Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Random Domestic Thought of the Day, Vol. I

While combing Netflix for my background TV entertainment while crafting, I came across TLC's "Extreme Cheapskates."  I clicked on it because I consider myself a sort of soft-core cheapskate, and I'm always looking for reasonable tips.  Some of them are doing things I've done in the past when we had barely enough money to live on, such as picking up spare change on the street and reusing paper towels.  I still unplug most appliances when not in use and tear my dryer sheets in half.  Not extreme measures by any means, but every little bit counts.

In many instances, the show reveals some of the affluent snobbery of the first world.  People who would rather vomit than pick the meat off the head of a cooked salmon have never been truly hungry.  I wish more establishments would set out the slightly abused produce and yesterday's bread with proper signage and a reasonable discount.  I abhor waste.  However, I'm probably not likely to make salad dressing by pouring apple cider vinegar into the dregs of a jelly jar, nor to use a wad of old tin foil inside a plastic onion bag as a dish scrubber.  More power to them.

I have no problem with cultivating slightly unusual habits to save money in the privacy of your own home, but when the fixation becomes highly inconvenient and/or publicly obnoxious, it's time to reevaluate the reason behind the behavior.  Are you really trying to get by, or would you just rather have a free ride?  There's a fine line between frugality and outright theft; fast food restaurants don't put out ketchup packets so you can leave with a pocketful and refill your ketchup bottle on their dime.  It is incredibly rude to pay a large restaurant tab with a huge bag of small change.  It is unreasonable for a man of means to have his wife (who has exhibited good financial judgment) on an allowance of $20 a week.

Today's random thought, however, deals with a cost-cutting measure which is neither rude nor unreasonable, but neither is it incredibly effective.  That thought is reusable cloth toilet "paper."

Toilet paper is tricky.  Buy cheap, and you're likely to need to use more in order for it to be effective.  Buy better and need less, but spend more.  There's a point after which effective toilet paper cannot be cheaper.  Anything more expensive is like buying a disposable quilted memory foam pillow for your butt -- extravagant and (in my book) unnecessary.  Your butt can suck it up.

The first world reels in shock and horror at the thought of reusable toilet paper.  Eew, urine and feces!  The family in question used old rags and cut up clothes for this purpose, a basket of clean pieces hanging from the toilet paper rod, a plastic trash can below collecting the dirties for washing.  It may not be as far-fetched as it seems, but it probably isn't worth the effort.


Allegedly, using reusable toilet paper is "free," eliminating that expense from the budget entirely.  One of the appalled neighbors replied that she could never "contaminate her washing machine" like that.  Why not?  What about those reusable diapers that are making such a come-back?  What about reusable puppy pads like the ones I use?  There's at least one or two loads of dirty doggie laundry done around here each day.  When the washer smells a little funky, we run a cycle with one of those washer cleaner packets.  Not so shocking after all.  This is a real trend.  It's called "family cloth."


Reusable cloth toilet "paper" isn't actually free, so I find it hard to believe it's worth the effort from a purely financial perspective.  The cost of toilet paper is negligible at best, especially when considered against the electricity, water, detergent and man hours required to maintain a clean supply of the cloth alternative.  If you can throw them in with a batch of cloth diapers being washed anyway, that's great.  Otherwise, I can't see washing them with anything else (except maybe doggie laundry).  I can see approaching it from an ecological standpoint, but I simply choose to pay a little extra for recycled toilet paper.  Two ply, of course.  In the end all the fuss and bother doesn't really seem worthwhile.

Hey, maybe you don't do it for frugality's sake.  Maybe you just like the idea.  In that case, there are lots of fancy options on Etsy.  These snap together for a look-alike toilet roll.  Might as well pay for the good stuff, right?  Brown is probably a prudent color choice.


  1. Nope, totally having a first world freak-out about that! I prefer the thing I saw on Upworthy the other day - compostable toilets which they have in public places now in Haiti (the organisation's called 'Soil') and they layer the poop with some kind of stuff (charcoal? bamboo?) and it gets rid of the germs and turns it into compost in a short time. THAT'S a way forward.

    Fascinating post though :)

  2. My midwife had a composting toilet! No smell at all!

    I sort of halfway do family cloth. Cut up a few old t-shirts into squares and made a little cloth bag for them. They are softer and more absorbent than paper and do a better job with less. I see it as doing yourself a favor, especially if (like me) you can't afford the nice stuff. The problem is they really have to be washed in a net bag or you will take forever sorting them out of your other whites. I don't care about mixing laundry, especially in a hot load. Usually I've got diapers, cloth wipes, dish rags, and underwear all going through together. The dryer gets hot enough to sterilize anything the hot water doesn't. If you're concerned, there's always bleach I suppose.

    Anyway, I had a net bag and everything was working fine. It's not like 20 wipes take up much room in the washer. But then Marko ripped the zipper out of it and I'm back to square one. If I wash them without a bag, they all go mysteriously missing and then turn up staticked onto underpants or in the dishtowel drawer. Not so nice, even though they are perfectly clean.

    It's not so much the money you save, as the thought of throwing stuff away when you don't have to. After you've been using dishtowels for awhile, the idea of sopping up a mess with a paper towel and just tossing it seems so wasteful. And the same with TP, I suppose.