Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
The COVID-19 crisis has affected just about every family in the United States in some way or another. All of our situations are unique and everyone I’ve spoken to has learned some lessons about their levels of preparedness. Some of those lessons are unconventional but valuable nonetheless. There are a whole lot of things you can’t learn from a book or a blog.
Here are the things I’ve learned.
Trust your instincts.
I began writing about this virus back in January when it was announced that the entire city of Wuhan was being locked down and millions of people were under stay at home orders. With that many people under a mandatory lockdown, I was firmly convinced that this had potential global ramifications.
I had come back from Europe to attend a funeral in early January and was supposed to return on January 28th. After doing the research for the article mentioned above, I rescheduled my flight for March 28th and settled in with my youngest daughter at her apartment to help out with the bills. We immediately began stocking up.
A lot of folks at that time said I was crazy – a few here on my website but more so on other sites that republished my work. I’m no stranger to being called crazy – I’m in the preparedness industry and I like guns, so right there, the mainstream media sees me as a lunatic. It no longer bothers me and I was convinced that this was going to be a big deal.
Every day from January 23rd to the present, I’ve spent hours researching as this pandemic has unfolded. I sincerely wish that I had not been correct, but here we are, still in lockdown in many parts of the country.
You can prepare fast if you’re aware before other folks are.
I had sold or donated nearly everything that my daughters didn’t want before I took off on an open-ended trip to Europe last fall. The other items were divided up between my two girls. So while the daughter with whom I stayed still had a few things, like firearms, water filters, etc., the stockpile was pretty much gone.
By the end of January, I was pretty sure that we were going to see mandatory quarantines or lockdowns here and I began stocking up. It’s important to note that at this point, you could still buy anything you wanted or needed. I grabbed some extra masks and gloves but most of my focus was on food and other everyday supplies. By the end of February, I was pretty content with the amount of supplies we had. I had spent as little as possible on “right now food” and focused most of my budget on shelf-stable items like canned goods, pasta, and rice.
For about $600, we accumulated a supply that would see us through a minimum of 3 months without leaving the house. I figured, if it turned out that I had overreacted, my daughter would use the food anyway.
I also started a personal spending freeze at the end of January. If it wasn’t an item we needed to become better prepared, I didn’t spend a dime. I was able to put back a few months’ worth of expenses while still stocking up. It helped that my daughter was living thrifty in a less expensive apartment with utilities included. I was very concerned about things like cash flow and it turns out, this has been a huge problem for a lot of people.
You can’t always have the “ideal” situation.
There were a lot of things about my situation that were less than ideal. But that’s probably true in a lot of cases. You just have to adapt to the reality of your situation instead of endlessly wishing it was different or feeling that it’s hopeless. “Less than ideal” does not mean that all hope is lost.
First, there was the situation of living arrangements. I have a daughter in Canada and a daughter in the US. My older daughter in Canada has been working longer and was better established. My younger daughter, who lives in the US, was new to the workforce and didn’t have a lot of money so I stayed with her to help out financially. Her apartment is in a lower-middle-class residential area of the city where she works. Thankfully, it is a two-bedroom and I only brought with me two suitcases.
Living in an apartment without much of a yard during this kind of event is not something I would have chosen, given time to seek alternatives. But we all know this crept up fast. Moving was not an option. I focused on hardening the apartment with plywood to put up at the windows, tripwires that could be set up quickly if needed, and sturdier locks. We got some quarantine warning signs that we could post if all hell broke loose as a potential deterrent, and I set up spotlights in the front yard. Currently, they face the stairs to the front door, but in a bad situation, they could be turned around to illuminate anyone coming up to the house instead.
I bought more ammo for our firearms and we sat down together to work through potential scenarios. We developed a “fatal funnel” in the front hallway and added “stumbling blocks” in the front hall that could be shoved in front of the door to slow down an advance. (Just cardboard boxes filled with hardcover books – nothing fancy.)
