Simplify Your Life

Evaluate how you think life in these United States, or any country that you may live in, is going to change in the coming weeks, months and years. In the past year the world has changed drastically and appears to be on an accelerated trajectory. To where? I can’t tell, but the underlying feeling is one of foreboding and dread. Regular everyday people, not homesteaders or preppers, express concern and discomfort at the events unfolding around the globe.

So simplify your life. Evaluate what you do, use, need, want during your normal everyday activities. Ask yourself some very basic, tough questions. Do I need _____________? Does my family need ___________? Fill in the blank. This is not a questions of wants, but realistic, everyday NEEDS. What do you and yours really need day in and day out?

Frank and I started researching how to improve our health, reduce synthetic and chemical inputs into our bodies, and just overall simplify our lives a number of years back. It led us to many changes for that reason. As a side effect, it has also reduced the number of ‘things’ we need daily. Examples: baking soda for toothpaste, baking soda and water for shampoo, cider vinegar and water for conditioner, simple meals.

We have written about these topics in the past. For your convenience, here is a list of some of those articles. There are other articles along these lines in the archives if you are interested.

Trying to Escape Chemicals, March 15, 2014

No Shampoo & Sauerkraut, An Update, June 16, 2015

No More Shampoo, March 31, 2014

For Our Health, January 3, 2016

Simple Meals, March 27, 2019

Food on the Shelf, August 4, 2019

We continue to think of ways to simplify what we need and we think of it in terms of how we will be able to continue our life style in the event of inflation, hyperinflation, restrictions on travel imposed by the government, restrictions on the ability to shop or buy due to pandemic regulations, martial law, or collapse. We try not to focus specifically on the “end of the world as we know it” or SHTF, but consider what possibilities could peak over the horizon and affect our way of life. What do we need to change, improve, eliminate or acquire to be ‘OK’ in any of these events? We restock what we use and/or consume and try to have an alternative in case that is not possible. This goes for food and supplies.

We lived through the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. Did you? Did you run out of anything? If so, what have you changed to prevent running out again. What if you could never buy toilet paper again? One of the simple luxuries of life none of us wants to do without. What would you do? Believe it or not, we wrote about that, too.

When There Is No Toilet Paper, January 7, 2015

Frank and I try to reevaluate our lives regularly. As our physical conditions continue to change with age, we seek out new ways to do old things that increase our success and productivity. We talk about what we would do if we couldn’t replace _________________. We talk about how we would feed our animals as well as ourselves. We talk about the unpredictability of the future of our country. What else can we do to increase the likelihood of extending our longevity beyond whatever may come rolling over the horizon?

We encourage you to look through the archives if you are relatively new to our site. There are many, many topics we have written about and if you start towards the beginning, you will find we have changed a lot. Our focus has narrowed to pinpoint those things that sustain us – food with adequate nutrition, water, protection, shelter, health. I encourage you to do the same. Do some serious evaluation of your life and the needs of your family. Wants are a nice luxury, but in the end, they won’t sustain you physically, mentally or spiritually.

Until next time – Fern

TEOTWAWKI Cleaning

If things fall apart and your regular routine is greatly compromised, how are you going to keep things clean and sanitary?

We had a great conversation in the last article about different ways to cook our food in a collapse situation, and one comment took the conversation a little farther along the planning process. I really enjoyed this comment because I have been thinking along the same lines. Your comments on the last article has given us more to ponder and learn, and I’m hoping this article will do the same.

The comment I referred to is this:  “Fern, after commenting this morning, I was out picking apples and got to thinking about this some more. Besides cooking itself, what about clean up like washing pots and pans as well as dishes and utensils? Heating water will be a similar challenge. For me, I have a couple of large pots designated for this. One of the many things I learned in Boy Scouts back in the 60’s was how to set up a sanitation station by heating water over a wood fire in pretty large quantities.. Just thinking the whole thing through. Carl in the UP” I really appreciate Carl’s comment, the added dimension to the discussion, and the fact that he lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where it gets much colder than it does here.

I have given this situation thought many times. When Frank and I lived in Alaska back in 1990, we were in an Inupiat village without running water. There was a washeteria that provided water to the village, people would bring 30 gallon trash cans to fill and haul home. Frank carried two 5 gallon

collapsible water jugs to school and back many days, keeping our 30 gallon trash can supplied with water. Any water we used for washing dishes and such had to be heated on the stove first. The ease of heating water at the time came with an electric stove. Since there are many times throughout the day that something needs to be wiped down, cleaned off or hands washed, we began keeping a bowl of water in the sink that had a little soap in it. Granted, throughout the day, the water would be cold, but it was better than using up the water Frank hauled in. We learned to be very frugal with our water usage during this time. It was a very, very good learning experience for us.

