Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Cut Your Coat to Suit Your Cloth"

The title of this post is an old proverb that means that we need to be adaptable to our circumstances. Basically, take a look at the resources at hand, and do the best you can with them. Your cloth and my cloth may look different. You may have more or less cloth to work with. That is ok. Cut accordingly.

As our family is seeking to live an abundant and frugal life, one way we do this is to minimize the amount of disposable products we use. Disposable products are certainly convenient, but it is just literally throwing away your resources. Instead of paper, we turn to CLOTH whenever possible. Cloth will wear out eventually, but it takes many years and countless uses as opposed to single use disposable items.

  • cloth napkins
  • cloth diapers
  • cloth baby wipes
  • washcloths
  • cloth shower curtain liner
  • kitchen cloths, old towels, and cleaning rags (instead of paper towels)
  • handkerchiefs (I'm still working on converting myself... I'm so accustomed to kleenex.)
  • even cloth feminine products

Skip this paragraph if that last bullet point makes you start to hyperventilate:
I seriously used to wonder what women did before modern products were invented. It was a mystery to me for a long time. Well, they used cloth! And sorry if this is TMI, but you know how after you have a baby, you need to use those products for WEEKS after... well, paper and plastic on those very sensitive places feels awful. Cloth is so much nicer! Trust me! Realizing this made me so much happier for choosing cloth for my babies. Imagine wearing paper and plastic on those sensitive places 24/7 for YEARS! Makes me shudder to think of it.

Now, I don't want to guilt you into this, it's a personal choice for our family and it is one that makes us happy. I also use my sewing skills to reduce the cost for all of this cloth. I write this post in hopes of inspiring. Take from it what you will. And my advice to people on things like cloth diapers... don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

I saw a discussion on Diaper Swappers a couple of years ago asking the question, how cheaply could you cloth diaper a baby? The answer from some of these women? FREE! No, your eyes do not deceive you, FREE! How on earth would you do this? Well, you use recycled materials. You can sew prefold diapers out of old t-shirts and old flannel sheets and receiving blankets. You can sew fleece or wool diaper covers from old felted sweaters. I just finished sewing a set of baby wipes out of old flannel pajama pants and a receiving blanket. You don't need a wipe solution, just use plain water, dampening a wipe when you need it. I wish I had seen this thread when I was expecting our first littles! If you decide to get some easy-to-use modern cloth diapers for your baby, you will still only pay 1/3 of what you would for disposables, even after factoring in water/electricity cost. Line dry and you will save even more! If you go the middle route, buying prefolded diapers and covers, you can buy everything you need for less than $100. I find that you can use most diapers for at least two children, so you can double your savings there.

Are cloth diapers starting to sound a little more appealing to you?

Cloth Diapers and Homemade Wipes - See? They're cute too!

Homemade Recycled Wool Pants for a Newborn - these are waterproof!

One of the big questions... Does this create more laundry? Some perhaps, but I don't notice much... Diapers are an extra load of wash every three days and when needed feminine cloth washes with those. Cleaning rags are washed every couple of months. I do a load of bleached whites about once a week with kitchen towels and rags, baby bibs, face wipes, handkerchiefs, etc... but throw in other whites after the bleach soaking to fill the load. I guess I've just switched over so gradually that I hardly notice it.

You don't have to go whole hog. Pick something and give it a try. We've made very gradual changes over the course of 8 or so years. Just something to consider. :)

Remember, don't knock it 'til you've tried it!


  1. Ohhh dear... this post prompted me to take a photo just for you! Not sure how to share it, here.

    As you know, I've been using disposables for several years now, and just put them out on the curb...
    Now we have no trash pickup (heh, no curb either) and those babies don't burn! Had been dumping them down the provisional outhouse. Filled it. I have 7 weeks of dirty diapers in my house (hence,the photo). Having that many dirty disposables in front of my face is astounding/sobering all of the above. Almost enough to make me overcome the obstacles (no hot water) and go for cloth again. So many here do it - with old t-shirts and only cold water washes by hand!

  2. What a wonderful way to use the resources you have! And good on the pocket book, and the environment!

  3. As far as environmentally friendly menstrual products go, I use a silicone (I think?) reusable menstrual cup (brand name, Mooncup).

    I paid 18 UK pounds for it TEN YEARS AGO. I think it's great.

    There's been a fairly big scandal here in the UK recently about impoverished teenage girls being unable to afford sanitary products. Also last year a big campaign to lobby the UK Government to stop taxing sanitary products (which, sadly, was unsuccessful).

    Although inserting tampons or menstrual cups might not suit every woman, this is one potential solution people seem to overlook.

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