There is always a learning curve when we begin something new. At times this learning curve can be quite intimidating, but, if you stick with something long enough, you tend to get the hang of it. This holds true to anything you set your mind to learning.
Many of us are taking time out from our busy schedules to learn new skills that will either prepare us for surviving an extended, long-term emergency or we are wanting to learn skills that we can use to live a more sustainable lifestyle. When developing new skills overwhelms you, remember, you can break them down into three easy steps:
These three steps are the basic outline to learning how to do ANYTHING.
Nearly every day, I thank my lucky stars for the internet. With it, I can learn just about anything using YouTube videos, websites and forums. Information is free for the taking, and not only can you read about it, you can print off the instructions that seem the most valuable.
However, despite the wide range of the internet, don’t forget the importance of paper technology: books! Add to your how-to library on a dime by picking up books on a multitude of topics from library sales, thrift shops, book store clearance sections and yard sales.
Finally, learn from others. Tap into the knowledge base of older neighbors and family members, many of whom already possess the skills that you want to learn. Spend time interviewing them, watching them and asking questions. Most of these skills were originally passed down by word of mouth, so keep the oral tradition alive!
Once you have decided upon the skill that you want to learn and researched it, you need to gather the supplies required to learn it. Some skills require no particular supplies. Like learning to forage in the woods for food – you can simply use your research materials to pursue the skill. Others, like making a rag rug, for example, require things like fabric, a sturdy needle and carpet thread.
I keep a running list of specific supplies that I am looking for and keep it with me when I hit the thrift stores and yard sales. I’ve acquired things like sewing supplies, jars of buttons, an axe, how-to books, gardening tools, canning jars, and many many more items that others no longer have a use for. As well, think about sources like Craigslist, Freecycle and the classified section of your local newspaper. Sometimes all you have to do is ask to catch the interest of someone who wants to clear out some space in his or her basement.
Organize your supplies so that they are grouped together by skill – you don’t want to start a project only to have to stop and search for a necessary item for half an hour.
With a new skill, you don’t learn how to perform it simply by reading about it. You have to put the skill into practice to truly be proficient at it. This is true of anything from canning to sewing to chopping wood.
If you are lucky enough to have a mentor for the skill you are learning now is the time to invite her over for tea! She can watch what you are doing and point out ways to make it easier or identify mistakes before they become habits!
Let’s use the three steps in a practical application. After watching a tutorial on how to make a rag rug, I wanted to try it out.
1. First, I’ve done my research. I’ve watched two YouTube videos and read several how-to articles. I’ve chosen the one that seems the easiest to me.
2. Now, it’s time to gather my supplies. According to the article I need:
- Strips of rags cut into 2″ wide lengths (the longer the better)
- Sturdy thread (quilting or carpet thread is ideal)
- Thick needle or curved upholstery needle.
I have a bag of old clothes that are stained or ripped that I can use for my fabric strips, and I’ve purchased the proper type of thread. I already had an appropriate needle in my sewing kit. I now need to cut the fabric into strips as directed in the article to finish preparing my supplies. Once the fabric is cut into strips, I need to join them together to make longer strips for braiding.
3. The only thing left to do is practice! Following the instructions in the article I must:
- Braid the strips together and then coil the braided rope on the floor, starting at the center for a circle. Then I must sew the rows of coil to each other, lacing them until they are secured tightly, as per the instructions.
- I’m starting out making a kitchen rug and some placemats. This will give me 5 small projects on which to practice my new skill.
Repetition is the Key to Competence
When learning this or any new skill, repetition is the key to competence! What skill are you going to apply the three step method to? Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Crocheting or knitting
• Baking bread
• Chopping wood
• Sprouting seeds
• Making a quilt
• Making butter or cheese
• Making candles
• Basket weaving
• Making ink
• Building small simple structures
• Making furniture
• Foraging food from the wild
• Preserving food
• Making ammo
• Raising livestock
• Making herbal remedies
Our success in learning necessary skills is what will set us apart from those who will be unprepared and ill-equipped to live in a post-shtf world. The longer you allow yourself the time to develop a new skill, the more success you will have. Make a list today of the skills you want to learn and start researching, gathering and practicing so you can fall back on them when the time comes.