Is it just me, or is the world going crazy? It’s going a little crazy. This would have bothered me back in my single and childless days, but now with a kid crawling around, it’s serious business. Some days I look at the news and feel downright weepy. I mean, what the heck did I birth her into? On other days I feel mildly optimistic. Like I’ve got this somehow. But I don’t know how.
Which brings me to this post. I grew a child inside of me for 9 months, birthed her into the world, have fed her from my body every single day since, and constantly watch out for her safety as she tumbles around like there aren’t any sharp corners or hot light bulbs anywhere on earth.
But I can’t stop there. I won’t stop there. Because I’ve realized over the last year that my responsibility as a mom far exceeds anything that I could have imagined, which is partly since this country that I’ve taken for granted isn’t all that strong anymore. It was the safety net I didn’t understand was there. To be fair, I’ve read about The Cultural Revolution, communist Russia, the French Revolution, and other countries in the middle of a disaster. But for some reason, I never made the connection those hardships could happen here in America.
But it looks like they might be. And whether they actually come to fruition or not, the state of the world has made me think about issues that I may never have taken seriously before. That’s a really good thing.
So here’s where it all collides with my strong minimalist values because as much as I’m going to protect my family, I’m also going to have an uncluttered environment. Those 2 things aren’t as opposed as you may think. And here's why: I believe that prepping means knowing how to make what you need at home and by hand. More skill than stuff.
I’m talking about local plant identification and uses, how to navigate with a compass, and getting incredibly comfortable with guns and how to use them for self-protection. Do you know how to make a make-shift compost toilet if the power was out for a bit? Could you build an outdoor fire and be able to cook over it? These things don’t take up space, but they’re just as important as storing food and water. Maybe more so.
I know this might feel uncomfortable to think about, especially the gun part. There was a time when I couldn’t handle seeing a firearm and was strongly against them. But- I’m a mother with a child and a family to protect in a world that is spinning into a frenzy, and it’s my job to know how to do just that. I want to actually be a Mama Bear rather than wear a t-shirt that says I’m one.
I remember hearing the Dalai Lama once talk about using violence as self-protection, and he said something along the lines of it’s not violence to protect yourself. You’re protecting yourself from death. You’ve got to do whatever you need to do to survive, and you didn’t invite the attack.
His words changed my perception of self-defense. Before hearing his talk, I walked through the world with the dangerous idea that positive thoughts create a positive environment. After, I understood that it’s a positive and empowering thing to know how to defend one’s self because no amount of happy thoughts can stop random bad things from happening.
Skills and knowledge also add tremendously to our self-confidence which is invaluable. But look, the last thing I want you to feel right now is overwhelmed if you don’t know how to do or make much. It’s okay! Years ago I literally started by making homemade mustard. The next day I chopped up garlic and made some medicinal honey. The day after that I learned how to make sauerkraut. I just kept adding 1 small thing at a time. Sometimes 2. All this takes is learning a series of small things and very quickly your skills start to stack up.
(By the way, I love mochas and trendy yoga classes and spending all day long in book stores, preferably ones with wooden floors. I shop at Whole Foods. We love to ride our bikes down paved greenways. So while I know how to make and do a lot at home, I still revel in and depend on what I consider to be the luxuries of the world. But I have a certain level of security knowing I could be fairly self-sufficient if it became necessary.)
Here’s what you need to do: make a list of what you want to learn in order of importance. Get the materials you need to start learning and start learning a little every day. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make sauerkraut. It doesn’t take a lot of time or energy or money to learn hand-stitching. And by the way, in case you were curious, it only takes a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and some dirt or sawdust to make a makeshift compost toilet. Not that you ever want to have to make one, but at least you know.
But on to the goods, because prepping does involve stocking up on more than skills. This is where you have to decide what kind of prepper you are. Are you worried about surviving a nuclear bomb, or do you want to ride out a bad recession and possible civil unrest? I'm the latter, so my prepping needs are going to be a lot different from the former. You also take into account where and how you live. Country or city? Apartment or house? Renting or owning? Large house or small? These are your parameters and determine how and what you prep.
Because I want a shorter-term prepping plan, and my family is about to move into a remodeled travel trailer on family-owned property with a creek and a well, my needs are going to be vastly different from someone who lives in a rental house in the suburbs outside of Atlanta. You’ll have to take what I layout, do some research on your own, and then create a plan that works for your situation and needs. But here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
A 3-months supply of food that consists of these items:
These are things we already eat, so we’ll be able to rotate through quickly enough so the food stays fresh. I will expand this list little by little as I stumble on other food that stores well and that we enjoy.
As for the amount you need, here are 2 good resources:
Water is a little more complicated. Storing a month’s worth of water? Not in a tiny home. I have yet to find a way to do so. But because we live on a property with a well, we can easily get a hand-pumped attachment that will work without electricity, and because of the creek, something like a Big Berkey would be good to filter water with. I’m also collecting Life Straws which I think are something that everyone should keep on hand. If you live in the city, they are a necessity. As far as actual water storage, the rule of thumb is to have 1 gallon per person per day. Like I said, I haven’t found any way to store large amounts of water without having a good bit of space, but here’s a good podcast episode to listen to on the subject:
Besides food and water, here are a few other things that are important to keep around:
Toilet paper (1 roll per person per week)
Blankets and flannel sheets
A fully-stocked first-aid kit
A stack of 5-gallon plastic buckets with lids
A few quality tarps and some strong rope
Embroidery needles and thread of all kinds
Warm winter gear for your family plus extra bigger sizes for your little ones
Once you have these things, you can look into putting together a box of tools that don’t require electricity, like a hand-cranked coffee grinder, a few great hunting knives, mortar and pestle, can openers, mason jar oil lamps (my favorite), French press, battery-powered NOAA radio, camping stove, a supply of propane canisters, and solar-powered flashlights and lanterns.
This all might seem like a lot, but to me this still leans very minimal. Something else I think about when it comes to bootstrapping in times of catastrophe or social unrest is to think of how the Japanese lived during and post-World War 2. Some of my favorite aesthetics come from that time- things like kintsugi, sashiko, and furoshiki. Even if things get kind of shitty, a beautiful life is still possible.
One more thing that’s not to minimal. I believe that building a library of useful and important books is absolutely necessary for prepping and life in general. I’ve been a life-long book lover, but as algorithms become increasingly narrow-minded, I see collecting books as my responsibility.
I scour the dusty shelves of thrift stores and find books I could never find on Amazon or a Barnes & Noble bookshelf. And think of it like this: if you had to hunker down with your little ones for half a year or more, would you feel comfortable with what you could provide their brains with? Is your home a self-sufficient, stand-alone learning environment if you for some reason you couldn’t get things from the outside world?
And to end, I want to quote a book I own on personal safety:
“Condition Yellow: This is a relaxed, yet alert, state of mind. This is not a stressful mindset to have but keeps us engaged and in tune with our surroundings. We can be aware of our surroundings and lead a high energy, outgoing, fun life at the same time. A person in condition will tend to have their head up, shoulders back, and will notice strange or odd circumstances if they begin to unfold.”
This is exactly how we should be with world events and weather patterns. Be aware, prepare, and lead an incredibly satisfying and happy life.
And here are a ton of resources for you if this post has sparked your own curiosity:
Some great books on self-sufficiency:
And here are 2 new favorites:
This is a great, free catalog for off-grid tools and appliances:
And the book I quoted above:
An interesting podcast episode on prepping in small spaces:
As always, I would love your input. What are your thoughts on minimalist prepping and setting up a safety net for our families? Is there anything you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments below :)