We have all heard the old idiom: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This basically means that something that one person considers worthless may be considered valuable by someone else. This could not be further from the truth in the mind of any survivor. You could branch out into every aspect and area of survival with this mindset at your core. Water, food, fire, shelter, and security can all be obtained with this in mind.
I believe that in a survival situation and in everyday life that everything around you is valuable and has multiple uses. I also believe that everyday life is survival. From the moment of your birth until right now, you are in a survival situation. If this weren’t the case you would not be here. It is just that in an actual “survival situation” that the stakes become higher. It is how you perceive things around you, and how you choose to use them that will give you the edge in a “survival situation”.
Preparing and being prepared for any and all situations is something that I highly recommend. However, this may not always be conceivable, or you may not have certain items with you at the time of need or when disaster strikes. In certain survival situations you may not be resupplied for a great length of time or not at all. It is imperative in those moments that you and I think outside of the box. Virtually everything around you and I has multiple uses and purposes, but it is up to you and I to use our most important survival weapon and tool to discover those other uses for those items. This weapon and tool is our minds.
For years I have slowly integrated all parts of a “survivor’s mindset” into my wife and kids, but I always try and reinforce keys aspects to them, and one of those main aspects is the mental ability to “improvise”! For a long while I had shown my son that there are multiple uses for any single item or thing he comes across. I have also shown him many survival techniques over the years. To drive this point home to my 12 year old son I took him to a picnic campsite up in the mountains. The point of the trip was to show him that he could survive even if he lacked certain items. He didn’t know what we were taking the drive for until we got there. After arriving at the campsite I told him, “Pretend right now that you were in a survival situation or that you got lost up here in the woods. What would you do?”
To my amazement he just gave me a grin, stopped and sat down. He then thought about what I had just said for a moment. Next he pulled everything that he had out of his pockets and took inventory which consisted of the following:
A survival whistle which had a compass, magnifying glass, and thermometer.
And a stick of bubble gum
He then looks at me and says, “It’s not much is it?” I told him, “Nope it sure isn’t” He then said, “Well, I suppose I can do what you taught me to do.” “And what’s that?” I asked.
“I can forage around and see what I find.” he said.
He first walked around the campsite and found a plastic bag, 3 metal bottle caps, a lighter with no fuel but flint still sparked, a used 3 foot piece of multi-strand white rope, a torn piece of paper, and a large coffee can. He then walked along the nearby creek with me in pursuit. Along this creek he gathered up an empty plastic water bottle, a glass bottle, a tangled wad of fishing line which had 2 hooks attached, a small bait container with cotton and 2 weights inside. On the way back to the campsite he found a broken piece of a vehicle side
mirror on the road.
Then my son took inventory of what he had again. I then asked him, “What can you use that stuff for?” How will all this stuff help your situation?”
“For food I could try using the hooks and weights to catch fish with bugs as bait, or at worst I could try making lures with the hooks and metal bottle caps,” he said
“I know I’ll need water and I could collect it from that creek using the plastic or glass bottles. Maybe after I got a fire going or I found some charcoal around the campsite I could make a water filter. I’d have to use the plastic water bottle for that. The coffee can would be for boiling the water and cooking food.
“For fire I think I could try putting some sparks on that cotton as long as it’s dry and hopefully it will turn into a flame.” I also have this piece of paper to help me along with the magnifying glass on my survival whistle.
“Shelter would have to be made using the rope or rope strands and maybe tying branches together to make a simple shelter.” He kept on glancing up at me as if to see if I approved, but I kept quiet. I wanted to hear what he would come up with. I was thinking in my mind as he talked,” Not bad, not bad at all kid!”
I guess the fire would give me some sort of safety and security. I could use the broken piece of mirror for signaling or use my whistle to try and get someone’s attention.
For the rest of the afternoon I watched as he put his plan for each aspect of survival into action. He succeeded in every one of them by himself. (Keep in mind all local and state laws were kept during this exercise.)
At the end of the day he said, “The plastic bag is pretty much useless.” “What are you going to carry all this stuff around in?” I asked. “You’re right dad. I guess there is no such thing as trash!” he said. We both laughed as he enlightened us with that final comment. Not only did my son gain additional confidence that day but we also picked up what most others would consider trash or litter and we cleaned up that area.
