Modern living has become, with little exception, more about dependency than anything else. While an “interdependent” culture can be a good thing (think families, for instance), the more you can stand on your own two feet, the less of a burden you’ll be on others and the more you’ll be able to help those in need.
Avoiding dependency can be hard; preparedness and self-sufficiency can just as likely be very complicated. Thus, the simpler we make it, the more likely we are to achieve something resembling a reasonably self-sufficient life.
Here are my top ten priorities:
1. Money & Finances – Learn to live well within your means. You may not be able to avoid a home mortgage (alas, I haven’t, despite many years of trying), but you can limit this and you can eliminate all other debt. Actively seek opportunities to cut your budget to maintain a reasonable cushion. Being pro-active in this will help prevent future shocks. Stay ahead of the curve. This may be the real benefit of the past five years economic troubles….let’s face it, you really ought to be pretty good – or at least much, much better – at this by now.
2. Health & Fitness – “They” say: “if you have your health, you have everything”. Those following this blog know my own struggles (and achievements) in this area. You, however, don’t have to (and shouldn’t) wait to be forced into action. Despite the obvious risks associated with my own condition, I’m quite grateful to have discovered just how easy it really is to change course. Of course, it does require the burial of certain “sacred cows”, no pun intended, about our diet and other habits (such as sleep, play, stress management, etc.).
3. Attitude & Spiritual Well-being – You will find, I think, that these priorities will naturally improve along with your purposeful determination to become more self-sufficient. Answering the “why” questions associated with any of your priorities will always (and forever) return you to the most essential reasons for being (raison d’être). You just won’t get very far down the road to contentment (or preparedness) without addressing this.
4. Food – I advocate long-term food storage, but even more important is developing a better understanding about what foods are actually good for you and ways to provide them if/when their cost and/or availability become a problem. For obvious reasons, urban/suburban living complicate these endeavors, but in many such places you can still garden successfully and even keep chickens. Get to know local growers. Develop your own place in the food chain. Figure it out.
5. Misc. Survival Basics – Along with food, you might want to consider issues such as water, heat, durable clothing (the kind that, perhaps, you buy “just the once”), tools, abilities, knowledge, relationships…a wide gamut, I admit, but reasonably grouped together here as the general minutiae of preparedness. Why lump all of this together? Well, for one thing, each and every one of them will depend on your circumstances of location, age, experience, etc. For another, these are the details that can bog you down….don’t let that happen. Just get in the habit of considering the long-term implications of your current investment of time, energy, and money on “transitory” pleasures.
6. Self-Defense – I don’t know why, but many “preppers” have something bordering on obsession with guns. (I’ve even gone through that phase myself.) But, remember, these are simply tools. They can be beautiful, of course, and – in the right circumstances – they can be critically important. But, as noted in other posts here, there’s really no need to go overboard. As always, keep it simple. Start with a personal defense sidearm (I like revolvers), and build from there, adding a shotgun or a .22 rifle as the budget will allow. Hunting and sporting uses may justify still other additions and, yes, you can make a pretty darned good case for a military-style carbine. But, the point here, is to go slow. Guns are expensive, shooting them is expensive, acquiring ammo is expensive, keeping them up and becoming proficient in their use takes lots of time.
7. Technology – All of which leads to considering the other “tools” in our lives. Ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine just how dependent we’d become on things like Google, GPS, cell phones, smart phones, tablets, cable-TV, what have you. These can be great and useful tools, though I’ve noted that the subscription costs for many of these approach the average person’s food budget. Are they really that important? Probably not, so you’d best consider the implications of doing without, should the need arise.
8. Home – This might have been placed a bit higher on the list, so critical is it to our general well-being. It’s also, often as not, the “Achilles heel” of our otherwise self-sufficient lives. The debt, as noted above, can be crippling, forcing us to seek the sort of employment that prevents us from developing every other part of our lives. The real problem, though, is that this becomes a Catch-22 problem. The job you need to pay for the house is more likely to be found in the city and, ipso facto, so must the house. These urban/suburban homes are, almost without exception: more expensive, rely completely on urban/public utilities, are packed close together, often too big, hard to heat (or cool), difficult to defend, and are what I’ll call “culturally isolated”, being packed together with generally dependent neighbors who are less (politically or functionally) inclined to self-sufficiency. All of which is, generally speaking, less true in the country.
9. Work – Oh, boy, another area where my own life needs a little remodeling. Frankly, it’s gotten quite hard to find work that is actually useful, let alone sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable. (Note: I’m starting a new site devoted to this very topic, which will – hopefully – help me figure out this challenge too.) I have come to believe that entrepreneurialism is the primary foundation for a solution here. Pick something you’re passionate about (you’re likely not alone) and turn it into a business.
10. Relationships – I could have added this as a layer to “attitude and spiritual well-being” above, but thought to add it here as a caveat to all of the above. No man is an island….right? Family, friends, neighbors, church, community…each plays a role in a healthy and enjoyable life. Give more, take less. That’s the real goal of self-sufficiency.