What I Store that Isn't Food

Sharon July 15th, 2008

Several people have asked me to write about my non-food storage more than I have (there’s a post here on the subject, which includes links to someone else’s recommended list).  This is one of those places where I start looking like a doomer wacko, I realize, but I do think that it is worth talking about.

 Right now, every shipping container that crosses the ocean has the equivalent of a 9% tariff on goods coming in from rising oil costs.  That doesn’t include the cost of the oil in the products itself – it isn’t just food whose price is rising out of the reach of ordinary people.  At the same time as food and gas eat up more of our budgets, it gets harder and harder to buy other stuff.

 Now a lot of us have more stuff than we need – but often, it isn’t the right stuff for a low energy world.  For example, most of us have winter wardrobes that are not designed to live in a house with minimal or no supplemental heating.  And yet, that’s a real possibility in the northern parts of the country this coming year.  Think about – most fuel oil companies have a minimum delivery of 100-150 gallons of oil – otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to run the truck.  Most small companies can’t afford to grant credit anymore, because of the sheer number of people defaulting on payment – and many smaller companies have gone out of business. Natural gas is expected to spike as well, while utilities will be renegotiating their shutoff policies.  Many people won’t be able to afford winter heating bills in the several thousand dollars, particularly advance payments on the order of 5-600 dollars for oil.  So they will switch to small electric space heaters – and grid use will spike as well, during the coldest weather.  We may see blackouts, because of this, but eventually people’s power will get shut off as well, unless mandates against shut offs are strictly enforced.  So many people will be living with minimal or no heat.  They need warm stuff for this – and most of them probably don’t have it, since all buildings have been 70 degrees for most of their lives.

Right now we can all go shopping at Goodwill and garage sales for cheap clothes and shoes – but what happens as more and more people need those cheap goods, and other people stop having the money to buy stuff and dispose of it for pennies on the dollar shortly afterwards – the quality of goods at yard sales will fall, and the competition will rise.  Or think about books – the sheer quantity of books available are a product of an affluent society that can afford to spend $25 bucks on a hardcover.  Sure, a lot of them are junk, but a lot of them aren’t – the library sales are filled with volumes for a quarter.  What happens as the library acquisition budgets are slashed (more) and the cheap books stop running over?  Or, G-d forbid, when the books are worth more to keep warm than to read (ok, there are some books out there that are already worth more for their burnable value, but you know what I mean ;-) )

So here’s my list of things I’m storing.  Now I have a big old farmhouse, and some disposable income, so this would be different for other people who don’t.  I’m not saying you need these things – this is me, and my list, offered for your perusal.

1. Shoes – I have a thing about shoes.  You see, I have crappy eyesight, and there is zippo chance I will ever shoot a deer for moccasins.  I’ve made felted boots and slippers, and could put old tires on the bottom of them with some work.  But I don’t want to.  I like good shoes.  And with four boys going through three or four sizes a year, I already can barely afford to keep my kids shod ;-) . Goodwill is my friend. Yardsales are my friend.  Bigger sizes while they are cheap are my friend. 

I store extra kids shoes, and also extra boots and shoes for me and the husband. 

2. Blankets!!!!  It is going to be a cold winter for a lot of people.  The thing is, it is perfectly feasible to sleep without supplemental heating – but you need blankets, and lots of them.  Down is lovely, as are wool blankets, but almost anything will work if you layer enough of them.  These are often cheap at yard sales and goodwill.  Since I’m guessing we’re the abode of last resort, I want to have lots of these so that no one is cold.

They are also great to insulate your windows from cold loss, to hang on walls that are drafty, to make rigged “four poster” beds that are kept warm by your body heat and for a host of other reasons.  Blankets are important – sleeping bags are especially great and often show up at my Goodwill.  Other bedding is good if you are expecting a lot of people to come to you. 

3. Yarn – Ok, I don’t need this, but I like it.  Hats, mittens, fingerless gloves and wool socks are, I think, the key to happiness in cold weather, and I really like to knit,.  So I get happiness and warm stuff – this is not bad.  Or maybe this is just an excuse to have yarn ;-) .

