Less Waste: Cloth Diapering with Esembly

This post is in partnership with Esembly, an organic and sustainable company dedicated to making cloth diapering accessible to all families. As a beginner parent, I found the notion of using reusable diapers as both endearing and scary. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure we could navigate this new world of child-rearing while holding onto our ideals of less waste. However, Esembly has put those worries to rest with their easy cloth-diapering system. I wanted to take a few moments to share with my audience what they have to offer. We now look forward to our diapering days with excitement and I hope you do too. If you wish to try Esembly, make sure to check out the 20% discount code at the end of the post (valid until January 30, 2023).

We have decided to take on the challenge of cloth diapering. Pursuing a life of less waste, we teeter-tottered between convenient and conscientious and decided on the latter. When I researched options for cloth diapering, I was dismayed to find that services available to big-city dwellers in New York are not readily so in our remote area. Luckily, Esembly has created a cloth diapering system that would work well, as long as we took to the laundering ourselves.

I figured, my two siblings and I were cloth diapered 100%, back when linen loincloths were the only option and our parents had to hand-wash whites in a drum. Paddles were used to slap the cloths clean and bleach was occasionally called upon to keep them white. Fast forward 33 years to automatic washers and innovation. Cloth diapering has come a long way! I am excited to give Esembly’s Try-It Kit a go. And to share with you guys what their well-thought-out system has to offer.

The Impact of Cloth Diapering

First and foremost, let’s talk impact. There are 11.4 million babies in the United States according to a 2022 census. An average infant uses 55 diapers a week. This amounts to 627 billion diapers entering the landfills per week. This also equates to 2,860 diapers per infant per year. Compare that to 48 Esembly diapers for an infant’s entire diapering saga.

Even if environmental impact wasn’t enough to make poopy diapers enticing, there are also dollars savings to be considered. If you purchased the cheaper brands on Amazon, it would still cost thousands of dollars to get your baby through to potty training. Shall you choose to purchase Earth-saving bamboo diapers or healthier, chemical-free alternatives, the price you’d be paying can so much as double or triple. Lastly, cloth-diapering isn’t as scary as it seems!

Esembly’s Cloth Diapering System

Esembly’s cloth diapering system is organic and sustainable. It was designed with parents in mind. The company wanted to take the edge off of cloth-diapering in general, which is stigmatized as being a hassle and downright gross. However, by simplifying the steps, Esembly has managed to make it fun and stress-free. Arming parents with the right products to turn this venture into a wild success story, Esembly has lowered the bar to access cloth diapering for people who live outside of big cities and who have had zero experience with cloth diapering in the past.

Pre-prepared bundles make purchasing easier for those wishing to cloth-diaper full-time, part-time, or simply give it an experimental whirl. Or you can take the Esembly quiz if you want a custom-fit solution. A subscription model also allows products to magically appear on your doorstep as you need them.

Additional Cloth Diapering Accessories

Multiple accessories make the laundering process more manageable. A diaper pail by way of a bag can hang from the back of a door, in the laundry room, or go directly into a sturdier option such as this Dekor Pail. A pail deoderant keep smells at bay until laundry day. Esembly users swear by the detergent and agitators that turn poopy diapers into unsoiled reusable cloths. And if you breastfeed like we plan to, the clean up is even easier as breastfed babies make biodegradable poop. However, poops must be thrown own before soiled diapers enter the pail once formula and solids are introduced.

Another thing I love about Esembly is that they are organic. Esembly diapers have less reactions than other disposable brands which may contain chemicals. Esembly also provides an array of skincare products for your babe such as rash relief cream and everyday balm. Reusable, sturdy cloth wipes are available to wipe away messes with ease.

Less Stress with Esembly

There is an argument to be had for cloth diapering, and that is one that relates to a life of less stress. With the right system in place, cloth diapering shouldn’t be too different from using disposable nappies. For fully breastfed babies, there is no need to clean the diaper at all. Simply remove and store in the diaper pail until laundry day. Wipe bums with their foaming cleanser and reusable wipes, and place a new inner. Wash all used inners, outers, wipes and diaper pail on laundry day. Just throw everything in the drum!

