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The “Use It Then Trash It” Mentality Simply Won’t Work for the Middle Class Any More

butlerborough.com

Let me state the obvious: we’re a “use it then trash it” society. In other words, we’ve grown accustomed to disposable gear, supplies, and equipment and fully expect that we’ll be able to simply purchase a new [fill in the blank] anytime we need to. So much so that I don’t know anybody who really tries to fix anything if it looks like too much trouble, with a few exception such as vehicle maintenance. Everything is considered disposable. Everything! It’s works out great for our consumer-driven society and the companies that profit from it. Why else would major retailers like Walmart exist, let alone, thrive? Of course, I’m not sure which came first, the chicken (Walmart) or the egg (consumers) and I really don’t care.

What does matter to me is what’s going to happen to us, the American middle class, as a result of this major shift in thinking when TEOTWAWKI (read: hyperinflation or something similar) occurs. You see, until recently, I would have been chief among us to simply throw away nearly anything if I couldn’t easily fix it or even if it was moderately more expensive to simply replace it. I admit I have that “I’ll just get a new one when I need to” mentality. These days, I’m kicking myself for that mindset. That’s not to say I don’t buy good equipment or that I didn’t try to fix things small things, as I am handy enough for my wife to keep my around and even occasionally for my sister-in-law to bring me something to mend. But, fixing small trinkets and such isn’t what I’m talking about.

Rather, I’m thinking about the actual equipment and gear that we may soon find ourselves needing to truly rely upon. This could be anything, from garden tools to a garden hose, canning equipment, or firearms. The list is nearly endless. Of course, it’s easy to get sucked into the trap, especially when shopping at low-price discount retailers like Walmart or Target and even to a lesser extent hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. I know I’ve often opted for the inexpensive $20 garden hose rather than to spend the money and purchase the much more durable $80 garden hose. Sure, the $20 hose works ok right now but inferior hoses like this get kinked easily and is far more likely to develop a tear after significant use than a durable one will. Even though I do have several garden hoses at my disposal, these days I would much prefer to rely on one or two really good hoses rather than several mediocre or inferior ones. Again, the example could be anything you like, not just garden hoses.

The Real Problem

The real problem occurs when something like inflation hits us and we very quickly realize that, not only are the days of easy to procure (yet inferior) disposable equipment a thing of the past, but we also find out that much of what we’ll need to rely upon simply cannot be found or becomes cost-prohibitive to buy. Therefore, we’re going to be stuck with relying what we already have or improvise. I don’t know about you but I’m horrible at improvisation.

Do you see the problem here? Let me be clear: the problem is that if we don’t already have the equipment and supplies that we’ll need to rely upon OR the means to purchase them when things go south, we simply won’t have [fill in the blank] to rely upon. And that, my friend, spells trouble when you’re literally trying to survive!

As an example, what about all of those nice teflon-coated pans you probably have in your kitchen? They work great for your stove-top, but how well will they work (let alone last) over a campfire or some other flame? Probably not that long. Here’s an example of how a simple cast iron pan, something that is frowned upon in modern society, would be greatly preferred to what we typically use today. So, if you don’t already have said cast iron pans then you just won’t have them.

How about a non-food related topic? Let’s think about clothing for a minute. Sure, we all have ample clothing. In fact, most of us only wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. The fact is, however, that most of those clothes are probably not the best for hard, daily work and will wear out quickly. Do you have clothing that will last for years to come as well as the means to repair them when they do wear out? I’m not even going to bother mentioning children’s clothing and the need to have larger sized clothes for them to grow into… oh, wait… I just did. :)

Again, I’m not just talking about something like food storage that WILL be used up, this is all about equipment. It could be anything. Think about your shoes, clothes, cookware, firearms, garden tools, hand tools, alternative power supply, and so on. How reliable is this equipment? Can it be used for years, maybe decades on end?

