Cloth Diapering Without Stuff

Mother holding baby

If you are serious about cutting down on stuff, it is simple to cloth diaper your child without all of the extras and accessories because the simplest diapers do the job beautifully.

Diaper-free without Stuff

If you are very serious about cutting down on stuff, go without diapers altogether. Elimination communication is a beautiful way to respond to your baby’s needs. Most diaper-free babies do wear cloth diapers occasionally, but they aren’t generally going through a dozen a day. If you are willing and able to focus on your baby enough to catch cues, you won’t need more than a few cloth diapers.

Wake Up to Marketing

Even if you decide to go full steam ahead for cloth diapers, you don’t need a stash, one of every brand, one of every color, or all of the accessories. And, you don’t need to believe the biggest ad campaigns that plant specific brand names in your mind as The Diaper to Own.

A week ago on Jian Ghomeshi’s Q on CBC, I listened to his interview with Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed. I knew I was going to be writing about cloth diapers today, so I was very excited to tell you about this interview and this book. Martin Lindstrom is a marketer who wants to helps us as consumers understand how market research leads to subtle tricks that persuade us to buy. The stories he tells as he outs his own industry will shock you, and they should. He tries to make the process of persuasion transparent for us.

Applying this to cloth diaper marketing, step back from your non-conscious reactions diaper brands’ ads, posts, and carefully shaped personas to prioritize your actual needs over what diaper brands tell you your needs are. Sure, you want a free diaper, but do you really need to buy five new diapers to get it? Sure, you like prints, but do you really need one of each? Sure, you want “eco-diapers,” but are single-use diapers inside reusable, plastic-laminated polyester covers really your idea of “eco”? Bring your reactions into consciousness to make your decisions deliberate and transparent.

Be Conscious of Your Actual Needs

The not-so-secret secret to parenting without stuff is letting your specific needs guide your buying rather than letting yourself be swept away on a wave of marketing. The five points of Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative are Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, and Reimagine. Even if we do find ourselves in need of a solution to some parenting issue, we don’t necessarily need to buy new. We can make, repair, borrow, and buy used to meet the need. We think we need diapers, but we can reimagine that need by learning more about elimination communication. There are far more answers available to us than the conventional.

Start by asking yourself what you need then give yourself some time for creative thought. How might you meet that need without buying a single-use problem solver and spending your hard-earned cash?

How Many Diapers Do You Really Need?

I’ve told the story before of my friend who has never bought a diaper. Her second child is approaching two years old. She has always used cloth diapers, but she is just open to accepting hand-me-downs. All of her diapers are passed on to her from others. I’ve seen some of my children’s old diapers in her stash, so I know those diapers are circulating around the city doing diaper duty for baby after baby. If you have a community of like-minded parents, it will be a lot easier to cut down on buying the stuff of parenting.

If you are collecting or even buying, what do you really need? Plenty of my friends used nothing more than 18 prefold diapers, a couple of wool soakers, and a bucket to hold them until wash day. You could cut up ragged towels (sew around the edge, so you don’t have strings that could hurt your baby) and knit a soaker. Don’t sew or knit? Look for used diapers. Can’t find any? Buy a few simple diapers. Start very simple then only expand your diaper stuff when you find that what you have isn’t quite working yet.

If I were starting over, even after years of using and making so many diapers, I would use flat diapers and wool covers. That’s all.


Your bonus for breastfeeding without stuff, babywearing without stuff, and cloth diapering without stuff is saving a lot of money.

A cloth diapering advocate local to me posted a photo last week of a huge pile of boxes of disposable diapers at a big box store. They were on sale—reduced some ridiculous amount. She said, “Even if you buy these diapers at this reduced cost, it will cost you more to diaper your baby than if you use cloth diapers.” If you use prefolds rather than diapers that tout useless innovations to solve problems you don’t have, you will save hundreds of dollars a year. Be vigilant!

You’ve probably already read a dozen messages today asking you to buy stuff this week. It’s the biggest sales week of the year. Saturday, I’ll share a few ideas for giving without stuff.

Image © Jason Stitt |

4 Tips for Happy, Low-stress Holidays

Happy Mother at Christmas

There is so much to enjoy about the holidays. Young children are excited about lights and presents. We often see friends and family we haven’t seen for a while. It’s a time of reconnecting with traditions.

