INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP: The most necessary skills

image by Lincolnian

Every once in a while, I’ll read about preppers gearing up for a 19th century lifestyle.  They’re learning blacksmithing skills and how to tan cow hides.  I think those skills are fascinating, but I have one question.  What good are they if you can’t patch a hole in the drywall of your home or hang a ceiling fan?  I’m all in favor of re-learning the skills of our great-great-grandparents and think that spinning wool into thread and weaving your own cloth is nifty, but how about learning some tailoring skills using a sewing machine?  My point is that the first skills we should learn start around the house, taking care of things that need to be taken care of today.

Right now, think about every possible task in and around your home that you would need to hire someone to take care of.  There’s your list of skills to learn!  If your garden is looking pretty pathetic, take a master gardening class.  If you’ve been worried about the health of a loved one, now would be a good time to take a basic first aid or CPR class.  Become a jack of all trades around your home, and then branch out into the skills that came in handy a hundred or more years ago. 

Yes, an EMP event could turn our world backward by hundreds of years, but in the meantime, learn how to patch a hole in the carpet and sew up a rip in your car’s upholstery!  Those are the types of skills in demand now and, most likely, into the future.

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  1. Barbara says

    A friend of mine had a lamp that quit working. She threw it away. Actually put it out in the trash. Of course, its matching mate went with it. After all, who wants just one working lamp? Out she goes and buys new ones, comes home with her shiny new matching lamps, plugs them in, and … duh… one doesn't work (the one plugged into the same socket as the non-working one before.)
    To make a long, sad story short, the lamps were fine, the socket was bad. My husband fixed it for her for eight dollars in parts and fifteen minutes in time.
    We live in a throw it away world now. Nothing gets fixed. you'd be appalled at what ends up at the dump. Patching and repairing used to be a virtuous skill that people learned to do well. Now, even the poor can't patch anything. (neither wallboard, carpet nor clothes.)
    America is more affluent than most of us realize and we've all lost the skills of virtuous frugality.

    • says

      Barbara, right now I have two non-working vacuum cleaners in my garage, one a Kirby. My husband is extremely handy around the house but doesn't know how to fix small appliances. I should probably challenge him to get those vacuums in working order! I haven't had the heart to throw them out.

      • Barbara says

        I feel for you. I don't throw out so much that probably should be! If husband doesn't quite get around to that project, offer it to one of your kids! (I've seen in some of your articles that they're pre-teens?) Learn how vacuums work on-line and see if they can apply it to real life? They'll feel proud that they can do something Dad can't.

        • says

          Barbara, my husband did check out the vacuum and said that the motor is getting electricity but he thinks it's the motor that will need to be either fixed or replaced. I don't know how to find another motor, and sometimes getting something repaired is more expensive than just being a new one.

  2. says

    There might be some practical reasons to learn blacksmithing, hide tanning and flint tool making, but the main reason is because learning skills should be fun. Like all prep work you never really know what will be useful. There are many people who know drywall skills, blacksmithing not so much This sort of skill may even be marketable in the case of an Argentina style economic collapse. We learn to shoot but most of us do not hunt and all of us never want to be in the situation to have to defend ourselves with a firearm. The main reason primitive skills are good to learn, is because they can be very fun to learn. Most of us can do drywall, gardening, and hang a ceiling fan with no trouble. But learning with my sons how to make an adle adle and darts and then practicing with them, the experience is priceless, the skill to do so… I will never need use an adle adle to hunt.


    • says

      Atl Atl? I haven't heard that term since my high school history class! I'll bet making one and learning how to use it has given you a lot of appreciation for the skills of our "primitive" ancestors. I think learning ancient skills is great, but I think you would be amazed by how few practical skills the average person has.

  3. dlp says

    We recently had some major car problems. My husband though was able to do all the repairs (after work every day for five days) and saved us hundreds of dollars. My son was beside him holding the flashlight, helping and learning. What was most interesting however was the fact that several neighbors…. all men …came over and said "Gee I would like to help but I don't know anything about cars." They did not have the skills nor the ability nor I suspect the desire to learn. So now you have given us the idea that we do have other "skills" to fall back on just in case!

    • says

      A while back I posted an article about how few "blue collar" skills people have, and high school age kids don't want to learn! Your son is lucky that he has a dad who has such skills and is willing and able to pass them along to the next generation.

  4. elt2jv says

    Before we left the city, I'd cherry pick the items left beside the dumpster in our apartment complex. Picked up a Hoover bagless that only needed the plug on the end of the cord replaced. A $200 vacuum for the price of a $4 plug.

    I've been hoarding skills for a while, since it costs almost nothing if you know where to find free books online. It's a little disconcerting when I start to share what I've learned and the other person's eyes glaze over. I've mostly given up on talking about anything but small talk with most people, since prepping seems to make most people uncomfortable.

