Prepping and Practical Minimalism- Making Them Coexist- Part 1, by FLSnappyTurtle

My family has been prepping at a slower-than-desired rate for the past eight years. Like many survivalists, we add to our gear, food, and water supply as money and time permit. We are renters and tote our items from place to place when a move is required.

Practical Minimalism

Recently, I stepped back for a moment to take a good look at our way of living and our stuff. We had too much of it. Facing another cross-country move, I started taking inventory of everything we own and made some tough decisions about what to do away with. I’ve developed a new attitude of what I call “practical minimalism”.

It is a bit of an oxymoron to be a minimalist prepper. Many preppers I know question why I would even consider downsizing my preps or my personal items to just the essentials. For me, there are two main reasons: 1) ease of portability and 2) the peace I feel in a well-organized and clutter-free home.

First, Some Definitions

I understand these concepts will not appeal to many in the prepping community, but I will explain how I make the two lifestyles coexist and outline suggestions for those who wish to live the same way I do. First, let’s take a look at some definitions.

Prepping

“Prepping” to me means having gear that would help a person survive as many different disaster scenarios as possible. I have met some preppers who only focus on one disaster scenario and plan around that. In my opinion, that leaves a large gap and possibly lessens one’s chances for survival. Being prepared for disaster situations usually means a person has extra food and water in storage, along with other gear: guns, ammunition, gas masks, special clothing, bug out bags, off-grid food preparation items, non-electric lighting, tools, farming/gardening equipment, survival books, and so on.

Practical Minimalism

“Practical Minimalism” is, in my opinion, a philosophy where a person simplifies life by greatly reducing the amount of stuff he or she owns. It involves extreme downsizing to just the essentials with a few loved items scattered in. Now I am not describing the minimalism that is commonly portrayed as white rooms with three kitchen gadgets and a bedroll. Instead, the practical minimalist has three pairs of shoes in the closet instead of having twenty-four pairs of shoes, and instead of storing small appliances that get used once or twice a year, the practical minimalist keeps only the appliances that are used often.

Can Practical Minimalism and Prepping Coexist?

The question is: Can practical minimalism and prepping coexist? If so, how?

I believe the answer is “yes”. One must take into consideration his or her prepping plans and goals along with the downsizing goals. It is about the two lifestyles meeting in the middle. Here’s how I believe it can be approached:

Food and Water

Decide what length of time food and water storage should last in an emergency. Are you planning for a month? Six months? A year?

Many minimalists only plan food for a week, or even a day, in advance. As preppers, that won’t work for us. My family has decided to keep two months of food and water storage on hand; this is down from our typical six-month supply. Our current food storage system is a week’s worth of food packed into stealth boxes (recognized by outsiders as diaper boxes) and hidden in plain sight around the house and in closets. I write an expiration date on the bottom of the box for rotation purposes. (This date is taken from the food item in the box that expires first.) We also store food in the garage and in furniture, like filing cabinets. Our water storage follows the minimum rule of one gallon per person per day for drinking and cooking. We also store bottled tap water and have two 55-gallon barrels that were filled by the hose. We have filtration and treatment chemicals for the water that is stored long term.

Survival Gear

Decide what survival gear is essential and what gear is not.

My bug out bag has changed over the years. It used to be an internal frame hiking backpack fully packed with a tent, cooking gear, first aid kit, self-inflating air pad and sleeping bag. Now, I carry a simple lumbar pack attached to a Molle tactical belt with a few other pouches attached. I had to swap out of necessity. Instead of carrying a huge hiking pack with a bunch of unnecessary “junk” in it, I now must wear our toddler in a hiking pack above my lumbar pack. Our child is much more important cargo! In my case, knowing I’d be wearing our child in an on-foot bug out scenario made me scrutinize my gear and downsize to the essentials.

Questions To Ask to Help Decide What To Keep or Get Rid Of

It can be difficult to determine what to eliminate. To help decide what to keep and what to get rid of, ask the following questions for each item you have:

Critical To Survival In Many Situations

Is it critical to my survival in many different situations? For me, keeping items like a lighter, paracord, safety pins, a Mylar emergency blanket, water treatment chemicals, a multitool, a knife, and the like in one baggie is critical to my survival in many different disaster situations, so I kept them. An example of a non-critical item that I got rid of was my self-inflating sleeping pad. It was a luxury item that was taking up storage space. I also sold the giant hiking backpack when I downsized to a lumbar pack.

