The thought of losing lights, refrigeration, heat, washing machines, and hot water understandably leaves some people paralyzed with fear. If you’ve never lived without these resources, then their long-term absence is not just inconvenient, it’s potentially dangerous. Modern conveniences are wonderful; but when they fail, it’s worse than never having them in the first place.
But living without modern amenities – and living comfortably – is more easily achieved than you might think. To find out how to handle a prolonged power outage, it’s best to turn to those who spend their lives without electricity, including the Amish and those living off-grid.
The secret is to realize what you would suffer most going without – such as heat, lights, bathing, washing clothes, refrigeration, cooking, etc. – and figure out what’s needed to provide those things without electricity. Fortunately there are modern, efficient options available to supply these needs.
Consider what tools provide the most bang for the buck for supplying basic needs. A wood cookstove, for example, not only heats the house, but it cooks and bakes food and provides hot water for laundry, dishes, and bathing. A non-electric clothes washer and a couple of drying racks can make one of the most time-consuming chores far quicker and easier. That’s a lot of benefits and sustainability from just a couple of items!
There are other things to consider. During a prolonged power outage, emergency personnel are busy helping those in need. The best thing to do is stay off the roads and out of their way. But that doesn’t mean you should stay home and ignore everyone else. It’s also a time to reach out to those around you who might need an extra hand or perhaps shelter: the elderly, the disabled, families with young children. These are people who would suffer the most without assistance.
This is why it’s important to be on good terms with neighbors. The Plain People, including the Amish and Mennonites, know the value of community. They know no one can go it alone, and there is strength in numbers.
In many ways, preparing to be without power for a long time is merely learning to pare back to a simpler way of doing things. Rather than depending on complicated and far-away infrastructure, it’s often better to depend on one’s self and one’s neighbors to provide the essentials. True sustainability occurs when you can be comfortable even without modern essentials.
But a simple, sustainable lifestyle doesn’t come without planning, which is why it’s important to set up in advance the means to be comfortable – wood heat, non-electric lighting, human-powered tools, the skills needed to grow and preserve food, even off-grid refrigeration options. It’s more work than pushing buttons or shopping at the grocery store – but far more satisfying. And when those buttons don’t work and the grocery store is closed, you and your neighbors can still be warm and well-fed.