Day 6

So I’ve decided that to be truthful, instead of calling this the 30 days of nothing, it really should be called the 30 days of less.   We are so far from having nothing, it seems a mockery of the word.


Confession:  today not only did we spend $16 taking 7 kids to a movie (‘Cars’), we also then spent $6 for ice cream afterwards!  To kind of balance that out, we also did a project today.   More on that in a minute.


Breakfast: eggs, toast, hashbrowns, juice

Lunch:  Tuna/chedder melts, watermelon

Dinner: Summer vegetable ratatouille  served over bow tie pasta, watermelon

Books:  Nothing.   A very kind someone offered me the book that I talked about yesterday.  People’s generosity is humbling.  I’m a whiner.  Here I am lusting after yet more books for my overstuffed bookshelves, while people elsewhere in the world are scrambling to find dinner for their children.  Shameful.

Today’s project:  I realized today that though I have been giving up a little free time with extra cooking, so far my kids’ lives really haven’t changed.  So today I decided we’d wash a load of laundry, by hand, outside.

We hauled water in buckets from a hydrant about 100 feet away, then used a large pan and a brush for washing, and a kiddie swim pool for rinsing.  We wrung things out by hand and hung them to dry.

We washed only 40 items or so, nothing major.  The little kids were all enthusiasm at first–not so much after hauling about the 12th bucketload of water.

There was grumbling from older kids.  My 14yo thinks his mom has lost her marbles.  They claimed they could ‘understand’ the challenges of someone in a poor country without going through the inconvenience themselves.

But the conversation that went on during this little exercise was revealing.  Here, in their words, is washing day.

“Eww, look how filthy this water is!   Whose clothes are these anyway?”

“I’m getting soaked.  Imagine doing this in a skirt.  And a headscarf.

“But in a muddy river..”

“A poopy river.”

“I wouldn’t.  I’d just live in the US.”

“But not everyone is lucky enough to be born here.  And they can’t afford plane tickets to get here either.”

“Hey, keep the baby out of the water.   She just put a clean shirt back in!”

“If I was really doing this, I wouldn’t bring the baby.”

“Yeah, you would.  She’d be tied to your back!”

“Scrub this one more.  It still has dirty spots.”

“Hey, no stepping in the rinse water, boys!!”

“OK, guys, go get some clean water– you made it muddy.”

“Oh…now we have to haul more water.  I’m glad we have a washer.”

“Here, let’s dump out this dirty water.”

“Ewww!!!!!!   A snake!!”


“Right there in the rocks!  Quick, pick up the baby!!”

“Get a shovel! Get a shovel!”

“He’s just a little one….”

“I don’t care– get him!!”

“I can’t!   He’s slithering away.”

“He’s pretty little.  Why don’t you just toss him out of the yard?”

“Get him in the bucket.”

“Eww…he keeps getting away.”

“Oh, there he goes.  Right in.”

“Let me see him.”

“Me too!”

“Me too!”

“Get the camera, we need a picture.”

“Can we toss him in the neighbor’s field?”

“Yeah, go ahead. OK, let’s finish washing.  You hang these up, OK?  And you scrub these.”

“This is kind of fun.”

“Hey, if we each hold one end, I bet we can twist and wring it out really well.”

“Hey, no stepping in the rinse water!”

“Or you’ll have to haul MORE water.”

“At least in another country we wouldn’t have so many clothes.”

“No, we’d probably only have two outfits…”


Plenty of thinking going on, from ALL of us.  I’m glad we went ahead and did this.  Now I’m thinking about what to try next….

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  1. LOL Priceless! Sounds like an eventful washing experience, and one they are sure to remember!

  2. Thanks Mary! We now have a new family favorite, your Migas recipe. Read it this morning and had to come home for lunch and make it. They all raved, so it is now on the official menu. Anything you can eat in a tortilla works for us.


  3. I am totally going to steal this idea. We're trying to make this 30 Days of Less (I agree- we have no idea what nothing means) both fun and enlightening for our kids. I love this idea. Well, minus the snake!

  4. Wow, sounds like the purpose was served! How enlightening for all of you, thanks for sharing this.

  5. Great idea!
    Snakes! For some reason they scare me to death. You all were so calm about the whole thing! 🙂 Amy

  6. That was a GREAT experiment! Seems like the kids are starting to understand life is different on the other side of the fence.

    As for the snake….Ewwwwwww!!!

  7. What a great thing to do as a family and a wonderful conversation starter! It's not just other countries that still wash their clothes this way either… I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in north central BC – she had an old fashioned tub with a wash board and then a rolly thing that squeezed the water out of the clothes. It was "cool" at first but very tiring by the end of the first load. I too am very grateful for the modern convienences in my home!

  8. Oh my gosh. If I ever got the gumption to do the washing outside (which is a fantastic idea, by the way), I would have keeled over in terror with the snake.

    Must make my body shiver. (Not a snake fan.)

    Great post.

  9. Oh my gosh. If I ever got the gumption to do the washing outside (which is a fantastic idea, by the way), I would have keeled over in terror with the snake.

    Must make my body shiver. (Not a snake fan.)

    Great post.

    Home of Pass the Torch Tuesday

  10. Oh the memories! I did the laundry by hand in a big cooking pot on our rooftop for 6 months while living overseas. It was just me and my husband and our small apartment did have running water but that's the kind of work you never forget!

    Later when living with a local family I was only allowed to help hang and fold laundry. They had an agitator machine and but all it did was shake, the water had to be heated and poured in by hand, clothes through the wringer, then rinsed at least twice. Hard, hard, work. The mother in the family actually broke a rib that winter doing laundry!

