The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Bathroom-water conservation

One in a whenever-the-heck-I-feel-like-it series. 


           “We’re not in a drought,” he tells me.  “What does it matter how much water I use?”  This is actually quite true.  If you live in an area with plenty of water, your water use has no effect on the environment.  Really.  None at all.  Of course that only is the case if you use solely rain water that you have collected in huge tubs in your backyard.  And if you use only cold water.  And if you hand-remove the sh*t from the toilet after use, carrying it out to your backyard as fertilizer, perhaps.

            If, however, you are lazy, like me, you prefer to get your water from turning on the tap, which means the water companies must use energy to carry the water to your house.  (Energy production creates waste.)  And, if you are a hedonist, like me, you prefer to shower and wash your hands in warm water, using energy to heat the water.  (Energy production creates waste.)  And, if you are living in a house with two little sh*t-producing machines, like my children, you might prefer to flush the toilet, which means the water companies must then use energy to clean the water that goes down the drain.  (Energy production creates waste.)

            Unfortunately, there is not some guy sitting outside your house watching the water flow out your sewer and deciding whether the water coming out is dirty and needs processing or is clean and can go right back into the supply (what a job that would be).  The water companies have to work under the assumption that all the water that goes down the drain has been sullied and requires processing.  So, even if you are in the next room clipping your toenails while the sink runs, the water is going to need to be cleaned, using energy.  (Energy production creates waste.)

            This, as I understand it, is the basic argument for conserving water, even if you live somewhere with 347 days of rain each year.  (Sometimes, I feel like I live somewhere like that.)  If I am wrong, please, one of the more scientific minds out there should feel free to correct me.  Or give me more details to make my argument stronger.  (Alina, maybe?)

            What I like about water conservation is how easy it is.  Mostly, it consists of not doing things.  This, as you know, is my area of expertise.  Take the toilets.  Now, there are people who visit the toilet three, maybe four, times a day.  These are not people who have given birth to children.   (To be fair, I had a tiny bladder before having children, but I like to blame as much on my kids as possible.)  I visit that little room about once an hour.  Zachary is only slightly more continent than I am, so he is in there pretty frequently, as well, and most of the time he actually hits his target, peeing in the toilet.  When you factor in a few visits from the big guy, that’s a lot of water down the toilet.  So, we just do not flush.  I mean, we flush, but not very often.  We wait till someone has made a solid contribution before pulling the handle. 

Nor is this the only way we help out the planet simply by being lazy.  We make group trips.  You see, Zach prefers an escort on most trips to the bathroom.  If I were to just take him and then wait to go myself, I’d be in there every twenty minutes.  So, when I have to go, he goes.  When he has to go, I go.  (I don’t recommend this for parents with twelve-year-olds.)  While we’re at it, we change Benjamin’s diaper.  We are in there already – let’s make the most of the hike up the steps.  This way, even if there is some flushing to be done, we have cut our flushing by half.

Much has been made lately of the two-minute Navy shower.  This is something I never could quite accomplish.  I spend at least a minute each shower having to adjust the constantly fluctuating water temperature, so maybe all those Navy-showerers have better plumbing systems.  I have, however, come up with a few ways to greatly reduce my time pouring water down the drain.

First of all – and men might want to look away for this paragraph – I have started waxing my legs.  Ideally, I would not put any time or resources into hair-removal at all, under the principle that the only reason I covet hairless legs is because I have bought into a patriarchal society that insists women have to spend hours each day grooming themselves.  Since we do not live in an ideal world and I have bought into a patriarchal society that requires me to spend at least 15 minutes each day grooming myself, I still do the hair-removal thing.  Shaving, however, is very time-consuming.  Not to mention water-consuming.  Since I need to wax monthly anyway due to certain unfortunate dark-haired tendencies to grow hair in socially unacceptable places, I started doing my legs, as well.  Shorter showers, less time spent balancing on one leg while dragging a sharp object across the other.

Men can look back now.

The other method I have devised for shortening my showers is, if I say so myself, pure genius.  It is so simple, so effective, and so utterly satisfying, I cannot imagine why I did not think of it before.  It appeals to the very core of my lazy soul.

I sleep in.

That’s it.  I sleep later.  Nowadays, I actually sleep until the kids wake up.  Then I tell Zachary to chat with Benjamin in his crib for a few minutes while I hop in the shower.  If knowing that your three-year-old is entertaining your one-year-old does not make you take a faster shower, I don’t know what will.

If you cannot wait until the children wake up, I suggest at least sleeping in so that you have only a few minutes before they wake up.  Nothing speeds up a shower like wondering if your kids have leapt out of bed and are rearranging the furniture while you stand there in the steam.

If you do not have children, just sleep in.  You have a train to catch?  A job to get to?  Fantastic.  Get ten extra minutes of shut-eye, then hop in the shower.  I guarantee you will use less water.  And – here’s the best part – you will get more sleep.  As far as I am concerned, the only respectable motive in life is more sleep.

I would start talking about turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, but if you are not doing that already, it seems pretty clear that the environment does not top your list of concerns. 

25 responses to “The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Bathroom-water conservation

  1. Great addition to the Lazy Mother’s Guide. You cracked me up. Unfortunately for me, I have a Barney song imbedded in my brain: “Even when we’re having fun, we don’t let the water run.”