When Last Used

When did I last look at the item, use the item, or touch the item? If it’s been over a year, and the item is not a critical item, consider getting rid of it. I got rid of a random collection of stainless-steel dog bowls I’d purchased at the dollar store. I had them packed in a box in the event we needed something lightweight to boil water in. They seemed like a great idea at the time, but they were just taking up space. Instead, each of our packs contains one stainless-steel cup for cooking or boiling water in.

How Many

How many of these do I have, and how many do I need? By answering this question, it will help whittle down duplicates of items you only need one of. For me, my first aid supplies were piling up. I got organized as I sorted and packed two bug-out first aid kits. The first kit is a larger one for more serious wounds and emergencies, and the other is a home kit. I donated the rest of the supplies to charity. Some may say that a person can never have enough first aid gear in a survival situation. Perhaps that is true, if you are stationary for an extended period and/or treating outsiders. That is not a part of our current plan, however.

The Odds of the Disaster

What are the odds of the type of disaster for which this item is designed happening in my area? Based upon that answer, do I want to store this indefinitely? This question is suited for specialty survival gear, like gas masks, chemical suits, or kits geared toward certain natural disasters, et cetera. If you believe that one type of disaster is more likely than another, perhaps your specialty gear should be tailored to that type of event. That is the case, of course, after you have assembled basic survival items that will help in multiple disaster situations.

Tomorrow, Storage and More

After asking the above questions for each item in your survival storage, you will have downsized your gear to the essential items for your plan. Tomorrow, we will continue by taking a look at storage and the “power of three” before moving into purchases and annual reassessments.

See also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 79 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 79 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.




15 Comments

  1. This is great article for promoting critical thinking about how to balance. I, too, have struggled with the same issues. Thank you for putting your thoughts and actions in writing. It gives me a platform for comparison of mine with yours.

  2. The more you learn, the less you have to carry. Of course, there is no prize for who has the least gear, but downsizing allows you to prioritize. Once you finally get settled down, you can always start expanding your gear, if you want.

    I think downsizing will also allow you to focus on skills, and not just gear. That’s a good thing.

    1. Deplorable Silver Stacker, it looks to me like a stainless steel extrusion possibly used in commercial window installation or some other construction design. Very similar to what is called unistrut. I, too noticed that and thought it clever.

  3. Looking forward to the next installment. I’m also living in a rented apartment in a major metro area. I have limited storage space inside and none outside my apartment.

    My new saying is “less is more” and have been working all summer to reorganize my home. I too was getting overwhelmed with all the stuff and had to cut back to what was most important.

  4. Climate controlled storage unit helps to keep your home clutter free. If it’s organized properly you can simply back up a truck and load it for moving to a new location. Like you we are trying to downsize to the essentials but if the storage unit is a reasonable price you can fit a lot of extras in that space. Have a plan to empty it in the event of a crisis.

  5. One thing about the racks, if it contains perishable foodstuffs that you are trying to rotate, you have to take everything out of a “file” whenever you add new material. Gets frustrating real fast. If you just put down some “tracks” on the shelves, even using cardboard, you can push in new cans/jars on one side and take from the other. You just have to be careful about how close you are to capacity. I once worked in a shop where we used a similar set up for storing hardware and components, and the hanging racks were more finicky than we liked, so don’t spend too much on them without trying them out.

  6. Excellent article. This is my way of staying prepared as well. I am helped by having a very fortunate situation though. I live in a very small town with conservative Sheriff, volunteer fire both of which I dutifully support. I work on a ranch. My area has abundant natural resources. So really, I live my preps. I store to expiration dates in amounts of what I consume throughout the year (stock rotation). My tools are pro quality and geared for this area. I legally harvest some natural resources for a living and personal use and my employer always has sides of beef. I will never be rich, but this is the way I choose to live – free. May the Lord bless us in abundance without the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

  7. Thank you for bringing this issue forward for discussion. We are trying to retire and downsize. Having one year of food and water, plus seven ways to cook, etc., will not work in a smaller home. Therefore, we have decided to use up all of the current food storage and to replenish it when we re-locate out of California. Dehydrated food stores better and we are only keeping two months of canned.
    Our decision to exit Ca., was a major factor in having to downsize. Moving is expensive and the moving companies charge by the pound. Secondly, the cost to store all this gear by the square foot, labor costs to maintain large properties, taxes, cost of living, etc., need to be considered when retiring and prepping.

  8. Has anyone else ever slept on the ground on a chilly night with nothing but a Mylar survival blanket? It got down around 40 the night I tried it and I froze my tushy off. Much colder and they’d have found me wrapped up in foil stiff as swinging meat in a freezer. I call B.S. on the mylar survival blanket. P.S. I only own 1 pair of shoes.

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