The non disposable home

When did we all start to take for granted that we just buy something, use it once and then throw it away?

To understand this we need to go back to the war era. As a nation we were told what to do. We had rationing on everything. Everything was in short supply. We had to make things last as we had a book that told us exactly how much food we could have each week and of what type, what type of furniture we could have in our house, what time we had to turn out our lights, who to talk to and about what. We were not quite told when to breathe, but it felt like our every move was controlled. And with no end in sight it must have been a horrendous time to live through. Make do and mend, not out of choice, but out of necessity. And with even the things you could mend with in short supply people became creative. They recycled, used offcuts, nothing went to waste. We became a nation that knew how to make things from nothing.

Then the war ended. Resources were no longer needed to supply our huge war machine. No longer did the nation need to worry about loose tongues and dark skies, but what it did have was a huge number of people who now had skills and abilities and the need to do something.

Women no longer wanted to just be at home. They had found their place in society, they had ambitions. Technology had evolved too. The war had forced it to. And now with no war to fight effort could be put into research on other things. Society wanted change.

This new freedom flourished. Labour saving devices for the modern housewife gave her freedom to do more and get out of the house. New technologies were invested into the home with plastics, televisions and media forging forwards. Pop culture paved the way for a change in society wanting faster food in disposable containers. Prepacked food in shops ready for the modern housewife to cook quickly in her microwave oven. And so it goes on. Make it quicker, make it easier.

This theory was applied to all areas of life. Everything became available in one shot applications. Food, drink, cosmetics, toiletries even disposable clothing. Why not, be modern! The future seemed so far away and the impact of what people were doing so distant. And we all accepted it as companies changed what we had all used for years from glass to metal to plastic. From paper to plastic coated wrap. From loose to pre-packaged. It happened and we did not fight it.

Until now.

Look at your home and see what you have that you have accepted that you really do not need to use as disposable. For instance:

Serviettes instead of kitchen roll

Cloths instead of kitchen roll or plastic/metal scourers

A flannel or makeup pad instead of cotton wool pads

Washable sanitary products/moon cups instead of disposable versions

Learn how to mend your clothes instead of throwing them out. Did you know one of the reasons charity shops say they have clothes donated is because the owner could not sew the button back on! If you cannot do it, ask a friend, I’m sure you have skills you could trade in return.

To make a serviette simply get a fat quarter (square piece of fabric c. 50x50cm) and hem around the edges. Bingo one serviette. No one is going to judge your ability to do straight lines and the hem is just to stop the fabric unravelling over time.

For makeup pads one way to make them is to use a circle or square of old towel and if you like you can cover one side in cotton/flannelette/bamboo or something similar. An old shirt or t. shirt is a good fabric. Cut the two circle to the same size and then join them together around the edge. By hand a blanket stich works well or a zigzag or overlock is good on machine. You can also crochet in fine yarn circular pads.

Here are some patterns for knitted and crocheted dishcloths which work up well in natural cotton, bamboo or similar yarns. Or you could just do what we used to do when I was a child and use old clothes torn into rags. Also perfect for any cleaning job from the bath to the car.

This is a pattern I found for washable sanitary pads. It has a variety of sizes and depending on the number of layers of fabric you use will accommodate different flows. Note – it does not have a seam allowance included.

Enjoy your journey towards being less disposable and don’t forget your shopping bag.

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