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Monday Q&A | Trash Bags, Paper Towels, and Reading Material

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Do you use paper towels? If not, what do you use instead? I realize that rags work fine, but I feel like using Windex and rags to do things like clean counters would use up rags really fast. Not that you’re necessarily wasting, but really, I was just curious.



I actually wrote a post about not using paper towels a little while back (and Apartment Therapy linked to it, which was delightful!), but you know what’s embarrassing? In that post I totally forgot to mention that I use cloth towels. Duh.

In case some of you aren’t feeling inclined to click on over to that post, I’ll just say quickly that I use:

cloth towels for drying purposes (for hands and dishes)

terry washcloths for kitchen wiping purposes (tables, counters, children’s faces)

-rags made from old t-shirts for household wiping (like cleaning glass)

I love my t-shirt rags with all my heart and actually feel that they are way more efficient for glass cleaning than paper towels are. I have to go through oodles of paper towels to clean a sliding glass door, but I can use a single t-shirt rag to do the same job. Plus, they’re softer than most paper towels so I can use them for scratchable surfaces, like my glossy black piano.

Pretty much the only jobs I use paper towels for are draining bacon and other greasy foods and for the occasional household greasy mess (like a WD40 drip). So, a roll lasts for a really, really long time around here and that makes me happy.

I heartily encourage you to try reducing your paper towel usage. It’s really not super hard, it doesn’t produce a ton of extra laundry, and as long as you change out your washcloths and towels every day (make sure they hang to dry overnight), they shouldn’t become gross or funky (if you do experience problems like this, an occasional bleach bath will fix you right up).

I enjoy reading your blog everyday and have almost totally converted to cloth vs. plastic. I have sewn cloth sandwich wraps instead of ziplock sandwich bags, am using mesh bags for purchasing fruit and veggies and use cloth grocery bags….also buying milk in glass returnable jugs BUT what do you use to line your trashcans? I don’t know what to use instead of trashbags !


I think that’s awesome! Yay! I always love to hear how people are reducing their dependence on disposable items.

While I try to do that myself, I do still use plastic bags in my trash cans. I don’t know if that’s the most eco-friendly liner, but I guess I figure that a trash bag is never exactly eco-friendly, seeing as it’s filled with trash! A paper bag is biodegradable, of course, but most trash bags in the landfills don’t get enough light and air to decompose anyways.

So, instead of thinking too hard about what kind of liner I use, I just try really hard to not put stuff in the trash can. I recycle, I compost (this has resulted in a huge trash volume reduction), and I try not to use disposable items when possible.

I’ve always recycled, and I’ve always been fairly prone to staying away from disposable items, but the composting is relatively new to me. Before I started composting a few years back, we had to take out multiple trash bags each week and now that I compost, we usually have only one kitchen-sized trash bag to take out each week. It’s quite amazing!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think you’re definitely on the right track because it sounds like you’re being very intentional about putting fewer things into the trash and that’s what counts more than your trash can liner.

The following question was sent in response to the 365 post that contained a picture of my then-current reading pile, containing The Happiness Project, The Other 8 Hours, and Debt-Proof Living.

These look like good books but what do you read for pleasure?


I actually do tend to read mostly non-fiction books these days. Back when I lived at home and had pretty much only myself to worry about, I was a voracious fiction reader (Jane Eyre is my most favorite book e v e r.). My free time is a lot more limited these days so when I read, I usually feel like I want to read something that will grow me in some way. So, I read the Bible, Christian books like Acceptable Sins, Humility (I read that one at least once a year because I need it!), homeschooling books, and non-fiction books like the ones in the photo.

Interestingly enough, most of my blog reading tends to be much lighter. In fact, I can only think of about one blog I read that is remotely heavy. Which reminds me…I keep meaning to do a post about the blogs that I love and regularly read.

Oh, and when I read aloud to my kids, I mostly read fiction. We’ve been working through the Little House series for a number of years now, and when we finish with that, we’ll go through more fiction books too. I never read productivity books to my children! 😉


Readers, as always, I love to hear your input! Any trash bag suggestions or paper-towel-reduction tips? And am I the only one who reads mostly non-fiction?

Today’s 365 post: Oh, those useful puffet blankets!


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Elaina T

Tuesday 12th of October 2010

Not sure exactly where you live, but there's a grocery store chain here in TX (HEB) that carries trash bags that are made from recycled trash bags. I think Hefty may make something similar as well. It's something to look into. Oh and I just ran across your blog and I LOVE it!!


Wednesday 6th of October 2010

I'd just like to make the case that good fiction DOES help us grow. The purpose of literature is to entertain AND instruct, it teaches empathy by helping us imagine what it's like to be another person. It sheds light, enlarges, gives perspective. At its best, it helps us come out of our own lives and problems and care about others, and thus is vital to our humanity.


Wednesday 6th of October 2010

Yes, that is true and it's why I make sure my kids do plenty of reading.

It's just that at this point in my life, I feel like I desperately need pithy, practical help, and non-fiction books are a good way to get that. lol

I do still expose myself to fiction as I read to my kids, just not to the degree I used to. I think more time for fiction will come along in another stage of life. :)


Tuesday 5th of October 2010

Thanks for answering! Nice to know, but my Dad grows trees for a living, so I doubt I'll be cutting back on my paper towel use anytime soon. ;) But who knows? Maybe it won't be the family business one day!


Tuesday 5th of October 2010

Aaah -- Jane Eyre -- the first "grown-up" book I ever read!! LOVED it, without fully grocking it. Are you a Jane Austen fan, too?? So wonderful! Also, thank you for all the tips on paper/consumption reduction. We are struggling with that here . . .


Monday 4th of October 2010

Linda, the Little House books are sort of half and half. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote down her memories and then her daughter Rose took her notes and embellished them to the point that they became a kind of historical fiction.

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