Laura has a delightful blog ("Choose Sarcasm") in which she shares her discoveries about self-sufficiency, money, kids, and life. I find her raw honesty very refreshing, and I hope that you do too. She immediately admitted to me that she is "new to preparedness" and I asked for her to share her journey with us.
I was raised in a religion where the congregation was counseled to be prepared for emergencies, to gather a year’s supply of food storage, to have 72 hour kits for your family, and to do all that could be done to be self-reliant.
As I grew, for whatever reason, I developed a rather cynical view of these notions. I envisioned the women of my church gathered together for meetings to discuss all of the things that a person could do with 500 #10 cans of wheat. I found it old fashioned, overly cautious, and a bit ridiculous, and so I put it out of my mind. Between that and growing up with a busy family who did not keep food storage or 72 hour kits, I just disregarded the ideas.
I would not be one of those strange women who had fun with cans of wheat, for heaven’s sake. That was just weird. I would not “do” this wheat thing, or any of the rest of it, thankyouverymuch.
I married into a family who did all of these things, and I think it made me even more skeptical purely out of insecurity. I never felt I could be all of those things, that it was too much work, and besides, like others of my peer group, I thought that credit cards were for emergencies (and furniture, and clothing, and trips, and eating out, and, and, and….)
And then, the economy crashed. I thanked my lucky stars that, layoff after layoff, my husband managed to keep his job. And then, I had two children. I began to drown in frivolous consumer debt, thousands upon thousands of dollars of debt that I honestly couldn’t account for, nickeled and dimed away on the stupidest things.
Then, we moved into a rural area and discovered that we were vulnerable to small emergencies like blizzards and lengthy power outages—maybe not the end of the world, but certainly eye-openers.
Suddenly, I realized those ladies at church who knew how to make bread from scratch, who made do with what they had, who had stacks of #10 cans of beans and rice, might actually know what they are talking about and might have something interesting going for them. I began to get tired of stuff—do you know how aggravating it is to pick up hundreds of dollars of toys off of the floor of a small 1,000 square foot home day after day? The toys seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was wasted money, time, space, and effort for too many toys that my son didn’t even play with all that much. Toys that, might I add, were purchased on credit. I realized that we lacked even the simplest of things—candles, flashlights, first aid kits, and the most basic survival supplies. We were drowning in debt, and I began to lose sleep worrying about bill collectors and juggling what could be pushed off until when. I began to joke that I wanted to convert and become Amish so they could churn, bake, and mend the spoiled brat out of me. (And I mean no disrespect. If I could spend a week with them, I would.) I wanted change.
Change is what we are doing. We are well on the way to putting together a 72 hour kit for our family. We’d have the bare basics in an emergency. We are storing water, slowly but surely.
My estimation would be that we have a few months of food on hand in the event we would ever need it. We buy most of our food in bulk. My husband is getting his HAM radio license so we can pursue emergency communications if needed. I’m attempting (and often failing) to learn skills that can enable me to make things from scratch, to mend, to make do. We are trying to declutter, to get rid of what we don’t need, and to buy and spend less.
We are, by no means, perfect. We still have way too much debt, and I am not good at putting the extra money aside to tackle it, much to my husband’s dismay (and I’m sure Dave Ramsey’s). I’m an emotional spender. I’ll spend money if given the chance—while better, I’m by no means healed. I’m on first name terms with bill collectors (thinking about this, a lot of them are suspiciously named Lois). While we are attempting to remove clutter and organize our home, I have had hampers upon hampers of unfolded laundry sitting in my living room for days on end. I’m just not a good housekeeper. My children can destroy, with tornado force, what cleanliness does occur. I still can’t make a loaf of bread from scratch (they do make excellent paperweights, however). It’s a work in progress—slow, often disheartening progress. I keep telling myself that someday, it will all click, and an attitude of self-reliance will become a lifestyle of self-reliance. I literally have to take it one day at a time. I need to have patience, determination, and I also need to learn to not be so hard on myself as I work to accomplish these goals.
Speaking of goals, I totally want to learn how to grind/mill my own flour, and have been researching grain mills so I know what to save for when I at last am ready to purchase one. After all, I have all of these #10 cans of wheat on hand, and I need to know what to do with them. I have a feeling I know where to go to find some ladies who can tell me….
A note to Laura—
You are right, it does not happen overnight. It is better that it doesn’t—slow changes are long-lasting ones! You are creating a new home environment, developing a sense of confident self-reliance within your children, and you are sending an unspoken message to your husband that his hard work day-in/day-out is enough for his family (read: you’re speaking his love language!). It’s a beautiful thing you are doing for your family, and we all want to encourage you to keep going. Not every skill is for every one—that’s why I hope that we will all be “neighbors”—maybe I can barter my bread for someone else’s soap!