If you are like me, you want to start preparing for TEOTWAWKI, but you have no clue where or how to begin. Even the shortest list, and list of lists, is a daunting undertaking and the expenses can stack up quickly. We thought we’d be up a creek since we had no real extra money to set aside for this project. Alas, it doesn’t have to be that way! There are many things you probably have around the house that will help save or sustain life. You just have to learn to look at your possessions in a different way.
I’d be willing to bet there’s tons of stuff in your house and garage that you haven’t used in two years or more, and it continues to sit there. It gathers dust, gets lost and forgotten, or requires maintenance. Somehow, it manages to grow and multiply with very little effort on your part. Since I used to be a yard sale and thrift store junkie, it may have been a bit more than very little effort on my part… Apparently, I’ve been preparing for years and didn’t know it!
I picked up a food dehydrator at a yard sale for $3, a Food Saver sealing system for $5 from a thrift store, and sheets and blankets by the bag full at $1 each. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I certainly do now! Obviously, I’ll use the dehydrator and food saver for preserving foods, but what would I do with all those sheets and blankets that we didn’t need? They’re becoming camouflage. They also work well as insulation for a shipping container. They’ll work on the floor of a dirt bunker, to prevent too much dust in the air as you move around. How much stuff is in your home wasting space that may also double for survival when you bug-in?
To prepare for when IT hits the fan, you must first consider reducing the amount of your possessions. This serves several purposes: first, you begin to condition yourself to living with less. The simple shock of having to turn away from your current lifestyle can be traumatic, especially for children, and they’ll be learning how to cope from their parents. Gradually easing into survival mode will make the process easier for everyone involved.
Second, the income from possession liquidation helps fund survivalist equipment and supplies. Since the economy is in poor shape, second-hand items are sought after instead of purchasing new. Facebook and Craigslist are good places to list your unwanted items. There are also smart phone apps available for virtual and real yard sales. If you’re really serious about liquidation, contact an auction company and conduct a “living estate sale”. They are gaining in popularity since many families are downsizing just to reduce their overhead.
Third, you’ll spend less time maintaining your possessions if you have fewer of them. How long does it take to find something you know you have somewhere, or dust those collectibles? How much furniture do you have that serves no purpose other than appearances? How would you reallocate your time if you didn’t have to maintain a lot of things that won’t help you when it hits the fan?
Go through each room of your home, paying close attention to items you’ll use in survival mode. Unwanted clothing in the right colors can be cut into strips and be used to make camouflage netting, and other parts can be used for rope and insulation. Artificial houseplants can be reused in camouflage during the spring and summer. Pillows can be reused to block air flow, insulate heated water, and protect you from sharp objects in cramped quarters. Fancy lace tablecloths can be sold and replaced with sturdy cotton sheets and blankets, being sure to choose earth tones that can also be used for camouflage if the need arises.
Radio-controlled toys can be retrofitted and reused to distract trespassers. [JWR Adds: For example, their servos can be re-purposed to set off small pyrotechnic charges. Pull-string “confetti poppers” can be very carefully disassembled to provide the friction-ignited charges.] There are tons of possibilities for these items, from recon to defensive operations. I personally love this option, and look forward to finding them at ridiculously low prices.
Those big metal drums with metal lids can be made into Faraday cages by lining the inside with Styrofoam. Instructions for these can also be found online. Small metal boxes and containers can be used for the same purpose, and metal trash cans work as well.
As repulsive as it may seem, almost anything made of natural fabric can be cut into small squares and used as toilet paper and feminine napkins. Wash and bleach after each use and they’re ready to reuse when dry. What’s more repulsive is the thought of going without these two very basic, and often overlooked, necessities. Most folks are of the opinion that any nearby leaf will do, or that there will be plenty of cloth laying around when IT hits the fan. There will be an increased chance of infection if the material used isn’t clean and sickness will be one of our biggest enemies.
Tampons can be used to plug bullet wounds; they expand when wet. This is only temporary, and they should be replaced with a proper dressing as quickly as possible. Feminine pads can be used in trauma dressings. Any clean cotton fabrics can be reused as trauma dressings and bandages; be careful to use only natural fabrics for contact with skin and blood. A sterile layer of gauze should always be the first layer over a wound.
Unwanted paper items, such as junk mail, old bills, newspapers and magazines, can be shredded and used in making heat blocks for burning during cold weather or for cooking. Most of the heat blocks burn for twenty to thirty minutes, which is plenty of time to prepare a meal and provide heat in colder climates. Instructions for making heat blocks can be found online.
