Thursday, June 28, 2012

Scaling back


We honestly didn't realize how much stuff we had.

Take two somewhat impulsive shoppers with a hankering for a good deal, a few stuff-intensive hobbies, a really handy hubby who has a LOT of tools, and a couple of kids and you have...... way too much crap.

I knew we were in trouble when we moved to a 3000 sq foot home and still had stuff everywhere. When Jay's clothes still had to be stuffed into his closet and dresser, despite all the space. When R had enough toys to fill up a bedroom, a playroom and part of the family room.  When we had to store kitchen stuff in the basement because our huge kitchen still didn't have enough storage space.  For months I devised new organizational tools and storage solutions. We just need another bookcase, another set of shelves, more rubbermaid containers and a better system. At some point last fall, I looked around, exhausted from constantly organizing, cleaning, and storing.

We have too much stuff.

That was the problem. Not a lack of shelves, or drawers, or handy dandy organizational systems. We just have too much. We buy too much, we hang on to things too long, we falsely convince ourselves we need all this stuff. We don't need it. Not all of it, anyway.

As the plan to move and set ourselves up to build our dream home started to take shape, we realized the life we were heading for was much simpler than our current one. There just wouldn't be room for all this stuff. I suddenly felt free. And slightly panicked, and very ruthless. Jay and I discussed it and agreed we'd need to get rid of a good chunk of our stuff. As we prepared to list the house, I went through every room and tried to make an honest evaluation of its contents. Anything we hadn't used in the last 18 months (since our previous move) was out. Several bags went to Value Village for donation. We hired packers but still, I tried to go through each room periodically and toss/donate what wasn't useful to us.

Through another blog that I absolutely adore, I discovered Minimalist Mom and Simple Mom, two blogs which inspired me to continue scaling back. Reading about these moms' journeys to minimalism and simplicity made me feel...peaceful. The idea of living intentionally, free from the shackles of a constant consume-waste-consume cycle, really resonated with me and I've continued to sell and donate what we don't need even after the move was complete.

I wish I could say this process has been streamlined and systematic, but alas, there's nothing streamlined about me these days, not with a three month old in tow all the time! While the process hasn't been perfect, the idea remains powerful: buy less, consume less, live with less. I really do think our life will be richer if we maintain this as our mantra.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Green(er) Parenting - Cloth Diapers (part two)

Ok, you've decided on a type of cloth diapers. Welcome to the wonderful world of fabric poo receptacles! Its an exciting place. Promise!

Now the question becomes, what the heck do I do with these things? This post will cover some tips on how to store your clean and dirty diapers, washing and drying them and cloth diapering on-the-go.

1. Storage

Everyone will have their own system for keeping clean diapers and storing used ones. This is just our system and what works for us. Feel free to alter the process as you see fit.

Clean diapers are stored in the top drawer of E's dresser in theseOne compartment houses the prefolds/fitteds and one houses the covers and swim diapers. A third houses the cloth wipes we use, but more on those later.

Once used, we simply toss the diaper (and the cover, if soiled as well) into a drawstring bag, similar to this one which is kept in a plastic garbage bin with a lid in E's room. No, it does not stink. Unless you open the bag, in which case helloooo ammonia! Every few days, we bring the bag down to the laundry room, shake the diapers into the washer and toss the bag right in there with them.  Our second storage spot for used diapers is in the laundry room, for when we change E on the main floor or in the basement. We have one of these hanging on the doorknob of the laundry room. It too, can go right in the wash with the diapers.

2. Cloth wipes

Although it may seem easier to use disposable wipes - you are, after all, already doing so well by using cloth diapers - once you make the leap to cloth diapers, it actually makes more sense to also use cloth wipes. This way, the wipes can be folded into the dirty diaper and thrown into the wet bag for washing later. Much easier than picking a used disposable wipe out of the diaper and putting it in the garbage. Try Etsy for some cute pre-made cloth wipes, make your own with a serger and fabric, or simply use baby face cloths. For wipe solution, we have a spray bottle on the dresser with warm water, tea tree oil and a bit of baby shampoo. There are several recipes out there for wipe solution - feel free to choose whatever suits you.

3. Washing and Drying*

How you wash your diapers will vary based on the type of machine you have. The most important points are to rinse, rinse, rinse! We generally do a rinse, followed by a heavy duty wash cycle, followed by a rinse. We use Nellies and love it. In the past, we've used Crunchy Clean and soap nuts. Many cloth diaper peeps use Rockin' Green as well. We aim to wash every 2-3 days.

The most economical and green way to dry your diapers is to line dry them. The sun also helps to sanitize and bleach any stains that may have accumulated. It takes longer but David Suzuki, the trees, and your wallet will thank you.

*Note: we use wool covers at night over our fitted diapers. Unless you'd like a cute little teensy-weensy wool cover, do NOT put your wool in the wash. Jay has found this out the hard way. Twice. Wool has its own set of care instructions and in fact, you only need to wash the covers when they start to smell or leak.

4. On-the-go

While some people prefer to use disposables on the go, I'm here to tell you that yes, it is possible to use cloth while out and about and even while travelling! If we are headed out for less than half a day, I generally bring one cover, three prefolds and a small wetbag with me along with wipes. You can even use cloth wipes soaked in your cleaning solution and kept in a disposable wipes container! The wetbag keeps the stink out of your purse or diaper bag and it all goes in the wash together. No harder than disposables and no one knows you're walking around with poop in your bag. For day trips I'll bring a few extra prefolds and another cover. For more than two days, we bring the whole stash and our large wet bag.