When I think of cleaning, or having water on hand for washing, winter time seems easier than summer. If we have the woodstove in the house fired up for heat, it only seems logical to keep a kettle or large pot of water on it heating. This way it would be available as needed for washing dishes, clothes, or cleaning up after a meal or project. 

Summertime hot water may be a different issue. If I fire up the rocket stove to fix coffee and breakfast, a pot of water can be put on the stove to utilize the remaining heat until the fuel is expended. The size of the pot will be limited by the size of the stove. If more hot water is needed for washing clothes, another heat source will have to be utilized.

Both of the options I’ve outlined depend upon a source of fuel for the fire. There are other options, like a solar shower bag or water tanks in dark colors meant to harvest the heat of the sun. They may not get as hot, but it is a way to heat water without consuming a fuel source.

What are other ways to provide heated water for cleaning and sanitation? And like Carl said, in large quantities?

While we’re at it, what about toileting needs? What will you do when you can no longer flush your toilet? Haul water just for that purpose? That may work for some, but if you’re dependent on a city sewage system, it probably won’t work then. Where are you going to go to ‘use’ the bathroom? Or, how are you going to dispose of your waste? What other options do you have plans for that will safely, take care of your needs and not cause unwanted health issues? And while we’re talking about it, what happens when you run out of toilet paper?

There are many, many things we take for granted each and every day. I know we sure do. What happens when the power goes off for

a while? You walk in a room and turn on the light switch, even though you know it won’t work, you still do it because most of the time it works just fine. What happens when the water goes out? You walk over to the sink and turn the faucet on, because it usually works. Then you go to the bathroom thinking all the time, don’t flush it, don’t flush it. But then you flush it anyway! These are just a few of the basic things we take for granted that will require more planning and work when we have to depend upon ourselves for everything. Everything.

This discussion didn’t even touch on things we’ve come to depend on for cleaning. Things like soap, Pinesol, Mr. Clean, 409, dish cloths, towels, mops, brooms and 101 other things we use all the time. Doing without, or finding good substitutions will require a change of attitude and more work on our part. Again, this is one of those things it would be easier to practice now, than try to figure out later when the chips are down and many other needed tasks are vying for our attention.


Frank and I think about many different options for a number of situations like food, water, power, communications, or security. Some we keep and some we discard, which is what everyone needs to do. Evaluate information for usefulness in your situation. Some will be good, some will not, but the main thing is evaluate it. Think about it, just like Carl did. That is one of the things that struck me about his comment. He took a conversation farther by thinking about it and applying it to more areas of need along with cooking. Once again, we look forward to your thoughts, experiences and ideas. We’re all in this together and the more we can learn now, the better prepared we will be when the time comes.

Until next time – Fern

When There Is No Toilet Paper

Hello, Frank here.

I need to talk to you about something a little touchy. Okay, you’re

out in the woods, or at your retreat. You left your fiber pills at home, you haven’t gone in days, you’re all backed up, and you had chili with beans for supper. And it’s time. Then you discover that you did not pack any toilet paper. The closest convenience store is 10.8 miles away and it’s 2:00 am. Decision time. Here’s what I would recommend. Get yourself some……….

Okay, Frank has left the building, and the rest of this article has been left to me, Fern. He is a really funny guy isn’t he? We have been married over 30 years and I still laugh every day. I am a blessed woman. Now, back to our topic.

On the last post about reusable panty liners, Kymber, from Framboise Manor, had a very interesting comment asking what our practices or plans are for what she calls “family cloths” if there comes a time that the SHTF and we run out of toilet paper. So, here is a follow up to our conversation.

Buckland, Alaska

Back in 1990, Frank and I lived in a remote village on the coast of western Alaska, about 75 miles south of the arctic circle for nine months (the length of a school year, we were teachers) without running water. We had a school provided, very nice three bedroom, two bath mobile home with a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. Just no water. The school and the washateria were the only sources of water in the village. Frank hauled

our water from the school in two collapsible five gallon containers. We kept our water supply in a 30 gallon Rubbermaid trash can in the kitchen. We used this to drink, cook, clean and wash dishes, and luckily, we were able to shower at the school. The dish water was heated on the stove and used in the regular sinks. The sinks were drained into a five gallon bucket under the sink that had to be emptied outside. Before freeze up we allowed the sink water to drain straight down the drain pipes onto the ground under the house, but once winter set in with 30 degrees below zero for several months, we switched over to the five gallon bucket. We learned very quickly to remember to check how full the bucket was before we drained the sink. That was one of those experiences where we learned the hard way by flooding the floor and cabinet under the sink.

We hauled our laundry over to the washateria in a duffel bag to wash. But since the mobile home had a dryer, we were able to dry them at home. The only time we had to make other arrangements for water was when the temperatures dropped to 60 below and all of the water sources at the washateria and school froze. Luckily there was a natural hot spring a couple of miles up river where we could dip up the water into our trashcans and haul them back with the snow machine and sled. Now that was an adventure.

