Some of you may recall from my Day 1 Topic for the Flats & Handwashing Challenge back in 2018 that I discussed how we made the switch to cloth diapers for financial reasons. My husband was working a temp-to-hire job; we were living paycheck to paycheck. Going through periods of no work for him was (unfortunately) a normal, frustrating occurrence as we were at the mercy of what jobs were available, with most temp-to-hire jobs falling through as businesses opted to hire someone else rather than pay the exorbitant contract fee that would, basically, purchase my husband’s employment from the Temp Agency. One manager even teared up when he had to let my husband go; he knew that was our only income, that we had just given birth to our third baby, and he admired my husband’s work ethics, which made it painful for him to see his superiors make what he called “a horrible decision” by opting to hire someone else to avoid the temp agency’s contract fee. We were used to this, though.
During one of my husband’s temp positions, we found ourselves with about $35-40 a month to spend on diapers. We had one in diapers and were expecting another baby. That budget gets pretty tight for two babies in diapers. A friend suggested I check out cloth diapers. I poured hours upon hours trying to decipher the world of cloth diapering. What would work? What could we afford? How could we do it on a super tight budget? If I spent money on cloth diapers and they didn’t work for us, there’d be no extra money left to buy disposables. I knew if I made the switch, there would be no going back for at least that month. That’s a scary concept!
I began my switch by taking to social media. I asked around if anyone had flannel receiving blankets they didn’t want. A few days later, I went to church with my husband and someone greeted us with a big bag of flannel receiving blankets they had stored in their closet. 13 blankets stuffed the grocery bag, and I knew I wanted to break these down. I could have left them whole, but I wanted to get at least two diapers out of each of them and make them more user-friendly. So, when I got home, I did more research on how to make prefolds. With a little added material I had, I transformed those receiving blankets, as well as some hospital blankets I already had, into collectively 29 prefolds. Cutting apart a fleece blanket my husband’s grandfather gave us, I made liners. I now had a full stash of prefolds (2x6x2, some 2x8x2) and liners for only the cost of my time. That was quite an investment, though. I know I spent over 8 hours sewing those prefolds.
Knowing what I know now, I would have probably cut them in half, hemmed them, and been done with it. Flannel blankets are incredibly absorbent and wash best when left as flats or half flats as opposed to prefolds, especially when handwashing.
I did wind up with about 3 blankets left intact which I found at a clothing closet, that I used as overnight flats. I then invested in 6 Alva baby covers and a 5 pack of snappis. If there was anything I learned from research, it’s that generic snappis are not worth wasting money on. I only wanted 3 snappis, but I knew if I bought the 5 pack, I’d only be spending $3 each. So I bought the 5 pack and sold off two snappis for $4 each to make a little money back! The covers cost me $23.50, the snappis $15, so collectively 38.50 was invested before I got $8 back on the extra snappis. When it was all said and done, I had 6 covers, 3 snappis, 31 prefolds, 3 “flats”, and a stack of liners, all for under $35. This was in September 2016. I posted a quick video on YouTube of my stash, including two oddball prefolds I was given by my mother-in-law who found them in her father-in-law’s attic!
It was the generosity of others that made it possible. My backup plan if nobody had any blankets was to both buy a small pack of flour sack towels and use some of my husband’s old t-shirts. He certainly has an abundance of work shirts he’d been given from temp jobs. I was willing to do whatever it took to get started, reminding myself that each month I added to my stash would make it easier and easier.
The next month, after being frustrated with handwashing the prefolds, having absorbency issues, and knowing that we’d need more diapers with another baby on the way anyways, I bought my first dozen Diaper Rite bamboo flats for $37 with free shipping. That was the best money ever invested in the history of cloth diapering. To this day, I’m still using those flats. They never left my rotation. It was my first Diaper Junction purchase, back when they were a general cloth diaper retailer.
But my problem was those Alva covers. The exposed elastics were irritating my daughter something fierce, plus putting those covers on her and keeping her still was frustrating to say the least. I knew our budget was already spent on those flats, but I really wanted to try the Alva pocket diapers for the easy-on-easy-off concept while still being easily hand washed. My husband agreed that, with the next paycheck, I could invest in some pocket diapers, no more than $40. I stuck to solid colors, which were cheaper, and at that time, Alva offered pocket diapers with or without inserts at sliding costs. Naturally, it was cheapest to get the pocket diapers without inserts and I didn’t need them anyways. I was able to get 10 within budget off eBay. They were so amazing! Both the pockets and the flats not only washed out easily by hand, they line dried super fast! Most of the time, I was able to wash the diapers at night, hang them up to dry, and by morning they were ready for the next day! Hooray!
