wet or damp head it can create it as well.

Good news: If you have a cheaper fill pillow you can wash it in hot bleach water and dry it in the dryer until every. drop. of moisture. is gone. Then you will have a white and puffier pillow, albeit sometimes the filling shifts a bit.

Bad news: if you have a down/memory foam/any kind of fancy filling you are crap outta luck. Next time buy the moisture barrier fabric pillowcases (not the vinyl ones, the crinkling will drive you nuts) made for people with allergies.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

@Stina Yeah, I read this and was thinking “wash your pillows!!!” Pillow washing pro-tip: after washing a pillow as @Stina instructs above, run it through the dryer on tumble dry/low for 2-3 cycles (to dry the insides out too) with 1-2 new tennis balls. They will be so fluffy and clean and soft after. Also, the tennis balls seem to help keep the filling distribution more even.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@Stina Going home from work early to burn all our pillows now.

Stina (#686)

@Caitlin with a C I did not know about the tennis balls. Huh. Thanks!

Stina (#686)

@cryptolect Yup. Knew that I was passing along quite the mental picture.

ATF (#4,229)

@Stina Tennis balls are great for drying things you want to remain fluffy! My fiance looked at me like I was crazy when I dried my winter coat with them but it came out so nice and puffy!

@Stina Oh god that explains so much.

Stina (#686)

@polka dots vs stripes MmmHmm and piling on, because why not? The brown stains may start as yellow discoloring on the pillow which is mold too. Or your cat/dog/partner/child is mad at you.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Stina Success story: I bought those zip-up moisture barriers for my pillows the last time I got new pillows, and they (a) don’t get discolored, (b) are easy to wash and (c) seem to have made a difference in our allergies. I love science & technology!

Stina (#686)

@ThatJenn Yes indeedy. The reason I know all of this stuff is that I have a big time mold allergy (like seriously, like my allergist saw my skin reaction to the mold test and warned me to be very careful) and thus well read on the subject.

chevyvan (#2,956)

As a person with neck issues, buckwheat pillows changed my life. Now I can never go back, and I’m shouting the Buckwheat Gospel from the rooftops!

andnowlights (#2,902)

We bought new pillows recently (within the last year) but I can’t remember where, why, or for how much. Hm. Probably Target? Macy’s pillows are expensive!

ama (#1,639)

We just moved and threw away 12 pillows! 12! We had 12 *extra* pillows and they were all so gross, and what is wrong with us?

potatopotato (#5,255)

@ama: Where were you keeping all those pillows?

erinep (#4,236)

On the more Adult things I have done in the last year or so is buy decent pillows and protectors for them. I actually wash the protectors every so often. I’m a one-pillow-under-my-head gal, whereas the man needs to have like 5 pillows surrounding him. Our head pillows are the gel kind and we picked them up at costco, and the surrounding pillows are the one step up from the cheapest at Target.

Our mattress is a $uper nice pillow top that my grandpa bought when he moved here to be closer to us after my grandma died, but he only slept on it maybe once, apparently because he slept in a recliner. It’s one of several very nice things I inherited when he passed.

Stina (#686)

@erinep My husband creates like a hive/igloo/pile of blankets and pillows on top of him. I actually have to exert some effort to un-bury him whenever I’m checking for signs of life.

Though I have a wedge pillow + regular pillow so I have my own odd routine.

erinep (#4,236)

@Stina He has to have one or both ears covered or he can’t fall asleep. Similarly, we recently figured out that if you cover the dogs ears with a blanket, he will melt and start snoring in less than 30 seconds. Seriously.

He also will NOT sleep with the top sheet tucked in and will thrash his legs around to un-tuck if it is. Probably so he can hog the blankets and wrap them around himself. So it is somewhat of a sleeping treat when I have the bed to myself and can keep the sheet tucked in!

I just like to get comfy, though no matter how I arrange myself I wake up on my back.

Carly (#7,230)

Best place for pillows, hands (or heads) down: Homegoods. All the good pillows, all the good prices.

Just bought a new mattress from Costco. Love it to pieces, and I can return it anytime, although I can’t imagine giving it up. I am also a new pillows every year kinda person. I recycle the stuffing in my old ones into dog beds. Best pillows ever: Laura Ashley from Bed Bath & Beyond. I have had them more than a year, practically a miracle for me.

potatopotato (#5,255)

We go through so many pillows because my partner folds them in half and squashes them into pancakes in a matter of months. We have 6 pillows between the two of us, so does he stack 2 or 3 on top of each other? No, why would you do that when you can mash one up into a ball and squeeze every bit of fluffiness out of them?! So now I buy 2 more cheap pillows as Marshalls Homegoods whenever they start to drive me crazy, and pitch the 2 flattest ones. The upside is that they’re never around long enough to turn weird colors.

Beaks (#3,488)

@potatopotato My partner also kills pillows in ways that I find incomprehensible. He basically hugs them in the center until they split in half? I let him have one of my extra pillows when we moved in together and he destroyed it in a matter of months.

Rebecca S (#3,383)

Big fan of memory foam pillows! You can get ‘em at Winners/TJ Maxx or Costco for $30-40.

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