From a sustainability point of view, I don't live in a perfect house (who does, right?). First, in the interest of being energy efficient, the whole house would need to be more compact with less space wasted on things like open flooring. All of the external walls would be built-in bookshelves (which would significantly improve our heat loss problems), and there wouldn't be any carpets, anywhere ... well, maybe a strategically placed throw rug or two.
But the one room (other than the kitchen), where I feel like we're the most inefficient is the bathroom, and if I could, I'd make some huge changes there.
First, the toilet would have to go. I'd have, either an outhouse (least ideal in a suburban setting) or we'd have a separate space with a composting toilet or just plain buckets - one for liquids and one for solids. I'd use the saw dust method for odor control, and we'd be switching from toilet paper to cloth wipes. The solids bucket would be emptied directly into the septic tank outsie, and the liquids bucket would be diluted with water and used to water the espaliered fruit trees.
The bathroom would be an actual BATHroom, in the model of The Japanese Bath.
First, the whole room would be cedar, because I like the look and feel of wood. It's warmer than tile, and in the Japanese bath style, having a warm room can be a big deal.
It would have to be a fairly large room, because the tub would be enormous. Picture a hot tub. In fact, that's what the tub would be - a wood-fired hot tub, but indoors. The only problem I have with the whole idea is that I keep thinking about the boiling frog story and it freaks me out a little, but I think once the water was at a comfortable temperature, we'd put out the fire and get into the tub :).
So, we'd have this cedar room, which would look a bit like a sauna with a big, old hot tub. When we got ready to bathe, at the end of the day, we'd fill up the tub and light the fire. When the tub was up to temperature, we'd go into the room, which would now be heated with steam from the water and the wood fire.
First stop would be the wash station, which is basically a bucket, where we wash and rinse our bodies. Then, once we're clean, we get into the bath and soak in the hot water. Everyone would use the same bath water, which wouldn't be dirty, because we'd all wash BEFORE we got into the tub.
After we're finished bathing, the water would be drained into the washing machine and used to wash the clothes ... or if I couldn't manage to convince the family that the bucket-toilet was a better solution, the bath water would drain into the toilet tanks (in a different room, but nearby) and be used to flush the toilets.
I can picture this perfect bathroom so clearly. It seems like such a better solution to what we have in most American homes, and a much better use of our limited resources.
One of the selling points of my house when we bought it was the jacuzzi tub, and it has been a wonderful asset. My youngest was born in the tub. The Japanese bath I'm picturing in my mind would work especially well in my house, because our current tub is near our bedroom, and putting a woodfired tub there would solve any problems we have with heating that portion of our house - which would solve the concerns we have about freezing pipes.
I've talked often about how much I value my hot showers, but I'd give up the showers for the type of bath I'm describing, because it's not the shower that is so wonderful. It is the opportunity to fully immerse my body in hot, steamy water, and with the Japanese bath model, that would be possible.
When we start talking about prepping and self-sufficiency and sustainable living, I think we can't forget how important it is for us to remain "human." Having lived in situations where I was "roughing it" for several days at a time (including time I spent in the military serving in "the field"), I can't stress enough how good the simple act of cleansing feels. In fact, a Sarajevo war survivor said, "The feeling that you're human can fade pretty fast. I can't tell you how many people I knew who would have traded a much needed meal for just a little bit of toothpaste, rouge, soap or cologne. Not much point in fighting if you have to lose your humanity.
We still have that raccoon fat we rendered in the fall, which will, hopefully, be made into a usable soap in the very near future, and if I had my way, we'd be renovating our bathroom into a Japanese-style bath with a cast-iron, wood-heated tub.
I read a lot of articles that talk about food storage and bug-out-bags and weapons stockpiling, but if we cease being human beings, what's the point of survival?