Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where Do I Start?

So you’re looking around at the state of things and thinking, “Man, I ought to do something.” You’ve heard about preparing, and you’ve heard a bit about survivalists and what they do in order to be ready for big and little problems alike, but you have no idea of where to start. You don’t have much free time or extra cash, but you know that things are only getting worse; so now you start to panic because you think that it’s already too late, or that you can’t possibly reach the long-term goals of having more than a year’s worth of preparations put away, or some other such thing.

First, relax and take a few deep breaths. Prepping isn’t something that you decide to start today and finish tomorrow afternoon; it takes time even if you have millions of dollars to invest in it. There are many different aspects of prepping because we humans are complex creations with many needs, preferences, and options – but don’t let that worry you.

Sit down and make a list. I don’t care how you do this because we’re all different; I like using Excel, but you might prefer a pen and paper or a smartphone or some other thing. It doesn’t matter because the point is to start making some lists, as they help you focus and figure out what to do and when.

I started by listing the different things that my family and I have to have for survival. We really need food, water, clothing, and shelter; the rest can go bye-bye and we’ll continue breathing, though we might not be quite as happy as we are with our electricity, Internet access, cell phones, restaurants, TV dinners, and other such crap.

Next, I started a new list for each category. Shelter, for example, includes things like climate control (to a degree, anyway – you don’t want to freeze or die of heatstroke) and safety, along with pest control and a few other things.

Eventually, the lists became more detailed. I added a new category, skills, because I like being independent and self sufficient. Knitting is a skill, for example, that I started acquiring a couple-few years ago. This year, I’m knitting scarves for peoples’ Christmas presents because I’m basically broke – and these suckers are useful even in my part of Texas because we do have cold wind and it does make a person miserable.

Then, at some point, you start fulfilling the lists. I like to keep a list of things we need that are likely to turn up at flea markets, as I enjoy browsing the local ones anyway. We do weekly grocery shopping that’s a combination of replenishing what we’ve used and stockpiling some extras – what we put into the stockpile depends partly on what’s most important, but also on what’s on sale this week.

Set short- and long-term goals for yourself, including daily goals, and work on them as best you can. It’s fulfilling to be able to cross things off a list every day, whether they’re big things like, “learn to make laundry soap,” or little things like, “order book from Amazon today.” As you keep doing things, you’ll get a better idea of what you can accomplish every day/week/month and adjust the lists accordingly.

And you’ll have some bad days mixed in with the good ones. Don’t worry about that, though – just keep going. Stockpiling, prepping, survivalism…none of ‘em have specific instructions. The general idea is to be ready for trouble and have a way to deal with it not if, but when, it comes. That means different things to different people so, as long as you’re moving in the right direction, don’t let the incidentals bother you too much.

One of the more-common sentiments I’ve heard lately is, “I’m running out of time.” People say that about everything from investing for retirement to getting to work on time today, but it applies to this prepping bit, too. Maybe you’re worried that it’s too late to even bother starting, but put the smackdown on that line of thought. Even if things go to hell one week from today, you’ve spent a week doing something constructive. That buys you a week to survive while you work on longer-term plans. It’s better than nothing and it beats the hell out of being one of the people who won’t give any of this even passing thought until after the trouble comes.

The final thought of the day: Buy one, store one, give one away. Prepping isn’t only about me; it’s about my family and the people in my community. While I’m not about to feed everyone, I have friends and neighbors who might be able to use a little help. One of the dangers of prepping or survivalism is the desire to focus too much on ourselves, which is kind of a crappy way to live life.

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm