Simple, attainable ways to reduce waste at home

Almost 10 years ago I made a few simple changes to our daily life that I hoped would allow us to reduce our paper consumption and waste in our home. What started with a simple step in a reduction in consumables, simply became a way of life.

The incomparable Susan from House of Brinson reached out to a few of us home design bloggers to share “one small thing” we are doing to be more environmentally conscious or health conscious. I knew it was time to share our story about how one small change has impacted our family and hopefully, our environment for the better.

The decision to go paperless.

On February 26, 2010, back when my blog was about scrapbooking and our daily life as a family, I wrote a rambling blog post about veggie burgers, my “one little word” of the year, and how we were moving towards a paperless home.

Basket of napkins kept handy make the transition to a paperless home easy.

I talked about how it felt like a big investment to purchase over two dozen cloth napkins to have enough for our family to use nightly. I recounted how I watched and waited for the napkins I had picked out to go on clearance at Target.

Over 9 years later, we are still virtually paperless and we still have those brown and red napkins. We use them on nights when our meal is particularly drippy or messy. (Think barbecue chicken, spaghetti, tacos.) I would say they were a very wise investment.

I’m not a math whiz by any stretch of the imagination, but I did a little calculating. Just using the very minimal number of one napkin a day, for 4 people, over the past 9 years, we have easily saved the world from the disposal of 13,140 paper napkins!

how to reduce paper consumption at home

Having had a nearly paper free kitchen for this long, I have a few helpful tips to make this transition as painless as possible.

Use cloth napkins to reduce waste in your home.
A peek inside our napkin drawer.

Tips for a paper napkin free home.

  • You can go all in and buy two dozen napkins or feel free to start small and ease the transition. The most important thing is to start.
  • Going paperless by using cloth napkins will require a small investment. Use your savvy shopper skills to find cloth napkins on clearance at HomeGoods or on Amazon. I will link to a few of my favorites below.
  • Even if you think you want all white napkins, buy some in dark colors. The whites don’t always bleach the way you think they might. The red and brown napkins look worn in the same way a beautiful old antique cabinet does. They are super soft and show no signs of stains. Conversely, the whites tend to look dingy quicker than you’d imagine. I recycle them once they look tired for use in the garage.
  • Consider monograming or stamping an initial for each family member on several napkins. If a napkin isn’t soiled after a meal it can be reused by the same family member later. I know this might sound a little icky, but if you can’t remember if the napkin was even used, you’ll know who it belongs to so you can keep it out of the laundry for at least one more night.
  • Going paperless eventually saves you money as it saves the environment. It’s also one less thing to remember to buy at the grocery store!
Keep cloth napkins easily accessible to reduce paper waste at home.

For the naysayers. Overcoming the obstacles to reducing waste at home.

  • This does not have to be an “all or nothing” Zero Waste type of commitment. When we host over 10 or 12 family or friends, I buy paper napkins. I have found people to be a bit uncomfortable creating so much laundry after an event.
  • The amount of extra laundry created by the napkin is nearly negligible. I have never had to wash a separate load just for napkins. My family would be the first to tell you I suck at laundry. But I will admit it does take time to fold them. Just turn on your favorite channel and mindlessly fold them.
  • Decide to embrace the wrinkles. They will curl, turn up this way and that, but it is totally fine. I have not tried line drying them but this might help.
  • Eventually, someone will think you are trying to be fancy by giving them a cloth napkin on a Tuesday afternoon, or whatever. If you heed the point above, the wrinkly napkins will become proof that this is just how you function now.

Next, try reducing consumption of paper towels.

In the blog post I spoke of earlier, I also shared about how I wanted to reduce our reliance on paper towels.

I just recently had to buy more supplies to keep this habit going. (I think all of the renovating took a toll on our microfiber and cleaning towels. Not one of our towels could be found recently.) I actually missed having a variety of these cloths handy. Each cloth serves a different purpose and are quite efficient at what they do.

Clean windows with reusable cloths dedicated to window cleaning.

Tips for paperless cleaning

  • Store your paper towels under the sink. Remove the temptation to easily grab a paper towel.
  • Use a glass cleaning cloth for cleaning windows, mirrors and glass furniture tops. These are my favorite and are far superior to a paper towel. No lint and easier to get a dry surface which is key for a streak-free finish.
  • Microfiber cloths are great for dusting and general cleaning. The ones you see below, with the pattern embossed, are designed to help scrub surfaces better without scratching.
  • There are also cloths specifically designed to clean stainless steel. The right cloth for the right job makes all the difference.
  • The one thing I never clean with a cloth is meat spills. Avoiding cross-contamination and smelly laundry is a must.
Microfiber cleaning cloths help reduce waste at home

I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite cloths below. I especially liked these eCloths. Those were the first types of cloths we tried. I picked up the cloths above from Target recently.

Below are commissioned based affiliate links used to help support the blog and allow for the creation of the content provided here.

Shop my Favorites

Chemical Free Cleaning ClothsChemical Free Cleaning ClothsChemical Free Cleaning ClothsSwedish DishclothsSwedish DishclothsSwedish DishclothsKitchen Scrubbing PadKitchen Scrubbing PadKitchen Scrubbing PadShades of Grey Microfiber ClothsShades of Grey Microfiber ClothsShades of Grey Microfiber ClothsCotton Napkins / More ColorsCotton Napkins / More ColorsCotton Napkins / More Colors


Deciding to reduce our paper consumption seemed like a big task 9 years ago. But really it was just “One Small Thing”, one small decision to personally do something good for our environment. Imagine if we all made a simple decision to change what we can in our own little worlds.

Thanks to Susan, for inviting us to share our “One Small Thing”. Below are a list of bloggers joining this initiative. They each have a unique perspective on this topic. Definitely worthy reads!

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  • [email protected]
    July 31, 2019 at 6:37 am

    hi leslie,
    great reminder to repurpose! love it! laura

  • Kathy
    August 2, 2019 at 8:02 am

    This is so something I could do!! Love the creative idea about initialing the cloth napkins.

    Do you use cloth to clean bathrooms? (Toilets)

  • CBD California
    June 18, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Your information was very helpful. In today’s world, recycling waste has become a very important habit. Taking care of our earth and future is essential. Thanks for the tips! They are very helpful. 


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