This month we’re going to be talking a bit about organizing your home!
Now, this is not my strongest area. If you could see how I keep my clothes, you would understand…. But in some areas I think I’m doing a decent job, so I’ll be sharing about those (and some of my contributors will be sharing about other areas). One area that I’m passionate about is reducing disposables in your home!
In the average modern home, people use regularly:
- Paper/plastic cups
- Paper/plastic plates
- Paper/plastic “silverware”
- Plastic sandwich bags
- Paper towels
- Paper napkins
- Plastic water bottles
- Cleaning wipes
- Baby wipes
- Disposable diapers
- Toilet paper
- Feminine hygiene products
The average family throws away a large garbage can or two every week! This is a huge environmental problem, not to mention what it does to your wallet! These products are convenient, but they aren’t cheap.
For more on the kitchen disposables, Jill at Modern Alternative Kitchen is writing about that today. I want to talk about some things outside the kitchen.
Growing up, we used paper towels to clean up any mess, anywhere. We used them to wipe up spills, clean out bathtubs, wipe bathroom counters, clean mirrors. We bought them in 12-packs every month or so.
I haven’t bought a pack of paper towels in almost 4 years.
Rather than using paper towels, try using regular wash cloths and microfiber towels. For bathroom work, try sponges.
I keep a stack of 8 – 12 washcloths in my kitchen drawer, as well as in the linen cabinets upstairs. I use them for washing kids’ hands and faces, wiping down counters, small messes, etc. Basically anything that is not very dirty. I also have been known to borrow some of them to change a baby’s diaper, if all my usual wipes are dirty or have mysteriously gone missing. Washcloths can be reused in many cases — for example, wiping down hands and faces for a whole day, sometimes two. Or for wiping counters for a day or two. These totally replace “cleaning wipes” too. I have found that the thicker, stronger washcloths are much more effective than tiny wipes. Then they are tossed in my kitchen basket to be washed.
These are cheap — I can buy a 25 pack for $10. These are used for bigger messes. I scrub dirty spots on the floor with these, I use them to scrub the stove when stuff has burned on, and I clean the counters with them when there’s a sticky stuck-on mess. I run them under hot water, wring them out, and they’ll clean just about anything that way. They’re safe for kids too. One cloth, rinsed a few times, can basically clean the whole kitchen. I also use the cleaner ones to cover bowls of soaking dough, and I tend to grab those once the dough is done soaking to wipe off counters. They can also be used to clean mirrors and windows. They can even be used as diaper inserts. They hold up well and last for years.
I buy small packs of sponges and keep one in each bathroom. It is used only for wiping down counters and the outside of the toilet. I can typically keep the sponge in the bathroom for several months, especially since I usually just use it for the counters. If it gets into anything too dirty I can toss it and get a new one, but I don’t have to replace them very often, and they’ll do a whole bathroom (as opposed to needing a big handful of paper towels for the same job). I do use (different!) sponges for cleaning dishes, too.
This is a hard area in which to make progress. I first brought the idea of “family cloth” (reusable cloth wipes to replace toilet paper) to my husband three years ago. He said no way. I still haven’t made the switch, though I talk about it now and then. I still have several ideas for you, though.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of cloth diapering. I just wrote a guest post on the basics over at Creative Christian Mama earlier this week! Cloth diapers save a ton of money and of course significantly reduce the amount of disposables used in the “bathroom” setting. I have about 5 dozen pocket diapers in rotation right now (my 3-year-old wears them only while sleeping, and my 1-year-old of course wears them full-time) plus 4 dozen wipes…somewhere. The wipes are handy for faces and hands as well as bottoms. We wash them 2 – 3 times per week, so it is not a significant amount of extra work. Plus, we use soap nuts to wash our clothes, which are safe and even beneficial to the environment. The used soap nuts can be composted. I recommend sewing your own if you have the skills, because this saves even more money, and you can tailor the diapers to your babies!
Three years ago when my second baby was born, I switched to cloth pads and haven’t looked back. The normal store-bought ones are filled with dioxin and other bleaches, which are absorbed by your body during use. This can increase cramping and pain. Even then “healthy” ones, while a step up, aren’t perfect (not to mention expensive and still produce a lot of trash!). Choosing a menstrual cup or unbleached cotton cloth pads is way better. They can be washed very simply with cloth diapers or even with the rest of the laundry (really) and are not a big deal. I only wash once a month, when I’m done using them. Of course…I’m pregnant or postpartum so frequently that I honestly don’t use them very much anyway.
This one makes a lot of people say ewww, gross. My husband said “I don’t want wipes with poop on them sitting in my bathroom.” As if we’d just leave them sitting on the floor or something. (They’d go into a zippered wet bag until wash day.) But here’s a compromise I think many can get behind: use cloth wipes just for pee, and use the toilet paper for poop. This still will be a significant savings on toilet paper, since most bathroom trips are just pee anyway. And they won’t be gross. Other ideas are making sure to use as little toilet paper as you can for the job — start off with just a few squares, and get more if needed. Often times you won’t need more. Lots of people, especially little kids, like to grab handfuls, and that’s wasteful. Keeping the toilet paper put up or putting a special “lock” on it to prevent the little ones from taking too much (or worse, unrolling all of it and throwing it in the toilet for “fun…”) helps too.
With a few small steps, you can significantly reduce the disposables in your home! You’ll have less to buy, less to store (how many of you have had some paper towels in the pantry, and the toddler found them?), less to “deal with” in general. The Earth, and your wallet, will thank you.
What disposables have you replaced? What do you hope to replace in the future?
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