(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
Thoughts About Preparedness
- Listen to that still, small voice and trust your instincts. Over and over again, people related a general sense that something wasn’t right as early as January (or even before). Ignoring the derision from friends and family, they stocked up when prices were low and availability was high. Sadly the Normalcy Bias is very common. It’s sometimes called the “It can’t happen to me” syndrome. For a lot of people, the Normalcy Bias prevented them from taking sensible precautions until it was too late.
- Prepping will be called “hoarding” by many. Even if you bought your year’s worth of toilet paper ten years ago, you’re being selfish for “hoarding” it. This defies logic, but there you go. That’s why preppers tend to be quiet about their supplies.
- The pandemic and subsequent urban riots belatedly convinced many people it was time to get out of the city. The great unplanned experiment of working remotely was such a smashing success that many people can now sever the umbilical cord that tied them to urban areas. These days, a traditionally urban career and a rural lifestyle are not necessarily incompatible.
- Preppers aren’t the problem. One reader related how he watched the increasing customer volume in warehouse stores like Costco and knew “the herd was getting restless.” Shortly thereafter, the trickle of concerned people shopping for essentials turn into a torrent that flooded the system and stripped store shelves bare. “The preppers weren’t panicking,” he related. “It was the average regular people who were not prepared who were late to the party. A lot of people are now aware of the fragility of our food distribution system and the lack of preparation by almost everyone.”
- Never underestimate how fast things can unravel. One day you’re going about your business, the next day that business is shut down indefinitely. Many people we surveyed while writing this article marveled at the speed at which the supply chains crumbled – the interrupted food production, the empty store shelves, and the panic and desperation of people. “Within hours, there was nothing on the shelves,” related one (prepared) reader.
- Two is one, one is none. Eyeglasses, folks. Just think eyeglasses (as one example). Redundancy is good for everything from freezers (which currently are in desperately short supply) to cooking methods.
- A global emergency and interrupted supply chains caused many to reexamine their priorities. What seemed vitally important before – that McMansion in a desirable zip code or the designer wardrobe – no longer seem like they’re worth it. While wealthy status symbols may not apply to most SurvivalBlog readers, the principle is the same. In light of what you’ve experienced in the past year, what might you want to do differently in the next year? This is no longer a philosophical question. This is reality.
- It’s time to do a mental exercise and think through how broken supply chains (everything from laptop computers to prescription medicines) can affect you. How can you prepare for it? How can you mitigate these disruptions?
- Most people underestimate how much they use. It’s helpful to document how fast you use something up, so you can plan accordingly. How fast do you use up a roll of toilet paper? A bar of soap? A jug of dish detergent? A bag of flour?
- Plan, don’t panic. In a “bleep hits the fan” situation, people tend to panic and spend money willy-nilly without planning. The pandemic illustrated how people became consumed with stockpiling toilet paper; a product that only became difficult to acquire because of panic-buying. Even in non-panic situations, we’ve seen lots of people obsessing about one aspect of preparedness (such as firearms) to the exclusion of others. Most importantly, panic means you’re not acquiring the skills and knowledge you need to handle what tools and supplies you do have. Are you trained with those firearms? Are you skilled in canning or other food preservation methods? Are you experienced with gardening and livestock care? Everyone must start from somewhere, but don’t think just throwing money at guns and ammo and garden seeds and a pressure canner means you’re prepared.
- Non-hybrid garden seeds are better in the long run than hybrids, since seeds can be saved from year to year. Millions of amateur gardeners discovered this too late.
- Think about clothing. Forget fashion, think practical. Nearly all footwear is made overseas. Perhaps now is the time to stock up on shoes for growing children, or replacement snow or mud boots. Think in terms of what you need for winter protection. Thrift stores are excellent places to purchase inexpensive items in larger sizes (for growing children) or extra jeans, coats, etc. Don’t forget packs of socks and underwear for all family members.
- Forget phantom wealth. Think tangible assets. We’d far rather have a cow than a Bitcoin. A cow reproduces; she provides milk; she produces calves; she can fill our freezer. If we were given a Bitcoin, we’d trade it for livestock or other tangibles. Bear in mind if the power goes out, electronic wealth is gone; but a flock of chickens or food preserved from your own garden will still be there.
- The handier you are, the better you’ll do. We’ve always said preparedness is like a three-legged stool. One leg is supplies, one leg is community, and one leg is skills and knowledge. Skills such as plumbing, wiring, mechanics, carpentry, welding, gardening, food preservation, sewing, the needle arts, and endless other examples will make life easier during an economic slowdown. Learn some skills now. Don’t wait for the next catastrophe.