Another thing cloth diapering does is lower the cost of child-rearing. Forty-eight reusable diapers until potty training is all one needs. Cost reduction of child-rearing goes a long way in reducing overall stress in a growing family. Any opportunity wherein we can cut costs further enables us to work less and spend more time at home. And with Esembly’s subscription system, there is no need to run to the mart for detergent, wipes, or additional diapers!

Of course, all of this with the caveat that we are still awaiting the arrival of our newborn. But with excitement and gusto! Like all other things in life, we embrace the challenge of navigating cloth diapering. I feel much better and well-equipped with Esembly. And truly, Esembly aligns with our family’s values of intentional living, less waste, and simple living. I’ll be sure to circle around with a final evaluation in a few month’s time.

In the meantime, my audience with newborns or expecting family growth can start cloth diapering with Esembly today. Esembly is gifting my audience 20% off with the code THEDEBTIST on Esembly products purchased via my affiliate link until January 30, 2023. If unsure of your commitment, I highly recommend starting with the Try-It kit.

Intentional Living: Christmas Returns

I wanted to share the story of the Christmas gift that I purchased for Mikey last month. It was a fairly expensive piece of coffee equipment called the Ratio 6 (affiliate link should you choose to try it). It has been raved about by coffee addicts for being a drip machine that produces pour-over-quality coffee. We’ve been dying to try it for ages, but the high price point prevented us from buying it. Finally, I decided a joint Christmas/Anniversary gift would justify the splurge. However, the purchase did not go as planned.

We tried the Ratio 6 the week after Christmas. It looked gorgeous on our countertop. Easy to use, we thought this would be the perfect coffee maker for when the baby arrives. As we hope to have help in the form of grandparents, we figured that our community would involve a lot of people needing caffeine. It was a gift that we hoped would give to others.

And it made stellar coffee. Just as people said it would. However, the one part we didn’t like about it is the way the kettle poured the coffee. It splashed and gurgled due to an odd interior design. The anatomy of the spout had a lip that caused a bump during the pour. It was a mess to serve coffee from. Because of that one flaw, we decided to return it.

I don’t share this story to promote a snobbish sense of character. But the machine cost an arm and a leg, and the value just wasn’t there. In terms of functionality, it didn’t deliver the ease of use we wanted. So, we ended up trading it in for a standard Mr. Coffee machine that cost a tenth of the price. We figured that the purpose was to make big batches of joe that would sustain our community of baby helpers. We compromise by using quality coffee and water to begin with, and settle with less than pour-over standards for the sake of convenience. Plus, we saved a lot of money.

There was a time when I would have kept the machine. It would have photographed well. It would have made good coffee. People would have oohed and aahed. And I’ve been wanting it for a while. Previous me would use my want as justification enough to keep it. But I have since moved on to a more intentional lifestyle.

The power of intentionality requires that we make decisions based on value. We did not keep the machine because of a singular flaw. But for me, if it isn’t 100%, it isn’t anything at all. Some would overlook a short-coming so “minor”. I mean, it made dang good coffee at the push of a button. I give it cred. However, I saw the “minor flaw” as a reminder, as well as a relearning of a lesson. We can choose to spend our money on things other people convince us is “worth it”. But if you yourself don’t believe it to be true, have the courage to walk away. The media will sell. The group will convince you otherwise. Remember this: don’t waste your time on things that fall short. Life will not wait.

Unembarrasing Tips for Decluttering Christmas Gifts

  • Return for cash or credit.
  • Regift to others.
  • Resell on Poshmark or Craisglist.
  • List on your local Buy Nothing Group

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

New Year Changes and Expectations

I spent much of the end of 2022 hibernating. It was an intentional choice to focus on family and self during the busiest season of the year. One that paid off! Instead of feeling haggard, my eyes are well-rested and my heart feels grounded. It wasn’t easy. I said no to many occasions in order to reserve my energy. But this is kind of how it’ll go moving forward, as we are expecting changes in 2023.

In April, we have a stork scheduled to deliver us a babe. Hopefully one that’s healthy and happy, pretty and petite (for my sake!). But whatever ends up arriving at our doorstep will be well-loved by us. In lieu of New Year Goals, I instead pondered, wrestled with, and tweaked my expectations. I know it’ll be a practice, just like everything else.