  2. I have certainly mastered the 3 minute shower while my almost three year old is entertaining the one year old in the crib. I actually, thought that it was some original idea, that I came up with . . .. didn’t realize people half-way across the world were doing it to! 🙂

  3. you gotta put this series together in a little booklet. and i am lazy, too. one option–sleep so late that you have to SKIP your shower! LOL

    sorry I haven’t been around much–people are flu-y around here. . .

  4. I had to wait for my uncontrollable laughter to subside before I could keep reading when I read the “I don’t recommend this for parents with twelve-year-olds” bit.

    I often take showers with my six month old playing on the rug outside the shower. My showers are pretty fast. 😛

  5. How clever! My kids are older, so I don’t worry about them when I’m showering (plus, I figure the restraining straps are holding fairly well – ha!), so my shower-time-limiting strategy is that we have a dinky, tiny,tiny hot water heater. Nothing like the threat of cold water pouring over your head to get you to jump out in a hurry!

    The first time I was introduced to the concept of limited flushing, I was at a friend’s, and she had a sign tacked above the toilet: If it’s yellow, we’re mellow; if it’s brown, it goes down. Poetic, and gross! Two for one.

    Thanks so much for the laugh this morning. You are a talented writer.

  6. Love your tips – unfortunately my kids are the type that take THE LONGEST SHOWERS EVER- to combat this I go and start a load of laundry – yes, I am still using water in the washing machine but it seems to effectively end their lenghty shower time!! Nothing like a burst of freezing cold water or scalding hot water to hurry you up! 🙂


  7. I take pretty short showers – when I get them at all – so I’m doing my part there.

    I hope you have a wonderful New Year, Emily. I also hope to see lots of you in 2008 – see you then. Kellan

  8. loved this. 🙂 a very fun take on water conservation, and some thought I had never pondered about the energy it takes when we use water. thanks

  9. I am all for sleeping later. For instance today I conserved water by not washing my hair. 🙂 I am guilty of loving a hot bath on a cold winter’s day though, I figure I’d better take advantage of the ability to indulge while I am still single and childless.

    And I definitely agree on your version of heaven, did I forget to mention that the King library has a coffee shop in the ground floor. *swoon*

  10. I’m no expert, but you are right – energy production creates waste – and running water takes energy. I also have one and three year old and run to shower when I hear the first noise of the morning – figuring I have a few moments before mayhem breaks out. Sadly I have often paid for this by having to handle mayhem when I get out and am wet, cold and naked. Most days is pays off, I get to shower, alone, and don’t take too long – they can only get into so much trouble in their own rooms. (right?)

  11. I brush my teeth in the shower now THAT is conservation, baby! 🙂

  12. I’m doing my part by living with the worlds smallest water heater – three minutes, tops!! on the days i get up in time to actually turn the water heater on with a enough time to heat up before i go to work that is!! how is THAT for energy conservation!? 🙂

  13. Ok, truth be told, I LOVED Bailey too. But Charlie’s eyes……swoon!


  14. nicely done, Em.

  15. Hilarious! I always showered very early while my kids were still asleep. It helped that our house is small and the (only) bathroom is right next to their room so I could hear whatever was going on.

    Many times in my life, I’ve lived with unusual plumbing situations (for the USA anyway) and I am all too familiar with “if it’s yellow…” 🙂

  16. We’re always in a drought. Water is like gold over here.

    I miss living in wet climates!

  17. We have 30 days of potable drinking water left in our city, so I am thinking a lot about this lately!

    Glad to know there are folks all over who do the sleep late, take a quick shower, and hope my kids don’t end up with a concussion while I’m in there thing!

  18. I live where there’s lots of rain but we still have years we are short on water. It doesn’t seem to make sense but I guess the go by the supplies.

    I have a well, so most of what you’ve said shouldn’t apply to me, right? But no according to the powers that be. It’s probably about the power to pump the water.

    I know about short showers though, 4 years in a boarding school with 100 girls and 6 showers with only an hour before lights out, teached you fast or else………someone throws cold water over the wall and lets you know you’re taking too long. I can still shower in under 5 minutes. That included undressing, dressing and washing my hair. Maybe I’ve saved enough water over the years to make up for the other ways I’m not so efficient. lol

  19. Love this post. What a great idea.

    We, too, often try not to flush unless necessary. What’s that old saying? If it’s yellow, let it mellow?

    That’s it.

  20. Oh, Emily, how I love you and your witty ways!

  21. Interesting. I don’t flush the toilet each time after my son uses it either. But I have to admit that I like to take long showers… especially during the cold days of winter. Mmm… perhaps, I should do what you do… rush through showering when he is just about to wake up! 🙂

  22. Great – saving the world AND getting more sleep.

    Perhaps after the family book is done, you could do the Lazy Mother’s Guide to Everything.

  23. I never thought about the shower thing. But I always shut my alarm clock off, and when I realized i’m late I rushed to the shower to get a quick rinse. At times I want to stay in there longer, but I guess I am conserving water. Something nice to know about my daily routine.

  24. Outstanding writing. hope to visit soon=D