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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

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As 2017 begins, many of us are setting goals and resolutions for the new year. One that I’m seeing pop up quite a bit among friends, family, and many bloggers I follow is that they’d like to simplify. In my own case, that’s a constant challenge for our family, especially with the “glut of stuff” that we’ve discovered during our move.

So, I thought today it would be neat to share one of my favorite tips for simplifying – going green! And, odds are, you’re already doing one of these suggestions already. (If you’re on the Thirsties website – and you are – chances are good!)

Why does going green help simplify your life? Some people think that adopting a new lifestyle is actually a huge chore, filled with to-do lists and the purchasing of new stuff to help fulfill it. But, going green is actually the opposite.

Simply put, when you go green, you think about your impact on the Earth. You think about how much you buy, how much waste you create, and how much you actually NEED (vs. want). Oftentimes, when you start analyzing you and your family’s waste, you end up buying less stuff in the long run, using what you have in a wiser way, and enjoying “the little things” tons more.

Here are just a few ways that you can go green to simplify your life in 2017:

Buy cloth diapers. This may seem contradictory to what I said about buying less stuff, but what I really mean is that you buy only what your family needs to get by – and, in this case, one large-ish purchase of cloth diapers will mean hundreds and hundreds fewer dirty diapers in a landfill in the long-term. So, yes, sometimes you have to invest a little, but the dividends far outweigh the initial cost. Plus, never having to buy a box of diapers again definitely simplifies things, doesn’t it??  

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Do a house walk-through. Analyze everything you have in your house. Do your kids play with all their toys? Do you wear every article of clothing? Do you use all of your kitchen utensils? If there’s anything you don’t use, donate it. If there’s anything that could find better use elsewhere (in my house this often means reorganizing baskets and bins), go ahead and adjust. And, of course, anything that’s broken, be sure that you find a way to reuse or recycle it properly to avoid more landfill waste.

Meal plan. Here’s my *simple* method for planning weekly meals. Ready? First, make a list of your family’s favorite meals (namely, dinners). Then, pick 7 that you can use for the next week and jot down any ingredients you’ll need on your shopping list. Bam. That’s it. I don’t even fill out a calendar or anything (I do often put the meals on a dry erase board and check them off depending on what we ate). But, it does help knowing what you’ll be eating for the following week or so in order to buy only what you need. Our food waste can be astounding, so meal planning is a great step to reduce that AND simplify your life.

Use reusable. It sounds so super simple and almost ridiculous to say these days, but by purchasing a reusable water bottle or coffee mug, you will reduce your waste SO MUCH. Just think about it. I’ve fallen into this trap myself (drive-thru is so much easier and I’ve just never asked if they could fill my cup instead…guilty!) but am working to squash this problem. Plus, the BPA-free lining of most reusable options are far healthier for our bodies than many of the styrofoam options. And, of course, the same goes for food storage, lunch bags and boxes, and more. My simplest, greenest favorite? The humble mason jar.

See? Just a few ideas, but all greener ways to simplify your life a bit.

Do you have a favorite tip for simplifying your life? We’d LOVE to hear it in the comments! And, as always, thanks for reading!

About Our “Written by Mama Monday” Blogger: Megan is a wife, mother to two young children, freelance writer, and educator. She shares her attempts at simplifying, among other things, at her blog, Meg Acts Out. When not busy meeting deadlines and chasing cats and kids, she enjoys acting in community theatre (where she met her husband), watching old movies, and sharpening her history buff skills.

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Sometimes it’s a resolution. Sometimes it’s a list of goals. Sometimes it’s simply one word.

Whatever you choose, the coming of a new year is the perfect time to hit the reset button on life and analyze the areas of your life where you’re totally killing it – and where you could use some work.

While I’ve got a ton of areas to work on (don’t we all?!), I like to pick a single word that helps focus my attitude and attack strategy, as it were. This year I also made a casual list of specifics – from finding constructive ways to destress with yoga and essential oils to creating time each week to write – but the ultimate goal can be summed up in one word: POSITIVITY.

Originally, my goal was to “focus” more, but I felt this word encapsulated the true goal of 2017. Many, myself included, found 2016 to be a bummer, or even depressing in its occurrences. The last thing I want is to allow it to continue eating away at my psyche and have adverse affects on my kids, family, work, and more. While much of what happens in the world is terrifying and out of my control, there are many things I can do to cultivate positivity (as well as positive change) in my own sphere.

Since the common bond everyone reading here shares is parenthood (some of you are parents-to-be, others have little ones, still more have kids who have outgrown diapers), I’d like to focus on the parenting aspect of our resolutions.

So, in terms of my “word of the year”, I hope to bring joy and positivity back into our family life. To look at discipline as an opportunity for learning (and not just for the child) and to take a step back before tempers flare. To take the dread out of mundane tasks by getting the kids involved or adding an element of fun. To explore our new neighborhood together with an open mind to adventure and possible friendship. To plan a vacation that appeals to all four of us. The list goes on, but I ultimately want to embrace the joyful ages that my kids are currently experiencing (at ages 4 and 1) because we all know well that it goes by without so much as a second thought.