As with most mothers, I suspect the focus will shift away from the “me” to the “we”. In an effort to mentally prepare, I have been repeating to myself the following mantra: “Que sera, sera”. Not entirely ready to give up goals just yet, I have made them open-ended instead. In fielding other people’s inquiries about when I will return to work and what I plan to do with raising a wee one, I’ve responded with “We’ll see”. I have hopes to breast-feed and cloth-diaper, but am open to the possibility that either or neither may work out. Down goes all my walls of structure. Up goes my fastidiousness. Cling loosely to all expectations. We have yet to choose the name.

I guess the biggest change of all (if not my pants size and my body weight), is the fact that I must let go of who I once thought I was. The defining parts of myself that exist because of my accomplishments, my career, my past … Instead I myself am reborn into the most base part of me. When the world stops spinning, you are only left with yourself. And that’s kind of what happens when a baby is born, isn’t it? The world just stops.

2023 will change our lives, that much we know. I’m just grateful to have good people around me for support.

My Free Advent Calendar 2022

I spent a lovely weekend refining this season’s advent calendar. Unlike one purchased from a grocery store, chalk-full of chocolates, treats, or tiny trinkets, mine is of the free and freeing variety. I have loved the challenge of creating a frugal holiday season for years now and once before published an advent calendar idea in this space. Instead of items, my calendar is self-made and filled with activities. More specifically… it’s a collection of errands focused on slowing down. I call it an ode to ending the year just right. In an effort to avoid the bustle that sweeps away our last few months from us (poof! there it goes again!), I created a list of things I want to ensure I do before the year’s end. Consider it a dedication to standing by how we as a family want to live our lives.

This year’s advent calendar looks a bit like this:

  1. Jacuzzi dip on a cold winter evening.
  2. Bake rice crispy treats for nostalgia’s sake.
  3. Head to the Hilltop Hangout to celebrate with neighbors and food trucks.
  4. Do a pre-work bagel run with Mikey.
  5. Check out the Holiday Market in Lights. See what the local artists are selling, listen to the carolers and consume wild amounts of hot cocoa and donuts.
  6. Make peppermint syrup.
  7. Watch an old Christmas movie and pop some corn.
  8. Play a boardgame by the tree.
  9. Pick oranges from the groves and make orange ornaments out of them.
  10. Attend a friend’s holiday party.
  11. View the local holiday lights while sipping on hot chocolate.
  12. Order to-go dinner on a busy weeknight and eat by candlelight.
  13. Make holiday themed pancakes.
  14. Decorate a gingerbread house.
  15. Do a family hike or some other outdoor activity.
  16. Christmas gathering with my side of the family.
  17. Bake cinnamon rolls.
  18. Make cookies for the neighbors.
  19. Deliver said cookies.
  20. Puzzle party in pajamas.
  21. Get a spa treatment with a friend.
  22. Turn up the records.
  23. Schedule a breakfast pastry and coffee gathering at our house.
  24. Call my sister and parents who will be in Spain for Christmas.

Photo by Dari lli on Unsplash

Holiday Greeting Cards By Mail

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

It’s almost November and you might call me Filipino when I say that it’s almost Christmas time, but that I very well am. My family sends their wishlists as early as October and put up the tree in time for our Thanksgiving meal. It’s also the appropriate time to start thinking about mailing your holiday post.

Now Mike and I have never been one for sending holiday Christmas cards. But I remembered jostling my sister aside as a kid when we collected mail from the box. I begged to be the one to open the brightly colored cards that showed up on our door. In the entryway, my mom hung a card holder that collected photographs of friends and family I barely knew. I skimmed past mementos written in old-school cursive. I preferred running my fingers through the thick cardstock embossed with foil. Faces stared back at me as I tried to decipher their connection to my parents. I also enjoyed seeing the outfits and the poses.

Mike and I have never sent Christmas cards of the ordered variety. Mostly because of the cost to mail and my perfectionist need for a professional photograph, which we don’t have. But my recent feeling of loss for tradition has me re-thinking cards this year. Our friends are of the digital age. For our first Christmas together I sent emails with wedding photos talking about our first year of marriage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same effect as a basket of cardstock.