There's so much more that can be said about cloth diapering and others do a much better job of explaining it all. Check out some of these great cloth diapering resources:

Happy diapering!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Green(er) parenting - cloth diapers (part 1)

When embarking on the adventure that is parenthood, one quickly realizes that a whole new world of decisions lay before you.  Will you co-sleep or put baby in a crib from day one? Breastfeed or formula-feed? Use a stroller or a carrier? Which ones? The choices can be overwhelming!

A big choice for many new parents was really a very easy choice for us - we chose to use cloth diapers. We had friends who had used them and said it really wasn't all that hard, the money savings was huge, and the idea of creating much less waste was attractive as well. Little did we know, its just not that simple - there's a myriad of choices out there in cloth diaper-land and we went through several options before settling on a good system.

Here is a good guide to the various types of cloth diapers, so you know what the heck I'm talking about in this post.

We started out with AIOs (all-in-ones) gifted to us by friends. They were easy as pie - terry cloth interior with a waterproof outside layer. They had snaps that adjusted the size of the diaper and they were as easy as disposables to use. Big con - they took forever to dry. In order to be really "green" when it comes to diaper-ing, its a good idea to hang your diapers to dry rather than use a dryer. These diapers took prohibitively long to dry when hung. At least we thought so. This particular brand also didn't seem to fit our first son perfectly so we had some leaks.

Next, we tried a hybrid diaper that had a cloth shell and compostable inserts. These were not our favourites, although I do know many people who love them. We had a lot of leaks, the covers would get messy with poop all the time and when I was out and about, there was often no compost to put the inserts in. These got sold pretty fast.

Following that fiasco, we moved on to pocket diapers. Similar to the AIO but they have a small opening inside the diaper for an insert (often microfibre, fleece or bamboo).  Amongst my friends who used cloth, these were the most popular. Again, there were a billion choices - snaps vs. velcro, microfibre vs. bamboo inserts. These diapers can be expensive, but there are some "knock-off" brands that are much, much cheaper and still do the same job. These diapers were easy to use - I'd pre-stuff the inserts into the shell so changes were simple and quick. Grandparents and daycare found these diapers easy to use. The only real con was having to reach into the pocket and pull out the insert - jamming your hand into a used diaper that's been festering all day at daycare = not my idea of a party. That said, these were the diapers we used with our first son all the way through until potty training. 

Unfortunately, a new daycare teacher + a generous slathering of Penaten = a bunch of wrecked diapers. So, we needed to re-stock before our second son was born, and I decided to try something new. For the newborn days, when babe is often too small for a one-size pocket diaper, fitted diapers with covers (like an AIO but in two parts) or prefolds (just a flat piece of layered cotton) with covers are a popular choice. We decided to try these options out and if we loved them, we'd order bigger sizes as E grew.

Bingo. We love them.

Our current system is prefolds with PUL covers during the day and fitted diapers with wool covers at night. In our opinion, these are just as easy, if not easier, than pocket diapers and there's no yucky insert to reach in and grab. Leaks are not an issue at all. The wool covers are amazing - they're breathable, they only need washing/re-lanolizing every few weeks, and E's bum is rash free (unless we get behind on laundry and put him in a disposable). My generous aunt knit a few for me and they are worth their weight in gold, particularly because they can be expensive to buy.

Our overall impression of cloth diapering? It really is easier than most people think it is. I hear a lot of naysayers proclaim "its too hard" and "I don't have time". To that I say, do you wear disposable clothing? Is it too hard to launder your clothes? Do you really not have time for maybe two more loads a week? I think if most people were honest with themselves, they'd find that they do have the time and it isn't that hard. Truly, if people gave cloth diapering a shot, I think they'd find it isn't as difficult as they perceive it to be. The other main complaint is that its "too gross". Well yes, poop is gross. I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who would disagree. But there are ways to set up your system to have minimal contact with said poop and to lower the "yuck" factor. From an environmental perspective, there really is no other choice. The amount of waste produced by disposables, nevermind the associated health concerns , makes using cloth the best option, in my opinion. Which of course, anyone is entitled to disagree with.

So, that's our experience with cloth diapers.  I'll share our system for storing and washing/drying them in another post. The brands we use can be found here, here and here

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

All the world's problems can be solved in a garden

" All the world's problems can be solved in a garden" - Geoff Lawton

It's true. A garden is a source of food, a way to battle pollution, a gratifying way to spend your time, a way to combat high food prices, a teaching tool for toddlers. We are so happy to have started our garden in our new backyard.

Jay has been hard at work for months; buying and starting seeds, planning the layout, building the raised beds. In the last few days, we've finally started planting. Its late, to be sure, but a newborn, a toddler and moving houses are all big hits to our productivity level these days!

Luckily, R has been a happy helper and his planting skills are pretty awesome for a 2 1/2 year old. The onions he and Jay planted last week are starting to sprout and the joy in his eyes when he saw the tiny bursts of green in the soil for the first time, and the pride on his face when we told him "you did that!" was amazing to see. He's a diligent little worker - he puts on his most serious face when planting and covering up the seeds with soil. Fiercely independent, its always a challenge to get him to follow instructions, but he's so smart and capable. There's so much for him to learn in this process.

We worked yesterday evening until the last light and although rushed, it was so gratifying to know that this garden will soon sustain us and fill our bellies. We'll have blackberries, carrots, beans, onions, kale, and so much more. More in another post on the process of planning the garden itself.


Welcome to our Little Grey House. Its just a little blog about our little house in the suburbs and our goal of living a simpler, more sustainable life. Follow along as we document our journey towards a greener, more self-sufficient future.