Flats Challenge, Final Day

 The seventh and final day of the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge has arrived!  The challenge's host, Dirty Diaper Laundry, will be giving surveys to the nearly 500 participants and donating $1 for each response up to $200.  And Kelly's Closet will match that amount, to benefit cloth diaper education and support.
Sunshine knows exactly what to do with a flat diaper

I got a lot of pushback from friends, family and even total strangers when I announced I would be participating in this event.  Friends and family barely even understood why I would possibly want to dispense with the convenience of disposables (even for the cost savings), and certainly couldn't figure out why I would bother giving up the further convenience of a washing machine.  Strangers insisted that cloth diapering could never be practical for low-income families because the upfront costs are so high.

It has been the insistence of strangers that cloth is too expensive that really confirmed that I was making the right choice by participating in this challenge, and that it wasn't just a stupid look-what-I-can-do stunt.  The Flats Challenge got started last year when an article revealed that reusing or prolonging the use of soiled disposables was becoming a more common practice in low-income families due to the costs of diapers.  And while fellow challengers and I insisted that diapers could be washed without a machine, and that flats and covers can also be purchased cheaply (my six-pack of flats that has been the bulk of my stash this past week cost only about 50% more than the smallest package - three to four days worth for Sunshine - of generic disposables) or made for free from found materials, skeptics continued to insist that you couldn't start out with less than the full "starter packages" from online stores or the all-in-one style diapers.

Well, I did it.  So did others.  So there!  And I only laid out $26 plus tax - and I only spent that much because I used almost exclusively store-bought flats and splurged on a premium hemp flat and new materials for a bucket washer.  But I also showed that an old undershirt makes a perfectly good diaper, even for overnight heavy wetters (that's what Sunshine wore last night; both the T-shirt and the hemp/bargain combo from the previous night completely held in all leaks).  The fact I already had a Snappi saved me some money; the fact I already had cloth wipes wasn't much of a savings - any old rags work for those. 

But really, if you can buy one pack of 'sposies you can buy enough cloth to get started.  And then the next week, you can buy a few more diapers to ease some of the washing urgency.  And the week after that, you can buy a nicer PUL cover, or whatever you want.  It's just a matter of short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.

It wasn't a perfect week.  Yesterday, Sunshine landed in a 'sposie because her grandmother couldn't figure out the cover and used a diaper from the stash she bought for visiting grandkids instead.  And as I've said before, Pippin didn't really use flats at all and had to use his regular pull-ups a couple of times.

And even after a week, we aren't perfect at using flats.  Between my husband and I, we made a few mistakes partook of some learning experiences.

Such as discovering the importance of  folding in any excess breadth of the "wings" when fastening the diaper...



...or making sure that the last bit of water in the washbucket is directed away from oneself when emptying it.


But mostly, this week just emphasized my opinion that the expensive and fancy cloth diapers are not necessarily better than the cheap ones.  When one looks at washability and convenience, you rarely see one increase save at the expense of the other.  The more convenient (and thus more expensive) diapers, like pockets and all-in-ones, tend not to wash as well as the diapers of simpler construction.  If you have to get diapers on a tight budget, you'll end up with ones that wash really well and don't function any more poorly than the expensive ones.


To me, convenience is largely (but not completely) an illusion of the familiar.  That which is strange will always seem much more inconvenient than it really is.  Cloth seemed inconvenient to me until I actually tried it.  Now it's just part of our routine.  Flats and prefolds likewise seemed inconvenient before I made an honest effort to incorporate them into regular use.  Once I did, I discovered that washability was much more valuable to me than the few seconds I saved by not folding the diapers before use.  That's why they will remain a prominent part of my stash.

My opinions on flats aren't the only ones!  Check out some others with the links below:

1 comments:

  • Amanda | 5/28/2012 2:16 PM

    Great post! I'm glad that you were able to prove that flats really work. I agree that convenience is really the comfort of using what we are familiar with. I use all flats with my daughter except for nighttime, and I never even notice the difference between them and the "fancy" diapers anymore!

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