Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wee ECO-nomy ... What to throw, what to keep and How to keep it (Baking Soda for all seasons)

A tiny home and a reassembling life brings you back to basics. We learn with each of our moves about what to throw, what to keep and how to keep what we have. Folks who live in small spaces either come with a working reality of a zen-centered approach to stuff, or learn the face-to-face reality of living with less space. When we lived on the Ledge, friends offered us a place to park ourselves and our new home in an idyllic setting. We arrived with more stuff than we could keep within our vardo. A rented pick-up truck and our 'Scout' the Subaru carried the chattels of our minimizing life. We have been travellers for more than a decade. Each of our moves (prior to the on-set of severe MCS) included the sorting of what would come with or be left with friends, family or folks we might never meet. We began building VardoForTwo from the space of a basement kitchenette with the abundant outside cooking space and a space room that became a storage space and place for Pete to keep his work-and-building clothes. Life on the Ledge allowed us to remember how to breathe deeply after a long spell of survival only life. It was a beautiful feeling, and we did bliss out from the blessing of oxygen-rich air, an electrical outlet that fed our needs, friends who were willing to share and learn about our new needs. Spring and Summer allowed us to set up outdoor cooking space beneath the huge canopy of Tall Ones.

In retrospect, we would have used the last month on the Ledge to do what we are doing now ... enclosing the porch to give us covered cooking space, storage for our kitty apartment, and a separate place to house a composting toilet. Progress is not however, a constantly forward moving motion. Parked here in Everett, I hear Pete cutting the grooves into the oak siding for the pods and know he has used the sunny days two past, to cut and measure the studs for the porch pods. There are reasons for things that happen. Perhaps the timing on the Ledge permitted us to be here with our friends during the November of passings.

We slept our first night in the golden wagon nine months ago and we have made progress with learning and implementing living a Wee ECO-nomy. We have not gotten to the point of life with 100 items, what we are learning is the practice of living with what's precious, tolerable and necessary. Though life in small spaces weaves a common thread for all who live it, living with MCS adds a dimension of considerations that really draw on that most vital of characteristics: imagination. I'm thinking of all those men, women and children who endlessly draw on imagination to come up with recipes to feed a family of four with what ever is in your frig/cupboard/cooler; men who go to all and any length to get that food into the frig, children who grew up sooner than later because they had to and still had time to make play out of bottle caps, whittled kindling and lengths of string. In the company of those who have gone before and who also do it now, Pete and I imagine the way we can use the abundant 2 feet x 30 inches of pod space on either side of our Dutch front door.

Four things frame in the choices we make when deciding what to throw, what to keep and how to care for the things we keep:
  • Is it Precious ? I look around our wee home and see a small, old Japanese silk hanging that belonged to my Aunty Lily. A small tear and a worn spot are like memory landmarks. Kwan Yin sits on one of two tiny wooden tables. A wooden spear hangs from a length of yellow fabric ... I remember when my son carved it and wrapped the finely chiseled tip with cotton thread with fly-tying skills he was fine-tuning as a boy.
  • Is it MCS- tolerated ? Inside VardoForTwo well worn, old cotton sheets cover the organic cotton/wool/silk bedding that restores and comforts us day and night. The stark stainless steel walls are inert, not very pretty admittedly. Our baking soda and water washed clothes are stored in wire baskets on the tile floor under the futon. The Radiant Electric Heater and Austin Air Filter keep our home warm and freed from dust, invading smells.
  • Is it Necessary? ... We have recently added a small radio into our wee life inside. Off-gassed and aired for months while we lived on the Ledge, I am soothed and comforted by the sounds of music, the language of French Canadian radio. When your life is reassembled and less becomes your more, the comfort of sounds from that small electrical unit is such abundance. I am grateful and appreciative every day that I am able to enjoy this pleasure, knowing others with MCS and Electro-magnetic sensitivities might not be able to tolerate a radio inside their safe haven. "Ruby" our 10 year old Sony laptop is our passport to the World. Ahh ... what places and people we meet because of "Ruby." Sometimes, shopping on-line is the only way to find things without being compromised in a store that just stinks us out.
When we began our venture of building the wee home, we looked carefully at how much money we had left in our savings. As closely as possible we notched out enough cash to buy all the materials to make VardoForTwo, researched and bought the organic bedding that I could tolerate, and budgeted a lean reserve to keep us going knowing at least for the while, income making would be challenging. With our wits to barter and our priorities in hand, we have an old truck to haul us, a home to comfort us, a car that is reliable and safe for daily travels. We have clothes that keep us warm and protected, and stay on the look-out for replacement goods (clothes, appliances, bedding etc.) for the necessary stuff that fills in when imagination needs a hand.

