I piled the laundry basket into the wheelbarrow and headed towards the Lone Bobcat Woods house. We’d agreed with our renter to share the washing machine. As I pushed the ‘barrow about a quarter mile to the house in the warm sun, I thought of John Michael Greer’s recent blog Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush. He lays out why collapse is happening and what individuals and communities can do now when more options are available than further down the road.
Robyn and I call it “collapse practice.” If we choose to change, even with a spirit of playfulness or adventure, it’s a whole lot easier than when we’re backed into a corner. Here are some collapse practice ideas off the top of my head, not in any particular order.
Less is more, starting with expectations. The myth of progress is now curtains. It seemed to work while we had abundant fossil fuels borrowed from the future. The future is now and the debt is coming due. The post-progress myth is still being shaped, but I think we’ll see deeper prosperity than mere stuff can provide.
Every point of simplification can be a source of joy. A smaller house or apartment is faster to keep clean and maintain. Less stuff means fewer items to fix when they break, and less guilt when you throw them away (and of course giving them away is another source of joy and lightness).
Exception: you may want to have a boneyard — reusable stuff for construction, repairs and projects. If over time you don’t end up using those glass windows for your cold frames, you can pass ’em along to somebody else.
Share: you may want access rather than ownership. Sharing a washing machine with hundreds of other people at a laundromat, or with a few neighbors (as I’m doing in the photo), beats owning one. Sharing rides, or a car, is a major energy and money-saver, especially for city dwellers.
Roll downhill on the technology/complexity continuum. An outdoor clothesline doesn’t need fixing or take energy like a dryer. A motorcycle for commuting takes a lot less than an SUV.
Reduce your dependencies. Reduce dependencies on the money economy, the freeway transport system, grid power and water. If you can, installing solar-powered water heating and electricity on your house — but start first at Less is More: reduce the amount you need! Grow some of your own food or raise chickens (and/or solidly support locals who do.)
For dependencies, create contingencies. If your water comes from the city, store some for when the power goes out. Ditto for backup lighting and real-live cash, and canned/packaged foods. It’s also about resilience — being able to weather a disruption pretty well.
Cultivate flexibility and options. Getting out of debt frees up money to do what you want or need: it’s probably the most important collapse practice of all. A mobile small house plus a network of friends means you can readily move if a better employment opportunity appears elsewhere.
Build your skill set and tool set. This is DIY time. Learning to sew means you don’t need somebody else to repair your clothes or make insulated curtains to (this from the work jeans patch queen). Likewise for simple plumbing, construction, electrical, herbal medicinals, first aid, engine mechanics, and good interpersonal communication skills. DIY doesn’t mean you learn ALL of these: start with what interests you, and broaden your skills as opportunities appear.
Join hands. Humans are tribal creatures. Despite our culture’s bias for hyper-individualism, nobody’s gonna make it through the rough patches alone. Find the people you can work with. It may be neighbors for emergency preparedness, other gardeners at the community garden, members at your church or social group. Develop your skills so you become valued by your community, and have them as “currency” for exchanges.
As you simplify and build resilience, you can celebrate fewer worries, shorter to-do lists, and better sleep. You’re increasing security in a different way than our materialist culture promotes: you’re moving it from stuff to people, starting with yourself. A deeper security, a deeper prosperity.