Breathe.

So many adjustments, right? I already worked from home, but figuring out how to get groceries and other supplies is a bit of a trick. (We’re doing grocery delivery to keep the stores as empty as possible and avoid possibly bringing anything home to my parents.) We already subscribed to Sun Basket and Daily Harvest and we added Misfits Market to get more fresh produce. I am finally getting the hang of using a shopping service and paring the grocery order down to once a week, but there are a few items that are tricky to find right now and it’s amazing how quickly it can stress you out.

Yes, I’m talking about toilet paper. And paper towels. I haven’t the faintest idea why people decided to hoard paper products. (It’s a coronavirus, not dysentery.) But we’ve all seen the clips of folks stampeding through Costco with enough Charmin to handle a platoon’s posterior needs. It’s bananas, and just thinking about running out of something so basic can make you break out in a cold sweat.

So, I started thinking about how to adapt. Most of us load up on paper products without even giving it a second thought–except for the low-waste and zero-waste people. They, along with LOTS of people around the world who don’t have the same cultural practices we do, manage to get along just fine hygienically without using heaps of paper. (And in some cases, far BETTER hygienically.)

In the case of toilet paper, I ordered a bidet bottle and set aside washcloths. It’s straightforward, easy to use, more comfortable, and cheap as hell. It just takes a minute of reordering your thinking. We’ve cut our usage of toilet paper by about 80-90%. If you don’t want to order a bidet bottle–you can find them for about ten bucks online–you can repurpose a VERY clean condiment squeezy bottle. The benefit of a proper bidet bottle is that it has a long wand to make everything easy. Most of us got some version of it free from the hospital after childbirth, so if yours is hanging around, you’re already good to go.

As far as paper towels, I’m saving those for truly icky things–like dog barf. (The puppy likes to eat rabbit scat occasionally and it becomes An Issue. God, dogs can be gross.) Anyway, that’s a particularly smelly situation, and paper towels are a plain old luxury for that. Almost anything else can be done with a rag. To remind us to think about what we’re doing, I moved the paper towels out of sight and left a stack of very clean rags on the counter. I use them for drying off clean produce, wiping up spills, etc. At the end of the day, they get tossed in the wash. It’s working so well, I’ve ordered a stack of eco-friendly reusable cloths specifically for replacing paper towels. (They’ll be a little more durable than the rags we’re making do with now.) They’ll pay for themselves in a month.

I have a lot of pals worried about the tampon situation. If you haven’t looked at other options, there are menstrual cups, reusable pads, and period underwear now–any or all of which might help you feel a little less panicked if you can’t get hold of what you usually use.

If you use makeup remover cloths, you might want to give some thought to a stack of washcloths–pick one color for your facecloths–and a bottle of cleanser instead. Instead of individual plastic bottles of handsoap, look for refill bags or (even better!) bars of soap. After a few years of using plastic laundry detergent pods, I’m heading back to liquid, and I switched awhile back from dryer sheets to woolen dryer balls with a drop of essential oil. (I also put very little in the dryer–just sheets and towels–with everything else being hung to dry or draped over a folding dryer rack I picked up for twenty bucks.) I’m also working through the last of my plastic bags, replacing them with reusable stasher bags.

Tired of using plastic razors and horrified at how STUPIDLY expensive blades have become? Google at home sugaring. It’s something I’m getting ready to try.

So many of the things I stupidly thought I needed were just conveniences I had to figure out how to work around. I have a LONG way to go, but every new choice makes me feel a little more in control right now when so much is completely out of our hands. My next project is going to be making my own yogurt…

For more tips, check out any low-waste or zero-waste blog or these sites with eco-friendly home products:

Eartheasy

Grove Collaborative.