So, how did we take care of our toileting needs at home with no running water? After some trial and error, we decided to use the bathroom farthest from the main living area for solid waste, while the bathroom in the master bedroom where we slept was used for liquid waste. We lined the toilets with trash bags and used them in the normal fashion. We put a little Pinesol in each one to help with the odor and kept the bathroom doors closed.

Most of the houses in the village did not have bathroom fixtures since there was no running water. Instead, their toilets consisted of a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it, like the ones you can get from Emergency Essentials like we have in our storm cellar. This system in the village was called honey buckets. Once your bucket, or in our case trash bag, was full, there were small

I actually found a picture of one.

dumpster type containers that were specifically used for this waste, placed all around the village. These containers were gathered up and taken a few miles out of town to the dump and emptied periodically. I guess one of the nice things about having 30 below temperatures is the lack of odor from the honey buckets. We decided early on that we liked the insurance of a double layer of trash bags. One of them was semi permanent and stayed in the toilet, just in case the primary bag leaked. We were always very careful when taking these trash bags out to the honey bucket.

We also found out quickly that women use a lot of toilet paper and the bathroom with the liquid waste tended to fill up with paper more than liquid. This was my first experience with using something other than toilet paper when I urinated. I tried not using anything, but that didn’t work. I developed something similar to diaper rash. Then I started using a dry washcloth. That worked fine. Fortunately, we had plenty of toilet paper, and continued to use it in the solid waste bathroom.

I give you all of these details to let you know there are many different ways to deal with life when their is no toilet paper or running water. We think there will come a time when we have no more toilet paper. Period. In preparation for that time we have stocked up on some thin, simple washcloths. There are even folks that make their own cloths to use in this situation. The difference this time is that we will need to deal with the solid waste issue, which will entail something besides washing the cloths like all the other laundry. Hygiene can either keep you alive, or kill you.

There is a lot of good information out on the web about how to handle cloth baby diapers, which would be very similar to how you would handle toileting cloths. Here are a couple of the sources I found.

Washing Cloth Diapers by Hand
How to Wash Your Cloth Diapers by Hand

A couple of things mentioned in these sources are to use soap, use hot water from the tap, and use your bath tub. Well, if it is an SHTF situation, what soap are you going to use? You won’t have hot water from the tap, so how are you going to heat it? And you probably won’t be using your bathtub, but I guess you could. The important information these articles give us is to pre-soak, or have a specific bucket or container for your soiled toileting cloths. Even if it’s only water, it keeps them from drying out when they are soiled making them harder to clean. It also contains the urine and feces in a safe place, decreasing the likelihood of contamination and illness due to poor hygiene. Diseases like dysentery are caused by poor hygiene and once started can spread to everyone in your family or group with devastating results.

Some of the projects and plans Frank and I have on our list include a covered outside kitchen/clothes washing area. We have not begun to put it together, it is only in the planning stage, so I cannot show you any of our progress, but we have acquired some of the needed items. This area will include a deep basin sink that can be used for dishes, washing produce

from the garden, and probably many other things. We have some galvanized washtubs and a wringer that will become our clothes washing station. We have a variety of buckets with lids that can hold and soak soiled toileting cloths until it is time to wash them. There will be a clothes line installed. We have a means of heating the water on a cast iron wood stove that we got for covered outdoor use. We have large stock pots. We also have a small supply of rubber gloves that will last for a while, but they too, will run out, just like the toilet paper. Soap? Another goal is to be able to make soap from our goat milk, lard from the pigs, and lye made from wood ashes. All of these things are part of one small task. Washing toileting cloths. Sound like a lot of work? I’m sure it will be. And don’t forget the outhouse. It is also waiting in the wings to be built. Seriously. It is on our list of things to do and has been for a while.

Personal hygiene when the SHTF happens will be important. Will it be given the attention and priority it is now, in this day and age? I doubt it. But the mental preparation to deal with something as simple as keeping your body fairly clean and free of toileting contaminants, will increase your health and well being when all else about you has changed. There are 

many, many conversations going around the internet covering a variety of things we need to prepare in the event a collapse or disaster occurs. This is one of those things that is seldom discussed or covered. It’s so much cooler to talk about the latest gun, or paracord, or ramming vehicle. But knowledge of and preparation for adequate, not sparkling spic and span clean, but adequate hygiene can save your life and the lives of your family. It’s something to think about and prepare for. So, please share your ideas and plans. Like Frank says, we’re all in this together, and two heads, or many web-wide heads, are better than one. We are grateful for the many experiences we have been blessed with in our lives. There is no doubt that they have come together to prepare us for the unbelievable future that is just around the corner. Are you ready?

Until next time – Fern