Clean Living: How We Gave Up Paper Towels

One of my goals this year is to take small steps to create a greener household. Some of my goals will help to improve our air quality and reduce exposure to the harmful ingredients in our daily lives. Some are more focused on the environment and changing wasteful habits. Many are both!

I am a big believer that you don’t have to change everything at once! I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by how “bad” their lifestyle is (whether it’s the foods we eat, the products we use, the amount exercise we don’t get, etc.) and instead of making small changes, they just don’t make any. I’ve been guilty of this so many times in my life. For this reason, I now choose to focus on small steps in all the things I am seeking to improve in my life.

In January, we challenged ourselves to give up paper towels, which we were super reliant on. I started to notice that we really freaked out when we were out of or low on paper towels. It was as if we thought we couldn’t clean up if we didn’t have them—which is actually really funny.

The first step we took was ordering microfiber cloths. I got three of these 50 packs. I got more than we needed because I didn’t want us to run out if we were behind on laundry (which happens when you have a toddler—haha). I was trying to eliminate ANY possible excuse for us to give up and go back to buying paper towels.

I figured out a place we could store them in our kitchen pantry so it is always easy to grab a fresh one. And once I had it set up, I stopped buying paper towels and we ran out soon after that.

The transition was a bit awkward at first, but only because we were breaking old habits. When we wanted to reach for a paper towel, we reached for a reusable cloth instead. We pretty much always have one sitting on our kitchen counter because wiping down the counter, our table and Nova’s high chair happen all day, every day.

The basic wiping down was easy. We just use a little warm water most of the time. I didn’t mean to stop using cleaning sprays, but I just kind of didn’t need them as much all of a sudden.

OK, let’s talk about the challenging things. Messy jobs. There is a reason people get addicted to paper towels. They are really convenient.

A challenge I noticed when we switched to reusable cloths is that when you clean up something messy like coffee grounds or wipe up a kids’ mess where they spilled a bunch of food, you have to go to the trash can and clean the food off the cloth before you’d throw it in the laundry basket. This only happens for me a few times a day, but those are the only moments I have missed paper towels.

I didn’t feel like our cloths changed the amount of laundry we do in a noticeable way. It’s not annoying and when they come out of the laundry, we just throw them back into our storage spot, and we don’t even fold them. So overall the routine is very low maintenance.

After almost two months of using cloths, we now feel totally adapted to them. It was so easy! We will totally use this system for the rest of our lives.

It’s so crazy when you think about how much money we will save in a lifetime of not buying paper towels. And it’s even more exciting that we’ve found a small way to reduce the waste that our home is creating. It’s just one small step, but it becomes more significant over time.

I definitely consider this challenge a success! I’m so glad we took the leap. It’s been way easier than we both thought it would be. If you’re interested, I recommend just purchasing some reusable cloths and jumping in. If your partner needs some convincing, some quick math on the money you can save in just one to two years should help a little. But really, once you try it I feel like it really is so easy that you’ll never go back.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Would you give up paper towels? Have you found any easy ways to reduce the waste in your home? I’m not sure what challenge I am going to try next, so I’m open to ideas. xx – Elsie

Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Color Story and A Design Kit apps.

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