My son was absolutely right in saying “there is no such thing as trash”, and in a survival situation there isn’t! Everything becomes useful. In our day to day lives we throw things away in the garbage all the time. Have you ever stopped to think what other uses those items might have? It is absolutely mind blowing all the ideas that will flood to your mind if you asked yourself this question every time you open the trash can to throw something away! You could save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars in thinking like this. I’m not telling you to be a messy, disorganized hoarder, of course not. What I am saying is to stop and readjust your way of thinking about everything around you and their potential uses. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario you will be glad that you started thinking this way. There is no such thing as trash! It’s all treasure in some form or another. It’s just up to you how you use and apply those items into your situation. By all means start preparing. Educate yourself and your family about survival, prepare your survival kits and bug out bags, and store up emergency supplies and food but remember this simple yet effective core idea that there basically is no such thing as trash. You can recycle and reintegrate almost anything back into your inventory and situation to help you. You can combine what others consider junk items together and make useful things to help you and those around you. For example if you needed an alternative source of power you could make a simple generator using a motor, an alternator, electrical wires, a V belt, a cast iron pulley, and some mounting brackets. However keep in mind that you may have to obtain these items from different places and different items. The motor could be obtained from a lawnmower, the alternator from an old car, the pulley from a beaten down belt driven air conditioner, etc. What others have considered to be their trash could now become your treasure! In its simplest form this would be a DC charging system but with the addition of a DC to AC power inverter it also becomes an AC generator system with battery back up. In simpler survival ideas using this mindset you could make a simple water filter using a plastic water bottle, sand, and charcoal, a thrown away soda pop can could be used to start you a fire by polishing the bottom and using it like a reversed magnifying glass with the sun. There are endless ideas, tools, weapons, and survival supplies that can be made or obtained with items around you.
In a TEOTWAWKI scenario the average person who is not prepared and survival minded is limited by their supplies. Society has too many people accustomed to turning on the faucet and expecting water, going to the nearest store when their pantries and refrigerators supplies run low, going to a restaurant when they get hungry, and filling up their vehicles with gas when needed. These people sadly will not be ready for a TEOTWAWKI situation. The ease of society I believe has weakened and blinded the average person into thinking that the comforts and convenience of everyday life will always be there when needed. It’s not impossible for the average person to pull together and survive this type of situation but it will be that much harder for them since they are so accustomed to the ease of societal living. It’s not a matter of if something of this scale will occur but just a matter of when. For the survival minded person, survivalist, or prepper at least you will be that much more prepared than the average person. However, please keep in mind that if the economy collapses, or there is a nuclear catastrophe, a world wide viral outbreak, etc, etc, that known commerce will come to a halt. Supplies as we know it will come to a halt. At least those who have prepared will have a greater chance versus those who have not. Never deceive yourselves into thinking that you have prepared supply wise for everything, and indefinitely. At some point you will have to resupply something. You will either have to barter and trade, or forage for what items you need. Keep in mind that God gave us all our most important piece of survival gear and it sits right above our necks. Our brains and our minds are an awesome tool if we are willing to see through the right lens. Most of the world has been explored by man. Man by nature leaves things behind either by throwing them away or seeing things as junk and abandoning that stuff for others. How you see that stuff and what you do with it can help you greatly.
Over the years I have used the term survival extensively but I don’t want you and I to just hang by a thread surviving. I don’t want you and I to just survive. I want you and I to THRIVE.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of survive is:
- to remain alive or in existence: live on
- to continue to function or prosper
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of thrive is:
- to grow vigorously : flourish
- to gain in wealth and possessions: prosper
- to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances
These two words sound the same but quite surprisingly they are different. I would rather thrive than just survive. I don’t just want to exist or continue on but rather I want to flourish and prosper despite my circumstances. My friends we need to think outside the box. We need to improvise when necessary. I believe the key to thriving rather than just relying on supplies and surviving is the ability to improvise. These two sayings go hand in hand and they are:
Necessity is The Mother of Invention and One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure. Both require you and I to think outside the box and realize that if you really need something that you will find a way to do it or acquire it. The items you need could be right in front of you and you may not yet realize it. Some uses for things may be obvious but they may require a little elbow grease to get them working. For example a few weeks ago on my way to the city dump I noticed a wheelbarrow on the side of one of the large dumpsters that was going to be thrown away. Upon inspecting the wheelbarrow all it needed was a new tire and handles and maybe a new paint job. After asking permission I immediately took it with me and fixed it up. The cost was about $5 for a can of spray paint since I already had a tire for it. It looked and functioned like new. I just saved myself at least $145-$150 for this particular brand of wheelbarrow. See not only can you apply this concept in a survival situation but in your day to day life. The money you save in day to day living using this way of thinking could be used for additional supplies and gear, bills or a vacation.
In summary when something thrusts us into a major survival situation you and I will already be thinking this way and you and I will go from just surviving to thriving. This article could go on describing hundreds of thousands of things around you in a survival situation that may help you but it is up to you and your ingenious and inventive mind to figure those things out based on your particular needs. Remember if my 12 year old son can put this mindset into action then so can you and I. It’s not the one with the most toys and ready supplies who wins in the end but the one who can use his or her mind and faith that will endure to the end. Thank You for taking the time to read this article and as always, “Take Care, Be Prepared and May God Lead and Guide You in every situation that you face!”