“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Many of you will know what I mean when I say I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman. I want to have a clean house, organized closets, and a cheerful demeanor at all times. I want to make homemade bread, cheese, and dinner from my homegrown food all the time. I want to have a giant garden that meets all our vegetable needs, and even our fruit needs. I want to take good care of our resources that I've been given: be it money, time, or raw materials. I want to be a good correspondent, a good friend, mother, sister, wife, and citizen. There's more, of course, but this list makes me want to implode, so I assume you're not feeling too comfortable, either.
Baby steps, as Flylady would say. I often go back to that. I think about what small changes I could make that could have a big impact on all the things I care about. I've made pretty major changes in my homemaking that started with little steps and little money. It started about six years ago when I switched to cloth diapers. My third baby had very sensitive skin and I decided to try them to see if it helped her, and it did, with a bonus of fewer “blow-outs”. So, I bought a bunch of Chinese prefolds, some Bummi Whisper Pants and some diaper pins and went to it. I actually found a pleasant sense of rightness when I washed those diapers, folded them, and stacked them in her changing table. I wasn't filling landfills with disgusting chemicals and I pretty much recouped my investment after I used the diapers five times (that was accomplished in less than a month). Then I thought about all the extra detergent and water and electricity I was using to wash them. Buzzkill. I decided to invest about $20 on clothesline, pins, an apron to hold them, and started hanging laundry out to dry. Well, to my surprise, that was really fun! My breezy, grassy, apple blossomy backyard was a much more fun place to be than my basement laundry area! I trooped out, basket on my hip, apron around my waist, and children underfoot, cheerful and happy. The baby enjoyed the laundry waving over her head and the leaves against the sky and the outdoor air, the toddlers liked to get a chance to ask mom to push them on the swing, and I was happy just to get out of the house a minute! I pinned and sang and breathed in the clean fresh scent of those diapers and decided that this was downright fun!
My time outdoors benefited other aspects of my life, too. I discovered that running outside for a little bit gave me a chance to say hi to the neighbors, invite them to play or to have tea (did I mention my desire to be more hospitable?). My garden was receiving more attention because I'd pop over to check on it as I piled the baby into the empty basket to take inside (weight bearing exercise, anyone?). I started to spread out a quilt to read to the children while I was out there. We all were cheerful, outside, and I was motivated to do laundry, of all things! Then we moved and started paying our own utility bills. You may not believe me, but hanging laundry on a line also enabled me to exchange the money I paid on dryer electricity for money to be spent on air conditioning electricity. (Yes, yes, I know, they're not responsible, either!) My clothesline led me to change to vegetable based detergents instead of petroleum based ones, which I have decided is patriotism as it reduces our country's dependence on oil. It inspired me to buy a whole lot of tea towels and inexpensive wash cloths and to buy flannel and do a little sewing to replace bibs, paper towels, baby wipes, napkins, sponges and many other disposable things! I also decided to purchase a front load washer instead of a top loader when we had to get a new washer so I could use less water, electricity, and detergents doing all that laundry. Finally, it gave me an opportunity, that I perhaps otherwise would have missed: to see Cedar Waxwings passing apple blossoms one to another in the spring.
So, my laundry load was increased by all this cloth, but remember how I enjoy the process of washing and drying and folding it all when my surroundings are the glories of creation! Remember that folding squares and rectangles is one of a toddler's first jobs in our house, that when a family can work together joyfully, it fosters bonding and companionship and mutual respect more than any family movie night will, and that a homemaker who finds joy in her work can change the whole atmosphere of home. The little steps I made led to a large behavioral change that makes me feel as though my large family is being more responsible in it's use of resources, and I feel that I'm truly being a good steward of what I've been given in the laundry genre...
You might want to know if I think I've got that aspect of my life settled, but now I'm trying to take all this a step further and make rags then rugs out of my worn out napkins, diapers, and tea towels... then, after all that has been used to it's fullest, I'll put those worn out rugs into the compost heap and let them feed us! Top that, disposable society! Also, I'm hoping to put more of us in wool in the winter as it repels stains and requires less washing (though you cover it with things like bibs and aprons which do require washing) and helps keep us warmer so we don't use so much energy heating the house in the winter. Oh, and you can compost wool, too! I think this beats a disposable lifestyle hands down, and it's good for the soul, as any hard work that produces good results is.