I had then sold some of my cute hand-made prefolds so that I could turn the money around and give Kawaii pockets a try. I was able to get enough money to grab a couple pockets and a Kawaii cover off eBay. Admittedly, I did most of my initial shopping for affordable diapers on eBay, and let me tell you! Kawaii covers were way better than Alvas, but I don’t think they make the covers anymore. Bummer because they were amazing. Their pocket diapers are nice, too! I posted a couple comparisons of Alva and Kawaii on YouTube as well in one of my earlier videos.
In November, I sold some oddities around the house to budget money for Black Friday to grab a few extra deals for both of our kids, being that our next baby was coming in January and we needed enough for two in diapers. We got some Diaper Rite prefolds, more flats, and various covers.
However, December greeted us with joblessness. My husband’s temp-to-hire position fell through again. Still no working washer, no income, no potential jobs available at the temp agency, no responses on the dozens of applications, no replies from the numerous places we sent his resume… but for once, we could cross “no diapers” off the list of stresses. We both look back at that time and agree: while it became one of the most intense financial crises we had experienced yet, we were drastically less stressed on a day-by-day basis, all because we didn’t have to keep anxiously grabbing diapers worried that the next reach into the bag would reveal they were gone with no idea how to afford more. December was the easiest month we went through as my dad gifted us an early Christmas gift of cash to get us through the month. We were able to spare enough to get a few goodies for the kids, a couple more diapers to prepare for the next baby, and brace ourselves for what we didn’t realize would be over 6 months of joblessness.
On Christmas, my kids each had a gift, wrapped in newspaper, thanks to my dad. Come January 7th, we welcomed our new baby. I was handwashing diapers and laundry the day before induction and no more than I came home from the hospital, I was hand washing diapers again. My husband was carrying the heavy basket of wet, washed diapers and clothes down to the basement steps for me to hang and his heart went out to me. He had been keeping himself busy with taking care of loose ends around the house but he had neglected the washer. It wasn’t long afterwards that my husband surprised me with a rerouted, functioning drain for our washer! I could use our machine again!
With no job and bills to pay, we began resorting to selling possessions. The TV, old games, books, childhood items, dishes we didn’t need, basically anything that fetched money that wasn’t absolutely necessary was sold to pay bills. We had gotten a small tax return, which went into catching up bills and, go figure, paying property taxes. But what a relief it was to never run out of diapers!
In troubles past, we had found ourselves digging around the car and couch for change, hoping to find enough for diapers. We’d spend cash diversions from the state on diapers which was intended for bills because we didn’t know what else to do to get diapers. I’d give anything to hop back in time and tell myself before my store went out of business to invest in cloth diapers! I wish I could hand all this knowledge to myself years ago.
Everyone has different circumstances and different stories. Our budget was actually quite tight when we switched. We found ways to make it work, but it was a lot of work, tweaking the budget, selling odd things around the house to free funds…
We had to learn about our options. We had to shop around. We had to figure out how we were going to budget it. We had to learn how to use the diapers we got. We had to rinse poop off diapers now. We had to hand wash the diapers every night. We had to take our trials with these new diapers and learn how to cope with them until we could find (and afford) a solution. I spent over 100 hours watching videos, reading blogs, researching cloth diapers because I had to try to get this as right as possible on the first go. It was an all or none deal.
I hate to call this work “hard”. The work involved is actually quite easy, but there certainly is far more of it, and it’s difficult in that respect. I’m not saying we couldn’t have gotten by without cloth diapers. The Lord has graciously provided in some pretty unexpected ways in the past and He continues to today. I will say, though, that the relief of no longer worrying about running out of diapers made all the researching, hand-washing, troubleshooting, investing, and overall efforts more than worth the switch.
My husband as I publish this piece is between work again. But with a full stash of reusable trainers and a now abundant stash of diapers, running out of the basic necessities for my youngest two is a fear I don’t have to face. In fact, cloth diapers have been an investment for me, with some diapers fetching over retail for their collectible value, allowing me to destash some excess to earn extra money to pay bills without compromising our stash. What a weird thing to invest in, ha!
I realized I never really shared the more detailed version of the story. I just kept throwing bits and pieces out there with “guestimated” time frames, so I figured it was time to share my transition to cloth in full accuracy.
The struggles I faced affording diapers, the chronic anxiety I used to live with before switching, the freedom and sweet relief I felt back near the end of 2016 going into 2017… This is the fuel for my blog.
This is the motivation to get the word out.
This is the reason I generously give in my times of abundance to those who want to switch or have switched but are struggling to get diapers or make what they have work.
This is why I will never charge for consultation.
This is why I want to #normalizecloth.