On our second day of the 6th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge our topic of discussion is “What’s in your stash, and what did it cost? This is an excellent opportunity to reflect on a more minimalistic style of cloth diapering, considering what we really need. I especially love this post as it pushes me to consider what I would bring on a trip, be it a day trip to visit a faraway friend or a park, or a vacation that may take several days and have limited laundry resources. By having the opportunity to make do with less at home (where I have the option to add another cover or flat if I really need one) I can gain confidence that I’ll have exactly what I need on those occasions when I’m far from home. From speaking with friends, confidence is one of the main concerns when families who use cloth consider buying disposables for travel/moving/special circumstances. While I am a huge believer in doing what works for you (my favorite life rule is “Everything in moderation, including moderation” and every family knows what they need more than any “expert”) I do think knowing the option is there, attainable, and no more difficult than your regular routine, may inspire many families to feel more comfortable choosing cloth wherever they go.
Over the last four years, I’ve built up quite a stash of flats and covers. But in the interest in pursuing this year’s challenge minimally yet with great style, I’ve loaned out many of my pieces to new flats challenge participants in my neck of the woods and actually purchased some new-to-me supplies for a more accurate cost breakdown.
For this year’s challenge I am primarily using cheap FSTs (flour sack towels) which I shibori dyed with an indigo kit I’d purchased a few years ago and have been dying (get it?) to use. I also came across some of my favorite covers from Rumparooz at a local consignment shop (shout out to Stellie Bellies for carrying the best local family essentials and having a resident cloth diaper expert for your awesome customers!) which are great with flats since they feature generous gussets and elastic in the back AND the front to help keep messes fully contained and are easily wipeable so they don’t need to be washed as often. I also added one homemade cover I’ll talk about more in another post. Cost on that one is really hard to estimate as I made it entirely with materials I already had on hand, so you may have to give me a pass on that one and let me say it was “free” (aside from labor). My ancient clothespins got an unexpected makeover when I used them for my Shibori dying and they are now a beautiful indigo blue. The bucket was a “splurge” as I have two perfectly good buckets I use on a regular basis for handwashing pet bedding, sanitizing outdoor toys, etc, but Harper spotted it at a discount tool supply shop and begged for it. She insisted on carrying it around all day and is still so proud of “her” bucket, it was well worth buying just one more. I retained my three favorite flats from amazing WAHMs as they are my go-to for overnights and long car rides. I’m currently working 20+ hours per week (at night when my husband is home to watch the kids), going to school (2 college classes per week), tending to my children during the day, and handling household chores and running errands (while also writing blog entries and doing odd jobs) so to say I’m busy is an understatement and having some flats that go the distance and can be counted on when I’m an hour from the house and trying to juggle three tasks at once REALLY helps my stress levels. I like to use the simple FSTs at home throughout the day, and I save one “luxury” flat for overnight, one for Autumn’s nap, and I have one extra I can use for a long car ride or if the laundry isn’t quite ready.
I’m foregoing wool this year in the name of simplicity which terrifies me as a good wool cover is something I always recommend to families beginning their cloth diaper stash. I do have plans to sew a wool cover out of a 100% wool sweater I picked up at a thrift shop, as well as a fleece cover from an old fleece blanket, so I’ll have those later this week if I should need them. But if I can get through the nights until then without needing to wash Autumn’s sheets, I may not introduce them into my essentials stash at all. I’m challenging myself to see what I can do without if I have to, and this will give me a chance to air out and lanolize my favorite woolies all at once (my favorite kind of handwashing!).
