The first time I really read about "Family Cloth" was on OrganicSister.com. I thought it was a nice, green idea... but a little too far out there for this self-proclaimed "slightly crunchy momma." Still... I read the entire thing with some fascination.
Over time, I got involved in some crunchy circles and heard mention of others that practice the use of family cloth. In the Fall of 2011, we traveled to a gathering of just such a crunchy circle (the Natural Parents Network Volunteers).
This was to be my very first in-person experience with family cloth. Our host (Code Name: Mama) offered regular toilet paper, but I immediately recognized a stack of family cloth in a basket on the back of the toilet. After looking around a bit, I realized that the bag on the doorknob was a "wet bag." I could hardly believe I was in the situation. So... I tried it! What did I have to lose?
Our host let us know that we were ALL welcome to use the Family Cloth if we'd like to do so. One of my very first impressions of my stay was feeling pampered. Using such soft cloth as opposed to paper (no mater how quilted) just felt so nice! My husband was a bit grossed out at the idea at first, but people always jump to "for poop?!" No, it seems most people do not use family cloth for poop, though some certainly do. (I asked our host about menstruation and she chooses not to use it then, either.) He actually used the family cloth on Sasha whenever he took her to the restroom, too! (I was so proud of him!)
As the year progressed, the idea of family cloth (and having my own) percolated in the back of my mind. I even asked Code Name: Mama to write a guest post, possibly a tutorial for my blog. She also shared with me an old post she wrote on the topic. (That article has a ton of great information!) We also had a video chat wherein she gave me a quick crash course on how to make my own! (See my Family Cloth Tutorial on my blog!)
I started cutting my cloth in late November. I got my first handful of them sewn that night. Once I got the first batch (of 16) done, I stacked them in my closet in our tiny room. After a few days I figured I probably ought to try using them! I started taking one into the shared bathroom with me. Soon after, I made a space in the bathroom for them to stay. I also made a second batch (of 15) plus a tiny batch of (4) smaller ones for Sasha. And that's where it occurred to me... Sasha was using a BBLP and I've always just kept a burp rag nearby for "pat pat patting" after she goes potty. So... I was already using cloth on her all along!
In a household of 6, we were really flying through the toilet paper, especially with me being in my third trimester at the time! I believe we were immediately using a lot less TP! Sasha and I were the only ones using it and I just tossed each cloth into my regular hamper (in our room) when I was done. I never noticed any foul smells at all (and the hamper sat right next to my bed).
Family cloth seemed like such a far-fetched crazy idea at first, even though I realized that toilet paper hadn't always been around. A little exposure to real people that use it made a huge difference for me. It made the idea seem more realistic.
When I explained the project to my teenage daughter, she immediately let me know that she was not going to use it. I told her that was fine, I was not going to force her to use family cloth. I went on to explain how pampering it was, though. I also gave her some "fun facts" I learned from the Code Name: Mama post I linked above. Then she seemed a bit more receptive to the idea. I mean, who wants to wipe themselves with carcinogens??
It wasn't until we moved into a travel trailer that I got my teen and husband on board. By then, we were using a cloth diaper pail. The main concern seemed to be that I would be seeing and/or touching the cloth after it was used. I never have to inspect or touch the cloth, I dump it right into the washing machine. (I prewash on cold, then wash on hot.) I will say that one problem is everyone learning not to throw the cloth into the toilet! It hasn't happened much, though.
In case you're interested, here is another article on Family Cloths: Frugal or Freaky? I'm sure there are tons of articles on Family Cloth, though, if you look for them!
What "out there" green ideas have you tried implementing in your home?
Was your family supportive?
Jorje (pronounced George is a slightly crunchy momma (and wife!) sliding down the slippery slope to full-on hippydom. She stays busy with 3 children and is passionate about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby signing, elimination communication, and general attachment parenting.
Jorje blogs at Momma Jorje where she also advocates for Down Syndrome Awareness. Jorje dreams of hitting the road full time to unschool with her family, celebrated her first dreadiversary last Summer, and is personally interested in tarantulas, macro photography and minimalism.