Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fixing My Frugal Failings... Via Accountability

 photo IMG_2600_zps7099a4dc.jpg
Some of my cloth diapers... including a cute lacy cloth diaper
cover my neighbor just gave me as a hand me down
I've spoken to some friends who are frequent readers about this blog, what I post on it, and asked them their input, what they'd like more of, what they enjoy reading most about, etc... and they said they wanted me to show more of my human side, more of my failings, the reality of living frugally day to day, not just what I accomplish but also where I fail and fall short...

So I figured that I'd write a post about certain things and bad habits I've fallen into, often out of laziness, that aren't exactly frugal, and how I'm going to try to work to change that.

Ok, so number one, the thing that inspired this post is my baby's diapers.

I officially cloth diaper to save money, am all about the benefits of cloth diapering... And, uhm, err.... I think that in the last few months, at least, I've been cloth diapering maybe 10% of the time, if even.

First it was because my baby outgrew her newborn sized cloth diaper covers. I had been using the newborn sized Bummi's Super Whisper Wraps (BSWW) together with my Econobum one size cloth diaper covers, together with prefold diapers. When Rose got too big for the size small diapers, I couldn't find my size small and medium BSWW covers... In large part because of the mess in my house and that my storage space was very disorganized. (More on that later.)
So I was left with just my Econobum covers- 6 of them that I could find on a good day- 4 when I had misplaced one or two- and then I'd use those 4, they'd get dirty, and I'd run out of covers because of falling behind with my laundry (more on that later as well), so...  So basically I was using maybe 6-10 cloth diapers every week, if even.
So I started buying disposable diapers regularly.
And then when I was reorganizing our storage, I did find the larger sized diaper covers. I have more than enough now in the size that fits Rose. However....
Once I had the disposable diapers in my house, its hard to not fall back and use them, because yes, it is easier. While cloth diapering is a big money saver, it is definitely more work. And yes, laziness is a weak point of mine.

And then Rose started getting rashes that weren't going away. I thought they were from some foods that I was eating, but I wasn't sure. Maybe it was from the cloth diapers? I don't know, I was unsure... Because I wasn't 100% able to connect the foods she was eating (or that I was eating when nursing her) with the rashes, so just to eliminate the diaper factor, I was keeping her in disposable diapers full time.
And of course, that got me used to disposables, and not just as a fall back option.
The rash has been gone now for some time- I'm not 100% sure yet what caused them- I think it might have been tomatoes and/or eggs and/or citrus, so I'm not giving her any of those now- but still, she was in disposables...

So two days ago, I saw that I was nearly out of disposable diapers. As in I had 2 left in my package. I really don't want to head to the grocery store now to buy diapers... I found a few more diapers in random places- in my bedroom, pocketbook, backpack, bathroom... so now I have something like a total of 7 disposable diapers.
I've made myself a challenge.
Because I realize that while for most things, I work best not doing all or nothing, for diapering, for me it is nearly always all or nothing, since having cloth diapers in the house makes me use them as a crutch 90% of the time, and facilitates my laziness...
At the same time, I realize that biting off more than I can chew, making something seem like an impossibly long task looming ahead of me, with no end in sight, scares me off from even trying, because it feels like it won't be doable, because I'm not perfect.
So I am making myself a challenge.
Can I make it through this week without buying disposable diapers?
And if I make it through this week, can I make it through next?
I think one week of exclusively cloth diapering is a totally doable challenge for me, not biting off more than I can chew. One week chunks it'll be. Each weekly round up of my latest frugal accomplishments, I will try to make a note of how many weeks total I've managed to exclusively cloth diaper.
So far I'm 2.5 days in and no disposable diapers yet.

But that brings me to the second thing that I have struggles with, another one of my frugal failings, that is also connected to my diapering...

I often am falling behind on laundry. Which is bad enough because of the huge piles that it causes in my bathroom... But it's worse than that. Because falling behind on laundry makes me feel like I don't have enough clothes and makes me feel like I need to buy more.
Additionally, when I fall behind on laundry, it often means that I leave a load of washed laundry, wet in the machine... until it starts to smell. Embarrassing. Which means I need to wash the load again (wasting water, electricity, and detergent).
And if I'm so behind on laundry, it means my cloth diapers don't get washed, which in addition to making them not be available for use (hence my using disposable diapers), also makes them get ruined. (If you leave dirty cloth diapers long enough without washing, they start decomposing, which makes them fall apart. Embarrassingly, I know that from experience.)
So, I'm working on staying on top of my laundry (having a mother's helper is helping with that, but it's also a lot of conscious effort on my part), and hopefully that will help me with my cloth diapering challenge.
I will be updating in my weekly frugal accomplishments as well if I've managed to go an entire week without rewashing a load of laundry...

