Step two. Make sure you have water. Easier said than done. In my site, for example, I have potable water for an hour and a half every other day (at 7 am, which is the hardest part!) There's another faucet that supposedly has water all the time but actually just has a mind of its own. It also leaves a layer of some mineral on everything it touches, so while it works for some chores, I try not to wash clothes with it. I know that other sites go without water for days at a time, or have to filter everything they use. And then there are places in the world where water is even more scarce than that, so I'm thankful for what I do get. And for those of you who can get wash water with the turn of a knob, take a moment to remember how lucky you are!
Step three. Take off your shoes, put on some clothing that can get wet, and clear your schedule for a week. You may also want to stretch your wrists before you begin; your muscles will hurt tomorrow!
Step four. Now the work begins. Put about six inches of precious, clean water in the bucket with liberal amounts of Tide. Start with your whites, but I don't recommend letting them soak. Unless you're going for the melancholy gray look, in which case, by all means. I wash mine one at a time by adding a pinch of Tide directly on the item and scrubbing it between my hands while plunging it in and out of the water. It made me feel very authentic and empowered for the first thirty seconds. Now it just makes me tired. (I'm going to invent a workout routine based on house cleaning and sell it to P90-X for big bucks. Get in shape, and get your house clean, all for just $19.99!)
Once your hands are rubbed raw and the items are squeaky clean and soapy, pour the water down the squat toilet, thereby cleaning it as well and scaring off any encroaching scorpions. See all that dirty water? Go you!
Step five. Time to rinse. I prop my bottle of clean water between my knees and pour it over each item as I fill the bucket, so I can wring and rinse under a clean flow. Be careful how much you pour; remember, you might not have water for two more days.
First load rinsed? Great! Don't dump the rinse water - add more soap and now do your darks. Scrub, dump, rinse. Save the water! If you have another bucket, you can even pour the dirty water into that, to save for what comes next.
I'm getting ahead of myself. (See? This workout routine is exciting as well as effective. Only $19.99, folks!)
Yup, step six is drying. If you are a poor Peace Corps volunteer, you may not have sprung for many clothespins. (Oh, I'm the only one that cheap? Whoops.) Not to worry, because hangers make excellent clothespins. And see that green and yellow device in the far righthand corner? Best purchase I've ever made. It's a hanger with eight clothespins on it, saving a tremendous amount of space. Also its clips are shaped like pandas, and who doesn't like pandas? Made the whole trip to Japan worth it.
If it's spring or fall, you'll want to really wring your clothing out before you hang it. That sounds so simple, but try repeating it twenty or thirty times. Your poor wrists, but remember that beauty is pain, or some such thing.
If it's summer, I usually do a tiny wringing out and then let the sun work its sanitizing magic. Turn clothes inside out, and if wrinkles are a concern, wring the clothes well and stretch them on the line. If you're as frumpy as me, just hang 'em and move on.
Yup, time for step seven. Before you begin, go put two bottles of water in your freezer, if you have one. Thank me later.
Remember the bucket of dirty and/or rinse water you set aside? Dump that on the floor. That's right. Your floor (and you) are already wet and it's 110 degrees in here, so why not splash around in the water and get the floors clean at the same time? Dirty water is great for a first rinse, sweeping up the gifts that sandstorms so lovingly left you. Squeegee all that to the door so it can drain to outside and then return with clean water for that sparkling Mr. Clean look. (No animals were harmed in the writing of this endorsement.)
Now look. How beautiful and clean is your house, and your clothes, and...geez, you stink. Sweatin' it to the oldies style. Those two bottles in the freezer? Thank me now. Add those to your lukewarm wash water, and enjoy a refreshing bucket bath, basking in the security of the lack of scorpions and the knowledge that you own enough socks to put off the next laundry day for at least three weeks.
*Shipping and handling not included.
**My name is Rachel, and I approve this message.
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