Surviving building work and no bathroom…


If you’re wondering why I’ve been a little quiet for a few days, it’s because we’re having some more building work done. Yes, I’m sure it will all be lovely when it’s finished, as everyone seems to say, but meanwhile it’s been going on for nearly a fortnight and we’ve had no bathroom for over a week. It’s er, unlovely for the time being.

Today was a special treat because we now – temporarily – have a genuine flushing toilet instead of one we have to flush with a bucket of water, and I’m actually starting to count myself as lucky. We do take a lot for granted in this country, including hot running water, heating, cold running water, not having a hole in the side of your house where a window should be, having insulation above your ceilings, having ceilings, having walls, and floors. You never know what you’ve got until it’s in a skip in the street, eh?

I currently have no work desk, office area, or working bathroom, and as part of this there’s intermittent supply of water, electricity and wifi. Oh yeah, and I’m allergic to wet wipes. It’s enough to make you run off to a hotel for a few days, but we’re trying to bring this project in on budget and it’s not really on the cards. Somehow, though, we’re still holding it together and keeping ourselves washed, powdered and smelling sweet, so I thought it might be interesting to have a quick survival guide for anyone who’s about to go through a similar experience.

As a teenager I stayed in a cold water apartment in the Lower East Side in New York. They’d been against health and safety regulations for many years although some dodgy landlords were still breaking the rules, and the flats had no water heaters or bathrooms or anywhere to get washed, just communal toilets on some of the landings. And yet we managed to keep ourselves clean, washing our hair in the sink and rigging up a makeshift shower by warming up pans of water on the stove and standing in a big washing up bowl we kept next to the kitchenette sink.

You never know when those skills are going to come in handy again, but I’m glad I know I can get by. So anyway, here’s how we’ve been keepin’ it clean.

We found a £3 paddling pool at a cheap supermarket and we’ve been setting that up in the kitchen in the mornings. Unfortunately the shop seems to have sold out, but there’s something similar at Argos for £5 and there’s a £2.79 one at Amazon as well although that’s an add-on item so there’s a minimum £20 spend, and Amazon UK has another one for £4.99 with free P&P.

There’s a plastic kitchen jug to use for rinsing, and some muslin cloths for face and sponges for body washing, to get clean from head to toe.

To cut down on rinsing time, I’ve also switched to a really handy leave-in hair conditioner. It’s TRESemme Platinum Strength Leave-In Treatment, and it’s currently better than half price at Superdrug. It’s also available at Boots although they don’t have a sale on. It gets good reviews for a reason, it definitely works.

I’d still kill for a nice long soak in a freestanding roll top bath though. Shame it’s currently sat in a box outside the kitchen, but hey, you can’t have everything.

How would you cope if you had no bathroom for a fortnight? 

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  1. Sounds familiar, could be worse, how about kitchen renovation, early December and the levelling compound on the floor just wont set as it is too cold and someone had the bright idea of turning off the heating. Cooking on a spirit stove in the living room as the Microwave had thrown a tantrum. It’s amazing what you can deal with if you have to. Best of luck.

  2. Oh gracious you’ve just triggered memories of working as an 18-year-old au pair in Paris, living in quite literally what used to be the maid’s room on the 6th floor (no lift) of an apartment block. Basic loo (think footplates) shared by everyone on the floor, big stone sink in the corridor, but at least the option of a shower during the week in the family’s apartment downstairs. Good luck with the renovations. Can you invite yourself over to a friend’s house specifically for a long and luxurious bath?

  3. A fortnight? I had 2 children aged 7 and 3 and spent 6 months without a flushing loo, longer without hot water,kitchen sink, bath or wash basin. Never marry a builder! Am now divorced! We survived, I was lucky and had an old twin tub that heated water for washing. We stood (one at a time!) in an old baby bath and were “slopped down”. My caveat:watch your feet! Not being able to soak mine led to dry skin and deep cracks in heels, very painful.Best tip I can give: be nice to your friends and use their bathroom,saying you’ll give them dinner when order’s restored at home. Good luck, am so glad that there is light at the end of your tunnel

  4. Hi Faith, there’s nothing quite like having a few teenage travels and adventures, is there? It made me feel like I could improvise and cope with life’s little challenges. We’ve been offered the use of a nearby bathroom, and have helped others out in the past so we have a bit of good ‘social karma’ stored up.

  5. Dear Penny,
    I understand you have a few problems. But I wonder if we’ll have your feedback about the Jump Start of September that I really loved and enjoyed. Looking forward to start it all over again. Any more challenges coming up soon ?

  6. Hi Patricia – so glad that you enjoyed September on the site! As promised way back a few months ago, there will be another themed Tenner Week challenge coming up in the last week of October, and some Christmas prep ideas and challenges soon too.

    P x

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