How often do you change your sheets? Probably more often than you should.
Water shortages still in the news but that was what they were talking about on the BBC this morning – people were actually getting in touch to tell how clean their laundry habits were.
I wasn’t impressed. Because cleanliness can be incredibly destructive and if you’re proud of how often you change your sheets, perhaps you shouldn’t be!
We’re so obsessed these days about being clean – mostly thanks to a giant advertising industry – that we are destroying the planet. We wear something for a minute and toss it in the washer. We panic if we haven’t had a daily shower. We feel threatened by the thought of monsters in the toilet if we don’t use powerful bleaches. And scared that if our natural odour isn’t sprayed into oblivion no one’s going to sit beside us.
It’s not as if most of us live dirty lives or do dirty jobs these days. It’s all getting a bit over the top. Even worse; we inhibit our children’s natural tendency to explore their world by suggesting that getting dirty or making a mess is bad.
Exploration and experimentation is a vital part of education. If getting dirty is the result it doesn’t matter, we have the facilities to get clean again. Many don’t. In fact we swish more clean water down our waste pipes than many people have to drink in a week. Criminal really. And maybe if we were more careful not to, less prissy about showers and clean sheets, we wouldn’t have a hosepipe ban now. Worth thinking about!
Mark Boyle, who wrote The Moneyless Man after living a year without money to show how expenditure trashes the planet, recommends we do what he does; uses nothing to keep clean! ‘…a quick sniff under my arm reassures them you don’t need soap to be clean. My skin is much healthier since I stopped using soap and since it’s no longer dry, I don’t have to use moisturisers. I stopped using shower gel long before I stopped using money, because I realised it was very bad for my skin and made me smell worse…The same companies who sell face washes also sell moisturiser…’ (check out his site here)
The use of cleansers is a seductive marketing ploy we all fall foul of. However, I admit old sweat smells disgusting. Neither do I like toilets stinking of wee. And there’s nothing I like better than clean sheets. But I’m not going to unnecessarily trash the planet because of it. Besides, we’re so showered and laundered these days we rarely stink of old sweat.
Obviously, it’s important to give our kids an understanding of personal hygiene, good grooming and general domestic cleanliness. But it is more important to their whole future to also give them an understanding of the impact it has on the planet and its resources through water use, our waste, and chemical cleansing products. And to demonstrate how to maintain a balance between the two.
I’m not suggesting you stoop to my level; I once pulled back my child’s duvet to discover there was more muck down there than in the garden. I’m just suggesting you think about it, and appreciate those clean sheets – when you do have them which I hope isn’t too often– as the luxury cleanliness is.