solutions for modern living

I took the season’s first outdoor shower this week. In “the pirate’s life for me” I might have mislead you into believing that we have no showers at all where I live, just champagne and bathtubs and dirt under our finger nails. We have those things too. But in the spring- time, we can stop showering at the gym and start showering outside, if you like that sort of thing. Showering, I mean.

Showering outside is one of those things that sounds like nothing special, or that maybe even sounds a little unpleasant. But then you actually do it and the birds are singing and the leaves on the maple tree above you are bright green and you sit outside in the sun to dry, and it just feels so good.

It goes something like this. Take a wooden pallet for the floor, build some walls out of some other stuff you found in the trash, and hang up a watering can and a curtain if you’re shy. Then you can heat up some water, put it in the watering can, and there’s your shower. Last year one of the showers (I think we have three) had a regular shower spout that you could attach the hose too. Those were the coldest showers I’ve ever taken. I didn’t shower much that summer.

I’ve heard a lot of fancy stories about fancy solar showers. Black bags that you hang up in trees a few hours pre-shower to warm up in the sun. Then, BAM, open the valve and warm shower. But fancy solar contraptions always seem to cost a lot of money–part of the whole “green consumer trend” whose ultimate goal is not sustainable living, but higher sales figures–and people throw away watering cans and pallets and old curtains all the time.

We become conscious of our bodies during puberty and learn that we smell bad, learn that if we buy shampoo and soap and perfume and lotions and makeup and mouth wash, if we primp and brush and wash enough, then people will like us, that we won’t have to feel embarrassed. So we learn to feel embarr- assed in the first place, and we read mag- azines devoted to teaching us how to cover up our smells and our hair and our flaws. They should be teaching us how to love our smells and our hair, that we have no flaws, that people smell like people for a reason, that people have hair for a reason.

I stopped wearing deodorant four years ago. The next year I stopped shaving my armpits. Then I stopped showering regularly, and now I don’t even shave my legs (that was some seriously deep conditioning and it was really hard to get rid of, tell you what). Now I don’t even use laundry detergent. You’re probably going to laugh and point and call me a dirty hippy (yeah, you were probably already doing that), but I use “wash nuts”–put six nut shells in a bag in the washing machine and your clothes come out smelling like absolutely nothing at all. I don’t want to smell like somebody else’s idea of pleasant. I want to smell like me, and I don’t really care if you like it. Actually, I do because smells are there to attract and repel us, so if you don’t like they way I smell, you probably wouldn’t have liked me anyway.

When I think about the people who shower every single day (and the fact that I used to be one of them), my mouth drops open. Where did I find the time? How many gallons of water was I washing down the drain every week? How many gallons of chemical soap shampoo shit did I rub into my pores? Wasn’t my skin all dry and itchy all the time? (Oh, yeah, I bought lotions to take care of that.) I must have smelled awful. Of course now, that is what other people are saying about me.

0 Comments on “solutions for modern living

  1. In theory you could leave a black watering can in the sun, or paint a watering can black, and get the same effect. The black bag concept is just to absorb the heat from the sun to heat the water- solar water heaters (in their simplest form) are actually ridiculously easy to construct for this reason. You could build a rain water solar heated shower with a decent amount of pressure with a little ingenuity… potentially warm enough for winter showers, even, and the water is free (from the sky!).

  2. How funny (and sad!) that I haven’t smelled you in almost four years! And I don’t remember what you smelled like (it was in DA’s, so for all I know you smelled like beer, drunk people, tears, and dirty floors).

  3. ts–thanks for pointing out what i forgot to mention: solar shit is really easy to build yourself from trash. like everything! hurray!

    jill–it is a shame! will you be repelled? disgusted? astounded that i actually don’t smell very bad at all? hahaha.

    and since i think it might interest a few other people as well, i wanted to answer your email question here too

    Q: “I’m intrigued by this lack-of-laundry detergent idea. What kind of nutshells do you use, and what kind of bag do you put them in? I assume this method does not help remove actual dirt from clothing, no?”

    A:i am not sure exactly what kind of tree these nuts are from, but i am under the impression that they grow in africa. if anyone has one of these trees, please send seeds because i really, really, really want one. i liberated a big bag of them from the fancy health food store in town. the bag you get at the store is just full of the shells (i wonder if you can eat the nuts too?) and you can put them in any sort of cloth bag (they give you a few tiny linen bags in the pack), or even just in a tied-off sock. you could put them directly in with your laundry, but then it’s hard to find them again and you can wash up to 15 loads with one little bag of six shells. (they say up to 5 loads on the package, but i have experiemented and found that it’s more like 15.) and they do actually get dirt out of clothes as they create a slightly soap-similar whatever the hell in the water. no shining whites or anything, but coffee stains, dirt stains, tomato sauce, all the usual stuff that ends up all over whatever i’m wearing by noon, is always gone after a wash.

  4. I think you’re talking about these nuts:

    Seems like an interesting thing. And they’re from India, not Africa. Unfortunately the German article says since the use in Europe is increasing, the prices in India increased between 2003 and 2008 by factor 6 and people there have to use cheap chemical washing powder. Seems like everything has a bad side too…

  5. hey,

    found you through carrotquinn…I’ve only read one log entry and I already know I’m going to like you!!! Yay for not showering or shaving – I’ve just spent a month on a farm in spain with no showers and it was great – you learn to really appreciate a good pit smell after a while!

    I’m off to read your archives…stories about squats and hitchiking? Love it…

  6. i received an email from my mother asking that we shower & wash our clothes as soon as got to her house. two weeks of mostly daily showers later, & we finally left & get to smell normal again. i’m going to write more about this sometime. i find it fascinating to remember how i was before & compare, to remember what “normal” people must think of us, how impossibly silly it all seems…

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