Thursday, August 1, 2019

The difference between supplies and junk

Peter put up a post about thinning stuff down, and got a bit of pushback from his commentors about the drive to own less stuff. They have a valid point - that there are socialists trying to push communist no-private-ownership theory in the name of "saving the planet". What they miss, though, is that just because a red squirrel finds an acorn doesn't mean the acorn is communist... and the idea of acquiring and holding onto less stuff that you don't need goes straight back to Biblical advice. (The emphasis there was to focus on actions and words, thoughts and habits instead of on acquiring riches - completely different philosophy, and much wiser than communism.)

That said, one of the points they challenged Peter was "How does the no-piles-of-stuff goal square with being prepared for disasters?"

And that made me facepalm. There's a very simple, clear, and hard line that separates the two: inventory control.

In order for something to count as emergency (or non-emergency supplies), all parties involved must:

1.) Know that it exists
2.) Know where it is
3.) Be able to access it
4.) Find it in a usable condition.

For example, we have a few jerry cans of ethanol-free gas (No, they're not in the garage. They're in a remote shed.) We both know where they are, where the keys to the lock to access them are, can easily get them out, and they've been treated with stabilizer in order to be usable whether pouring into the lawnmower or into the vehicles. They're also rotated (usually by refilling the lawnmower.) These are extremely useful emergency supplies - well, everyday supplies for the lawnmower, but emergency for the vehicles or generator.

On the other hand, somewhere under a pile of something in the garage is a case of toilet bowl cleaner bottles that's already had a couple taken out. The last time I saw it was months ago, when I spent 4 hours digging through piles and pulling things out that had been stuck into the aisle under "I'll just stick this here" until the entire aisle was filled in. Since then, it's been moved... and so I just drive to the store and buy more toilet bowl cleaner, because it's not worth four hours, a couple bruises, and getting cut open on something to find the case again when I can get to the store and back in 20 minutes.

That case is now junk, useless and worse than worthless. I may know it exists, but I don't know where it is, and I can't get to it. So the money we spent, saying it was cheaper if we bought in bulk, is wasted, and the garage is more cluttered by its existence in there somewhere. It is now an active detriment in my life, filed firmly under "Your useless junk that's forcing us to park the vehicles out in the hailstorms, honey."

That is the difference. The big pantry has a couple shelves that I have to use a stepladder to reach, and am never going to use for everyday stock - because getting out a stepladder is a pain in the rear. Can those of you over 5'5" imagine having to do that every time you wanted to get the black pepper or garlic powder? (Everyone under 5'5" already understand this point. "Honey, I need your tall!" being a common kitchen cry in quite a few households.) So when Peter proposed using those shelves for emergency supplies, I was all in favour - it puts them out of the way, and yet easily inventoried and accessible when needed.

Keep this in mind when dealing with your spouse, your house, and your own supplies. And if you know that you've got stuff "in there somewhere?" Fix that, because trying to find stuff by flashlight when the power's out (and the heat or AC with it) and the wind is ripping shingles off the roof isn't going to get any easier.

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