The Smaller Things, by A. Midwester

To give you a little background, for most of my life I lived in an urban environment, everything I needed was just a short walk or drive away. It could have been a few 2x4s and screws for one of my many projects, a new tool when I needed it, or anything else like it. If it wasn’t available locally, I could easily order it online and expect it, almost without failure, within a day or two. It’s truly amazing what society has developed in terms of convenience. But it’s also scary to consider what would happen if that convenience just went away overnight.

Then about a decade ago, one of those moments that can change the direction of your life showed itself for my wife and I. An elderly family member had passed away and left behind what I always referred to as the family farm (the farm). I grew up visiting the farm many times over the years with my family, and through experiences I had in those early years of my life, it was part of who I had become.

Time and lack of maintenance was causing it to fall into disrepair. The farm was a day’s drive from where I lived most of my life, and 1+ hours from any major metropolitan area. It kind of felt like the “boonies” whenever I visited, which was several times a year. But I still loved the peace, quiet, and sense of freedom I had every time I was there. Our family did all we could to keep up with the basic maintenance through long weekend trips multiple times a year.

It had been a few years since my family member’s passing, and it was fast approaching the time where we had to make a decision on what to do with the property. We could either sell the land and equipment or make a big decision to relocate to the farm and undertake the gargantuan task of not only rehabilitating it, but building a new life. To me the answer was simple. I take great pride in my heritage and where our family came from, so I knew we would make the move. It was made easier being that my wife and I had built our own Internet-based businesses that we were secure in. It’s something in my life we will never regret and also when the hard work truly began.

The transition to rural life was a jarring one. Anyone who has made a big move away from what you know understands part of that. But unless you have done it, I’m not sure anyone can understand how different your daily routines become once you are living rurally. All those conveniences you were used to just went ‘poof’. Need a gallon of milk? You may have to drive 15, 20 or even 30 miles. Need some building materials? That could be one or two hours away. Think you’re going to get that widget you think you want overnight? Not a chance.

Getting back to the farm, it’s taken a long time to discover all the things that needed to be updated, repaired and/or built. As time went on, I had to begrudgingly admit to myself that this project was much bigger than I ever thought. To this day I am still discovering things that need to be accomplished and am amazed at what my family had built and maintained with much less.

The process included spending large amounts of time in the pastures removing the undesirable trees that were slowly yet surely swallowing it up, repairing outbuildings, fixing fundamental infrastructure like fences, and otherwise just learning the state of the property. And from that a list started to form of what needed to be done. A list that is ever-evolving and changing and getting longer.

This kind of rehabilitation takes a certain mindset to accomplish. Since being a child, I’ve seen myself as someone who isn’t afraid of taking on any project, small or large. I for some reason never developed the fear of failure that for some becomes prohibitive to even starting. Which means I have gained a lot of wisdom through the success and failures of completing those things. Only now, it’s taken half my life, have I started to feel competent in some areas.

Seeing what I feel is the inevitable direction our once great country is going, some of those things may be helpful to share with others. Because of my urban background I feel like my perspective now includes both abundance and scarcity on a ‘smaller things’ scale. And with that I have learned to prepare much better.

For most, at least initially when TEOTWAWKI comes knocking, it will be the small things you need to survive that get missed the most. Most people don’t have the skills to make much of it anymore and are going to go to great lengths to get them. It will be the lack of these things that makes someone realize how hard life will be getting. And I’d bet that those small things will be more valuable than most as reality hits.

Taking on a rural lifestyle made me have this realization. I found myself needing little things, like soap or maybe a tube of toothpaste, nuts and bolts, tools and supplies. Every time this happened, I made the long trip to the store to pick up that extra ‘thing’ just because I didn’t plan well enough or forgot to pick it up last time I was in the city. I would order it online at times, but even that has gotten much worse over the years. It can easily take a week to get what you ordered despite the modern fast shipping promises. Patience is learned I must say.

This experience, coupled with watching our country and in many ways our world go down a clear road of self-destruction, inspired me to make a change. I started to prepare for the day when the small things wouldn’t be available like they are now. Or if they are they will be much more expensive.

I took a close look at our lifestyle on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis and started in on a list of items I personally know my family would need. I also took a look at things that would enable me to continue living this lifestyle and take care of my family with minimal disruption, at least initially.

The approach is simple. Spend some time performing a basic exercise. Walk through your routine chronologically and write down or remember all the little things you need to live in a healthful and secure manner. After you have this priority 1 list in place, consider all the other small things you need to function and provide for your family.

What I did personally was write down what it is I do daily. All the things most of us do, from brushing my teeth to making dinner. I cataloged all the things I needed to complete those tasks. It contained items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, a pair of shoes, shoelaces, and a belt. For you, it may contain medication you need to take. Then, start another potentially much longer priority 2 list. One that may take a year to comprehensively make, and that lists all the small things you need to continue thriving on a daily basis where you are at. I’m not talking about buying a spare game for your game console here. This will probably include a lot more consumable items like nails and screws, filters, small engine parts, pencils and paper, and tools.

Once the list is compiled, it’s time to start prioritizing what is most important. Then, as time and money allows, procure enough for a month, 6 months, or a year. Keep it stored in an organized way so you know exactly where it is. Remember that not everything will last as long as you want, so be cautious as you plan and procure. Note too that there may be a need to bug out from where you are, so prepare for that contingency as well.

The Priority 1 list is more personal in nature and I prefer not suggest to others what they need to include, but I will share a few of the things I have started to accumulate as part of my Priority 2 list.

