The ghosts of small girls


When reading about life in the early 19th century, I am struck by how much a single fact changes home life: All the water that entered the house arrived in a pail, and all the water left the same way.

Imagine that someone used 80 liters per day for bathing, cooking, cleaning, potted plants, everything. (Bear in mind, a five minute shower in a modern house is 80 liters.) That’s eight trips to the well with a 10 liter pail. 1 liter = 1 Kg, so each pail would be a third of the body weight of the girl hauling it. You can see, many girl-hours were spent on water management.

I started thinking, toilet use claims a quarter to a third of one’s total water bill. Isn’t it odd to use 6 liters of pure drinking water to flush the toilet, when the kitchen sink produces 30 liters of waste water per day? If my child ancestors could haul hundreds of liters per day, can I not carry three pails from the kitchen to the bathroom?

I found a small basin for my sink, which I empty periodically into an old paint bucket. I painted the bucket for aesthetic schwung, and put a sign on the lid.

If your bucket stands for a day before it is used, it might get stinky. Dissolve a spoonful of sodium carbonate (reine Soda) in the bucket before it gets stinky. It makes the water too alkaline to support the growth of weirdness. You might wish to prepare a jar of alkaline water in advance so that you needn’t fuss with a spoon each time.

Before using the toilet, throw in a couple squares of toilet paper to suppress the splash. Pour quickly. Turn the sign on the lid over so everyone may easily see that the bucket is empty.

I was worried that I’d tire of recycling water, and I did, but the thought of using drinking water for the toilet quickly became offensive. Once started, it is very difficult to stop, and justly so.

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