A New Year’s Resolution, a Few Weeks Late: The Creative Household Economy, Starting with Baby Poop.

January 12, 2011

Keep reading. This horribly lit photo will eventually make sense.

I think I like New Year’s resolutions. I used to not be so sure about them. But, you know, it seems as good a time as any to set some goals. For the past few years I’ve tried to set one practical, measurable, daily life  goal and one big picture, deep-inside-the-heart kind of goal.

So, after some thought, I’ve decided this year’s practical, measurable, daily life goal is to continue and extend the goals of last year. That being making a continued and concerted effort to reduce waste and spending within our household economy and support local and sustainably based farmers, businesses, crafts people, and artists. I’m going to buy less and make more. I also hope to do more trading with people and educate myself about alternative economies.

What does this have to do with mothering or grief? Well, let me tell you.

The other day I started searching online for blogs that dealt with creative ways to save money and live more simply, especially within the household economy. It’s endlessly fun to try to figure out ways to repurpose things, and, once you get used to it, reducing consumerism can really heighten the creative spirit. My online search was interrupted by, hmmm, well I don’t remember now, but probably a dirty diaper or an overturned chair or a baby with his head stuck in the dryer door. But I got to thinking. After some positive responses and increased readership to my recent post about how crazy cooking with toddlers can be, it suddenly dawned on me that I could include topics about some of the more seemingly mundane aspects of daily life.

After all, saving, creating, repurposing, and reusing is a big part of my life as a mother, not to mention a small yet fundamental step toward a somewhat  more meditative life, something I realized I truly needed to heal my grief.  Or to heal in general. I spend a lot of my time (well, I did anyway), thinking about how oral history and folklife, human rights, and storytelling can help us work toward a more just world, but sometimes the smallest, most mundane acts are the most radical. Recent discussions and visits with dear friends (Rachel and Mike to name a few), have helped me and my husband recommit to a way of life we lost sight of there for a while. I firmly believe that a less consumer-based life is, well, maybe I’ll delve into that weighty subject in some other post. In short, it’s important to us for reasons large and small.

So, I plan on trying to do a monthly post (give or take) about reusing, repurposing, making, and saving within the household economy. I’ll post about some things I’ve already been doing, and I’ll post about some things I’m going to try out. My hope is that we will be useful to folks. All of this stuff I learned from others, so I feel compelled to pass it on. I’m not a super crafty person, so don’t expect anything too fancy. I know many wonderful craftspeople. I’m not one of them. What I really hope is that you readers will enlighten me with your own creative repurposing ideas, regardless of whether you are a parent or not.  If you’ll let me, I’d love to do a post featuring your genius ideas and why they matter to you.  Sometimes I write about similar topics on my “professional”  (a funny word for work I consider a passion) blog, and if you want you can visit that by clicking here. ) But these topics will be more informal and on a smaller scale, I suppose.

So, I figure a good place to start is with every parent’s favorite topic: Poop.

Month 1: A No Waste Way to Clean a Baby’s Butt

Homemade baby wipe solution

Look. All parents talk about baby poop, and yes, it’s cliche. But there’s something really meditative about cleaning up all that poop. It’s a very grounding experience, and reminds you that no matter how amazing and new a person is, they are still a human in a human body. We’re all just a mess, you know?

When the boys were born we knew we wanted to use cloth diapers, but I also soon discovered that those baby wipes start to really add up. So I first began by making my own wipey spray with a recipe I found on the internet using some baby wash and water. But I found that to be too soapy. So a brilliant friend named Rose (if you are reading this Rose, then thanks so much! ) suggested tea tree oil and water. I already had some on hand, so that was perfect.  So I just add a few drops of tea tree oil to a big spray bottle of water, and boom, a virtually free wipey solution. Just two or three drops should do it. Any more than that and it can cause a rash. A small bottle of tea tree oil will last you forever, plus, as an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral it has all kinds of household uses. But, when it’s not diluted it can be toxic, so keep the bottle of straight tea tree oil in the medicine cabinet and away from the baby.

Some people also add olive or almond oil to the solution to make it softer. I like it better without oil myself.

If you want to try a little more involved versions here are a few links to other recipes I’ve found online. Or just google wipe solution. There’s a lot of stuff out there.


But what to do about the wipes themselves?

I started out using bulk paper towels (the solution makes them soft), but then thanks to some insightful ladies on a twin mom message board I realized I could just make my own cloth wipes. Now, some people actually sew their own baby wipes. More power to them. But, in my own opinion, there is no need for such fanciness on something meant specifically for a baby’s butt. So, I just cut up some scraps of old cotton clothes. Worn out socks, old baby burp clothes, and t-shirts all work great. So do those little baby toboggans they give you at the hospital. Might as well use it for something, right?

Socks and t-shirts of days gone by.

Once I got them all cut up, I hung a basket to the wall right next to the changing table, and that’s where I keep the clean ones.

Once they get dirty I just rinse them off with the diaper rinser (guess I need to post about that next), and throw them in the pail with the other dirty diapers awaiting wash.

Once you get used to the process it’s really easy and doesn’t really add that much work to your day.  And it’s free. And you’ll find yourself taking out considerably less trash.

So, what about you? What creative ways do you tend to the baby poop in your house? Do tell.

A final thought:  One of my favorite joys in life is discovering portions of my mom’s spirit living inside of me. Even when it’s just little things. Actually, especially when it’s the little things. My mom loved to read those columns in gardening magazines about ways to reuse household items for various ailments. She praised the qualities of vinegar, could recite thousands of uses for baking soda, and could deter any household pest with a non-toxic concoction of salt and some other random ingredient. I just loved that about her.

Next Month’s Creative Household Economy Post: Making Bone Broth. Or maybe a post on cloth diapers. Yes, I think it will be a post on navigating the world of cloth diapers. Are you a cloth diaperer? Email me and tell me about it!  tendingthebittersweets (at) yahoo.com

2 Responses to “A New Year’s Resolution, a Few Weeks Late: The Creative Household Economy, Starting with Baby Poop.”

  1. Love this post. Now that Davis is potty training; we haven’t been using cloth. I didn’t want to invest in bigger diaper covers once he grew out of his last ones. I have really realized how much we saved when he was an infant!!! I’m trying to figure the best way to do pull-ups. I refuse to buy the disposable ones. I do have some old school cloth/vinyl pull-ups that I’ll probably use. Ugggh…the whole potty training thing is just soooooo overwhelming!
    What a great idea to cut up old cloth for wipes! I ended up just buying packages of baby washcloths.

  2. Thanks, Olivia! I’ve heard about cotton training pants on some online forums. I think maybe Gerber makes some?

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