We made friends with the other family who lives in the building while maintaining our OPSEC. It’s always good to have allies and they have a better line of sight from their upper apartment.
Normally, I would have bought loads of organic food and preserved it myself, but early in the crisis, there was still a question of whether or not we’d have power throughout the emergency and there simply wasn’t enough time at this late date. My stockpile is not ideal – lots of storebought canned goods and carbs like pasta and rice – but it’s filling and versatile. And most of all, it’s what was readily available. I was able to grab cases of canned fruits and vegetables and canned ravioli when it was cheap and abundant.
So while it isn’t our normal diet or even our normal preps, we’re fortunate to have it. We’ve continued to hit the store weekly for foods that are more “normal” but can easily shift to the stockpile if it becomes necessary.
As you can see there are a lot of things that aren’t ideal from a prepper’s point of view, but when disaster strikes, you have to adapt. So if your situation isn’t perfect, don’t just throw your hands up in the air and give up – ADAPT.
It’s okay to have feelings.
While I’ve been confident in following my intuition regarding this scenario, I can’t say that I have never had any doubts whatsoever. This has been an extraordinary situation.
We’ve all suffered losses: losses of loved ones, losses of jobs, losses of dreams. The uncertainty of what lies ahead is difficult, even for someone who has been prepping and researching disasters for decades. This is hard. It’s not to say that other situations that have occurred haven’t been harder or haven’t resulted in more loss. It’s not a contest. We don’t have to compare and invalidate how this had made us feel.
I’ve even felt like this can’t possibly be happening. I know that it is happening but there’s still that little part of me that was shocked to see it occur.
However you feel about something, it’s valid. We’re all allowed to have feelings. Just don’t let those feelings paralyze you.
Invest in education.
No, I’m not saying go back to college and get a degree. I’m talking about life education.
Over the past years, I’ve spent time and money learning from experts in many fields and this has helped me more than I can describe. I’ve taken in-person courses on the following:
- Gardening and food preservation from a county extension office
- A violence de-escalation course
- Krav Maga
- Marketing (never underestimate the power of using words to motivate others)
- I learned to raise and butcher animals for food
- Numerous firearms courses
- Selco’s Urban Survival Course for Women in Croatia
- A defensive knife course
These things have changed my mindset so much that I’m not the same person I was before I took these courses. I have a different understanding now of violence and the cues that lead up to it. I know a lot more about food self-reliance and can adapt those skills to other things. I can protect myself and the people I love on many different levels.
And the things I learned in Croatia? Taking that course from Selco and Toby is by far the very best investment I’ve ever made in my own preparedness. Most importantly, I learned that survival and preparedness are two different skill sets, and having both of them provides you with the best of both worlds. I can use survival skills to enhance my level of preparedness even if I don’t have a one-year supply of food. And I was able to use the experience of spending time in war-torn areas with Selco narrating his own experience to spot trouble coming a lot sooner than others in my area.
I would never have been able to be flexible enough to get prepared this quickly without the things I learned from Selco and Toby. I wouldn’t have been as ready for potential violence. You can read all you want about societal breakdowns but until you actually stand in the crumbling building amidst the debris hearing a first-person account, you don’t really understand it. Seeing the end result of war and genocide was eye-opening, and provides a reality check about how bad things can get. I can’t put a price tag on the value that I received from that investment and when new courses open up again, I suggest you go if you can at all. Their real-world observations will change your perspective on just about everything you think you know.
There are many experts out there who have learned from their own experiences. Never think you already know too much to learn anything from them because I promise you, there are things you never even considered. You will be far more prepared to face the potential violence and hardships of future scenarios when you learn from those who have been down these roads.
The value of things changes.
Before this, who would have thought that toilet paper would be the new gold? Or that there would be countless articles all over the media about toilet paper substitutes?
One thing that I learned is that the value of things changes dramatically in unusual situations.