On our sixth year of marriage, I am thrilled at the chance to send couples christmas cards with Basic Invite. Because not everyone you love lives nearby. My sister in Madrid will undoubtedly appreciate the cheeky smiles. And my brother in Arizona may hang it up on the fridge with a magnet. Or at least his girlfriend will. An aunt who never fails to include us will also likely collect it on a basket that sits on her mantle.

Card creation with Basic Invite was easy. I’ve since let go of my perfectionist ideals when it comes to photographs. I chose a few of our adventures in Spain and Iceland, as well as a wedding pic from Temecula earlier this year. Attired in shorts, rain jackets, and sunnies, I’ve grown to like that our smiles match our frazzled hair. Far from prim and proper, we are genuine in our happiness and that’s all that matters these days.

On Basic Invite, cute options abound with their customizable templates. I like photo cards the best so that was the section I perused. Once you’ve chosen one to your liking, it’s as easy as modifying the text and uploading a photograph. Card and envelope colors are customizable. With over 180 card colors and 40 envelope colors, Basic Invite stands apart from other companies in that they truly do give variability.

Whether your looking for holiday cards to ring in your first married year, or a place to make dachshund christmas cards (please send your pet sitter one!), you’ll find it here. And if you’re reading this with your eyes rolling to the back of your head because it’s just too darn early, no worries. Basic Invite allows you to send your cards directly from their site to the recipient. Typing in a personal message is optional but doable, and it’ll save the lag time of them shipping it to you for a personal autograph. Procrastinators rejoice, you can wait until early December to revisit this post.

For early birds such as myself, there is enough time to order custom samples. Meaning, you can create a card and order a sample so you can feel the paper quality in your hands and make sure you are satisfied with the print, prior to ordering final product. An option would be to send a custom sample to your home, and then send the real deal from the site directly to your loved ones after approval. Recipient address printing is included for all cards, at no cost. And in order to make your holiday a wee bit simpler, an address capturing service allows you to link to your social media account and gather addresses from your friends and family that way. The site will store it for you, making your next holiday to-do a click away.

Right now Basic Invite is offering 15% off with coupon code: 15FF51. With Basic Invite, it’s not too early and won’t be too late.

My Favorite Books on Simple Living

Simple living has transformed my life. I initially was attracted to it because of the financial benefits of owning less and doing less. We are on a financial journey, after all! But after reading about it, I became obsessed with the thought of simplicity. Looking back, I have always been a simple person. I love that this lifestyle reduces stress, anxiety, clutter, spending, and the busy-ness that has pervaded my life. In its wake, simple living left me with peace, joy, clarity, and validation of who I am at my core. I can’t believe I haven’t created a round-up yet of my favorite books on simple living, but here they are.

Top books on Simple Living

  1. Simple Matters by Erin Boyle
  2. Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki
  3. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  4. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
  5. Do Less by Kate Northrup
  6. Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary
  7. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
  8. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  9. Kinfolk Home
  10. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I have read all of these books, although they are not in any particular order. Some of these authors were really good, and I’ve got my eyes set on a few new releases, as well as books I haven’t yet had the time to read. These include:

  • Hello Habits by Fumio Sasaki
  • Destination Simple by Brooke McAlary
  • Simple Living by Julia Watkins
  • Simplicity at Home by Yumiko Sekine

I hope you’ve found these lists useful. Simple living is one of the tactics we have used to tackle our $575k student loan debt. It has been instrumental in getting us this far. Paying down debt isn’t exactly the most sustainable task, but with simple living, we have been able to do it with success!

Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

Forest-free Flushing with Cloud Paper

We started our green journey back in 2018. If I am being completely honest, our efforts are as much about reducing waste as it is about saving money. I have talked before about nixing paper towel use altogether, as well as using bidets to clean bums without paper. But 100% abstinence from waste is simply exhausting. Despite my environmental efforts, I have learned that grace is a big part of sustainable living. So although zero one-time-use paper products are ideal, perfection isnt the goal. Risking talking about paper ad nauseum, I want to revisit with a new option for a forest-free flush: Cloud Paper.