I should also point out that, although this discussion is focused on equipment, your plans should reflect a long-term approach where possible. For example, while I certainly have some toilet paper stocked up for emergencies, I don’t have a warehouse full of it and the toilet paper will run out. So, what’s your plan for when that happens? Maybe you don’t need a written out plan but you should have an idea of what can be done.

The Solution (well, sort of)

Certainly, the most glaring solution is to purchase equipment and supplies that are durable. Granted, you’re not going to get a do-over and be able to purchase what you have already bought, but you can begin to do so from this day forward. That said, I wouldn’t go out and buy the best of just anything. Your plans should be strategic. Reference the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs post I did a while back to refresh yourself of what real needs are (e.g., water, food, shelter). These lower level needs should be the focus of your reliable equipment purchases for the simple fact that they are needed to survive.

The second solution is to learn as much as you possible can. This may seem like a cop-out answer but it’s more important than you might realize. I believe it was Cody Lundin who had a t-shirt that says “The more you know, the less you need” and it’s quite true. For example, if you have no idea that you can put cardboard boxes together with filler material and some plastic wrap in order to make a solar oven then you just don’t know it! Likewise, if you have no idea that the sun’s UV rays can be used to kill water-borne pathogens (the SODIS method) then you would probably just throw out those 2-liter soda bottles without a second thought. Needless to say, the list goes on and on.

If I were you, I would try to look at your supplies with a new eye. Instead of thinking you have what you need for an emergency situation, which is a great start, consider what you have for a long-term situation. Instead of having water storage do you have a reliable water procurement plan? Instead of just food storage, what’s your food procurement plan(s)? How will you cook food long term? What about simple sanitation concerns such as an alternative to toilet paper or soap? Do you have herbal medicines you can rely upon? How about dental health? Everything should be questioned.

I’m not saying I have many of these questions answered. I don’t. I am, on the other hand, beginning to consider how prepared my family is for a true long-term situation and I’m sad to report that we’re not at all ready! And, I doubt we ever will be. Remember that the lifestyle we’re accustomed to living may no longer exist very soon. The middle class concept of “use it then trash it” will be a thing of the past for most of us. In part, this is a good thing but will be a huge adjustment. You have been forewarned.

7 comments to The “Use It Then Trash It” Mentality Simply Won’t Work for the Middle Class Any More

  • Bev

    Ron, I LOVE your thinking! I have occasionlly asked God what his plan for me was as it has varied so much! Perhaps this “jack of all trades master of none” isn’t so bad! THANK YOU!

  • Ron

    I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the Prepper world. I used to wonder what possible advantage could there be to the fact that I seemed destined to work at so many different types of jobs. At 60 years old, my wife and I now work as property caretakers. The job requires that I be a Jack-of-all-trades. I can weld and do just about any type of metal work, I’m proficient at carpentry work, I’m a descent electrician, I’ve worked in timber and lumber making, I’ve been a mechanic and body man, I’m a trained massage therapist, I’ve worked on farms and even invented and built agricultural equipment. I grew up hunting, gardening, and taking care of animals. And the list goes on. I feel that I will be able to take very good care of me, my wife, and whoever else is in our little group. So for me, the life I’ve lived is probably the best prepping I could have done.

    • Experience is often the greatest teacher of all. Glad to hear you’ve had so many useful experiences in your life. Hopefully you can pass along that knowledge to other potential members of your group. I certainly wish I had taken advantage of many opportunities in my life… now I’m playing catch-up.

  • T.R.

    The first thing that poped into my mind when I looked at that garbage can graphic was Facebook ……..why ……I dont know lol.

  • T.R.

    I had an Aunt that lived modestly , she didnt have a lot by todays standards but what she did have , she made sure was nice .

  • SillyD

    I never really thought about prepping purchases like this. I can see how important buying good quality equipment is going to be important for us in the long term. Thank you.

  • Bev

    Great editorial and food for thought. Procurement as opposed to just stocking…