How Important is Hygiene in the Post Apocalypse?

Fallout 3A long time back, I remember getting really deep into the game Fallout 3. For the uninitiated, it’s a nuclear post-apocalyptic role playing game for the PC, XBox, and PS3. The game features some incredible production values so it is very easy to get caught up in the world.

Well, I remember I visited the town of Megaton to trade with the local merchant. She lived in corrugated house with multiple floors. It was filled with an assortment of broken electronic devices, shambled furniture, and some other derelict knick-knacks to produce an overwhelming sense of squalor. After our trade, I decided to snoop around when I noticed the merchant doing something entirely unexpected. She started sweeping the floor. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Lady, I thought. You live in the roach pit. The floor is the least of your problems.

Throughout the rest of the game, I continued to see the same sense of disarray. Even in Tenpenny Tower, where clients paid big money, er caps, to live also lived in shambling rooms. I gotta say, it irritated me. Did the nuclear apocalypse wipe out simple home repair skills? If you paid big money to stay in a room, would you accept a sheet-less stained mattress as your bed. Or a tattered rug to adorn your floor? Or non-functioning electronic devices to line your shelves?

I would think not, even if the remedies were not on hand. I’d use clothes on the bed, if no sheets were available. I’d remove the rug and toss out of all the useless thing. My point, just because the world has gone to hell outside my dwelling, it doesn’t mean I have to reflect it inside of it. In fact, I believe an ordered abode would be the key for a sane and functioning mind.

And then there’s body hygiene. Under a state of siege, it makes sense to be grizzled and nasty, but zombie or biker gang sieges can only go on so long. Once a new state of normal is established, hygiene should be a top priority to staying alive. Yet, in scores of post-apocalyptic films we see people living like Monty Python peasants. I think the Middle Ages were a fantastic public service announcement on why we shouldn’t return to such a lifestyle. Apocalypse or not.

Which brings me to the real killer resource in any survival situation. It’s a resource that has been proven the most valuable in every apocalyptic event that has shook humanity up to this date. It’s not guns and ammo. It’s not gold. It’s clean water.
In a world of the dead or a world of the nuclear wasteland, clean water would be the new gold standard. Water filters would be the gift of kings. Guns may enforce your will, but to have a will, you need to drink clean water. And without access to it, you’d gladly trade your guns for it.

I never see water mentioned in zombie films, but to me, that’s where all the action would take place long after the store were looted.

Just my thoughts. I’m no expert on the subject as I haven’t lived through the collapse of civilization but if you have, let me know if I’m on the mark here. And well, if you haven’t, let me know as well.