Notice a theme here? Lack of organization leading to money wasting?
Yea, that.

So, my refrigerator. I'm also not staying on top of that enough, and I've been finding rotten food spoiled in the back of my fridge, or drawers too often. I am really going to try hard to work on not allowing that too happen, so to motivate me, I will be keeping an account of all the food I throw out each week. (I think I'll make this be a separate post on Saturdays.) Maybe with a picture of all the foods I throw out. Starting to keep track of this next week.

And last but not least- I lose things in my stockpile, and that causes me to spend money on buying things I don't need.... so I'm working on that too. But more on that in a later post...

So... Here's my challenge.

Stopping with these wasteful habits, stopping with spending extra money because of laziness. And accountability to try to prevent these.

Think I can do it?

What would you say are your biggest frugal failings that you're trying to correct now? What are you doing to try to make those changes? Does accountability help you with preventing these?
If you're a cloth diaperer- what percentage of the time would you say your kids are cloth diapered? Do you find having even one package of disposable diapers in the house ends up being too much of a crutch and makes you fall back on disposables? Or is that just me...
How about laundry- fess up- who here falls horribly behind on laundry? Anyone fall back enough that they end up having to rewash certain loads? What are you doing to try to change that?
How about throwing out food? How much would you say you throw out each week? What are you doing to minimize that?

P.S. I feel like I've posted something exactly like this before. Not just once, but many times... I guess these struggles of mine won't be going away any time soon... but I'm a work in progress....


  1. I have a white board on my fridge to keep track of what is in the fridge and freezer. I'm not as good at the fridge part, but when ever I feel like I'm losing control of it, it's easy to make a list.

  2. 1. Cloth diapering. I have 3 kids in diapers for overnight - and for that we use disposable. Otherwise, my youngest (the only one in diapers during the day) is 100% cloth diapered. Even at daycare. I used to do a load of diapers once every 3 days (7 times in 3 weeks) but we are "missing" a couple of the daycare diapers and so now it is 3x/week.

    2. Laundry. This is not my problem, though it is a bigger one in the winter because of the drying times. I am lucky to own a dryer and I do not separate loads (meaning I don't do separate loads for each member of the family - whatever needs to be washed gets washed). My current set up is that I wash two loads, hang what needs to be hung, and run a single dryer load with whatever can go in the dryer. My clothes, my kids' uniform shirts, and about 50% of our underwear/socks must be hung to dry. AFTER they are all clean I only get around to folding and putting away around once a week; I recently delegated the task of putting away underwear, socks, and tzitzis to my children, all of whom are old enough to do that themselves. I DO sort - at least they can all find something to wear that way.
    3. We throw out too much food, but not nearly as much as we used to. I've gotten better as estimating how much they'll actually eat, as well as what qualifies as a "medium" or "small" whatever it is that the recipe calls for. Most often what happens is that they go on a run of a vegetable for two weeks and then when I buy more they decide they've had enough...and obviously if only two are eating it instead of six I needn't have bought nearly as much.
    4. My absolute biggest frugal failing is my lack of ability to think about my own breakfast/lunch when I'm packing everyone else's food for the day, thus necessitating a purchase. It's leftover from years of having my meal covered by my employer, which is no longer the case. I'm getting better (which is probably also why we're throwing out less food) but there's still lots of room for improvement.

  3. Penny, you have 4 young children you are trying to keep up with. That is a lot in and of itself. I think saying that you are lazy is self defeating. Myself, I can work and work, and still feel like I get nothing done. Having space and the necessary tools (bins, drawers) can make a difference as well. I once saw the garage of a family with 9 children. It was not pretty and I cannot imagine that they could find anything. There may actually be an ADD component in your life. There is for many and organization is one symptom of it. I have no idea about you, but making sure you have Omega 3 oil in your daily diet may make a huge difference for you. I don't know. Having a daily check list helps me, with an organizing notebook where I write things like shopping, things I want to accomplish that day or week, etc. There are some free options online and maybe just making one for yourself might help you. Best wishes to you.

