Today is the 7th and final day of the 4th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge.
Starting Sunday May 11th all participants (Over 300 of them!) switched to only using flat cloth diapers and handwashing those diapers for 7 days. They will continue to do so until their baby goes to bed tonight. For our last blog post and link-up the topic is “Overall Experience; What did you learn? Would you do it?” This is a chance to reflect on this experience, offer hard earned lessons, and share our opinions on whether this is really an option for other families or if it just isn’t possible in a modern world.
Handwashing isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and while convenient in terms of cost and supplies, it is not convenient physically. Taking the time to wash every diaper your baby has used and making sure they are thoroughly clean and dry while dealing with the pressure of a ticking clock and the possibility you may need another diaper before the laundry is ready can be very stressful. This is not something I can imagine families doing by choice if other options were readily available.
However, we do the challenge as a way to confirm that it IS possible. It CAN be done, if necessary. And when a family has enough in their budget to pay the bills or buy disposable diapers, using cloth can be the only way to keep the lights on. There are so many varieties of cloth diaper on the market today, there is a style and fit for every baby. Yet even the most inexpensive and time tested version still works (though I’ll take our modern one-size PUL covers over the old fashioned plastic pants any day) and can be washed and cared for without a great deal of effort.
Using flats during my family camping trip and handwashing our laundry has been trying at times. Harper really enjoys camp food and has filled more diapers than I anticipated when I selected my stash. And every time I filled the bucket with dirty diaper laundry, I knew that was more time I’d have to spend focused on the wash instead of interacting directly with my family. I made the best of it by asking them to hang out with me while I worked, so I could see them and talk to them, but washing diapers does not equal snorkeling with tiny fish in a crystal clear spring or hiking in the woods.
Nevertheless, I was able to make it through the week, and I did feel a sense of pride seeing the laundry all pinned up on the line and waving gently in the breeze. We had two accidents, one which happened while visiting the nearby town. We hadn’t thought to bring a change of clothes (despite bringing an extra diaper) and were lucky to happen upon a consignment shop where we found a new outfit for her for three dollars. The other occurred after her morning routine of nursing and then quietly playing, I didn’t change her right away when she woke, and I guess I waited just a little too long for her pjs to handle. Luckily, baby clothes wash up with diapers just fine and look extra cute hanging on the line.
To answer the questions posed by today’s topic, I’d say I learned that nearly any chore is easier to accomplish when you’re able to remain connected and involved with your loved ones, especially if they are able to help in even a small way. I learned that any change in routine requires more acute awareness of your child’s behavior and needs (if I had been more vigilant about changing her diaper I would have had less clothing to wash). I learned that washing with biodegradable and septic safe natural soap makes me feel better about my impact on the environment. I learned that I can clean my diapers MUCH better than my washing machine does (they have never looked or smelled better). And I have learned that even when my schedule is fairly packed with activity I can still make time to attend to the necessary chores of the day, as long as I remember the importance of them. I’d say I could do this on an everyday basis if I needed to. And I’d say that this is a practice that can be fairly easily established and maintained even by low income families working 40 hours a week if it was necessary. Despite the frustrations and challenges I faced, I still found the experience to be an overall positive one. I feel good about the week, and I feel even better that we didn’t have to resort to disposables in order to enjoy our vacation.
I’ve really loved reading all of your posts on Facebook talking about your experiences. It gave me a feeling of solidarity even though no one I knew “in real life” was taking the challenge. Some of you have even stated you’re no longer interested in using microfiber or in using your all-in-one style diapers. If you do decide to reorganize and consolidate your stash, please consider donating your ready-to-use condition diapers and diaper accessories to Giving Diapers, Giving Hope. They are an amazing organization that provides cloth diapers to families in need. The diaper you no longer love or your child has outgrown can make a real difference to a baby who might not otherwise have clean diapers to wear.
Thank you so much for your participation with the 4th Annual Flats & Handwashing Challenge. I feel so blessed that I was able to write about my experiences for you and connect with you all this way. Kim’s website is such an inspiration and I am eternally grateful to be a small part of it.