I’m excited to hear what your “word of the year” for your family is this year. Is it a single goal or broader philosophy? Drop us a line in the comments!

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve pretty much finished your shopping (or run out of allotted Christmas funds, whichever comes first) by this point. I had quite a late start with things this year and wasn’t nearly as organized as I usually am (I start buying in September or earlier), but moving had us stretched in lots of directions. So, here we are, less than a week to go before the “big day” and I’m trying to milk every second out of our holiday fun-making.

But, needless to say, anything I come up with has to be cost effective (or downright free). Luckily, this isn’t an impossible feat. Today, I’m sharing some of our family’s favorite ways to celebrate the holidays on a budget.

Looking at Lights – One of my family’s favorite activities this time of year is to bundle the kiddies up and load up the car to peep at the lights in our surrounding communities. One house, aptly referred to as “The Christmas House”, has an entire lights show set to music (you turn your radio to their frequency) and gives quite the free entertainment experience. And, yes, it totally includes the “Frozen” song (which I honestly wasn’t into until I saw this!).

Sometimes the lights are gaudy. Sometimes they’re classic and beautiful. But, no matter what, hearing your children “oooohhh” and “aaaaahhh” and talk about their favorites (and all for the cost of gas) is the best.


A Hot Beverage, Popcorn, and a Favorite Movie – My husband insist I mention this and I don’t blame him. We’re both movie people, and I feel absolutely empty if I don’t catch certain ones at certain times of the year (“Holiday Inn”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”…the list goes on, but I’m a black-and-white girl). Add to it my husband’s famous air-popped popcorn (with grassfed butter, thank you!) and a hot beverage (either wassail or hot chocolate) homemade by yours truly, and all you’re missing is the kids and a snuggly blanket.

Now, this can also mean catching your favorite Christmas special on TV, as well, with simply microwaved popcorn or some other family treat. Whatever works for your family!

Volunteer Together – We feel it’s important to share in the spirit of the season – which our 4-year-old son is just starting to understand. I asked my sister if there were anymore children in need at her church and she happily obliged by piling an “ornament” off their tree for me. After I got what was requested for the 12-year-old boy (all necessities, so I threw in a small $3 mini-skateboard), I explained to my son that there was a child who requested only new underwear and PJs. He was floored.

But you don’t have to buy something to help out. You can help the Salvation Army by volunteering to ring bells, you can donate your old (but in good repair) toys or coats to those less fortunate, or just serve food as a local food bank.

Listening to Christmas Music – Every activity is made into a Christmas activity with the addition of Christmas music. Cooking dinner? Festive. Shopping? Fun. Driving through traffic? A little more bearable. (Maybe.)

Bake Cookies – Sure, some cookies are expensive to make, but if you just pick one favorite for your family to make (I suggest sugar cookies – they’re fun to decorate and cost less than, say, peanut blossoms), you’ll have something sweet to nosh on, will feel festive, and will have something to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Visit Santa/Look for community events – Visits with Santa are almost always a hit, so if your community is having a stop, check it out! Sometimes they try to get you with the cost of photos, but most of the time you’re allowed to take your own shots, too. We did this both at a pancake breakfast at my school as well as at a museum we subscribe to this year and it was awesome..

But Santa’s not the only game in town. There are tons of events throughout the community (for example, there are holiday read-alouds with face painting and treats every December at our local Barnes and Noble., so put the feelers out to your local friends on Facebook to see what’s going on.

Visit the Elderly – It’s often sad and lonely all year long for elderly folks living in an assisted living facility, but this time of all times is a great chance to give some of your time and holiday cheer. I’ve learned that the elderly ADORE children, so as long as your little ones are free from illness (remember that, just like babies, it’s easy for older people to catch illnesses), stop by for a visit and a chat. You may learn something new about how Christmases were celebrated in “the good ol’ days.”

Go Caroling – Just print off some lyric sheets, bundle up, and start wandering around your neighborhood. If your family gets shy, ask some friends to join you. It seems that fewer and fewer people are doing this, so it’ll be a nice surprise for your neighbors!

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Does your family have a budget-friendly tradition that helps you all get into the Christmas spirit? Do you have a favorite off our list? We’d love to hear in the comments! 

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‘Tis the season to show others how much we care with a token from the heart! Or, at least, that’s what we hope to do.

When you’re a cloth diapering family with a little one at home, so often we end up with gifts that don’t accurately reflect our values and wishes. While we’re grateful for whatever we receive and the thought behind it, getting things like chemical-laden baby toiletries (which we don’t want to throw out, but also don’t want to put on our baby’s skin – or in contact with our cloth diapers) put us in a sticky situation.

Here are some of the items that I have given (or have considered giving) fellow cloth diapering families at Christmastime:

A Cloth Wipe Kit – I have a handful of friends and family who cloth diaper but who have been on the fence about using cloth wipes. This is the opportunity I take to show that a) I understand their plight and b) they can try it out without having to purchase anything themselves. So, a handful of wipes (use Thirsties’ amazing wipes or just a package of nice, organic baby washcloths) and a spray bottle of Booty Luster packaged prettily in a sweet little basket makes for a thoughtful gift.

