Editor’s Note: A guest contribution from Scott Huntington to The Prepper Journal.
Whether you live primarily off the grid and rarely venture to town or you simply wish to extend the life of your belongings to save money, taking certain steps can make everything from your clothes to your home last longer. Even though many now live by the convenience principle of tossing broken things and buying new, learning to extend the life of our objects also helps protect the planet we share. In a world where every other product bears a label reading “Made in China,” the cliche they just don’t build things like they used to has merit.
Any way you slice it, extending the life of anything from your car to your kitchen appliances makes sense. When survival is on the line, protecting your tools keeps you alive. Here’s how you can maintain the items you own so they last as close to forever as possible.
Extend the Life of Your Clothes
Washing and drying your clothes can cause them to pill and wear more quickly. Whenever possible, opt to hand wash your clothes. It takes longer, but it’s far kinder to the environment and your wardrobe.
Tossing your clothes in the dryer may help them dry faster, but it does a number on the fabric — the lint screen gets full of all the bits of thread pulled from the fibers of shirts and more. Plus, line-dried fabrics smell so much more amazing than those dried with chemically laden sheets. If you live in an area that prohibits outdoor clotheslines, invest in a drying rack you can place on your porch or balcony to dry your duds.
Rotate your clothes and maintain proper hygiene. When you wash a load, put the clean clothes further back in the closet so every item sees relatively equal wear. While it’s not true you must shower every day unless you’ve been working in a coal mine, do wash your armpit and groin areas twice daily, as sweat can leave salt stains on clothes.
Make Your Food Last Longer
Using the right materials for food storage requires a small upfront investment, but you will save money and your stash of strawberries in the long run. Rinsing fruits such as berries in a vinegar and water solution before putting them in the fridge eliminates bacteria that cause spoilage before your produce hits the drawer. As fruits decompose more quickly than veggies, store them in separate drawers.
Invest in quality reusable food storage containers designed for different products. Store leafy greens in cartons lined with paper towels to draw out moisture and keep them crisper longer. Keep milk in sealed glass jars to extend shelf life, and spend the money for washable cheese cloths to keep your cheddar from molding after a few days.
Keep Your Vehicle Running Strong
Protecting your vehicle means performing regular and preventive maintenance on engine and body. To keep your car or truck rust-free for years, invest in rust protection for your undercoating and wash the underside of your car regularly. Wash your car at least every other week, or more often if salt and grime accumulate faster due to inclement weather.
Keep your engine running by getting regular oil and filter changes. If you drive a four-wheel drive or high-performance vehicle, speak with your mechanic about using synthetic oil — this extends the time between changes and keeps engine heat lower. If your car is older than 2007, change the oil every 3,000 miles. Newer vehicles can average 5,000 miles between changes. Replace your air filter every 15,000 to 20,000 miles.
Do the Same for Appliances
If you’ve got an older fridge, take a dollar bill and close your refrigerator door on it. If it pulls right out, it’s time to change the gasket. Doing so costs only $30-$70 and takes a screwdriver and an Allen wrench. You’ll save a fortune on electricity and keep food fresher longer.
Change the air filters for your HVAC system out monthly. Some experts recommend doing so less often in the winter, but deciding to cut down on filter changes depends on many factors. If you have pets who shed or if you smoke, keeping up with monthly maintenance can save you in terms of costly future repairs.
When it comes to your dryer if you use one, invest in a snake wand to clean out the lint trap more effectively. Create a spill barrier when using the oven by placing cookie sheets on the rack underneath your casserole or pie. Use a paste of baking soda to clean spills up if they do occur — as soon as the oven safely cools, of course.
Protect Your Furnishings
Do you ever feel warm when you sit next to a sunny window in your home? The heat isn’t only burning your skin — it’s also fading the wood and fabrics of your furnishings. Investing in window tinting can cut your cooling and heating bills, as well as preserve the life of your leather. Even your blinds become faded over time from sun and heat, so you’ll maintain your window coverings too. A bonus of such tint is that you can see out, but strangers cannot see into your home.
If your leather furniture suffers minor tears, you can buy repair kits and fix them at home in little time. Did you carelessly take a chunk out of a chair leg with a hammer while using it for support on another project? Get some wood putty and stain to repair the nick instead of buying new.
Extend the Life of Your Roof
If your roof leaks, the entirety of your homestead can suffer damage. Extend its life by keeping your gutters clear of leaves and debris, as overflows can lead to leakage. Perform a visual inspection of your roof while you do so — if you notice missing patches of tile or shingles, repair them without delay. If water damage reaches the rafters, black mold and significant water damage can occur.
Are you roughing it and having problems with your tent gear? Keep repair tape and basic tools with you to patch holes quickly. When you change campsites, shake out tents thoroughly to remove debris and insects. Pass on using water to clean it, as this can cause mildew, but if some develops from exposure to the elements, use a distilled white vinegar and water solution to kill it. Be sure to dry the area thoroughly.
Extending the Life of Your Belongings
Living in the sticks means driving miles to get supplies — and who wants to tackle such a drive every time something breaks? If you’re living rough or minimalist, no doubt you need to preserve the life of the possessions you keep with you. Even if you live in New York City, though, extending the life of your belongings saves you major moolah. Cash is better kept in your hand or even under your mattress than doled out constantly to merchants in a disposable-minded society.