- Minimalism is not a good strategy during a lockdown. If the “clutter” of books, games, puzzles, and other distractions is not around – and you can’t go outside – then your only options are to contemplate four walls or stare at a screen all day long. No fun. Make sure you can at least entertain yourself.
- It’s no surprise the pandemic was politicized very early on. Those who were the most independent (in term of income, food, schooling, etc.) were affected the least. In most cases, politicians will act in their own best interests, and those interests almost always include expanding the reach of government. If the pandemic has done nothing else, it has revealed the hand of tyranny among our elected officials. Besides, the wheels of government grind too slowly to help in any meaningful way on an individual level. Unless you’re desperate, it’s far better not to depend on the government to save you (from anything). In other words, self-sufficiency beats dependency any day. If you aren’t self-sufficient at the moment, now is the time to start that journey. Don’t forget, being self-sufficient doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own. Remember that stool referenced earlier? A critical leg of that stool is community.
- The chance of a severe economic downturn (another Great Depression) is very real. It’s important to position yourself with that possibility in mind. If you can grow/ raise/ produce/ preserve your own food in a rural location far from urban centers, you’re miles ahead of the curve. If you can diversify your income, reduce your debt, lower your expenses, cultivate frugality, and build community, even better. Remember the motto of the Great Depression: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
- Consider barter, both of skills and of goods. If money becomes tight, those with useful in-demand goods and skills will find themselves better able to barter for things they need.
- This is not over. The repercussions from 2020 will last a long time. There is so much uncertainty about the future, on so many different levels. This pandemic has underscored how interconnected our world is, as well as the fragility of the supply chain. “The cavalry is not coming,” one reader reminded us. “You can rely on yourself and your family, perhaps on your community and certainly on God. Act accordingly.” She’s right. Now is the time to become your own first responder.
- Be kind, be generous. The pandemic has brought out the worst in many people, and it’s brought out the best in many others. Try to put yourself in the latter category, not the former. Remember, you could lose your house, your job, or your health in the blink of an eye. Be kind and generous to those who already have.
- Be resilient and roll with the punches. The “punch” could be anything – the loss of a loved one, the loss of a business, the loss of your home. Give yourself time to grieve, then pick yourself up and start over. People who do this report coming out stronger.
- Don’t forget faith. It’s not a message some people want to hear, but a belief in a Higher Power goes a long way toward alleviating stress and fears during trying times. Just something to consider.
What About the Future?
There is so much uncertainty about the future, on so many different levels (medical, financial, political, societal). We don’t see things leveling off any time soon and returning to normal, whatever “normal” means.
Above all, don’t stop (or do start) prepping. It’s now being said it took a pandemic for people to realize prepping isn’t crazy. We urge everyone to take that maxim to heart. “My family always laughed at my prepper status, but they aren’t laughing anymore,” said one reader.
Take this opportunity to harden your preps by applying the principles of the three-legged stool (supplies, skills, community). Consider a few options:
- Can you cultivate multiple income sources? So many people who tragically lost their jobs or businesses now understand the importance of having more than one source of income. If you can build up a number of different ways to earn money, then you’re not left destitute if you lose your primary job.
- Can you reduce your debt? Debt is called a shackle for a reason. Time to break those chains.
- Can you reduce your expenses? Low-cost living is one of the most powerful tools in anyone’s financial arsenal. The fewer expenses you have, the less susceptible you are to an economic interruption.
- Can you transition to working from home, either full-time or with multiple part-time occupations? The less you have to venture into a hostile society, the better.
- Can you leave the city and move somewhere less chaotic and less expensive? Not only will this be safer, but it may lower your mortgage.
- Can you grow your own food? In a crashed economy, food becomes currency, and food security means you can’t be extorted by people seeking control over you.
- Can you homeschool? Having control over your children’s education gives them both stability and continuity to your kids.
The pandemic and the subsequent panic has been a wake-up call. We’ve been fortunate enough to have known no one who has died from the virus or its complications. Others have suffered grievous losses. As horrific and heartbreaking as this disease has been for many people, the history of humanity shows that worse disasters will eventually occur.
Being prepared doesn’t guarantee you won’t be affected by a disaster. It just gives you a fighting chance, a survival force-multiplier.
Self-reliance is a journey, not a destination; and a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. It’s time to take that step.
Patrice Lewis is pleased to announce the availability of the complete collection of 52 Country Living Series ebooklets, representing over 17 years of homesteading experience. Subjects include preparedness, frugality, rural skills, food preservation, and more. Details on ordering them are available at her blog site.