Last month’s change — using cloth napkins instead of paper — didn’t feel like much of a change. We never really used paper napkins before, though from time to time — maybe once or twice a week, maybe even less often? — we’d use paper towels with a meal that was likely to get messy. Now, however, we have eight lovely red cloth napkins to use if needed. If only we could remember actually to put them out when we set the table! Though perhaps it’s better that we tend to forget about them, because then we really are using them only when needed — mostly at breakfast.
This change is a first small step in the direction of replacing disposable paper with reusable cloth in other areas of our life — giving up paper towels altogether, for example, and learning to use a hankie instead of tissues. Not yet, though.
With last month’s change, I noticed how many of the changes I plan to make may actually involve buying new things, such as dish rags to replace paper towels (though I’ve heard that prefold diapers are great for this use, too, and we have plenty of those already), cloth handkerchiefs to replace tissues, glass containers for food storage, and so on. It just does not seem right to be buying things in order to reduce my impact on the environment — which is, I think, one reason that I still haven’t gotten any reusable bags for produce and bulk goods, as I said I would do this winter. (Another reason: I’m afraid of investing in the wrong thing. If I’m going to buy new stuff, I want to know that I’m getting the right stuff.)
However, I should remind myself that, in these cases, the feeling that it is not right to be buying things in order to reduce my impact is based on a delusion. Maybe owning a half-dozen or so reusable bags results in my having more things to store in the kitchen, for example. But they are replacing something else that is disposable — and that, being disposable, has a barely visible presence in the kitchen. We do recycle the plastic produce bags, but why not cut them out of our lives altogether, in favor of bags we can use again and again and again?
Nevertheless, this month I’m not in a buying mood. This month, we’re going to be using what we already have and eating down the pantry (which is a lovely turn of phrase I first heard from MumsyJr at Apprentice Mumsy). That can of kidney beans that I bought by mistake? All those lentils and dried black beans? Those random boxes of rice and pasta? Gotta figure out what to do with them.
Figuring out how to use what you already have — it’s a good practice, really. It’s what I’ve been doing with my wardrobe, too, for example, over the past few months as my postpartum body has been changing and my postpartum income has been much smaller than usual. As it has turned out, I’ve been looking better than usual, wearing skirts a lot more often, for example, because my pants don’t fit quite right and my last pair of shorts completely fell apart last summer. Maybe I won’t even bother to buy a new pair of shorts when I start making more money again.
In what ways do you find inspiration in using what you already have?