    Don't forget that skills are a limitless source of barter and trade. Example: I replaced the timing belt and water pump on a local tree service company's truck and they tilled out my garden.

  5. rightwingmom says

    Rightingdad is the ultimate handy man. My favorite story is our neighbor throwing away a Sentry fire safe. The battery box was cracked and wouldn't hold the batteries. Rightwingdad asked for the safe, even though it was on the curb for trash collection. He called Sentry. They overnighted a new battery box for free and paid for the shipping. He installed the new box. It's worked perfectly for over 4 years.

  6. says

    At this time, when people are having money problems, the scavenging idea is worth looking at. Nabbing the curb-side throwaways can lead to a good find often enough to make some cash. Fix an item, post it on Crag's List and turn it into green in your pocket. More people are making additional income doing this than most recognize.

  7. Diana says

    I can… Patch drywall, change an electric receptacle (an outlet), finish concrete, write a 5 page essay, sew by hand, bake bread (and cookies!), cook completely from scratch, dehydrate food, fish and clean em myself, cook over an open fire… and chop my own darn wood!

    My husband and I have a garden, freeze our extra produce, and collect/recycle aluminum cans found on neighborhood walks, brass from garage sales etc. We put away an extra $500 a year just by exercising and finding the right goods.

  8. Elise says

    My husband is not handy and I end up donating things with minor repairs to charity. I am also bothered by what ends up in the garbage. Have you heard of the The Freecycle Network? There are people who are giving or getting free stuff. Even non working items that can be fixed are listed. The purpose is to reuse things and keep them out of the landfills.

  9. retiefnh says

    Freecycle works, but learn to fix what you can, never know when it will come in handy. This quote from sci fi author Robert Heinlein says it best: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

    • teabag says

      was he a genius or what?
      my favorite is “man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.”
      notice which gender he used–totally appropriate. and i don’t mind saying that, because i’m sure he’d agree.

  10. Bets' says

    I learned an excellant tip from an old Romanian woman. I had worn new shoes without stockings and got a blister. She told me to put raw egg membrane on it. It was hard to separate the membrane from the shell, it pretty much came off in strips, but it was worth it. It worked like a plaster and healed the blister quickly. It's what people did before band-aids were available. Plus it's free.

  11. newtoyoursite says

    Mr. Heinlein is right and I'm so greatful I can do every one of the things he listed and then some. Some I learned from my grandparents and parents, some I learned while serving in the military, and the rest just seemed to come naturally and I have tried to teach my now grown children all of it too. To learn how to fix your own appliances and get the parts for a reasonable cost go to I have fixed my dryer twice, my washer once, my dishwasher and my fridge. Each time I do, my husband just tells me how much more he loves me because I'm "not the typical female."

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      Years ago I read a short article listing everything a man knew how to do back in the days of the pioneers. It was amazing! One single man had all the knowledge and skills, in most places, to build an entire house and most of its contents! I've tried to find that article, but Heinlein's quote is a good substitute. Thanks for the link to Repair Clinic. I'm going to make sure I bookmark it.

  12. reba says

    Some parts stores that sell to plumbers, electricians, appliance repair persons also sell to the public. I have a store in town that when I need a part I call. I had a very old microwave that the inside liner was held in by plastic screws. they all popped out. Called the shop and they looked them up and they had them in stock! $1.89 later and the thing was fixed. Replace the old microwave 3 years ago and recently had it sparking all over the place with nothing in the microwave. We saw that a metal looking part was burnt looking. Took it to the store and they had the repair piece for $5.00. Part came as a sheet that you cut to size. We cut it to match the other with enough extra for 2 more. We put it in place and it works great. Had a dryer making noise. Repair guy said it needed new pads & wanted $120.00 for the pads alone. I paid him $25.00 for the service call, bought the full kit at the shop for $24.95 (with extra stuff to boot) and it still cost less then the $120.00 he wanted to charge me.

  13. connie says

    My mieghbors threw aaway a small childs 2 wheel bike because the tires were flat. They only had it a few months.Oh well ee now have our grandsons first bike waiting for him.

  14. says

    Hmm… well, I can gut, skin, butcher and cook a pig, deer, rabbit, squirrel, etc., I can catch, clean and cook fish, I’ve made bread and rolls from scratch, I changed the oil in my car once (but my dad was there telling me how to do it), diagnosed problems in other people’s cars when they’ve told me what it’s doing (I can’t actually repair it, but I’ve heard my dad talking about what causes what enough to be able to diagnose them better than my fiancee – but don’t tell him I told you!), I can split wood with an axe (and a log-splitter), I know how to work a hammer and a saw (hand saw), I can shingle a roof, and am apparently the only person in my house that knows how to change a lightbulb… I’d say that I’ve got some pretty fair skills to offer… but I can definitely see the lack there, too, in a disaster/doomsday situation.

    Long way to go and a short time to get there!

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