The Conflict Between Preparedness and Minimalism

Is it possible to be both a prepper and a minimalist? At first glance it doesn’t seem like it. Preppers often stockpile mountains of food, water, barter items and supplies which they believe will be required in a time of disaster. This flies directly in the face of minimalism where people try to have as few possessions as possible – typically under 100 items or a single backpack of gear.

Minimalism is about leaving behind a materialistic lifestyle where we live pay-check to pay-check irrelevant of the amount we’re making. Because we’re making more money on promotion we take this new found financial opportunity and stability to upgrade our household items faster, getting that new TV we’ve been waiting to buy and storing the other in another room for the kids. Eventually over a few years of this most families end up with countless electronics, furniture, heirlooms and toys and this is where the minimalism lifestyle comes in.

It seems like two incompatible lifestyles, but I’m giving it a try anyway and logging my findings over multiple posts as I learn more via experience. My theory is that if I have a single backpack of preparedness products I can count that as a single minimalist item, especially if stored out of sight and mind but still easy to reach.

This is where things get a bit difficult as a few of the items included in the BOB may have some overlap between daily use ones such as cutlery, portable stoves and utensils. You’re trying not to double up on items you own, but you also want everything in one backpack which is quick to grab in the event a catastrophic disaster arises. It’s a real pain to take items from the bag, use them, wash and dry them then return them to the bag every use, not to mention that you may have to do some digging to find them in the first place. Due to this I’ve chosen to keep a duplicate item in the backpack so I can just grab it and go if needed and not waste precious moments looking for what I’ve taken out – which could be the difference between life and death.

The ultimate aim of minimalism is to spend less and have the freedom to travel more without being weighed down by all your “stuff”. Therefore if you own something but aren’t attached to it and are prepared to give it up at the drop of a hat you can just abandon it and re-purchase a new one when you’re at your new location. This is the loophole I’m going to use, and as long as they’re neatly stored away they shouldn’t be included in the minimalism item count. Out of sight, out of mind.

Currently it’s only me living alone so I’ll only need enough food for myself to last about 2 months – which is 8x 12.5L decor storage containers. Each of these has on average 18 cans of food in them coming out to about 2.5 cans a day. In a tiny house this will be fairly easy to conceal within a pantry. Having a farm can drastically reduce the amount of food you require if your house is your Bug Out Location (BOL), just be sure to have enough stored for the harsher months.

Water is a little easier especially if you have a quality water filter which has a long lifespan and a river or lake nearby. There should be at least a week of drinking water on hand or a large water tank nearby.

Nothing can replace knowledge in a disaster and knowing how to acquire food and water during a disaster is vital to keeping your item count to a minimum. More Knowledge = Less Things.

There will have to be some form of compromise between prepping and minimalism. You can’t have that huge underground pantry with every type of food imaginable, not only is it more vulnerable to theft and disasters but you become attached to it and won’t want to leave if the situation demands. At least with a few storage boxes of food and portable water you can load up your vehicle and get out within 15 minutes. You can’t just grab a pantry shelf and throw it in the car, you’d have to put everything into boxes first and then load the car.

Preppers can also have a BOL in another part of the country stocked with food and other resources which they flee to in a disaster. This is another plausible idea which demands less carried survival items on you all the time. You just need to have enough food, water and fuel for 3 days to get you to your shelter – as you can get almost anywhere in a country (by car) in 3 days if you’re determined.

A final solution similar to the BOL would be storing smaller caches underground at various locations around the country with about a weeks worth of food and water inside. Or perhaps you could hire storage locations and fill them with supplies. Even if they are broken into pre-disaster, who would want to steal 1,000 cans of food and water? You could also offer your family / friends some money to keep some supplies in a corner of their house for you, you don’t even have to tell them what you’re storing if you wish – as long as you express it’s not illegal substances and that the items aren’t worth much.

Being prepared doesn’t mean “having a lot of stuff” stored for use in a disaster, that’s only a small part of the equation. The other parts of preparedness is preparing mentally, preparing physically, having contacts and like-minded people, gaining skills, gaining knowledge and gaining experience. It’s a culmination of these things that creates the ultimate prepper. The unskilled, unintelligent and ill-prepared people who need spoon feeding from pre-stocked cans of food, the real preppers can acquire all these from the wild foraging, farming and hunting.

The Path to Minimalism

Lately I’ve been binge watching everything I could find on YouTube about the minimalism lifestyle after my girlfriend mentioned my – let’s just say “untidy habits” and the collections of stuff and preps that I have in my rooms.

