I live a self-sustaining and prepared lifestyle, always have and always will. My parents and grandparents lived this way and taught me well. Several years ago, we chose to purchase property for a mini-farm near a university town, so that we could have it all, a self-sufficient small farm near educational and intellectual endeavors for my children. Naturally hidden from view we bulldozed a home site in the woods and built our property up to be self-sufficient, with woods for firewood, fruit trees, garden areas, secret outdoor rooms, caves and everything anyone would want. I worked full time then and my co-workers and friends thought I was nuts working so hard mornings, nights and weekends to make my property self-sufficient. They said “America is a land of rich promise; you can buy anything you want.” I didn’t want to buy it, I wanted to grow it and do it myself.
I chose to build a small home purely out of selfishness; I just don’t like cleaning or doing windows. I really had to downsize when we moved in as our new home was about half the square footage of anything we owned previously. I found I could simplify without cutting back on our ‘future supplies’. Our food storage and our prepared supplies take up at least a third of our home’s volume, and it remained intact. I have never regretted our choice to simplify our life, nor have I missed anything we got rid of in the process of downsizing.
Now those friends who scoffed at me are new preppers. Many of these newer preppers live in huge, sprawling, luxury homes that their large university salaries afforded. One friend in particular was talking the other day about how he has his families bug-out-bags all packed and ready to go, and all his alternate locations stocked. He has been watching Doomsday Preppers and has decided to go out and spend thousands of dollars on ‘stuff’. I commend his ability to have a salary large enough to be able to do this, but like so many others I see around me in my ‘neighborhood’ and in church, they feel the need to prepare, but haven’t thought thru the mental process of living a self-sustaining lifestyle. I would guess it’s probably because they never had to be self-sufficient and never experienced traumatic loss of their possessions. So, my question to him (and all those in this situation), is, are you seriously going to walk away from this vast luxury, sprawling, expensive home to bug out and live in a tent with your family? Can you really walk away from it all? Can you give it all up if you had to? What are you going to do when the food runs out? This new prepper looked at me as though I had slapped him. My intent was not to be rude, but to wake him up to real TEOTWAWKI thinking. I’m not making fun of him, I’m extremely concerned. I’m worried about him that he and his family will end up in real trouble.
The Bible says it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven (Matt. 19:24). I think that is because, like my affluent friend, they can’t really walk away from it all. His home being such a wealthy looking home with expensive features and a well manicured lawn would be one of the first in this area targeted by thugs and thieves. Unlike my home, that is smaller with grass that needs mowed, and heaven forbid, some weeds around the trees in front. If I’m really lucky, thugs and thieves will think it has already been ransacked and pass it by post-TEOTWAWKI. But I chose to live simply, not because I don’t have nice things, but because I have CHOSEN to simplify. It would be hard for me to walk away, but not impossible. Physical things are not where my heart is.
If anyone seriously thinks they can bug-out post-TEOTWAWKI, and come back to everything just as they left it, they are delusional. New preppers do not understand that very well, you really have to be prepared to leave it all permanently and be able to live and thrive somewhere else. My advice is to prepare to do that by simplifying your life now. If you really believe that TEOTWAWKI is coming (as I do), then live that way. Simplify and learn to be self-sufficient now! Living a prepared and self-sustaining lifestyle is a way of life, not a weekend project.
You can simplify your lifestyle with or without downsizing. I’m not saying to get rid of everything; I’m saying to get rid of everything that would be extra baggage later or that you can live without. Ask yourself, is this a necessity, or of future value? If it isn’t an heirloom, a necessity or of future value, then get rid of it, make it one less thing you have to worry about. Now I’m not saying to strip the house and go to the bunker and wait. Not at all, matter of fact we have broken out the good china and crystal now and are using them on a daily basis, not just on the holidays. We are installing new family room carpet and painting the kitchen to spark up our home and lives. We intend to live life to its fullest every day and be happy and find the value of living now. We, like most preppers intend to stay at home as long as possible post-SHTF, but unlike many, we can walk away and not look back. Logistically speaking, we can pack everything important into the bus if necessary. I’m not sure my wealthier friends or newer preppers who are riding the ‘prepper wave’ can do this.
We have simplified our kitchen, getting rid of rarely used appliances and pans. We have simplified our wardrobes into three colors, so it is all interchangeable, thus needing much less clothing. (No, camo is not a color, it’s a blend of colors.) We have simplified our holidays by giving home baked gifts to everyone and tremendously downsizing our holiday decorations. How many strands of Christmas lights and red balls do we really need? How many pruners do we need? How many slow-cookers do I really use? Do I really need to keep those baby clothes? How many spatulas do I have? This is a good time to spread items into different bug-out locations. I found five skillets, but only used two of them. The other three went to our bunker and cabins. The old cot fit into a nifty little vacant space on the bus. The daily silverware went to the cabin and we use the good ones daily now with the bone china when we aren’t eating on paper plates. We have simplified our paperwork with a scanner and a trash burner. All memorabilia and family history has gone into scrapbooks, and I have had to limit the amount of scrapbooks. Even the sewing room has been downsized, instead of the cabinet sewing machine, I now have a portable. Instead of totes of material and supplies, it is now in under the bed chests. We freed up huge areas in the garage by selling older and duplicate tools and took the money to buy newer multi-use tools that take up much less space. We don’t miss a thing that we let go when we downsized.