A Cloth Diapering Care Kit – If you’ve helped out after a family welcomes their newborn home, odds are you’ve helped with laundry. If so, think about the kind of detergent they use (or start up a conversation of “I’ve read so many different opinions on washing cloth diapers; what’s your method?” in a totally casual way) and package it up along with some wool dryer balls and maybe a diaper pail liner and you’ve got a thoughtful, practical gift option.

Cloth Diapering-Friendly Balms – No matter what you give, toss in your favorite diaper rash treatment. Our favorite happens to be Booty Love, but even if you use a homemade option, include a little bottle and the fact that you “get” the whole “cloth diapering thing” will warm the recipient’s heart.

Your Absolute Favorite Diaper – Whether it’s a Thirsties or not, a new cloth diaper is an AMAZING gift for any cloth diapering parents. (We, of all people, know the value of a good diaper, and knowing that it’s got your own personal stamp of approval means the world.) Consider the new wintry Thirsties prints, Scarlet and Winter Woods for a festive, fun twist.

An Adorable Wet Bag Gift Bag – No matter what you give, skip the wrapping paper or gift bag in favor of a wet bag – it’ll reduce waste AND give the parents a great additional gift. And, by the way, remember that wet bags aren’t just for storing dirty dipes! We use ours about a hundred different ways.

Diaper Service – If you’ve got the funds and are in an area that offers it, try looking up a reliable diaper service to take the chore away for a month or so. My uncle did this for my mother after each of her four children and it was a lifesaver, she recalls. What’s more thoughtful than that? (Just make sure that they adhere to the warranty of the family’s favorite diapers to avoid voiding the warranty.)

A Thoughtful Gift – Odds are you know why the family cloth diapers. We all have a different reason (we appreciate the cost effectiveness but also the eco-friendliness), so take this into account when purchasing any gifts. If the family values practicality, don’t go overboard with a million toys and outfits – try the “one toy, one book, one outfit” approach (or just one of the above if you’re not as close; I only do this for family, usually). If the family is eco-conscious, make sure the toy is either made of recycled materials, has strict EPA standards, and/or is made from eco-friendly materials. In general, use your cloth diapering knowledge to help inform your gift selection.

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What was the most thoughtful gift you ever received? We’d love to hear some additional ideas in the comments!

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We’re a family that likes to read. (Well, our one-year-old is juuust getting interested in books, but we’ve read to her brother since he was two weeks old, so it’s old hat to him. I’m a librarian but I give all the credit to my husband – he’s the one who reads most of the time.) In particular, we like to rotate our favorite book titles around through the year. My husband and I get just as excited as our son when a new season or holiday is around the corner to share some new stories.

While the old familiar classics are awesome favorites – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, the Grinch, The Polar Express – we’ve got a new list developing with some more modern tales.

So, just in case you’d like to try something new with your family, I’m sharing a handful of fun, fresh story ideas, just in time for the holidays.

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Here Comes Santa Cat – A cat who doesn’t speak (and has a slightly negative attitude)? How does THAT make a special holiday story? Trust me. Not only is it hilarious, it’s touching. An instant fave.

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas – If you have a fan of princesses and sparkles in your house, this book is perfect.

Dream Snow – Be sure to get the one with audio on the back page – it’s downright magical! That’s all I’m saying. 😉

Curious George: Christmas Countdown – George counts down the days to the big event, just like many of our little ones do!

Lil Rabbit’s Kwanzaa – A cute, fun way to introduce this special holiday to any child.

Olivia Helps with Christmas – Olivia is like many kids these days – she knows her mind and does things in her own, outgoing way. See how this works out when she helps with Christmas festivities.

Snowmen at Christmas – Along with its popular partner title, Snowmen at Night, it poses the question, “What do snowmen do when our backs are turned?” This time, throw Christmas in the mix and it’s a fun story any kid will love.

Olive the Other Reindeer – I actually just had a teacher use this book for a cute compare/contrast. Pet dog Olive hears the beloved song and decides she simply MUST be a reindeer, much to the surprise of Santa. Absolutely adorable.

A Couple for the Older Kids and Adults – I couldn’t leave these ones out. The first became a family favorite years ago when we stumbled upon it and had a read aloud at a Christmas party. The second, well, I used to read this at my last school and while it’s super verbose (read: lots of big words) and goes over the head of even the wisest 6th grader, the last page always has them scratching their heads and shouting, “Wait a minute!! Is this real?!” Judge for yourselves!

How Murray Saved Christmas – A hilarious story (with equally humorous illustrations) about a guy who doesn’t get the whole Santa gift giving thing (presumably because he’s Jewish) who is forced to take over for the big guy after an elf-induced accident. Written by an award-winning writer for The Simpsons.

Red Ranger Came Calling – At points, you want to give the kid in this story a good long time out. At others, you realize what a lonely life he must have and are thisclose to feeling badly for him. Regardless, watching his redemption by telling a white lie (yes, you read that correctly) mimics an older child’s attempts at grasping at the last straws of belief and Christmas spirit.

What’s your family’s favorite holiday book? We’d love to read your faves with our families.