By Anita Cheek Moon
What do you do when you only have $1.27 and you have to make it through a whole week? Well, one of the first things you need to do is hit your knees and pray. Next, you need to figure out how you got into this situation in the first place so that you can do better from now on. Finally, you need to assess what you have on hand and just what you are going to need to make it through the next seven days. It will actually be easier than you think. Trust me.
First, don’t despair. You aren’t going to die! The first priority at hand is water and you can come by that free practically anyplace. You could, in fact, make it without eating a bite of food for the entire week. That’s not preferable of course, but rest assured that it is possible. You must, however, stay hydrated. Things like electricity, cable television, and yes even heat in the house are not real necessities but water is and you can get it free at any public building, wayside park or even gas stations. Feel better already? Good. Now, let’s get down to the brass tacks of surviving tough times.
You are likely going to have to hold down your job or maybe continue attending classes during this period of time so you must not only think about water in terms of hydrating your body but also as a means of keeping yourself presentable. Once again water is the key. If the water has been shut off in your house you need to have a way to wash up and even flush the toilet and water will allow both. It is easiest if you can plan your day so you do your bathroom duties at a public restroom, but that isn’t always practical. Even when it is, it might be rare to find a place that you can actually take a shower.
Even if a shower isn’t available to you during these hard times you can still stay clean. Just go out into your day prepared to do so. Discretely carry along a collapsible container such as a zip lock bag or cut-off milk jug that you can use in a public restroom to carry water from the lavatory faucet into the privacy of a booth to wash up. You could even wash your hair this way if you had to. You’d need a small cup or something to pour water over your head but it could be done. No soap? Make do with what they provide at the lavatory to wash your hands. Even using plain water to wash up is better than having to live with a filthy body. Need to dry off? Carry a small towel with you or use the paper towels, toilet tissue, your old clothes, or air dry!
If the water is actually off in your home, you will have other problems to deal with as well. Flush toilets don’t work without water. Perhaps you will luck out and get some rain. This will supply a considerable amount of free water flowing out the house gutters and onto the ground that will provide not only for your bathing needs but also for your toilet needs. All you need to do is to figure out how to get some of that water inside where it can be stored for use.
Using water from your roof to clean up your body is obvious but you can also use it to flush your toilet in a pinch. Yep, you can flush those things just by quickly pouring a bucket of water into the bowl after you have finished your business. The handle is just there to amuse little kids and to provide a foolproof flush mechanism for the less empowered.
If you don’t have rain or any way to access larger volumes of water such as a nearby pond or swimming pool so that you can flush your toilet, don’t despair! There are other ways of taking care of your business even without water. Think like a cat! Composting is the official name of this tactic but your goal isn’t to produce rich garden soil but rather to keep down the stench and maintain sanitary conditions in your home while you get through these tough times.
The first priority in making an improvised compost toilet is some type of cover material. Leaf litter, shredded paper, pine needles, even loose soil can be used to accomplish this purpose. You know all of those plastic bags from the grocery that litter up our world? Use one to line your toiled bowl or even a bucket. Make sure you secure the edges of the bag over the rim so that it doesn’t fold in on itself when you use it. Put about one inch of litter of some kind in the bottom of the bag and sit down and do your business! When you’re finished add another layer of litter making sure that you carefully cover everything.
Composts toilets can be operated without any scent escaping to foul up your air. The trick is to make sure you cover your excrement completely so that there is no direct contact between it and the outside air. You can either tie the bag off after every use or use it several times. Just don’t allow it to get too full otherwise you will have a #$%^^& mess! When the bag is full, nonchalantly toss it into a roadside garbage can and go on your way. No one knows what it contains except you so no need to be embarrassed!
Okay, we’ve prioritized what you really need to survive during tough times. You’ve found out that all is not lost even when you only have $1.27 in your pocket. Indeed, you’ve managed so far without spending even one penny of that $1.27. Being destitute makes you look at the world in a different light. All of a sudden that discarded milk jug and grocery bag in the next door neighbor’s garbage have value!
When you think like this you can get through anything. It would be nice, of course, to have something to eat during this week and that can be accomplished too. The full details, however, will be provided in my next article: “What to Do When You Only Have $1.27 in Your Pocket: Think Food!”
Anita Cheek Moon has devoted much of her life to the environment and the instillation of sustainable living skills, spending her time in the envelope of tough times and managing to claw her way to the other side. She has written in a number of venues including professional biology journals, local news sources, and web content. Check out her website at PrimitivePursuits.org.