Have the courage to pull it off, remembering the most beautiful trees are ones that have been deeply pruned and cut back! Don’t know where to start? Let me help, I’ve become a master at this. You can even schedule this on the calendar! Whether you are a baby-boomer or a new prepper, whether you are moving or have lived in the same home forever, I’m sure you can find unnecessary and unused items that need to go. This will make room for more food and water storage, self-defense or home defense equipment, or anything needed post-TEOTWAWKI. My parents had almost half of their home dedicated to the future and future needs and security, they were completely self-sufficient. It can be done.
Overview; take an evening and walk thru your home, each room. Looking, really looking at every item. Look like you were shopping in a furniture or department store, noting condition and placement. If your home has a theme like French Country, Colonial or Contemporary, note anything that is out of theme. Take stray items out at this time, even if it is just to the garage. Also, take out things you know you do not want at this time. Just admit it, everyone has some things they know they don’t want. Think about all your things, physical things, seriously. Ask yourself; are you going to want these things ten years from now? Saving it for your kids? If SHTF will these things be an asset or a detriment. Ask the hard questions, and give yourself honest answers.
Deep Clean; if you work, schedule this on weekends, usually one room per weekend. Set up four boxes or buckets in the middle of the room labeled; trash, give away, sell and barter. Starting at one specific point, usually a door handle, move clockwise around the room looking at each item, ask yourself, is it comfortable to sit in? Does it serve a purpose? Is it out of place in this room? Do I really need it? Why am I keeping it? Will I miss it? If I move it to the garage for a month, will anyone miss it? If in doubt, move your items to the garage for a month, if you do not need it, get rid of it. Go around the room slowly, don’t miss anything even pictures on the wall. If you have pictures that were heirlooms, be sure to check behind the backing on the frame before getting rid of it. Past generations loved to hid things behind pictures. Once you are done, go around the second time. You never get it all the first time. The bedroom usually takes the longest, as it involves sorting the clothing. If you start a room with a closet you may never finish, always have a starting and stopping place. Always start around the room at a door. Save the kitchen for longer time. One place to look is in your electronics drawer or cabinet, I’ll bet you’ll fine chargers to phones you don’t even own anymore or discs your computer won’t accept. Take a day and challenge yourself to simplify one closet, one dresser or one room. You might be surprised what you will find. If it doesn’t serve you today, or tomorrow or if you can’t use it post TEOTWAWKI, get rid of it, it’s excess baggage.
Finishing; by double checking the boxes. You will inevitably throw something in the wrong box. Deal with your trade box immediately, the things you find may be good barter in a post-TEOTWAWKI world, put it in a 5 gallon bucket, mark it TRADE and take it to the garage. Double check and take the ‘give away’ out to Goodwill or somewhere immediately. Be sure you are okay with giving these things away. The IRS suggests you take pictures of what you give away so if you are audited you can prove their value. If you are not sure, take it to the garage or shed for a couple of weeks. Give yourself time to come to terms with what you have done. However; word of warning, if you bring more than three or four things back into the house, stop downsizing now. You’re not in the right frame of mind to do it. Also remember a yard sale means dealing with everything twice if it doesn’t sell, try alternate methods of selling. But remember, the longer you wait to deal with your things, the less your chance of really downsizing.
Hints: have the meals already at hand, either in the slow-cooker or the freezer. You can’t take time to cook while downsizing. Can’t get everyone together to help? Hide the car keys and pull the closet contents out and dump on the middle of the floor or on someone’s bed, so it has to be dealt with immediately. If you start with a room like the kitchen, you will be surprised how much you took out. That will give you the incentive to do the next room. I cut my household items in half in one month using this method. Once you start, it goes quickly. You may find enough space to build a hidden safe room. You may save enough time on cleaning to read books on growing veggies and fruit trees.
When simplifying you really have to ask yourself serious questions on lifestyle and future plans. Part of the process of living a prepared and self sustaining life style, is to keep life’s clutter to a minimum, find places to rotate, use, and to hide food storage and to learn to take care of yourself and your family. Having less clutter to contend with will give you the freedom to do things, less time cleaning, less to worry about losing, less for someone else to deal with in case you pass away. If you want a real incentive; ask yourself who would sort and disperse of your worldly things if you passed away today, your kids? If so, what would your kids do with some of your ‘precious’ things? If that thought doesn’t make you want to downsize today, it should! Take all the good new space you have found and fill it with food storage or some of your supplies. Even if you are not moving, by simplifying I absolutely guarantee you, all the new space you find by simplifying, you will find a use for.