Emergency Preparedness for Minimalists, Part I
Since we’re still in early days here on HouseMojo, let me just come out and tip my hand here: I’m not a minimalist — yet. I admire many minimalists and there are times when I deeply desire a minimalist existence, usually after a busy week when the sea of mess that is my children’s toys has taken over our small living room. I’ve lived a minimalist lifestyle for short segments of my own life; I have appreciation for the gifts of minimalism. Maybe I could even visit Minimalville for a while — someday. But right now, I’m not there. That’s OK.
However, there are lessons from minimalism that I try to use in my daily life, particularly regarding the wise use of resources, prioritizing and living mindfully. Right now I’m using those ideas in the context of emergency preparedness.
I think minimalists have a leg up on emergency preparedness, because emergency preparedness isn’t about stuff, it’s about priorities. Minimalists are great at prioritizing. That’s what minimalism is, to me at least — prioritizing and stripping the rest away.
Minimalists already know that stuff isn’t what you need to be happy, so they’re not likely to stay in a dangerous situation just for their stuff. (As in, they flee rather than stay to try to fight encroaching wildfires. At least, I hope they do).
Because they know what things are very important to them, it’s easier for them to decide what to take with them in an evacuation. (“Honey, forget the Pyrex cookware and help me get the piano in the station wagon!”)
If a natural disaster affects their home or belongings, minimalists might find it easier to cope with those material losses than someone whose identity was tied up in their stuff. (This benefit inspired by Miss Minimalist’s post about being burglarized).
Finally, because they have less to lose, they have less to re-acquire after a disaster — perhaps making getting back to normal easier and quicker.
These are strengths that minimalists might bring to the preparedness table. But if they have a weakness, it would be that they don’t have, nor will they want to acquire, the stuff that most emergency planners say prepared folks should have. By stuff I mean actual equipment and supplies — canned food, water, first aid kits, candles, lanterns, emergency blankets, radios, pocketknives, etc. It might seem unnecessary to devote space and energy to maintaining items that you don’t use regularly and may never need, or one might shudder at the tiny closet in the living room being crammed with bottled water, playing cards and canned beef stew. Relying on possessions hardly seems in keeping with the minimalist mindset.
Yet these things, when necessary, are really necessary, and they can make the difference between coming through an emergency relatively unscathed or having it be a very unpleasant experience. So what’s a minimalist to do? (Or, for that matter, what’s someone who wants to do a minimal amount of preparedness to do?)
I’ve come up with a minimalist emergency preparedness plan for our family of four people. It includes provisions for our pets (two cats and a large dog). It keeps in mind our limited storage space, our personal interests, our lifestyle, our habits and the emergencies that seem likely for our location. It incorporates many of the recommendations made by the American Red Cross and other government agencies– and some that aren’t.
It does not include firearms. It may include Spam. Consider yourselves warned.
The topic of emergency preparedness is vast, and there are a lot of different opinions on what constitutes “prepared.” My plan is to write a short series of posts that will detail what I consider the critical issues to consider when planning for emergencies, as well as the nuts and bolts of our family’s emergency preparedness plan. I’ll also share links to resources that I’ve found interesting or helpful as I’ve worked my way through this process, and anecdotes about our personal evacuation experience, when we fled wildfires a couple of years ago.
As always, I’m curious about what other people have done or are doing in this area. I’m especially interested in hearing from people who live in small spaces and would like to be prepared for emergencies without decorating in Early Survivalist Style. So let me know — what emergency preparedness preparations have you taken (or are you thinking about taking) and why? What constraints are you working within? Perhaps most importantly, have you had to use your preparations, and how did they work out? What would you recommend to others, and what would you do differently?
I can’t wait to hear what others are doing!