Whenever I begin Q&A sessions after talks I give on moneyless living, I already know that the first three questions will focus on something to do with cleanliness or hygiene – how I wipe my arse and the like. It’s revealing how we seem to associate having no money with body odour, bad breath, dirty clothes, filthy bums and general stickiness. The extent to which we believe this to be true directly correlates to the extent our minds have been completely controlled and manipulated by the likes of Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever, all of whom push their endless new products on us in what can only be thought of as a purely altruistic attempt to make our lives that little bit cleaner. Apparently, until they came along with their crystal clean brands – which by the look of their adverts I assume are made up of nothing less than roses, gold dust, diamonds, the pubic hairs of virgin angels, love, freshly squeezed lemons and sodium lauryl sulphate – we all stunk to the high heavens.
I gave up using any soap years before I gave up money, and my skin has never been more grateful for the reprieve. Skin is a little micro ecosystem in itself, and using soap is, in my book, on a par with cultivating the soil – I can see why people do it, but it’s the shenanigans of a people who don’t fully appreciate the intricacies of ecosystems, and the long-term damage we can do from what initially seems like harmless, innocent behaviour. Then again, I possess a terribly weak sense of smell, so it may be that I pong and that English people are just much too polite to tell me.
Since I’ve been The Soapless Man for many years now, my overriding advice on most things in relation to hygiene is to use water and little else. There rarely is any need for anything more than that, with a few exceptions. That said, receiving hundreds of post-talk questions has helped me understand that most of you will want something a bit more substantial – something more antibacterial, antifungal, antilife – than just water.
Some of my tips in this chapter will have come through personal experience from my presoapless days, others I’ll have experimented with to some extent since going moneyless (clothes and teeth in particular), and the rest will have come from trusted sources.
Apart from cleaning agents, I’ll also outline the moneyless infrastructure you need to keep clean. If you think staying clean and fresh without money is a step too far for you, consider lying back for hours in a wood fired hot tub, under a starry winter sky staring into your lover’s moonlit eyes.
We were washing ourselves a long time before the advent of money. So how did we do it? We used the water bodies as they are – seas, rivers and lakes. And these are still the only truly moneyless and sustainable options today, as they rely on nothing from industrialisation and its money dependent economies of scale and division of labour. The act of going for a swim in one of them sufficed at one point in time. Such methods are at the top of my POP model for washing.
For various reasons, from the fact that most of us will now live many miles from a water body to the reality that we’re all a bit too soft to get into cold water, many of you may not consider this a realistic option. Not to worry, there are a few rungs lower on the POP ladder that would make a big difference to your ability to live with less dependency on money.
In terms of speed and water usage, showers have a lot going for them. If you live in a block of flats with no outside space, but have a south-facing window, your best bet to get free hot water (other than solar thermal, which I look in chapter eleven) is by using a solar shower, which you could leave by the inside of the window. A solar shower sounds technical, but is no more than a black plastic bag with a tube coming out of the end of it, with a valve at the end to control flow. The black colour will absorb the sun’s heat and increase the temperature of the water inside. My advice is to put this out all day and have your shower in the evening. Non-coincidentally, you’ll want a shower more often when the weather is hot, which are generally the type of days when you’ll be able to have a decently warm shower from one of these.
Other than that, the best you’re going to be able to do is conserve water – question how often you really need to wash, and then stay in no longer than you need to.
If you want a more year round solution to your showering needs, build yourself a wood-fired shower unit using materials you’ve obtained from gift economy websites such as Freegle or a skip. You’ll need a couple of old radiators and a water butt ideally, all plumbed into a shower head in some sort of private cubicle, unless you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world that doesn’t see the naked body as something filthy and repugnant to the human eye.
Hot tubs are one of my favourite things in the world. For it to be a moneyless tub, you have a range of options. Normal enamel tubs are easy to find in skips of recently decorated houses, and a quick post on Freecycle will probably result in more offers than you can reply to. If you want something a bit bigger, an old horse trough will also do a great job. For the less industrial feel, you could also copy the Japanese furo, which is a bathtub made from redwood planks, which swell as they fill with water and “seal the seams where the boards”(188) meet.
You’re then going to need a water supply, a wood-burning system and ideally some cob to both insulate and beautify it. This is all a bit of an art, and to get yourself clued up I’d recommend Becky Bee’s book The Best Hot Tub Ever.