Empty water and soda bottles can be reused for dry food storage. Just drop in an oxygen absorber, and they’re good to go. Empty gallon jugs can be reused as water storage. They are portable and easy to keep rotated. Unused water heaters can be reused as water storage as long as you plan to filter the water before drinking it.
Reuse a car or boat battery and jumper cables to start a fire by connecting the ends to a wad of 0000 steel wool. The steel wool will heat up and ignite tinder, such as straw or paper shreds.
Reuse a lamp by setting a cake or pie pan over the shade and turning on the lamp. The heat from the bulb will cook some foods such as canned goods and will also heat water enough to rehydrate dried foods.
If you have a rotating food storage system, my favorite is Thrive by Shelf Reliance, begin using it now if you haven’t already. Incorporate it into your daily cooking habits and meal planning. Thrive is easy and economical to get started with, because you just reallocate a portion of your grocery budget to include it. When it hits the fan, the transition will be easier if you’re already used to using it. Also, using and rotating your water storage on a regular basis will keep it fresh.
Thermoses and other insulated containers will be great to rehydrate foods. You can boil water in the morning and set aside enough warm water to begin to soften the day’s entire food ration. Quality containers will keep foods hot for hours. Some dehydrated foods, such as Thrive, will reconstitute even with cold water, but usually take longer.
I’m torn over my books. I’m an avid reader and I love to read the same ones over and over. I know I can sell my books and make a lot of money, but I can also burn them (I hope so anyway!) and keep my family warm and fed for a while.
After taking an inventory of what you already have that can be used in survival mode, take a second inventory of what you can live without. If the process seems a bit unnecessary, imagine looters going through your possessions and scattering them about carelessly. They’ll be looking for anything of value, anything that might sustain life, and anything that can be used for defensive or offensive actions. If you can beat them to it, then you’re ahead of the game. You’ve not only been able to use your own possessions for yourself and your family, you’ve also thwarted potential attackers from using them against you.
You probably won’t be entertaining in survival mode, so maybe you don’t need that huge set of dishes, or the deluxe set of cookware. Think about which items are worth a lot of money that can be sold now and replaced with similar items that work just as well, but cost less. The money you have left over can be converted to precious metals or survivalist equipment and supplies. Think about trimming down the movie collection, as well as any other collections that take up space and require maintenance. That beautiful antique bedroom set might be better sold now than burned or looted later.
Anything you haven’t worn in the last year, and anything you haven’t used in the last six months should be on the chopping block. All (or most of) those things you’ve been saving “just in case” should eventually disappear unless they can be used for survival. Keep in mind, you aren’t just looking at things you can reuse. You’re also looking to reduce the amount of possessions you have in order to better prepare yourself and your family for a transition into survival mode. Even if you have to go through this process several times, cutting out more and more each time, you will still make great progress in preparing your family for a bug-in or bug-out.
Make sure the kitchen and bathrooms stay clean at all times. The last thing you want is to be trying to prepare an emergency meal when the kitchen is a mess and you’re down to just emergency water. If you’re bugging-in, ensure you have alternate toilet arrangements. Even though you can still flush the toilet by manually adding water to the bowl, you’ll be wasting water unnecessarily. A camp potty or a bucket with a lid and bio bags work great and you can take them camping for practice.
Keep your freshwater aquariums or consider getting them if you don’t have them already. The bigger, the better. They make terrific water sources and in most cases, the water is drinkable as it sits. The filtration systems balance bacteria so if the fish are alive and healthy, you can depend on the water being safe. If you’re in doubt, filter, treat or boil it before using it for human consumption. Once the water level is too low for the filter to run, or if there’s no electricity to power it, don’t drink it without filtering or boiling it. Don’t be tempted to keep aquariums without fish (smaller fish is better). The waste from the fish is what keeps the bacteria in the gravel under control, and vice versa. They depend on each other for balance. Once the power has been out for a few hours, remove the fish and filter the water as it’s used.
I’ve been going through my home one room at a time, including closets. I’m getting rid of things we don’t use and don’t particularly have attachment to and moving the things we’ll need to our bug-in location. I can still get to those items if I need them, and if we do bug-in, they’ll already be where they’re needed. By selling the non-essentials, I’m able to purchase the things we’ll need for survival. My eight year old daughter is excited about the process and enjoys helping me make a camouflage cover from an old fishing net and, you guessed it, earth-toned sheets!