It’s easy to think that the best part of losing everything is replacing it. If you like to shop now, you may believe that you’ll like to shop after a disaster. In my experience, this was not the case. At first, still in shock, I actually got excited about the thought of starting over, completely from scratch, hand picking each item that would end up in my new, minimal, clean and upscale life. The reality was completely different.
Not only did I not have a way or the time to get to a store most of the time, when I did, I was completely overwhelmed. I found myself staring at stuff, yelling at Target employees, demanding a personal shopper and crafting angry letters to the store headquarters in my head regarding the insensitivity of other customers and the obscene glare of the fluorescent lights. The long and short of it is: when you’ve lost everything, walking into a store that is filled to the brim with everything under the sun is overwhelming. There is no other way to explain it other than modern stores are completely alien to our Primal brains. There are too many choices, too many unnecessary things and too much artificial light. I went into Kmart to buy water and after wandering around the store for two hours, I left with nothing but a coffee mug. I couldn’t remember what I needed. My brain was screaming that I already owned all this stuff, that I didn’t need anything. I spent at least 30 minutes in the grocery store crying in front of the spices and left without the one thing I did need: garlic powder. Don’t assume you are going to be able to function the same way you did before a disaster. There is no way to know what will trigger you, but I can guarantee that your Primal brain will shut down in the most inconvenient ways.
Suddenly losing everything makes different people react in different ways. I did not want to buy anything and was determined to make everything we needed by hand. I saw our consumer society in a whole new light. I had been disgusted by the waste before, but now I was sickened and I refused to participate. Other people spent thousands of dollars at the store, only to realize that they now had to keep their new possessions in the car. Perhaps they didn’t really need new pots and pans if they didn’t have a kitchen. Some made reckless decisions while others were afraid to make any decision at all. You don’t know how you’ll react until you’re in that situation, so it’s important not to judge anyone else. I made some of the stupidest decisions in my life in the months immediately following the fire and still haven’t been able to make other seemingly simple decisions almost a year later. I still have problems buying things, because my brain seems to think I still own some of the things I lost. Although it’s hard to gauge what side you’ll land on, here’s one way you can prepare for whatever may come.
Survival Tip #3:
Create an Amazon Wishlist with each of the items below, and other random things you think you’d be lost without. Buy one of each essential item now (or pilfer it from your house), put it all in a backpack and store it in a safe place in your house or car. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to grab the backpack in an emergency and you’ll be good to go.
If shit hits the fan, your car has been destroyed and/or you can’t get back to your home to get a few things (and it’s not the apocalypse i.e. Amazon still delivers), you can immediately order the entire list delivered the next day to wherever you are and have most of your basic needs met.
If it is the apocalypse, you’re screwed. Sorry.
You need to create this wishlist BEFORE a disaster. Extreme stress makes us shut down and forget “non-essential” things. Share the list with family and friends now so they know what to order should you suddenly lose everything.
The following items are things I really needed and couldn’t get, and were mostly used to make other things we needed. Keep reading to learn about some of the things I made and why I needed them.
Note that there is no toothpaste, shampoo, blankets etc. on the list. These items will be readily available at evacuation centres and will be the things that people donate in abundance. Our family received 67 toothbrushes, 14 tubes of toothpaste, 26 packages of dental floss, 16 bottles of shampoo, and 9 bottles of body wash. You’re not going to be particularly interested in bathing, anyway. Just keepin’ it real. We were in a hospital and a hotel so we had no use for extra blankets, pillows, etc. and could have gotten shampoo, soap, and even toothbrushes for free from the front desk. The evacuation center actually started turning these particular items away after about a week.
