Filling a garbage can up with water may seem like a strange thing to do, but when you do not have running water it is the best way to minimize your trips to fetch water. The can lid acts as a wonderful barrier from mosquitos who love to lay their eggs on the surface of water. Plus, I’ve learned to carry a 5 gallon bucket filled with water on my head, a valuable skill.
Most of us, myself included, live in great excess. A shower uses about 7 gallons per minute which adds up to a staggering 70 gallons for just a 10 minute shower. We also waste food in abundance. The average American throws away nearly half of their food.
For a little over a year now I have been living a meaningful life with less stuff. Of course I did have a few months of over indulgence when I first returned to the states from Ghana, but now that I am back in Africa, my minimalist life has returned.
Things I have learned to live without:
Running water– My kind neighbors have offered me their shower and toilet which is connected to running water but on a daily basis I fetch the bulk of the water I use (or someone fetches it for me.) The majority of people that I live with take bucket showers and use less than half of a 5 gallon bucket to bathe. I actually find it quite nice bathing from a bucket especially on cooler nights where the idea of showering in ice cold water is my nightmare. I boil a few gallons of water on my stove, let it cool a bit and take a lovely warm bath. It is a luxury!
Unlimited electricity– Here in Ghana we experience frequent black outs which on an extremely hot night can be an absolute horror (my fan is my best friend) but otherwise I have learned to not only cope, but enjoy the silence and wonder that it brings. I’ve become a custom to always making sure my headlamp, computer and phone are charged because on average we lose power a few hours every other day. I have a stock pile of candles to light in the evening and there is nothing more soothing than the glow of candle light. If the night is uncomfortably hot, I put on my long pants and cover myself in mosquito repellent, throw a blanket on the dirt path in front of my home and bask in the glory of a powerless African star filled sky.
Texting- I am going to make a vow (and try and keep it) to not text very much when I get back to the U.S. You gain so much when you pick up the phone to make a call, rather than text. It is easy to misinterpret the voice someone is trying to convey via text. This causes major miscommunication. I strongly believe that communication is one of the main keys in life and a great gift.
Dairy- Okay, this is a real weakness for me and I actually can not say that I am happily living without cheese but non the less, I am living without it. I miss it though. I can not wait to indulge in a sharp cheddar and red bean triscuits. We all have our weaknesses. I choose to embrace mine.
Washer, dryer and dishwasher- Yes, I do all of these by hand and while I may not enjoy scrubbing my own clothing, there is something that I love about drying my clothes in the sun. It just makes sense to use our natural resources. I feel like it is the suns way of saying, “thank you for choosing to use my light.”
To all of those things that I thought I needed- I miss you, but I’ve learned to live without you and I am stronger for that. What could you do today to live a more minimalist lifestyle?