$Monday: How to Make Do Without Hoarding

As more of us stare down the possibility of weeks in quarantine, it's easy to understand why some people are panic shopping. There's not much else to do when most activity and gathering places are shuttered. And many people are terrified--if not of the coronavirus itself, then of the disruptions to daily life and supply chains. But hoarding is disastrous to society; crowding ourselves into grocery stores is a serious health hazard; and there's no stockpile of stuff big enough to last through a doomsday scenario in which--oh, dare I say it--coffee beans become unavailable for the long term. (Not that I believe that will happen, but...)

What are we to do?

We can take a lesson from our grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and start learning how to do without some of the things people didn't always have. Some of the things we consider "essential" are things which we can, honestly, live without. Here is a list of items that some people are hoarding so that others can't have any and some ideas for how to get along without them.


1. toilet paper and facial tissues
Did you know that paper hygiene products were not commonly used more than 100 years ago, and that soft and splinter-free t.p. wasn't a thing until World War II? And did you know that there are still plenty of folks in the world who don't use it?

If you have a bidet, you are all set. If you don't, everyone who has ever given birth knows about the cleansing power of the squeeze bottle of water. Fill up a squeezable plastic water bottle, a spray bottle, a squirt gun, whatever--with lukewarm water to give your undercarriage a comfortable rinse after using the facilities. Drip dry, use a special towel, or use a hair dryer very carefully.

For extra messy situations, cut up a bunch of rag squares and set them in a box by the toilet. This is the time to purge all your dingiest towels, washcloths, stained t-shirts, tattered blankets, etc. You can probably find a lot of fabric in your home that can be used for this purpose. Just remember: Do not flush anything that is not toilet paper! It will clog your toilet! You'll have to throw fabric squares in the trash, unless you are prepared to wash them (as you would a cloth baby diaper).

Did you forget and drop a fabric square in the toilet? Dangit, Bobby. Go outside and get a stick to fish it out and put it in the trash. You do not want to have to call a plumber right now.

You can do this, you really can. If you've ever camped rugged or visited Planet Earth (any country that isn't super fancy), this should be no big deal.

For facial tissues, use a box of old hankies, cloth napkins, or cut-up squares that can be washed and reused. Make sure they are not too raggedy at the edges (cut towels tend to unravel) so they don't fall apart in the washing machine and cause trouble.

2. bottled water
In most parts of the United States, your tap water is cleaner and more pure than water sold in plastic bottles. If you have a lot of freezer space, just freeze some tap water in food-safe containers and toss it in there. (Leave some empty space for expansion as water freezes.) Fill up water bottles made of glass or metal and stash them in your fridge door shelves. Easy peasy. Now if there is some kind of interruption to your potable water supply (which probably won't happen; this isn't that kind of emergency), you'll have a little fresh water on hand to buy you time as you learn how to boil or sanitize non-potable water from your tap or some other source. 

3. disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer
Soap and water. All the memes with 20 seconds of song lyrics. You know the drill.

To wipe down surfaces and electronics, use a disinfectant such as 70% alcohol solution or 3% hydrogen peroxide on a washable cloth.

4. coffee and other addictions
I hope it doesn't come down to this (my morning latte is one of the great joys of my life), but suck it up, buttercup. Time to detox. Wean yourself off slowly when you know your supply is dwindling.

5. fresh foods
Now is a great time to try out some urban (or windowsill) gardening. No, you cannot reasonably feed yourself this way unless you're already a successful subsistence farmer. But what you can do is supplement your monotonous pantry diet of rice and beans with a few fresh herbs, veggies, fruits, and/or nuts. Personally, I am not restarting a whole vegetable garden at this time, but I will be taking better care of my apple trees this year and tying up the baby apples in cut-up pantyhose to deter moths. We have mulberry trees and black raspberry bushes that we don't have to leave entirely to the birds. I might even put in the arduous work of collecting and processing black walnuts from my huge tree out back.

This is also a nice time to learn about foraging in your local area. Be extremely cautious about mushrooms and wild carrots and other things that might just kill you if you eat the wrong lookalike. But some plants are fairly foolproof. My family will probably harvest our fine crop of dandelions (both the yellow flowers and the greens are nutritious) and possibly try out roasted maple seeds.


This is a great time to adventure and learn and grow confidence in obtaining nutrition directly from the earth around us. Which leads me to the last thing people seem to be clinging to excessive amounts of... 

6. blissful ignorance of survival skills 
Get thee to your local library website and research survival camping and wilderness skills. Brush up on historical American pioneer skills. At the very least, learn how to batch cook your rice and beans and jazz it up with different flavors. What a time to be alive! This is a historic moment for the entire world full of real dangers, certain tragedy, and also enormous possibility for transformation. Don't let it go to waste. (For the love of Charmin, don't let anything go to waste right now. You are composting, right?) You can come through this pandemic stronger and wiser and more self-reliant than ever before, whether or not you score a box of Kleenex before the end of spring.

Stock up on skills, not stuff, and you'll stay ahead of the curve.

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