  11. This is amazing. We're studying revolutionary times this year, and this sounds like a great project for our little coop. Thanks.

    What a wonderful group of kids you have!

  12. I love this picture with all their hands in the water! And your play by play of the discussion is priceless!

    Great idea.

  13. Love. this.

    Definitely going to be an activity at our house this week.

    Thanks for the hilarious play-by-play.

  14. absolutely hilarious, Mary! now you have to come back with bleach spots all over the clothes, just to make it feel like the real thing 🙂

  15. How inspiring. I think that hands-on experience definantly helped them connect the idea with how much work it actually is. Hmmm.. I'm taking notes and hoping to do some of these things when we do History that pertains to the ideas.
    We do Sonlight History, but I also have Story of the World which has activity books that have all kinds of great ideas for books and hands-on things we can do with our kids. Just a thought

  16. I love the dialogue Mary! Thanks for getting it down.

  17. My son saw the picture of the snake and immediately asked where you live. He would like to live there too! Even though we live in the desert, we don't see many snakes.

  18. I love it!! That is a great idea….and to "hear" a bit of the conversation that took place is quite entertaining!!!!! I don't know though….ANY snake in my eyes is BETTER off DEAD!!!! You have some brave souls around your place wanting to pick it up and toss it ANYwhere!!!!! But I suppose ya'll are pretty used to that around there???? I grew up with A LOT of em around our place, but my mom STRUCK fear in me over them….probably because we lived in TX, and most of them were poisonous and potentially deadly!!! That fear has never subsided!!! I've now lived in 2 places where the snakes aren't mostly poisonous…..but for the most part, harmless, and it just doesn't matter…..they are all evil little creatures in my eyes! I'm thankful not everybody has that perspective, but it's definitely beyond me!!! : )

  19. When I traveled to Uganda last month, I broght some teenage sized girl clothes as some of my co workers have older girls. They only chose one thing each. Why? More to wash. They only needed/wanted two or three outfits.

    At the schools I work at, the kids are expected to come home and wash their uniform EVERY NIGHT. They have a big assembly on Fridays and they award trophies (ever wonder where your old bowling trophies go?) to the cleanest children and they call up and publicly berate the dirty children. Really. It was shocking to see (as an American) but it makes them stay clean. Can you imagine?

    And I don't do my laundry in a machine sometimes because it is "too hard". When we told our co worker about a washing machine she didn't believe it. She had never heard of such a thing.

    I am off to fold 14 loads of laundry that I did IN A MACHINE and dried in a drier. Now I am not so bitter about it.

  20. I read all the comments just to see what kind of snake it was, and was shocked to see that NOBODY HAS ASKED.
    Do tell – certainly you looked it up???

  21. great… it actually takes me back to my childhood. which is kind of funny!! 🙂

  22. The snake would have ended it all around here.

    We will do this in Oct. when we start our 30 days of less (very appropriate as you described) journey.

    I'm still grossed out by the snake.

    Lindsey @ Enjoy the journey

  23. Thanks for sharing this. Very enlightening. I'm glad I could learn this lesson vicariously.

  24. You know what's funny? I almost called it "30Days of Less" – I even have a button made for it…I could send it to you if you want. 🙂 But I thought I might as well go all the way and call it "30 Days of Nothing"…it inspires me a little more. *grin*

  25. I'm so far behind in blogworld while here in Texas helping a daughter with a newborn. I just got a bit caught up on your posts and saw that you are doing the 30 day thing. While we're traveling quite a bit this month, and avoiding spending would be near impossible, we CAN cut back. I'm motivated to go home, use up whats in the pantry, nip and tuck here and there and see what we can save to give away. Great ideas you have. Thanks!

  26. OK. Just tell me this. I'm trying to perfect my what is a dangerous snake so I don't freak out over everyone I see. Is that a poisonous one?

  27. About the snake–he was TINY– only about 8 inches long–and harmless–a gopher snake.


  28. I had to do our wash by hand for 3 weeks in a village one time! My hands were raw by the end! I've also had an African woman do it here in the city, before we got a machine. (We're all happier with the machine–handwashing wears out clothes REALLY quickly!) I loved reading your experience. I had our kids help one time and took pics, but I don't know where they are.


  1. […] There is a challenge going on around this blog world to make September the month to buy nothing extra or unnecessary. Our family is taking the challenge, not to the extreme of this family but the challenge nonetheless.  We are off to a great start though we have made some questionable purchases.  We went to visit my sister Saturday and we went to the Lego store so the boys could buy the characters they have been wanting.  We used the money from Grandma and Poppy but, yes, some say we strayed that day.  Then there was the Labor Day picnic with Jeff’s work friends.  BUT, I know we are doing something right because the other day when Connor was asking about something I was able to say, “Nope, it’s September.”  I think this is going to be his least favorite month for the rest of his life but he did understand, “ugh, is September almost over?”  We do need to talk more about why we are doing it.  I wish I saved the person whose idea this was.  I think it was to show us how people in other countries live. […]

  2. […] Oh, and my Opinion Saturday question:  will you help me think of another fun  30 Days of Nothing activity for my kids? Something thought-provoking and interesting and that a wide variety of ages can do.  I’ll take comments till Tuesday evening.  Hit me with your best thought! […]

  3. […] Now I almost would think that the fade-away of comments is due to the incredible boringness of my recent topic. (Notable exception: my Day 6  post– apparently snakes and washtubs are worth comments!) […]