What is Cloud Paper?

Cloud Paper provides soft, strong, and sustainable paper that can withstand the toughest of jobs. Their paper is made from bamboo, the fastest growing plant in the world. It grows up to 3 feet per day! In addition, it is efficient at sequestering massive amounts of carbon during its growth. Bamboo reaches harvest maturity in just three years, unlike trees which could take decades. And unlike trees, bamboo does not need to be replanted once harvested, as it continues to grow just like grass does!

Why is Cloud Paper Better?

Traditional toilet paper companies source their paper from old-growth forests. These trees are essential to existing eco-systems. Deforestation of these areas affect more than just the trees themselves. Not to mention, big trees are crucial for storing enormous amounts of carbon. Switching to bamboo keeps these forests intact!

Cloud paper arrives at your door in fully compostable and recyclable packaging. Each toilet roll is individually wrapped in paper, protecting it from the environment during storage. The box does not have excess plastic packaging or bubble wrap!

And Cloud Paper makes it easy with their subscription system. You never have to run to the store for ’emergencies’ ever again. Managing a subscription is as easy as going online and signing into your account. Once you place your first order, they will send an ‘account activation’ to your email. After that, it will automatically ship to your house at whatever interval you choose. If you worry about receiving an unwanted batch, rest assured. Cloud Paper will send confirmation emails three days prior to shipment.

Cloud Paper’s Impact

As a young paper company, Cloud Paper has already saved 17,208 trees and planted 6,912 trees. They work with One Tree Planted to fund reforestry projects in the Pacific Northwest. They also have partnered with CarbonFund to 2x offset all carbon emissions from transportation through reforestation programs. The Natural Resources Defense Council releases an annual report that ranks toilet paper brands by sustainability. This year, Cloud Paper got the highest score possible for bamboo-based paper. Lastly, they have partnered with Food Lifeline to distribute over 120,000 donated rolls to food banks and shelters throughout their community.

If your community is in need, you can always reach out to them at hello@cloudpaper.com.

And if you shop Cloud Paper in July, you can receive 10% OFF with the code CLOUD10. This offer is valid 7/1/22 to 7/31/22. Purchasing through my links could result in me receiving a small commission. Cloud Paper kindly gifted me their product to try, but all opinions are my own.

Natural Nail Rituals with Bare Hands

I have always loved simplicity and a humble aesthetic. Even when it comes to fashion and beauty, I lean towards function and comfort. It has to look good too, but we can all find beauty in the mundane, everyday things. I have a penchant for the unappreciated as you may well know. So it’s only natural that my interest was piqued when I came across the brand Bare Hands, founded by Suzanne Shade who hopes to create an alternative to routine manis and pedis. Finally, I found a person glorifying the beauty of our nails’ most natural state.

We are not taught to love natural nails.

When I was young and going to dental school, there was a cardinal rule that applied only to women: Nails must not be painted with chemical color lest someone has an allergic reaction to any ingredient. I remember the rule feeling constrictive as a twenty-something year old female. Friends my age were just making their first paychecks, and taking care of themselves through manicures and pedicures. Attending social gatherings where girls were dolled up, sipping cocktails with their glossy nails made me feel what Anna Delvey would only describe as ‘poor‘.

I was embarrassed by my naked nails. They looked grungy after working with putty, plaster, and stone all week. My nails were dull, ragged, and downright ugly. I caught myself occasionally hiding them in my pockets or under the table. When Friday came around, I reserved an hour in the evening to paint them, only to remove the color by Sunday night. There was no way I could afford a mani/pedi, which runs at around $50 with tip. Beauty, it turns out, can also be expensive.

But the definition of beauty is changing.

Historically the idea of beauty has been elevated to unnatural levels. For some women, that also makes it unattainable. Just like makeup hides our natural facial features, polish hides our natural nails. We are always told to hide. Or reach for better. We are never enough.

The problem with covering ourselves in paint and powder is that we create a facade that’s a difficult standard to maintain. It complicates things. It keeps us from doing real work. More importantly, it keeps us from being ourselves.