    1. Which online options do you find helpful with productivity?

  4. It always cracks me up with people with kids call themselves lazy. Even if you're falling behind on some things, you really don't have the luxury of being lazy. (Ha, I see Rita has already commented similarly.)

    I'm good with laundry because since I hang dry our clothes, I basically have to wash a load every single day or I will fall behind and not be able to catch up easily (though I can put a second drying rack in use, it does take up valuable floor space). And I have learned never to start a washer load unless I have time to take it out and hang it the same day otherwise I have the same problem where I have to re-wash things.

    Maybe your kids can help you with laundry. Even little kids like to help with sorting.

    I don't use diapers, but I have found that having liquid laundry detergent around ends up being a crutch that makes it harder for me to motivate myself to grate another bar of soap for my next batch of laundry detergent!

    I have a dry erase board on my fridge on which I list things that I should not buy because I already have way too much. Maybe you could use a dry erase board, too, but to list leftovers that are in the fridge.

    My biggest problem is that I still own too many things that I don't actually use. I have gotten quite good at not buying stuff I won't use, but getting rid of stuff I already have that I don't use is troublesome. Practice is supposed to help with this, and I think it does.

  5. Sounds like regarding the cloth diapers you need to invest in an all in one type where the wrap is already connected and the size adjustable by snappies so they are good from birth to potty and you don't have to run around the house looking for the matching sized wrap. Also I prioritise my nappies for laundry every other day so I make time for other laundry only after the nappies are readily available. I agree that with 4 kids, homeschooling and working from home you are anything but lazy! Always an inspiration to read your posts!

  6. I agree with Rita and Debbie: you're doing really well for someone with four young kids, in a small space. My in-laws (five steppingstone kids), when they lived in a tiny house it was very hard. When they moved to the big house things got easier.

    Good luck...I know it's not easy.

    For us, the only frugal challenge now is staying frugal, since we moved to an urban area. If I'm not feeling well and don't want to cook, takeout beckons. Or even -- gasp -- a restaurant. If we want something, we can go to the store and get it (back home we usually just made do since shopping was an hour away.) I used to feel smug about my frugal success, and now have to accept that it was a matter of geography rather than virtue.

    We're working hard to overcome that, and actually I'm re-reading a lot of your posts.

    Otherwise I just tend to cook too much, since I was used to cooking for my daughter, her friends, my husband's co-workers, guys fixing our broken house, etc, usually all at once. Now it's just my husband and me.

  7. On wasting food:

    I grew up in Russia, where everything was used, and the fridge was tiny, and shopping was done daily, and everything was eaten by someone or other. (I also hated quite a bit of food that I was given to eat).
    Fast forward to my parents moving to Canada. I am a grown woman coming to visit, and I find them with a refrigerator fruit drawer overflowing with rotten peaches for which they drove to a store with special discounts on "past prime" produce. The peaches were totally inedible, and there was not space to put fruit which was not so rotten. They kept the house warm, to save on air conditioning, so leaving food out on the counters in the summer was not a possibility.
    They thought they were being frugal. I saw a huge waste of resources.
    I try not to buy past prime produce unless it is making it into dinner the same night. I tend to overbuy food, probably as a counterbalance to my upbringing and to my starving college years. I just try to overbuy things which do not go bad immediately.
    I like to compost ( when I am not pregnant or dealing with an inquisitive toddler), as I feel that the rotten food is at least going to some use.

    1. So my past prime produce arent spoiling right away. More like a week or two later since i forgot they were there. I just need to be more on top of things, which i'm not doing...

  8. we don't just cut corners- we slash them vigorously! my husband does laundry and never falls behind (because HE will run out of shirts first. i never throw any clothes out and am set for weeks). he sets the machine on a timer to be finished the second he gets home and switches the load to the dryer the second he walks in. he falls behind on dishes, but not enough that it makes a difference. they get done. we reuse dishes whenever possible and i've been trying to use more disposables. i thought about cloth diapers briefly before my son was born and came to the fairly swift conclusion that they make no sense for us whatsoever. so i unapologetically do not use or even own them, but i do buy only off-brand disposables. i try to keep the fridge as empty as possible all the time so i don't end up throwing out food, and i rarely have to. also i try to cook in quantities that we will finish, and, like you, repurpose leftovers. my biggest cop-out is dinner. i don't always have the energy to deal with cooking it from cheap ingredients, so there's a lot of copping out there. and lately i've been buying breakfast or lunch at the office instead of buying ingredients and making it myself. this all does add up, but we're not a family of six and no one is home all day.

