If anyone knows poor, I know poor. Well, the first world version, anyway. I’ve got family that grew up in a shack, literally. One room, in the mountains, built from spare pieces of wood. I’ve got family that didn’t have their first indoor toilet and shower until they were in their twenties. I’ve had Christmas presents purchased with the points off diaper boxes. I’ve been homeless, underage and living out of my car. I, currently, haven’t had hot running water in three years, came close to starving this winter and don’t own a single pair of shoes. Trust me, poverty and I are close friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’d rather be poor than even comfortable because I like that every little thing is a blessing. I took my first hot bath in three years on New Year’s Eve – using water heated on the stove and a large Rubbermaid container – and it was the most glorious, if hilarious, experience of my life! You can’t buy that shit.
I’m only mentioning it because, given my close ties to the less-than-fortunate side of life, I’ve gained a lot of ghetto knowledge about how to get by and there are a lot of people struggling right now. Maybe some of what I know can be of use. So, ta-da! The Poor Victorian’s Guide to, well, Poverty!
I might discuss the actual doing of laundry another day but today I want to give some poverty pointers on ironing. Dude and dudettes, when you’re poor, spending even $10 on a miniature ironing board is ridiculous. But you still need wrinkle-free clothes if you want to get anywhere in life. So, here are a few things that I’ve learned.
1) A flat surface and a (natural fiber) towel make as good an ironing board as the real deal. If you need to do collars or cuffs, a raised surface, like a book or a board covered with a towel, will definitely get the job done.
2) Cornstarch and water – mixed until the liquid is milky – make a great, cheap starch. A spray bottle makes the mixture handy but, if all else fails, dip the item you want starched in the liquid and then squeeze out the excess. Iron as usual.
3) Don’t have an iron? No problem but plan ahead! If it’s a lightweight item, hanging it up in the bathroom while you take a steaming shower will get out a lot of the obvious wrinkles. If it’s really wrinkled, you might have to let the hot water run for awhile.
4) And last, and certainly most desperate sans-iron: lay a towel on the floor, the (damp) item that needs to be ironed smoothed out on top. Lay another towel on top of that and then pile on the weight. Books, shoes, bricks, the dog. Whatever will keep it laying as flat as possible while it dries. Just make sure the clothing is completely smooth before weighting it down or it will dry with new, very crisp wrinkles that will be hard to get rid of.
Being poor is rough. It means you can’t just run out and buy something even if you desperately need it. None of these tips are rocket science, I’ll admit, but they’ve certainly come in handy throughout my life. And, hey, even if you’re not poor, you never know when your iron will blow on a Sunday night at midnight when all of the stores have closed.
Be sure to stay tuned for more poverty pointers!