How We Stopped Using Paper Towels (Mostly): Minimalism, Environmentalism, and Marie Kondo

Several months ago, I did what a lot of other people were doing and watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  I was excited for this.  I’ve found great inspiration from cleaning shows before (like the ladies on How Clean is Your House?), and I was eager for some fantastic tips to keep my home pristine.

While I wish there had been more specific tips than the basic mantra of getting rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” it definitely inspired a wave of decluttering and organizing in my home.  Unlike the people on the show, I didn’t do it all in one week!  I’m still working on it, little by little.  It’s more of a lifestyle change than a one-time spring cleaning.  I attack a drawer or a shelf as I have the time, and I’m loving the results.  The areas I’ve Kondo’d are much easier to keep clean, and I never thought I’d be so happy to open my sock drawer every morning.

A month or two later, I happened to watch a documentary simply entitled Minimalism (check out the book that goes along with it here).  I might never have watched it except that I was on a documentary kick at the time.  It only strengthened my urge to get rid of all the extra stuff.  Why keep socks I don’t wear?  Why buy another knickknack to gather dust?  If I buy this thing I think I want, where am I going to put it?  The documentary really spoke to my need for less clutter (both physically and mentally) and more time for the important things in life.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not going too crazy with this stuff.  You won’t find me living in a “tiny house” or traveling across the U.S. with nothing but a toothbrush.

What really hit me while watching Minimalism was the idea (from one of the numerous people interviewed) that often the cheapest way to live is also the best for the environment.  I believe he was referring to having a smaller living space that’s cheaper on climate control and building materials (and therefore more environmentally friendly), but this really struck a chord with me.  I’m all about saving money and saving the planet, and it’s even better to do both at the same time!

I couldn’t say why, exactly, but the first thing I attacked was our paper towel usage.  With a family of five, we go through quite a few of them.  Just for the paper towels we use for napkins with meals, at $0.0139 per sheet, times five people, times three meals a day, times 365 days a year, we’re saving over $75 a year.  And that doesn’t even include paper towels used for cleaning!  Sure, we still buy paper towels for those times when they’re just the perfect solution for a problem, but our output is greatly reduced.  If the 315.41 million Americans who use paper towels (as of 2017) were to stop using them just for napkins at meals, it would save them over 4.8 BILLION dollars.  That’s a lot of cash, people.

For the environmental concerns, I’ll let you read this amazing article with all the details.

Okay, that was a long story to let you know we use cloth napkins and cleaning rags now, but it might not’ve happened otherwise.  Paper towels are just an everyday thing we don’t think about.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we’re creating less waste and saving money, and these napkins truly do spark joy in me every time I grab one.  This idea has led to several other small changes in our lives, which I’ll outline for you soon.

What are your feelings on minimalism, purging, and saving the planet?  I’d love to know, so feel free to comment!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.


Filed under Environment, Finances

8 responses to “How We Stopped Using Paper Towels (Mostly): Minimalism, Environmentalism, and Marie Kondo

  1. Yes, paper towel use has snowballed over the past few years. Not only do they add to deforestation, but also to the recycling need, land fill, and DUST. Has anyone ever noticed how much paper dust is created close to where the rolls are stored and torn off?

  2. Prosperity

    You should check out the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I couldn’t stand the show but I absolutely loved the book. As far as the cloth napkin approach, I had thought of doing that a few times – do you use the same napkin multiple times or just once then put it in a bin to be washed? Or does it vary?

    • Thanks, I’ll be sure to check out the book! Honestly, I use the napkins several times before washing them. It seems a waste to wash them after just one little dab, so I leave it at my place until the next meal. Of course, some meals are more meat than others!

  3. Hi Ashley, I’m sure paper towel manufacturers are shuddering at this article. Cloth napkins are Such a good idea and so simple. Also I don’t know about where you live, but in my area Paper towels do not recycle so I’ve cut back my usage for that reason as well.

    • Thank you! You know, I didn’t even realize paper towels could be recycled until I started doing research for this article. We have very limited recycling in our rural area, so it’s definitely not an option for us!

  4. That cat is awesome! My son used to do that on our stairs when they were covered with nasty orange carpet.

  5. I’ve always been obsessed with my impact on the environment, and yet, I am still discovering the odd idea now and again. One thing that gives me joy every time I use them is the dish clothes (about 15 x 15 cm) I’ve made from an old bath towel that had a few holes in it. No more of those horrible sponges you can’t keep clean and have to throw away after just a few weeks! Doing the dishes is now guilt free 🙂

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