4. Books – I’m a junkie anyway, so like yarn, this might just be an excuse to buy stuff I like.  But in my case, five miles from a rural library which has a great kids section, but for adult material is better than mine only in the category of biographies of first ladies, biographies of first ladies’ dogs and Romance Novels, my feeling is that I *am* the really local library.  We have a big house, and most of it has books in it – many thousands.  And since I’m a writer, I never know what I’ll want to research next – I’m constantly hauling out random piles of books, looking for some fact or a quote I liked. 

We’re also homeschoolers – and we think the best way to get the kids to read a lot is to read to them and have a lot of books around for them to choose from.  

Yes, we invest in how-to books, but we’re also looking ahead to days when resources are dearer and our older kids may need homeschooling resources – physics textbooks and art history books are as important as how to books.  Novels, of course - the frivolous and the serious.  History books galore.  We buy a lot of books very cheaply – they are so undervalued right now.

5. OTC medications, soap, basic toiletries – I’ll do a seperate post on my medicine cabinet at some point, so I’ll leave these. Most toiletries we don’t bother with, but we do use a few things.  Baking soda can cover a myriad of sins, though.

6. Project materials – you know how you start building something (the bookshelves, the chicken tractor, the fruit press, whatever) or repairing something (the overalls, your bike, the chainsaw) and you suddenly realize you don’t have the parts for it, and you have to go to the store, and put the project aside until you do have the right parts?  Well, some of this is unavoidable – things will break, and you won’t have the part.  Still, some of this is predictable – buttons come off, things need nails and screws, hooks and chains.  There are obvious parts of things that break or frequently need repair, and often these things are cheap.  But as gas gets more expensive, the special trip to the notions store, the hardware store, etc… gets less frequent, and that means putting the needed item away longer.  So having a reserve of these items is useful, and often not very expensive.  Anything that fastens one thing to another, any part that is especially vulnerable, and basic repair kits are high on this list.  And if you have the opportunity to scavenge scrapwood or things that might be usefully taken apart and repurposed, this is good (provided you have space to store these things).

7. Clothes in larger – and smaller – sizes.  Everything I said about shoes goes here too, particularly since I do not like to sew (because it involves ironing and cutting carefully on lines and measuring, all things I loathe ;-) ) and am not good at it (for the reasons listed above), I’m all for storing a few sizes up.  I also store a few sizes down, because I have high hopes that peak oil (and self-discipline, if I can stockpile that ;-) ) will be good for my weight issues.

8. Intermediate technology tools – think simple things that can run on human power or readily available things.  Oil lamps, manual woodworking tools, treadle sewing machine, etc…  These often show up at auctions, and are useful even if the world doesn’t end and you just want to cut your energy budget.  In some cases the powered replacement is better – powering lights with electricity is less polluting than almost any other form of lighting, except perhaps very local beeswax candles.  But in some cases, they really aren’t.  I like the treadle sewing machine better than the regular one – it is tough and effective, and my dough mixer or my hands much better than a bread machine.  All are worth experimenting with.

9. Extra dishes.  In a crisis, we could expect quite a crowd, depending on where people were coming from.  I like people to have enough to eat, and a chance to eat it at my house.  Dishes are available at every yard sale, often very cheaply.  There are some issues if you keep kosher, as I do, but for most people, cheap dishes are a good deal.  I like to be able to feed a crowd.

10. Bicycles.  People dispose of these frequently, and since I have growing kids, functional, decent bikes are a valuable thing.  There are some older brands that are particularly worth buying – I’ll see if I can dig up a list and post it shortly.

11. Some toilet paper.  Now I think cloth is probably a better solution to any long-term problem.  But toilet paper is one of those niceties, and not everyone I know who might come to my house is cloth-tp ready.  Plus, there are times of illness when you’d rather not use a reusable.  So this is one item I buy in bulk.  I don’t buy a lot of disposable things, but tp we do use.

12. Basic medical care items - again, I’ll do a full list, but in emergencies, hospitals and doctors are often overburdened, and the ability to meet basic medical needs at home – and also to understand when you need a doctor or other professional is, IMHO, important.  

 Other suggestions?

 Sharon

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