  • How to care for the things we keep? A helpful article was sited on Susie Collins' The Canary Report the other day. It's a very thorough run-down on the gazillion ways a person can use baking soda. Here's the link for that article in its entirety. It's a perfect example of Einstein's belief that 'imagination is more important than knowledge.' Well, perhaps at this stage of human evolution, an article describing the many gentle, earth-saving, money-saving ways to use baking soda is an example of remembering something once commonly known. Baking soda washing is what I do to keep my hair, teeth, body, clothes, sink, coffee/tea cup clean. Pete and I also use organic lemons (which are a bit pricey since no lemons grow in Washington) as a final rinse for our white and salt-and-pepper locks. We smell good and fresh after a hot shower and shampoo, too. The article linked above describes clearly and with pictures multiple ways baking soda (and vinegar) can replace the purchased cleaning products found in every house, apartment and RV throughout Planet Earth.

So, if you're wondering what to give your favorite MCS friends ... maybe baking soda?


linda said...

I use baking soda for everything too, and recently had another setback when my bulk bags arrived contaminated! No way to find out if they sat off the back of a running truck in front of the tail-pipe, if the truck transporting them to the store had a leak in the back, or if it was contaminated elsewhere on it's journey. All I know is that when I threw it into water with my soaking clothes, I got a face full of diesel. sigh. It's not pretty when one of the last things we are able to use is also taken away from us.

Now for a question... I'm not sure if my safe clothes are wearing out because of 24/7 use or if the baking soda is accelerating their demise. It seems to destroy elastics especially quickly. Do you find the same?

Mokihana and Pete said...

Hoooh, Linda
I'm so sorry to hear about the contaminated soda! That's the one risky thing about soda ... it is a super absorbent mineral. Geez.

Hmmm.... about the breaking down of elastic question. So far I don't see that happening. I wash everything I wear by hand (while I'm taking a shower) so there's no heavy duty agitating going on, and I rinse things two or three times before I hand wring and hang them. Are you using a washer for your clothes? Maybe a more dilute solution of soda to water might slow the breakdown.

I'll pay attention to that. Thanks.

Susie Collins said...

Aloha Mokihana, thanks for the shout out! Isnt' it a great article on baking soda? Beth also asked me for some tips about asking her co-worker to stop wearing perfume. Green Mommies are our allies. Aloha, Susie xoxo

Anonymous said...

Baking soda is great for odors--Even grandmothers knew that. Some companies market baking soda laundry products but guess what, the boxes might be right next to the smelly tide boxes and the soda sucks up the other products smell. Industrial containers of baking soda in sealed drums can be gotten thou.

Mokihana and Pete said...

Susie: you're welcome, and it's good to have have allies.

Anonymous: right! old wisdom still applies and it's a matter of stepping back, slowing down and shaking lose the habits of a quick to consume world. "Industrial containers of backing soda" ... where do you find that in your town?

Thanks to both of you for the commentary.

Kris said...

Hello Mokihana and Pete. First I want to thank you for you wisdom displayed in your blog. I suffer also from MCS and also EHS. We are in the middle of building our own travel trailer so that I may have a safe environment. I tend to use Vinegar in my rinse cycles of washing clothes which also dilutes any odors our of clothes. Might save on deterieration if you alternate.

Anyway Had another question. We are struggling to find a hydro radiant heat system small enough for our trailer. It's 144 sq ft. I think all we need is a water heater since it will be a closed system, a pump and of course the piping. We've already built up the floor similar to your floor that you posted. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Mokihana and Pete said...

Hello, Kris,

Thank you, the experiences we have need to be reflected against a larger mirror of understanding ... wisdom might be the boiled down-ness of the challenges and the attempts. We would love to hear how your wee home progresses.
Glad to know there is another wee home in the making. Congratulations. We are so grateful for the safety and comfort of this nest of a place.

Thanks too for the idea about alternating between vinegar and backing soda washings ... we have done that at times, and maybe now would be a good time to try it against since we have hot water source and a shower to do that.

About the water heated system. It sounds like you mean you're gonna run hot water in the floor. GREAT IDEA! That will be so good in the winter. We didn't heat the floor, and wish we had. Pete is outside building on this cold and sunny day, so I'll leave that part of the idea-giving to him when he's done for the day.

It feels great to know you are benefiting from our journey ... it feels really great. Pete will read your post later.

All the best and thanks for commenting.

Mokihana and Pete said...

Hi Kris

You most likely know that your options to heat water are electricity or gas or solar if you have the sun exposure. Gas has exhaust which is difficult to avoid. Electrical will mean calculating how much wattage/amperage the water heater will need and the impact it will have on your other electrical needs. A consultation by a electrician may help. Two years ago I paid $25 for a one year online subscription to Home Power Magazine. It had lots of articles by and about folks that were creative finding solutions to unique projects. It is also a good reference source. Putting a heat system in the floor is the ideal way to go. Congrats for trying it and I hope you can make it happen. We talked about trying a electric membrane under the tile floor, however passed on it because of time, cost and EMS concerns. Our floor is cool/ cold under the rug however the radiant heater is doing a great job heating our 70 sq ft. vardo. We have been sleeping with the windows open with night time temps in the teens and twenties and sleeping quite well. Please write about any other questions you may have. Pete