Shelter Basics: How to Back-up all the Conveniences we Love

In working to become more self-reliant, it becomes more and more clear every day (and especially every time we lose power) that I need back-ups for everything. Nowadays we have it all, and when we lose even one part of our regular utilities, we are at a loss and go into super-shock.  But, I can tell you from more than enough experience both growing up with little to no money and then later traveling throughout the world and seeing what poverty really looks like, that you can quite easily and happily live without any of the modern conveniences we rely on today in the Western world.

But, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them (There is no way that a cold shower is ever going to seem appealing to me!).  Just by figuring out what the basis of those shelter/household needs are, you can figure out how to replace them if ever you lose power, don’t have clean water, or just feel like giving your teenagers a lesson on “roughing it” and “appreciation” (after they’ve left all the lights, TV’s, computers, radios, etc. running non-stop for the umpteen millionth time). Karma! Mwahaha!

Here is how a typical household can boil down what their true Shelter Needs are, and see how to replace them with simple alternatives:


Replacing SHELTER NEEDS: In an Existing House/Building


Heating Wood/ Pellet Stove; Portable Stoves; Propane Heaters

Porta Stove

Ventilation  If burning wood, or using propane or any other gas inside, keep a window or two cracked.             

Air Conditioning Wind and Breeze Capture through windows/doors with fans or natural breezes; Shading from Solar Heat – Using the Landscape (figure 1)

solar gain with landscaping



Stove/Heating Element  Rocket Stove; Backyard BBQ, Propane Camp Stove; Esbit Emergency stove

GreenFire Rocket Stove

Oven/Cookware Stick with Cast Iron Dutch Ovens or Frying pans if working over high heat like coals and fires. Normal kitchen pans may work well on camp stoves with burners.

Dish Washing  A simple small basin, dish soap, and sponge will do. Keep your tub as small as possible to conserve water.

Refrigeration This can be one of the most tricky things to replicate.  A cold cellar is ideal, but not available to all people. You can also bury a cooler or chest in the ground to take advantage of the grounds moderate temperature, or build a Zeer Pot (Pot-in-pot Refrigerator).

Zeer pot2zeer potlarge zeer pot

Garbage Separate all your garbage composting as much as possible and recycling (finding alternate uses) just about everything else.  This will drastically minimize the garbage you are left with. Set it aside in a protected area, safe from animals for when garbage service resumes.


Toilet/Latrine: Pour a gallon of water into the toilet bowl (not back tank) to create a flushing action. Use one quick thrust, as pouring slowly will just fill the bowl.

OR, if you don’t have access to ample water, consider fixing a toilet seat to a 5 gallon bucket and using as a toilet.  Cover with sawdust or ash after every use, then when3/4 full dig a hole and empty the bucket. Bury the contents at least 6 inches underground and away from waterways to keep from contaminating groundwater.


Shower/Bath: Outdoor Solar Showers, Boiling water and mixing with cool water for a bath.


Hand Washing: Soap and water is best (and most gentle),but liquid hand sanitizer and baby wipes are my go-to when I am low on resources.


Washing: Hand-wash in a tub, sink or 5 Gal bucket, and create agitation with a Mobile Washer or even a (clean) plunger.

mc_w050_mobile_washer_hand_operated_washing_machine_2560x1920_1_1 (1)

Drying: Clothesline – Indoors in Winter and Outdoors in Summer


Simple Solar Chargers:Personal solar chargers are more than enough for charging batteries, cell phones and laptops and may be the most economical way to keep small electronics alive. I like the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit.cm_p173_goal_zero_guide_10_plus_adventure_kit_with_free_flashlight__1 cm_p150_goalzero_nomad_7m_solar_panel__1

Generators Be very aware of their capacity.  Most have a very small workload.  For a full household and maintaining multiple appliances/amenities, look into a commercial size generator.  Buy only pure gasoline and look into adding stabilizers. Some generators also run off propane or a mixture of the two. When the generator is out of use, run it dry and store no gas inside it.

Others Solar Panels;Wind Energy; Hydro-Electricity, and more

Hot Water

A Little… Tea kettle for hot drinks, etc.

More… Boil water in a large Pot

Lots…   Make a Solar Water Heater from an old electric water heater   Homemade Solar Water Heater Instructionssolar hot water heater

Lighting Flashlights, Headlamps, Candles, Lanterns, LED Bulbs on Solar Charged Battery Pack


Security Door Locks, Noisemakers, Squeaky Doors, Solar-powered Security Lights

60 led solar harbor freight


Morale Boosters Musical Instruments, Games, Books, Chores, and Work  *Just as important as physical comforts are mental, emotional, and spiritual comforts

Categories: Uncategorized


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2 Comments on “Shelter Basics: How to Back-up all the Conveniences we Love”

  1. Brent Carlson
    May 17, 2014 at 5:23 am #

    Dear Larinda,
    Can’t find Azomite anywhere.
    Where do you get it?

    • May 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Here in the Willamette Valley, I get mine at larger nurseries like Portland Nursery and Al’s Garden Center. They have them in small boxes and large bags. I also really like the store Concentrates NW ( They are in Milwaukie, OR. Also, you can go to their website: and they have a search for their dealers. But, I have found that they are available in many more places than they list. You can also use Gaia Green Glacial Rock Dust: It works similarly, but is a little harder to find.
      Good luck!

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