Have you ever had the holidays go by only to realize that you were so wound up you didn’t remember to enjoy yourself? Slow down! I have 4 tips for a happy, low-stress holiday season.


Rather than quantity, aim for quality. Do fewer things better. I wrote about my new One Thing plan last week, and it’s helping me to simplify my approach to the holidays.

Get Enough Sleep

It’s so simple! Our bodies need enough sleep to keep us healthy and alert. The short-term effects of sleep deprivation can interfere with a smooth, calm holiday season, but the long-term effects can take a huge toll on your health.

Consider Nutrition

If you eat sweets at parties in the evening, bring some serious nutritional balance back to your life by having a fresh, healthy breakfast and lunch.

Fewer Triggers

Be honest about those things that set you off, and cut back. If it’s your siblings, keep your time with them structured and focused on common ground. If it’s finances, just let go of giving gifts you have to buy. If it is particular colleagues, put your work focus elsewhere as often as you can during stressful times.

There is a reason airlines instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask first. You need all of your strength and clarity to take care of the rest of your family—and you also need to remain calm and aware to enjoy yourself this holiday season.

Image © Goldenkb |

Simplify Your Holidays with One Thing

Pointing at a holiday list

There is so much for a parent to juggle during the holidays.

I have a new way that I have been keeping things simple: focusing on One Thing. That doesn’t sound so new or original, does it? It isn’t, but it’s very hard for me to do, and keeping that focus is helping me feel more calm and get more done.

I have a friend who beats herself up when she does three great things with her daughter because she plans 10 and falls so short. They made cookies last week and she was worried because that’s all they did all day. It took them 8 hours to make and decorate cookies. What a great day for a very young child to spend chatting and working with her mother, decorating and planning their celebrations. I encouraged her to focus on what she’s done, but I think that is a switch each of us needs to flip on our own.

I decided I needed a way to flip my own switch and enjoy the moment by focusing more clearly.

A few weeks ago, I read an article about goal setting, pointing out that reaching a goal isn’t a matter of making a list and doing first things first but making the first thing the only thing that matters until it is done. Lightbulb! That idea has really helped me move through lists more easily lately. Instead of thinking about what I’m not doing, thinking ahead on my list, I (am working to) ignore everything that isn’t first on my list. It does work. My busy life has seemed less chaotic, and I find I’m not so easily distracted by stray asks. I’m getting done what I want to get done rather than just listening to the loudest request.

I’ve implemented my One Thing plan for a simpler holiday season.
Rather than making a huge list of holiday goals, falling short, and focusing on the shortfall, I have put everything into categories, the most prominent being gifts, decorations, and food. There are many ideas and activities in each category, but I’m not worrying about the second or third or tenth items. I have One Thing I’m focusing on in each. To make sure that the whole family is pulling together, everyone knows what the One Thing is at the moment, and everyone helps decide what the next One Thing will be.

2 Cloaks. Both of my children play a version of Dungeons & Dragons, and they have requested cloaks for their characters. Until I dye then sew these simple, organic cotton cloaks, there is no other gift that matters.

12 Family Photo Ornaments. When we inherited all of my mother’s and my grandmother’s glass ornaments, we already had plenty. We’re inundated with ornaments. In order to make the old a bit new again, we’ve decided to put family photo decals on old glass balls. My children are in charge of going through family photos to choose twelve. They have decided to focus on baby photos going as far back as they can. It does seem to me that they are focusing a bit too much on the dog’s baby photo, but I put the choice in their hands. Once they choose, we print and decal. If we finish this project in enough time, we work on more decorations. If not, that’s OK. We’ll have one really cool new decoration to be happy about.

200 Cookies. I am in the middle of making homemade mint wafer cookies (like thin mint Girl Scout cookies). We made a list of half a dozen cookie recipes we want to make. Despite just having experimented with holiday mint chocolate, we put the mint wafer recipe first because we had all of the ingredients on hand. (Another example of our effort to keep things simple.) Now, we have about 200 tiny mint chocolate wafers that just need to be coated in chocolate this afternoon. We will keep a few, but most of these will be given to our neighbors, who always show up with bags of oranges, banana bread, and plates of cookies. Once these are finished, we may think about family recipes or more Girl Scout cook-alikes (like Left-behinds, which I’m voting for).

I suspect that the One Thing approach will help me as the new year comes and I think about assessing where things are and what I want for the next year. But, that’s not on the list, yet, so that isn’t my current focus.

Image © Varlyte |