Store shelves were stripped bare in a matter of days, and in many places around the country, inventory has never really recovered. People had to improvise when their first choices were gone by choosing from the things that were remaining.
The shortages we’ve faced weren’t really the ones I expected. Bleach, yeast, and paper products reached the top of everyone’s to-buy lists. I suppose I assumed that if the stores were still open, we wouldn’t be facing limited quantities of items like meat and pasta. Instead of nurturing non-food-bearing plants, people are nurturing their sourdough starters and seedlings.
Nobody really cares about buying new clothes right now or about frivolous new shoes, because where are you going to wear them? Instead, there’s a run on N95 masks and seeds. Many people have zeroed in on the real necessities and that’s where their money is going.
People may not be who you think they are.
One thing that was particularly eye-opening was the actions of others.
There were close friends and family members who proved that they were not the people I wanted in my inner circle if things hit the fan. Some of the reactions of people about whom I care were incredibly disappointing and even downright shocking. Folks who I thought would be ready to roll with whatever situation might come stunned me by refusing to accept what was happening because it wasn’t the apocalypse for which they’d prepared.
I also encountered people who were not within my immediate family and friends who surprised me. This situation was certainly a study in human behavior. They surprised me with their greed, anger, and sense of entitlement. After hearing about how they spoke of others who’d been wise enough to stock up ahead of time, with ugly words like “hoarder” and “selfish,” I was very glad I’d never confided my preparedness efforts in them. I saw people display incredibly short fuses and respond with rage over the slightest little thing. I saw others who took this opportunity to behave with increased violence and glimpses of the potential predator inside them.
Of course, like all of you, I’d read about these things. But seeing it in action was entirely different.
Don’t have regrets.
I’ve caught myself a few times thinking, “Wow, I wish we still had our farm by the creek back in California” and “the last house we lived in would have been far better suited for this situation” but I stop myself. There’s no point in having regrets. I’m glad that I gave my daughter the chance to get her feet on the ground as an adult, and I am very happy I spent the time I did in Europe, even if it means that I had to start from scratch to get prepped for this event.
Other people have told me that they have spent time wishing they had never moved from a more suitable place or they regret frivolous purchases they made when that money would have been better spent on preps. Look, we all probably could have made different decisions in the past that would lead to more stability right now, but many of those decisions resulted in other types of benefits: great experiences, new friends, or an improved mindset.
Life is way too short to have regrets, and if you’re looking backward, you won’t see what’s right in front of you. And in an uncertain world, that can be very dangerous.
Don’t put things off.
If there are things you’ve been putting off doing until some future date when everything is “perfect” then stop. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that delaying things until the “right time” presents itself is a mistake.
I am so glad I took those classes I mentioned above. I’m so glad that I spent months in Greece, Macedonia, and Montenegro. And I’m absolutely returning to Europe when the situation allows it. I learned a kind of flexibility wandering around countries where I didn’t speak the language that I never had before. I can sleep anywhere. I can quickly identify resources and navigate my way through new places. I learned some thrifty habits that are cultural norms in the Balkans. Those experiences completely changed my mindset, made me more adaptable, and built my confidence.
Your goals and dreams may look a lot different than mine, but when the chance returns to reach them, do it. Get that piece of property. Start building that cabin. Grow that garden even if it’s in pots on your balcony. Explore those places you’ve always wanted to see. Start the business. Write the book. Buy that prep that you’ve been thinking about it because tomorrow it may no longer be available.
There is no perfect time.
Life is for living, not for staying in your safety bubble that looks an awful lot like a rut. Even life after a pandemic.
What did you learn?
Of course this isn’t over yet, and I’m sure there are more lessons still to come. But these are the things I’ve learned so far.
I find that we can all experience the same situation yet each of us comes away with something different. So, I’m curious. What lessons did you learn during this crisis? How will it change your preparedness efforts in the future? What was the biggest surprise? Please share your experiences in the comments.
Daisy Luther writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.