Saturday, August 4, 2012

Junk, Minimalism, What We Really Need and Survivalism

One of the interesting aspects of military life is that we move, a lot. We have moved 4 times in the last 4 years, one of them was across the country and another was across the world. One of the benefits of this lifestyle is that at least in theory you have a pretty good reason to toss stuff that is not important every so often. Also a very legitimate argument could be made that if you do not unpack stuff at one place it is not something you actually need and thus should not go to the next place. Since we are moving fairly soon it is only natural that I have been thinking a lot about stuff lately. How much of it we have, what it does, how often we use it and how it does and does not work with survivalism.

I recently spent a year in Afghanistan.  I brought an assault pack, a rucksack and two duffel bags with me. One of the duffels was filled with stuff I was issued but never used. So basically I lived out of a small daypack, a ruck and a duffel bag worth of stuff for a year. I wasn't really short on anything or lacking stuff. I had all the various tactical stuff, 4 sets of clothes, about 8 t shirts and pair of socks, spare boots, workout gear, plenty of warm clothes, a knife and a multi tool, a couple of books, my kindle and laptop (with external HD, muy importante), a wooby and a sleep system. I wasn't really hurting for anything in terms of clothing, gear or whatever. It would be reasonable to say that I could live with roughly that amount of stuff indefinitely. [I wasn't cooking and had the benefit of some other infrastructure such as showers, latrines, etc. My point is just to illustrate the relative amount of clothes, gear, bedding, etc one can get by with. I should also note that my experiences were not in any way abnormal and I am not griping about them. Some folks have it worse and others have it better.]

At home we rather obviously have a lot more stuff than that. Probably way too much stuff. What we (and particularly I) actually use is a reasonably small percentage of the stuff we actually have. Probably around 30-40% if I had to guess. This is spread across the board, clothes that are not work, kitchen tools not used, etc all. Honestly this is part of my nature. I tend to hold onto anything that may be useful in the future. I (and somewhat we) have been working on that recently.

For no particular reason clothes came first. I made two piles, one to throw away and another to donate. The junk was easy. I don't really need stained white t shirts or stuff with a lot of holes in it. The donate pile was a bit more complicated. Things I do not wear or see myself wearing went into there. I definitely could have been more aggressive here.  The best I can say is that it was probably the first of a few cuts.

Today we went through our storage area and tossed a whole bunch of stuff. Most of it has just sat for 3 years so with few exceptions (like our 110 toaster) it went to the dumpster. Pieces of old furniture and all kinds of junk. The bad stuff went into the dumpster and the good stuff went beside it for folks to grab if they wanted it. I almost surely threw away some stuff we could potentially use in the future and likely we will need to replace a thing or two. Really don't care at all, it was worth it to get rid of all of that junk.

Wifey is less of a pack rat than I am but is still helping with the effort. She went through a bunch of cabinets and tossed out the junk. I probably made 10 trips to the dumpster today and we have a couple big garbage bags of stuff to donate set aside. 

We still aren't done. I am going to put some work in over the next few weekends to get things trimmed down to a closer representation of what we really use.

The part that has thrown me off about the whole thing is how this desire to rid myself of clutter relates to survivalism. By the nature of emergency situations disrupting the normal supply chain and our desire for redundancy we tend to stock pretty much everything deep. We don't have a knife, we have 10 knives, etc.

After a lot of consideration I have an answer that makes sense, if just to me. Planned stocking useful stuff in an organized manner to support a plan against eventual need makes sense. The three important phrases there are planned, useful stuff, and organized. Without a plan you are just flapping in the wind which is never good. Useful stuff is pretty obvious, if I need say a cutting edge stashing an extra Buck 110, Buck 119, Ka Bar or whatever else suits your fancy makes sense, keeping every old rusty Walmart steak knife that crosses your path would not make sense. Wifey pointed out that organization is also huge. It doesn't matter if you own a spare knife to replace the one which was lost if you do not know that you have it and where it is. What it boils down to is that having a plan to get the right stuff and keeping it organized makes sense and the further away from that you go the less it makes sense.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that. Input is welcome.


SHARON said...

I've been doing the same thing for the last 3 years. Slowly, delibertly, giving stuff away, donating it or, to the burn pile. It is cathartic, and on-going, still not done, but getting close.

Anonymous said...

My preps pretty much go that way as well. I have been making an extra effort in keeping out a lookout for quality multi-tools sold at giveway prices at pawn shops.

I think they would make a good trading item, as they don't take up much storage room, require no batteries and are essential when living with limited resources. Even a person living out of a backpack would want one of these items.

I need to go through my clothing and get rid of items I no longer wear as well. Never been into fashion so they will be donated or cut into rags. A couple of high quality jeans like firehose jeans and / or shorts would be useful additons, they are hard to kill and last a long time.

Christian Gains said...

Well, (having spent quite a few years in S. Am. as a Missionary, I got good training in "Keep only what you need". So, (Once back State side), I've simply established two groupings of "things to keep". SURVIVAL {ALL tac gear, Water, food, all camping, fishing, hunting and hiking gear, and First Aid}, and
DAILY GEAR: [Normal, daily wear or use things].

Of course, the daily gear grows FAR out of proportion to the survival gear, but then, we know that, when TSHTF & TEOTWAWKI occurs, we'll HAVE ONLY WHAT WE'LL NEED, quickly at hand! The van is our BOB's, packed as a mobile survival unit.

But, we DO have SOME "survival" in our storage unit, and some {that can't be there - [extra ammo, guns, gas cans, etc.], in our 4' X 8' Trailer.

AND, we have a three phase plan: (this BTW, each plan changes as circumstances dictate).

PHASE ONE: Natural Disaster survival



Each PHASE has varied options, and degrees of application -- i.e. We do NOT FLEE, unless there is NO OTHER VIABLE OPTION -- but we DO react, in accordance to the specific need. "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, and a true balance is His delight"!

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