    1. "we don't just cut corners- we slash them vigorously!" this made me laugh. may I quote you on it?

  9. I used to have trouble with laundry and a timer saved me. I start a load and then start the timer. My washer was taking about an hour to wash so I set it for an hour and fifteen minutes so it would remind me to go move it to the dryer. I have four kids at home and our last baby is due in late May. It's definitely overwhelming at times to keep on top of cleaning!!

  10. Thanks for the post. Judging by the number and enthusiasm of the comments, you've hit home for many of us. I'd first like to echo many of the ladies that as a homeschooling frugal mother of 4 you kind of by definition can't be lazy :-) We ALL have our ruts we get in where we're not on top of things. I think that's just life.

    I have a 12-month old who I cloth diaper and up until a few days ago I was using disposables when we go out for relatively long trips and at night. Trying to be frugal, I said I was only going to use one disposable at night, but after having him wake up with his disposable full to the brim, I felt guilty and started changing him once throughout the night. But then I remember the reason I went to disposables at night was so I wouldn't have to change his diaper...so we're back to cloth at night.

    Laundry was hard for me to keep up with, but as one commentor noted, I started combining loads and that has helped me stay on top of things. I have a small washing machine and line dry, so I have to wash everyday or else things will get out of control. Also, my machine stopped spinning, so I have to get them on the line early so that they have all day in the sun to dry. Another thing I've started to do is load the washing machine before I go to bed, then in the middle of the night when I wake up to nurse/change diapers, I turn the washing machine on so that when I get up in the morning the load is ready to be put on the line, but hasn't been sitting in the washing machine for too long.

    Just wanna say whenever I look at your frugal accomplishments of the week, I always think, oh my, how does she get all of those things done in one day?? You inspire and challenge me to continue to in this frugal walk and get more efficient at it! My struggle right now is not necessarily with being frugal, but with time management - getting things done efficiently.

    Thanks for sharing!

  11. I do very well on the cloth diapers and laundry...but often by staying up too late at night. My main trick is doing some type of laundry every night, ideally on a 4-day cycle:
    Day 1: Put diapers in soak cycle. Wash diapers. Hang up diapers to dry.
    Day 2: Wash dark-colored clothes. Take light clothes off clothesline, fold, and put away. Hang dark clothes to dry.
    Day 3: Put diapers in dryer on no-heat cycle to fluff them for better absorbency. Put away diapers.
    Day 4: Wash light-colored clothes. Take dark clothes off clothesline, fold, and put away. Hang light clothes to dry.

    The only clothes I'm washing are the baby's and mine (my partner does his clothes and the linens during the day while working from home; our ten-year-old son does his own clothes every Thursday after school) so I have about the right amount of laundry to fill the light and dark loads, and every once in a while I can skip laundry for a day without falling too far behind. So far I have always managed to have clean diapers when we need them, but sometimes I've had to wash again by Day 4, and often they aren't dry in time and have to be put in a heated dry cycle on Day 2. My only Christmas present to my daughter was a bag of new diapers to alleviate these problems! (At 7 months old, she was delighted to get a bag of fluffy things to throw around.)

    I'm also motivated by having had miserable experiences with disposable diapers--lots of blowouts and bad odor--so that I think of them as inferior fake diapers that I'd only use in an emergency. So far she's used about 10 of them, when she was 2 months old and trying to clear up a rash; that didn't help; what she needed was zinc oxide cream. Her big brother used about 60 disposables over his entire diapered phase.

    We're pretty good at avoiding food waste by planning, freezing things before they go bad, eating leftovers for lunches and snacks, having some recipes designed to use up odd bits, and almost always eating the scraps off the kids' plates. We throw away maybe 1-2 cups of food per week.

    As for my frugal failings: I eat in restaurants too much, because I like it and because I commute by public transit carrying my baby and her diaper bag and her bottles, so a lunch is extra weight. I take long, hot showers that run up the utility bills. Much more often than I'd like, my son talks me into buying him toys, art supplies, or household items that just become clutter.


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