Living A Day Without Running Water: Gratitude Exercise

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This morning at 8:30AM, my apartment building shut off the water valves due to necessary repair work. We were given at least a week’s notice to prepare for this.

At first, I debated going to a cafe for the day but decided against it. Staying home in the increasingly cold weather seemed more enticing and I figured it would be a good chance to do a little experiment.

To prepare for the shutdown, I filled up a stockpot filled with water and an additional bucket for the bathroom the night before. My water pitcher was filled to the brim, along with my water bottle. Waking up this morning felt like any other day, except I remembered that the water was already off by the time I got out of bed. 

First thing was to brush my teeth and wash my face. I felt more conscious about the supply of water that I had and my actions that involved this precious resource. That being said, I was taught in Catholic summer camp that we shouldn’t leave the water running so this reflected in my usual routine. I filled my cup with water from the bucket and went about cleaning my teeth. Washing my face with a wash cloth. To use the toilet, I would have to manually flush by pouring a larger amount of water into the bowl. Bathroom water bucket levels dropped minimally. Mental note on how often I will need to use the restroom.

For breakfast, I decided to make a peanut butter and oatmeal brownie recipe that I wrote down a few days earlier. Usually this would involve a frenzy of utensils and containers without much thought or care to how many of them I used. Instead, I spent minutes staring into my cabinets and drawers, trying to figure out which tools would be multifunctional and easy to clean. I even made a game plan that involved measuring and adding dry versus wet ingredients in an order for ease of cleanup.

This experiment was eye-opening. How often do we think about the resources we consume? Rinsing vegetables or fruits. Washing dishes or clothing. Leaving the lights on.

Being conscious of our lifestyle is an important aspect of feeling gratitude.

A few minutes later and my oatmeal concoction in the oven, I ended up with about 5 different tools that needed to be cleaned – a fork, teaspoon, measuring cup, salad bowl and whisk. 

My procedure for washing dishes involved using a salad bowl as a basin, using a smaller container to scoop water into it to soak the used items. With everything soaking in the salad bowl, I massaged the grime off, poured the water out and then lathered with soap. Two more quarts of water used to rinse the soapy items. My stockpot reserve dwindled. 

When lunchtime came around, I was lucky to have leftover soup in a glass container. Another quart of water went into a stock-pan so I could steam my meal. The water left in the stock-pan was used to clean my bowl and spoon. 

By the time the building management informed us that the water was back on, I still had half a stock pot of water left. I feel proud for being able to live minimally today, even if the challenge wasn’t self-imposed. There was probably enough leftover water for a washcloth shower if I wanted to continue this exercise til the end.

However, I know tonight I will be able to prepare dinner without worrying about the amount of water that I need and a nice warm luxurious shower awaits me before bedtime. Whenever I reach for the faucet, I am assured that water will flow. I can live my regular life without wondering or worrying about this basic necessity.

On a macro level, life is pretty awesome.

Thankfulness and appreciation are some of the feelings that I am left with. This exercise today reminded me how grateful I am to live in a place with clean, dependable and affordable resources. Something that I believe all humans deserve.

Have you ever tried an exercise like this? If so, please share! I would love to hear about your experiences.

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