For this year’s challenge, without further ado, my price breakdown:
- 10 FSTs for $7.88 (Walmart)
- Indigo Dye Kit (I had mine on hand, but when I purchased it I got it for $4.99) (Urban Outfitters)
- 5 used Rumparooz covers for $26.99 (some of them need new elastic in the legs and gussets but are still useable, and elastic is an easy fix, you can watch my video here for a tutorial) (To be honest, I had store credit at this family consignment store from bringing in outgrown clothes and toys, so I didn’t pay anything out of pocket, and when I’m done with these I’ll donate them to GDGH or pass them on to a local family that could use them, I’m happy to use my credit on these rather than yet another toy)
- Homemade cover (cotton exterior, PUL interior, gussets, fold over elastic on the legs) FREE
- 5 gallon bucket from Direct Tool Supply for $3.50 if memory serves (I can’t find info online and we found it a few months ago)
- Sugar Sheep flat – (3 pack was listed at $31.50, so 1 would have been $10.50)
- Fruit of the Womb Green Apple flat – $10.50
- Sweet Iris flat – $13.95
- Molly’s Suds Cloth Diaper Laundry Powder Travel Size – $2.75 (I am obsessed with these for travel and packaged with cloth diapers I’m giving as gifts, it’s an amazing detergent that is safe for my babies and cleans effectively even in our hard water)
- Mobile Washer (mine was given to me by Kim, but there are similar on Amazon for $19.77)
- Wet bag – $6.75 (mine was a gift but this price reflects the same item in a solid color on the Grovia website, I love that it takes up very little room but can hold a surprising number of diapers, and I’m more than a bit in love with Wee Gallery and their fun modern designs)
- 2 Snappi closures (I’ve had these for a while now, but the price was $3.99 each last time I checked)
Total cost breakdown is $115.56 for all the materials I’d need to cloth diaper my 18 month old indefinitely. Obviously detergent is something I’d replenish when needed but you’ll find with handwashing you can use very little detergent and still get your diapers cleaner than your machine does. My out of pocket cost for this year’s challenge comes out to just $11.38 (FST flats and bucket) thanks to everything I already had on hand and the store credit I’d saved up. I also could have done this even cheaper if I’d needed to, if I hadn’t been given the mobile washer and luxury flats and if I didn’t splurge on a toddler-pleasing bucket.
If I were buying supplies for a friend with no washer and dryer so she could cloth diaper her baby on a budget, I might purchase the following:
- 10 FSTs for $7.88 (Walmart)
- 100 clothespins for $1.88 (Walmart) (they also sell cords and clotheslines but let’s assume my friend has some rope on hand already)
- 5 gallon bucket for $2.97 (Home Depot)
- Lid for bucket for $1.68 (Home Depot)
- Classic plunger for $2.96 (Home Depot)
- 5 used Rumparooz covers for $26.99 (Stellie Bellies) (I could also pick up some new covers for her, Kelly’s Closet has Imagine diaper covers on her website for just $10.95 with double gussets and a choice of hook and loop or snap closure) (I even saw my beloved Thirsties covers on Walmart.com for a shocking bargain of just $10.96 each) (Or I could grab some covers from a yard sale or on Craigslist or a local Facebook buy sell trade group, generally they just need new elastic if anything)(but for simplicity’s sake let’s just use that same five pack I bought as an example)
- Molly’s Suds Cloth Diaper Laundry Powder Travel Size – $2.75
Total cost: $47.11
I’d need to drill the holes for her as explained in Kim’s epic tutorial on creating your own mobile washer since my friend doesn’t have a drill, but if she needed to handle that part on her own a sharp knife would achieve similar effects, just not as cleanly and easily. She could also make her own detergent, there are a number of tutorials online if cost is a factor, but for sensitive skin and retaining the integrity of the PUL diaper covers I think the Molly’s Suds is a better choice. I also didn’t list a wet bag in this summary since I just used plastic shopping bags for months when I got started, until I could afford a proper wet bag. And I didn’t include Snappis since she can padfold the flats, tie them, or use a safety pin she has on hand if she feels she needs to. I don’t use them every change and I consider them a “want” more than a “need”. This is a simple and minimal stash for a mama on a budget. When I look at that cost breakdown, less than fifty dollars, and I consider how quickly that is blown away on disposable diaper purchases (that’s just 180 diaper changes if you buy size 3 Pampers Cruisers at Target.com, which they estimate a baby will go through in a single month) and then remember how with these materials that same baby could be changed as often as desired from birth to potty training, and only the detergent would need to be restocked, I immediately jump to all the other things that extra money could be spent on. I think of bills, groceries, books, clothes, everything that family needs. Fifty bucks a month, even if she only has two years to go (I know my first wore diapers longer than that), comes out to an estimated $1200 before tax. That could be stretched to go a long way.
I’ve seen other participants list their cost breakdown in years past who have spent even less. I love reading about your innovative ideas, your tee shirt flats and diy covers, the ways you make every penny count. And yet no one would look at your babies and even consider making an assumption on how much money you have, because cloth diapers are adorable no matter where they come from. Old school or modern, name brand or homemade, new or used, we’re all in this together.
You can find links to other posts breaking down their costs for supplies below. If you have a post this is where you will link up.