I know there is more, but this is to inspire from the perspective of someone who moved to a rural life, not to be comprehensive in all things. And don’t forget the adage… 2 is 1 and 1 is none… but more is better.

General Hardware
  • Standard grade 5, 8 bolts, nuts, washers in commonly required lengths and sizes. These are useful for repairs of all kinds and are durable.
  • Fine thread grade 5, 8 bolts. Harder to find but available. Vehicles utilize fine-threaded bolts more than you know. If you have an older vehicle, plan for repairs and the fasteners they require.
  • Machine screws in all lengths and sizes
  • Wood screws in all lengths and sizes
  • Sheet metal screws in all lengths and sizes
  • Consider stainless screws as well.
  • Washers in various sizes for your bolts and other screws, including copper washers.
  • Deck screws. 3” is a must but consider 2” as well. These are invaluable for repairing or building things.
  • Nails. Sinkers are invaluable in construction but consider some ring shank nails as well.
  • Methods to organize your hardware.
  • Hammers. There are many kinds of hammers, but a good construction hammer is very versatile.
  • Hand saws. There are many types of handsaws as well, but a good quality western style saw, but both crosscut and rip cut is essential.
  • Metal saws and extra blades.
  • Screwdrivers. Small and large.
  • Chisels.
  • Punches.
  • 1⁄4”, 3/8” and perhaps a 1⁄2” socket set, with both deep and shallow sockets
  • End wrenches. SAE and Metric.
  • Pliers of all kinds. For plumbing, wiring and general purpose.
  • Wire brushes.
  • Essential wrenches that may be applicable to your vehicles if necessary
  • Files
  • Chainsaw, at least a 16” but I would consider an 18”.
  • Good all-purpose splitting axe.
  • Depending on the type of wood you may be splitting, a maul could be useful.
  • Shovels.
  • A good EDC knife (or two or three) for each family member that can use it.
  • A good set of general knives for cooking and preparing meals.
  • A good knife sharpening stone.
  • Box cutter.
  • Essential garden tools. Small shovels, rakes, etc.
  • Electrical diagnostic tools, such as test lights
  • Soldering gun for electrical repair
  • Basic blacksmithing tools
  • Seamstress-related items. Thread and needles, etc.
Quality Battery-powered Tools
  • Standard drill for boring holes or installing screws.
  • 1⁄4 impact driver
  • 4 1/2-5” Grinder.
  • Circular saw.
  • Possibly a reciprocating saw, as they are very useful for all kinds of cutting.
  • Spare batteries.
  • Because these are battery-powered consider a method to recharging them if the grid is unavailable.
  • Any of many others available depending on your needs.
Consumables, Engine Maintenance, Other
  • Pens, Pencils, paper
  • Filters for your primary vehicles (oil, fuel, air)
  • Filters for any other modes of transportation. Motorcycles, side by sides, quads
  • Filters for any small engine you may need to employ (Chainsaws, Brush Cutters, Generators).
  • Spark plugs for all your small engines
  • Spare parts for all your small engines. Many of these have small parts that tend to wear out or break. Keep a supply on hand.
  • An extra oil change or two for all small engines, as well as your primary vehicles.
  • Drill drivers, and bits.
  • Grinder discs, both for cutting and grinding
  • Spare wire in many sizes. 12 and 14 gauge for home wiring. 16 gauge and smaller for all the smaller maintenance tasks
  • Tape. Aluminum duct repair tape, Duck tape, masking, electrical, etc.
  • Solder for electrical repair.
  • Electrical connectors.
  • Gloves. Everyday purpose, leather gloves.
  • Blades for your box cutter knife.
  • Reciprocating saw blades.
  • Circular saw blades.
  • Chainsaw blade spares.
  • Files for your chainsaw blades. You would be amazed at how long a maintained and sharpened chain will last you.
  • A spare bar for your chainsaw.
  • Some good metal trash cans that can be used not only for storing items, but even making a basic Faraday cage for sensitive electronic items.
  • Thread for clothing repair.
  • Buckets, buckets and more buckets. Useful for everything.
  • Lumber of all kinds. 8 foot 2×4’s are endless in what they can do for you, but get treated lumber for outdoor projects. Sheet goods like some spare 7/16 OSB, T- 111 siding or 4×4 and 6×6 treated posts are also great for things you may need to build around your property.
  • Consider stocking up on fertilizer if you have or plan to have a garden.

Having items like these not only enables you to complete your job more quickly and give you a sense of being prepared if and when smaller things are not available anymore, it will save you money in the long term as prices continue to rise. Not to mention miles on your car and gas in your tank. The Alpha Strategy in action really. You may even be able to trade spares for other necessities you have when it is needed.

As you start to build your inventory or supplies, the next of advice I would give someone is to do more than pull up an online video and watch how something is done or made. Do it yourself, make it yourself. Learn how to make the tool or thing you need to accomplish something. That knowledge will never leave you and give you the chance to teach your children the same thing. If TEOTWAWKI happened tomorrow, what skills do you think would be the most valuable? I can tell you it’s not going to be how to play a video game. It’s going to be real skills that produce something, not consume. Skills like basic blacksmithing, welding, carpentry or building essentials. Its skills like growing your own food and preparing it. Skills like marksmanship, gun and rifle maintenance. These skills empowered our grandparents and great-grandparents to create the foundations of our modern society, and I can’t recommend enough spending some time to learn them, even at a very basic level. I promise you it will inform and empower you like nothing ever has.

There is so much more I could share, but I hope I have helped to inspire a strategy and ideas as you prepare for what is coming. God bless.