Needs Vs Wants- Hot Running Water

Last week, I had a post all written up in my head and planned for this week's Needs vs Wants Wednesday. And then my gas boiler conked out. 
My apartment is supposed to have both a solar and an electric hot water heater, but those have not worked ever since we've moved in, and our landlord has not agreed to pay to get it fixed, as we also have a gas run boiler to provide us with hot water.
Only, that was working iffy at best for the past little while. The water pressure had to be low and the water had to be running for a while before we'd actually get hot water, and even once in the shower, you might get startled by a sudden burst of cold water instead of hot.
And then on Friday, the boiler sputtered and died.
We now have no source of running hot water in our apartment.
We called up our landlord and received the very empathetic answer of "I didn't break the hot water heater. I'm not living there. You must have broken it. I'm not paying to fix it."

As we don't have the money to shell out to pay to fix the hot water boiler, we kind of resigned ourself to the fate having no running hot water.

Which brings me to the topic of today. 
Needs Vs Wants. What is truly a need, and what is a want? If its a want, is it even something I can bear to do without?

To be honest, not having hot water straight from the tap is not a need. Its a want. A luxury to which most of us in the "civilized world" have become accustomed. But for thousands of years, people survived just fine without running hot water. In underdeveloped parts of the world, even today people are living life well enough without boiling water from the faucet.
On Friday, when my landlord refused to pay to get the hot water fixed, I was nearly in tears. I need hot water! Ok, maybe its not a need, but its a luxury that I am not willing to do without! Its a necessary luxury, I insisted. I was, rightfully, very petulant about my landlords refusal to provide us with this basic commodity. 

Working boiler or not, my family needed to get clean. I resigned myself to the fate of needing to do things the old fashioned way. I filled two 16 quart stock pots with water and set them to boil on the stove.

Round Wash Basins - Gold - 50 Per Case - Model DYND80311Lee had his bath first. I took a round, plastic basin (like a wide and shallow bucket) and filled it with a few inches of cold water. I then added enough boiling water from the pot to make the water a comfortable temperature for bathing.
Bath Buddies Natural Bath SpongeI put the basin in the bathtub, put Lee inside, and the fun began. Seriously. I don't think I've ever seen a 2 year old enjoy a bath as much in my life.  

I used a sponge to wet Lee's whole body and hair, shampooed/soaped him up, and then poured cups of water (taken from the basin) to wash him off. It worked like a charm. Lee splashed and splashed in wash basin and we had to bribe him to get him out so that Spike could also have a bath.

We repeated the same procedure for 6 month old Spike. What can I tell you? This was one of the first times in his life that Spike truly enjoyed his bath. For some reason (maybe it was the more confined space), the boy who usually would cry bloody murder at bath time had a lot of fun and splashed around in the tub.
While washing my boys, I couldn't help but imagine that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family from Little House on the Prairie would probably have bathed in a similar fashion- in a big basin, with water heated up on the stove (only they had a wood stove and I have the privilege of having  a gas stove).

As we do not have any adult sized basins a la the Ingalls, my husband and I needed to bathe ourselves a drop differently. We filled up a plastic basin about half way with cool water and filled it the rest of the way with the boiling water. We put that in the bathtub and gave ourselves sponge baths.

How do you give an adult a sponge bath?
I wrote already about taking a frugal shower. The basic concept applies here as well. 
Get yourself wet, soap up, then rinse off.
While with taking a frugal shower, this only involves turning on and off the water, with an adult sponge bath, this gets a drop more complicated.
Stand in the shower stall/bathtub next to your basin filled with warm water. Dip a bath sponge into the water and set your body. To wet your hair, you'll need some sort of smaller container with a handle, like a pitcher or a handle mug. Fill this with water from the basin and pour it over your hair.
Shampoo your hair and soap up.
To rinse off, using a sponge was too time consuming for me. I just poured water all over my body and hair to rinse off the soap and shampoo and was finished.

This method of sponge bathing uses very little water. I would bet that, all in all, I used a quarter of my already minimal amount of water that I use for my frugal shower.

To be honest, sponge bathing like this wasn't nearly so bad as I imagined. I still would like my hot water fixed, as I vastly prefer a normal shower to sponge bathing, but if I can't get my landlord to agree to pay for this repair, I think our family will manage just fine with our current method until we find a new apartment and move away from this grossly inconsiderate landlord. In fact, I'd prefer to sponge bath than shower myself, my kids and my husband at a neighbor's home (yes, they offered).

Though I would not wish my current lack of hot water on anyone, and I would not be so bold as to say that everyone should sponge bath instead of showering, I think people should appreciate hot water for the luxury that it is, because my experience taught me that it is perfectly manageable to stay clean, even with no running hot water.

Have you ever been forced to manage without running hot water? What did you do? If you were in my situation, what do you think you would do (that doesn't involve the landlord--- for reasons I don't care to share, landlord involvement is out of the picture)?

Any thoughts or posts written up on Needs Vs Wants? Feel free to add your link to the MckLinky list below or share in the comments below.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Hi, I know that in America there are certain tenant laws that landlords must abide by. (I'm not sure how much of this you know so I'll just state it in a general sense.) Is there anything similar in the country you live in? If so you could have reported him for refusing to maintain his building. I say could because this is an older post and you've likely resolved the problem in some fashion by now.

  2. In Ghana (and surely numerous other countries), the most common way to bathe is to fill a bucket with water (I go about 2/3 to 3/4 for myself) and bring it to the bathhouse. Alongside, you bring a tiny bucket (in Canada and surely the States, this would be the kind given to children for the beach) with soap and sponge inside. You use the little bucket to fetch water from the larger bucket. Only when finished do you then toss the remaining water in the larger bucket onto yourself. People often use heated water inside their bucket, especially when ill, on colder nights or during colder seasons.

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