REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE – December 2023

By Diane Lockspeiser

In my kitchen drawer, next to the dishcloths made from old towels, I keep a pile of mini rags. They are two or three inch squares of cotton cut from old clothing.

When I worked painting full time, my wardrobe developed three stages. First there were new clothes to be worn in public. When they inevitably got a stain or hole, they became my work clothes. When those descended into something not respectably wearable, they became rags. Since my skin is sensitive to synthetics, it’s all cotton.

When we retired and moved to Andes, I didn’t need so many work clothes anymore, especially the T-shirts, or so many rags either. I learned from the internet how to make “T-shirt yarn” and started making a braided rug that I have yet to finish.

We had started buying paper towels only because we had a dog with a sensitive stomach who threw up often. I mostly use rags for cleaning, but I refused to wash out those disgusting ones. Rather than use up all my rags, we resorted to paper towels. Once we moved here and started to operate the wood stove, the gross rags or paper towels got tossed into the fire instead of the garbage and became free fuel.

Then we developed drainage issues in the kitchen sink, which of course is at the opposite end of the house from the septic system (WHY do they build it that way??!!!). After having to clean the whole thing out for the second time, I became very strict about not letting fats go down the drain. I started ripping off small pieces of paper towel to wipe any remnant oils from dishes, pots and pans. The oily paper burned really well. Free fuel.

One day, after burning some leftover pieces of cotton from making more T-shirt yarn, it dawned on me to cut them into little squares to use instead of the paper towel pieces. Thus my pile of mini rags, which when soiled, also becomes free fuel.

Last winter I learned a new trick.  I have started to buy thick cotton sweaters, which eventually and inevitably wear out at the elbows. Now I understand why people put leather patches on the elbows of sweaters. I thought about doing that until I realized that mine had also worn out or ripped in other places. Then I saw a video showing how to make old sweaters into custom warm comfy slippers. Since I have extra wide feet, this idea appealed to me and I made a pair. I loved wearing them all winter, wore them out, then tossed them into the fire. Free slippers and free fuel.

I joke about the savings because it’s really not much. There have been times in my life when every little bit did help our survival, but these days I am mostly just happy to use my creativity to reduce the garbage flow. There is no “away.” Everything goes somewhere.

And whatever I save can go into more gift giving! May you all have a merry holiday season!~