Cut from The Family Cloth


airstreamParenting in Oregon can be like a natural mothering chat board crossed with a Wild West variety show.

In my state, you don’t get any points for using cloth diapers. It’s pretty much expected. In fact, you should be making your own. Actually, you should probably sew your own and then launch a side business selling vintage 30s-inspired organic cotton diaper covers.

Making your own organic baby food? Maybe you should let your child forage in your backyard instead.

We do all these things because they feel right. Because we know every word to the intro to Tiny Toons, we turn off the TV.

But once you’ve taken the natural mothering route, it’s easy to let it creep into other parts of your life.

“So I’ve been thinking about this Family Cloth stuff,” I say to Adam one night. I was hand-quilting a throw and he was trimming a tiny, fragrant santalina bush at the kitchen table.

I first heard about The Family Cloth when I was hanging out with my home-schooling, CSA-growing, quilting friends talking about cloth diapering. They dropped it into conversation as if it were a regular turn of phrase, like “going to get milk” or “changing the baby.”

“We do family cloth,” my dear friend Katie said. “It’s just easier than buying toilet paper when you’re already doing cloth diapers.”

I knew what it was immediately. A giant roll of cloth being dispensed from the wall facing the toilet that you pull towards yourself and then through your legs like you’re flossing your buttocks with your sweetest burlesque.

Family cloth! It is definitely something that you “do.”

This is what Family cloth actually is: A basket filled with pieces of flannel or other soft squares of material that you use as toilet paper and then discard into a separate receptacle to be washed with your Bum Geniuses, G Diapers or Fuzzy Bunz.

“No,” Adam said.

“No, really, I’ve been reading about it and it doesn’t sound that bad,” I said.


“I was on this blog that explained all of the reasons it’s a great idea,” I said.

“Absolutely not.”

“But it’s supposed to feel AMAZING,” I said. “Once you do it, you never go back.”

“Emily, I don’t care what they said about it, it’s still poop on cloth.”

We went back to our quilting and trimming for a few minutes, the evening light dimming just a few shades more.

“You never get your toilet clogged with paper again,” I said.

“Or you could stop wrapping a poop mitt around your hand and just use two squares like I do,” he said.

“It gets you cleaner,” I said.

“Actually, I like my toilet paper a little rough so it feels really clean,” he said.

“Well let’s just get some burlap then,” I said.

“Or we could just use toilet paper,” he said. “Really, if you want to save the world, this is not the way to do it. Plastic diapers take hundreds of years to degrade. Toilet paper takes, what, a couple of months?”

“Well, I’m not going to try it if you’re not on board,” I said, crossing my arms.

“Good,” Adam said, snipping a tiny branch off the tree.

Too bad. I already had the felt picked out (see above).

11 thoughts on “Cut from The Family Cloth

  1. Brett Brinkmeyer says:

    It’s been really amazing to follow along the last few posts- your transition into a lifestyle of the modern “West,” is fascinating! I’m excited to read more, and follow along with your adventure of becoming in a place where “different” is “normal.”


  2. Angela says:

    I had the same conversation in my household. Absolutely no way no how would this be happening. But then we switched to cloth wipes for the baby, we ran out of TP and certain people got desperate. Guess who loves the cloth now? Yep. He does. If you’re already washing cloth diapers and wipes, it’s negligible to wash the family cloth as well. Now, I do have to say that once you’re *not* doing diapers? It’s a lot harder to get motivated to keep the cloth train going, because then you’re only washing those, not diapers, too. So we’ve fallen off the family cloth wagon. Maybe someday when I have more room in my life for dirty laundry. ~A


  3. Sal R says:

    Half the world keeps a small container of water next to the toilet and simply wash their bums – usually using just the left hand. No TP or family cloth needed except for patting dry after washing. We in the west just cringe from the thought of actually making skin contact with our own waste, even if we wash our hands thoroughly after cleansing. I adopted this method while traveling in the Middle East and now my whole family, and quite a few friends use it. It really is the cleanest feeling. My wife was the last to accept the method, now the small plastic watering can we use for cleaning purposes is the first thing she packs when we are going on a trip.


  4. Jacqueline says:

    Haha! That sounds about like my husband when I suggested we use family cloth since we use cloth baby wipes and diapers..and unpaper towels and, soon, unsponges. He was such a Debbie Downer. This cracked me up, though (:


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