Frugal Living Attempt #1 – How To Ditch Your Paper Towels

Preparing for a baby has its own ways of exposing how much junk we collect. In preparing to “clean up” our lifestyles, we discovered a way to save money and cut down on our trash.

The Problem

I was at my chiropractor’s office a few months back waiting to be seen. Because I was seven months pregnant and the baby was using my bladder as a pillow, I needed to make another trip to the restroom. This is where I saw my next frugal living attempt idea. There on the counter laid a basket full of folded washcloths for drying my hands, and a wastebasket for tossing them when I was done.

My fiance and I had been talking for months about trying to save money and living more frugally. And this was before he got obsessed with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and getting us out of debt. It’s not like there’s a ton of debt, but nonetheless, expecting a child really has its ways of exposing how much junk you have that you don’t need, from debt to just crap around the house.

When we weren’t thinking of the debt and junk we were regretting and trying to get rid of, we were beginning to realize how much trash two people could possibly throw away. If you think about it, from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed, you’re rummaging through something, opening something up and throwing the wrapping away, or just tossing old, used household items out. For us, it’s egg cartons in the mornings, coffee filters, La Croix cans, junk mail, Amazon packaging, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention we were receiving baby things almost daily in preparation for the baby.

I had already talked to my fiance about cloth diapering and how this could possibly save us a MAJOR expense & hassle. We wouldn’t be constantly running to the store for more diapers. But I had not yet expanded my thinking to broader ideas…until my chiropractor visit that is.

The Solution

Luckily, trying out this frugal living idea was something I could start as soon as I got home. I had recently visited my fiance’s mother in Florida and came back with a truck full of odds and ends. And when I say full, I mean at any given moment on my ride home, I was shoving something away from me that had fallen over into my lap. But, in one of those boxes, my mother-in-law had packed about 30 washcloths for us to cut up into smaller squares to use for baby washcloths. I didn’t love the idea of stray washcloth strings constantly coming out in the wash or getting all over my baby in the tub. These washcloths were destined for something nobler anyway.

So I put them to better use.

At home, I basically copied exactly what I saw at my chiropractor’s office. Because I had not mulled this idea over with my fiance, I decided just to try it out that night at dinner. When I handed him his plate of food, I handed him a washcloth instead of a napkin. And to my surprise, he didn’t object or question what the hell I was doing.

At the End of the Day…

Since that night, I’ve kept the folded washcloths in a basket in the window seal above the sink and have used them for mostly drying hands and in lieu of napkins at mealtimes.

One change we had to make was not utilizing the washcloths for everything we’d use a paper towel or napkin for. For instance, with a paper towel, you can use it for just about anything and everything, including household cleaners. When you’re done, you just toss it in the trash. But this isn’t the case with washcloths. Rather, we use a sponge and dish soap for counter-top cleaning. We also re-use them at mealtimes and hang them up to dry after drying our hands instead of utilizing them for only one use.

Out of curiosity, I Googled the statistics on paper towel-use in America and found this article, which claims that Americans are obsessed with the use of paper towels. Theoretically, the author also claims this could have something to do with our deeper obsessions to be immediately rid of a problem. Either way, I’m not down with the staggering statistics I read, so I’m definitely changing my ways.

Of course, there are some things I haven’t figured out how to cope without the use of paper towels. Like, I’m completely unwilling to clean toilets without paper towels. Also, meat juice-I am completely disgusted by the idea of wiping up meat juice with a paper towel I will later use to dry my hands or wipe my mouth with. So we still keep paper towels “on deck” for these very reasons. But when I figure out how to clean a toilet without the use of paper towels, I will certainly let you know…