Once you start to accumulate stuff again, whether it’s through donations or purchases, you need a place to keep it. Remember, you no longer have furniture or closets and all your ‘new’ things are now stored in plastic bags on the floor. Not only is this incredibly depressing, it is also quite overwhelming to dig through bags of crap in order to find a hair elastic or a tampon, when none of the stuff around you looks familiar and you’re not even sure if you have any hair elastics or tampons. One way to overcome this is to make storage containers and bags yourself, to suit your immediate needs. This is where the Ziploc bags and Duct tape come in. Check out this cute bag I made to hold stuff. (I ended up making a first aid bag, a “time-of-the-month” bag, a make up bag, a toiletries bag, several change purses, wallets, a miscellaneous-bottom-of-the-purse bag and a bag for small pieces of Lego that would get left behind or lost every time we had to move locations. Each one was a different color so it was easy to remember what each one held.)
Simply cut the bottom of a Ziploc freezer bag to the size you want. Then cover each side with Duct tape, up to the zip enclosure. This makes it sturdy, food safe and pretty, making you feel less like a bag lady and more like a stylish refugee. It’s resealable and reusable. This particular bag was made 10 months ago, and has held up like a champ in the bottom of my backpack.
Cardboard boxes and shoe boxes can also be covered to make them look nicer, however your give-a-shit level may not be that high this early in the game. When it is, you’ll likely want to buy storage containers or actual furniture. In the meantime, cardboard boxes can be taken apart and used as a handy cutting mat to protect furniture or the floor. Use several layers or add a small cutting mat to your emergency wishlist. Remember to save some boxes to keep extra donations in. At this point, you may want to track down some extra reusable shopping bags, or even a suitcase. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive some donations in containers which you can reuse, but be prepared for most of them to be in plastic bags.
You would be really surprised how many times you will find yourself needing to attach something to something else. Scotch tape is unbelievably useless. Kitchen twine or yarn can be used to tie things together and hang things up. I made a clothesline with a bit of macrame magic and tied each end to nails stuck in the wall. Staplers come in handy more often than you’d think and can even be used to attach important documents and schedules to hotel room walls for easy access and quick removal. Duct tape can attach notes to hotel doors, alerting people to your whereabouts. Keep reading to find out how I made an apron using nothing but a shopping bag, a box cutter and a stapler.
Socks can be duct taped to old flip flops to make makeshift slippers or even shoes (put your feet in them before taping!).You’ll look like an idiot but you’ll be past caring. Sharpies write on practically everything. You’ll magically come across more pens than you could ever need, so don’t bother buying any.
When you have limited access to clean clothes and no way to do laundry, it becomes pretty important to keep what you do have clean. Cooking or preparing food in small, cramped spaces using crappy equipment (or none at all) while you are shaking and crying can result in a lot of mess. This apron was made out of a reusable fabric shopping bag, using nothing but a box cutter and a stapler. It even has a pocket for your phone, created by folding the bottom of the bag in on itself. Imagine what you could do with a needle and thread!
Take the shopping bag and cut down the sides, making sure not to cut into the front panels or the bottom of the bag. If you’re careful, the side flaps of fabric can be saved and used to make fabric-lined duct tape pouches, wallets or even a purse. Leave the handles of what will become the “top” alone (this should fit over your head perfectly) and cut the other handle off. The cut off handle will become the straps. If the strap isn’t long enough to cut in two and tie around you, use one of the side panels, fold it up and staple the crap out of it. You actually only need a couple staples if you fold it correctly, but slamming the stapler repeatedly helps get out pent-up frustration. Once you have two straps, staple them to the sides of the apron. At this point, I used the box cutter to shape the top of the apron. Then, since it came down to below my knees, I folded the two panels together to meet at the seams and stapled the sides. This created a pocket. I was pleasantly surprised.
Clearly, this apron is not made to last, but it can be made in less than five minutes and it does the trick. Plus it holds your phone so you can call it an iApron.
Your homework for tonight is to make your wishlist of essential items. Once it’s done, send it to trusted family and friends. Then, create your bug-out bag with the same items from home. What extra things did you add? Share in the comments below. Your suggestion may end up saving someone’s life or at least their sanity. I’ll be back tomorrow with suggestions for non-perishable food items, supplements to add to the list and more tips. Hopefully your world doesn’t end tonight. But if it does, grab the dirty laundry basket, your important documents and your bug out bag, and hit the road.