I am grateful to see a shift in that thinking.

Simplicity is beautiful.

There is beauty in simplicity. We see that today, as more people turn towards minimalism, slow living, and intentional lifestyle choices. It started with the popularization of a natural looking brow. Then followed the revered diastema, a gap between the front two teeth. Makeup became more neutral as fashion styles veered towards chromophobia. Today, the rich aesthetic encompasses those along the greige spectrum of browns and greens. Think of stone-colored Porsches and neutral Yeezies. And we see this aesthetic translating to the nail industry.

Enter the era of natural nails.

Bare Hands is a brand revamping what the nail industry would consider beautiful. Gone are the days of bright colored polish, long fake nails, and glittery coats. If it isn’t neutral, it just isn’t posh. At least, that is the current consensus. But what of unpolished nails altogether? Suzanne has created a natural, healthy, and sustainable method for nail care.

As a dentist, baker, and dog-walker, having painted nails is problematic most of the time. And while I love getting fancy with my collection of curated J. Hannah polishes, I go without polish for more than half of the month for the sake of simplicity. Painted nails chip on oft used hands. Moreover, no one wants synthetic oils in their mouths or their dough. For many us who work in kitchens, studios, farms, and medical offices, painted nails are just not a sustainable option.

Additionally, maintenance is a pain. The amount of time it takes to put on and take off polish is significant if you add on dry-time. If you paint your nails weekly, this could be one and a half hours per week spent on upkeep. And it is expensive. Some women have reported spending $200 a month or more on nail care alone!

Suzanne created an alternative.

Suzanne is a woman after my own heart. She has always loved the look of natural nails. And as a frugalist, she could not fathom spending a fortune to keep up with the Joneses’ social standards. Her penchant for bare nails stems from her studies in art school. After learning that certain oil-based paints are not healthy for fine art use, she started to question why it was accepted for nail color.

So began her quest to get to the root cause of why women feel the need to paint their nails. Part of it is social, yes. Seeing others at that heightened level of beauty is a factor. However, she also discovered that most women simply did not like the appearance of their nails. And none of them had methods to care for it in a natural way.

Take me for example. Every week, I am baking sourdough, working on a farm, doing dentistry, and picking up dog poop. My hands take a beating. My nails are shot. It’s easier to cover up all that wear and tear. Polish is my pretend way of making my nails pretty. But after discovering the Dry Gloss Manicure from Bare Hands, I no longer have to hide.

The Dry Gloss Manicure by Bare Hands

The Dry Gloss Manicure kit is very simple and easy to use. A tutorial on their website taught me how to use it within minutes. The routine includes caring for your cuticles, buffing your nails to reveal a natural shine, and moisturizing with a citrine oil. You can soften the cuticles using sugar and coconut oil, ingredients already in your kitchen pantry. The kit provides a unique buffing tool and a citrine oil pen packaged in a beautiful leather case, shipped without plastic in a cardboard box.

I have actually made a habit of using the dry gloss manicure each night while I am watching TV or listening to a podcast. It has made a huge difference. I admire my nails often nowadays. I open my palm and try to catch a glint of natural light. On top of that, I am obsessed with the citrine oil, that I just might buy a bottle of it by itself from the site. It smells amazing and really moisturizes the dry skin around my nails!

Join the Movement

I think it’s time we embrace natural nails. Doing so will not only save us time and money, it will also save us from the related stresses. Namely, we no longer have to keep up with the Joneses, limit our movements and tasks, and hold ourselves to an impossible standard. We can embrace ourselves, do more of what we love, and feel confident in our skin.

Deep, deep gratitude to Suzanne for allowing me to try the Dry Gloss Manicure kit. As always, the thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to try the manicure yourself, feel free to use my code DEBTIST15 to receive 15% off all products. This is a one-time use code per person, and any links provided in this post are tied to my audience, although I earn no money from them. There is also a newly released Natural Pedicure Set which has a verbena balm for your heels. I can only imagine it being as lovely as the citrine oil. These two are great small gestures for the hard-working girlfriends in your life, but if you wish, there is a Mani Pedi Pairing that makes a grand gift. It also saves you $6 by buying the combo.