Let’s be clear, I don’t own a house and am currently renting 2 bedrooms where I keep everything from my stove, fridge, bed, computer system, cutlery, BOB’s and my stocks of food and water for disasters. It’s quite the collection if I’m honest, however the “stuff” on the floor was kind of getting old. There was a point where I couldn’t even see the floor – but not because of a lack of tidiness but moreso the lack of storage options and furniture.

I’m not even an untidy person, being an OCD clean freak it’s a strange kind of “untidy”. I know where everything is but due to a lack of storage all the gear I own is in it’s own storage location – on the floor.

Over the weekend I have been busy head down in my rooms picking up one item at a time and deciding:

• Do I need this to survive?
• Do I have an emotional attachment to this item?
• When have I last used this item?
• Is it a tool?
• Is it worth selling?

Then I put it into a pile based on what I wanted to do with it, those piles are as follows:

The Seven Piles
• A keep pile
• A rubbish pile
• A sell pile
• A give away pile
• A take to work pile (or other location)
• A decide later pile
• A “to digitize” pile

The keep pile is for all the items I have strong attachments to, currently use weekly or that I will use in the future for sure – such as my preps. (Debatable that that will be used, but still…)

The rubbish pile is for items that I don’t need and is just considered clutter or those items that haven’t been used in months.

The sell pile contains items that are worth some money that I wish to get rid of and make a little back on. Remember that if you can’t sell them after trying you should just give them away or throw them out and not just believe you’ll try again at some point in the future.

And the give away piles are for items in decent quality that someone else might like to own. It also feels good to donate items to people in need and you know that the item will have another life away from home.

The take to work pile means I store the items at work – these generally include items which I have to keep for 7 years such as travel receipts, medical certificates, excess food I can eat at work and a few other small items.

The decide later pile is for complex items which requires more thought as I try to go through the pile of items as fast as possible so I don’t well up feelings and attachment for them again.

The “to digitize” pile is for cards, documents, certificates or nostalgic items from past events which I want to remember but I don’t need the physical item, therefore I take a picture of it and discard the item.

While going through my items I found there were a lot of tough decisions and I found myself picking up the same item multiple times because I couldn’t decide on it. My mistake was having a “decide later” pile which I had to keep going through to whittle it down to nothing again, but unfortunately most of that pile ended up as keep… for now.

The most difficult item to get rid of is my Obutto R3volution gaming desktop which is tremendously heavy, large and hard to dismantle. Not only that but my screens and pc are extremely embedded with it with cables intertwined around it and the screens screwed to the stand. I hope I can sell it as the buttkickers (which add a level of vibration to the seat and footrest) are probably worth a fair $500.

Over the time I have been cleaning up I feel the weight literally fall off as I throw each additional bag in the bin and sigh with relief. It gets much easier the more you clean and feel like you’re making a dent in all your possessions, and it inspires you to continue and become more critical with your decision making.

Just a note – buy the extra heavy duty garbage bags so they don’t break open when you lift them. I’m so glad I bought these as my other bags were getting holes in them and were beginning to split open before I bagged them in the heavy duty ones, because I own a lot of sharp electronics.

At the end of the weekend I ended up with 4 bags of items I could throw out – some were even electronics that I had never used such as a 4 port switch. Fortunately for me I don’t have any really strong attachments to most of my items except a few of my electronics due to their multifunction nature such as my phone – which I would never throw away unless I had a replacement anyway.

My aim is to have two backpacks worth of camping / preparedness gear, one suitcase worth of clothing / electronics, one storage container of misc gaer such as power tools (to build my tiny house with), cables for my pc, pens, paper and books and finally 8 or so food storage containers which contain a weeks worth of food for 1 person each which I will be storing in my tiny house when it’s complete.

I also have a few large items such as a typical king size bed, a folding camping bed, a tent, a swag, two fans, an air conditioner and a few small pieces of portable furniture. I hope to remove the small pieces of furniture when I’m near the end of my cleaning but there’s a lot of items I can’t really make a decision on due to it being preparedness based such as my camo net.

My absolute aim is to have one “Mazda 2” sized car load of stuff I own and nothing more – which will require me to cut out a large amount of the furniture and remove the bed entirely. Another motive for reducing the amount of things I have is simplicity, happiness and being able to fit it all into my tiny house, as well as not being fixed to one location and I can pick up and go within 1 hour if required in an emergency.

I will be blogging a more detailed article on how one can be both a prepper and a minimalist at the same time even though upon first glance they may appear to be complete opposites. Preparedness is about stocking up on everything you will need in the future and minimalism is about having only what you need at the current point in time and nothing more.