Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of a stretch (or is it?), but there are good reasons to adopt a more independent lifestyle, notwithstanding the zombies.

**Begin Rant**

My sympathies may be towards “individualist anarchism” and libertarianism but I am not advocating some radical change in society, only suggesting that there is much that can be done to live a more independent lifestyle within the boundaries of our economic system. I believe everyone can benefit from a partial rejection of the seemingly mandatory consumerism we have been subjected to most of our lives.

I say “partial rejection” because for most of us regular folks (meaning not independently wealthy), it’s just not feasible to have a life completely independent of mortgages, car payments and health insurance. It’s all very nice to read about someone who lives “off-the-grid” but is this possible for everyone? I might point out that those who live OTG started with some significant financial resources (have you seen the price of solar cells and generators?) and when those solar-cells/batteries/generators/windmills/composting toilets/UV cannabis lamps etc. breakdown, it will take money to repair, even if you fix them yourself and only have to buy parts.

Also, consider the U.S. population of 326 million. If we all decided to live OTG where would we go? The available protected wilderness area of the U.S. is only about 110 million acres, or 1/3 of an acre per person (not enough, but you would be amazed what is possible with only 1/3 acre). The rest is owned either privately or used by the government. So much for living off the land like our ancestors.

So what to do? I suggest that while we may be bound to a capitalistic system, there are ways we can all reduce our dependence on that system. For example, is your kitchen faucet leaking? Grab a couple of wrenches, remove the offending valve to find the faulty gasket, head out to the BOBS, or better yet, your local family owned hardware store and get a new gasket (typically less than $2). Maybe you spent an hour plus the time to go to the store but you’ve potentially saved around $100 in plumber’s fees. Is that worth your time?

Sticking with the plumbing example, by fixing that leak yourself, you’ve learned some very simple, yet useful things about how the water in your house/apartment is controlled:

  • How to shut off water pressure to the faucet (on/off valve under the sink)
  • How the mechanism of the faucet works (simple principles that start with a rubber/teflon seal that is pressed against an orifice to contain the flow)
  • The realization that most faucet or valve leaks can be fixed by cleaning corrosion from the valve parts and/or replacing a very inexpensive seal.

Trust me, you want to know how to shut off the water to your house in an emergency.

Take it another step further: what if the on/off valve underneath the sink is leaking? If it is the hot water valve, you can typically shut off the supply at the water heater. If it is the cold water valve, find the master supply valve for the house and shut off the water there. Once the main supply is shut off, you can disassemble the leaky valve to find which seal is the culprit. If it is a very corroded or old valve, it usually makes sense (and in some cases, is easier) to replace the entire thing (< $10). A crescent wrench and some teflon tape and you’re in business. And it’s a good way to teach your kids useful “stuff” and get quality time too.

You can use the DIY philosophy to build up your savings account (vacation funds, tool “mad-money” etc.). Take the $100 you saved by fixing the faucet and put it in a coffee can (better than a bank these days). Let’s say that the next time you have a plumbing issue it’s more serious; leaky copper pipes behind the shower. Here’s a probable shopping list for the BOBS or local Ace Hardware:

  • A book on basic plumbing techniques ($20)
  • A propane torch ($30)
  • Some solder and flux ($10)
  • A few copper fittings (to practice with first) and some section of straight pipe ($15)
  • A (decent) hacksaw ($25), and a pipe brush ($5).

You’ve spent your $100 from the previous event (plus $5) but now you’ve saved upwards of $600 – $700 and you now have the means to make more plumbing repairs without buying any additional tools. Also, you’d be surprised how handy a propane torch can be (read the Safety Disclaimer). Maybe an extra $30 on a small fire extinguisher would be a good investment towards your spouse’s piece of mind…..

The “barter system“, how people thrived and survived in the old days: Let’s say your neighbor is an auto mechanic but can’t take time out of his/her day to fix the leaky pipes behind the boiler. You do it for him (now that you have tools), and when you need some expert help replacing the brake pads on your truck (DIY’s always have a truck), you get to learn how to do it. And you’ve saved about $350 in the process (learn how to replace a head gasket and you’ll be saving thousands….).

Don’t stop with plumbing, this extends to home renovations, auto/motorcycle repair, bicycle maintenance, some electrical (read the Safety Disclaimer), smart phones, gardening, roof leaks, garage lighting, you name it. You might say that if everyone did their own plumbing, the “real” plumbers would be out of work. I would argue that not everyone is comfortable with fixing their own plumbing and there will always be a need for plumbers, especially for the real big jobs. What this would cause would be a shift of labor needs.

If fewer people needed plumbers for simple jobs, those plumbers would fill greater needs elsewhere. There is probably a much greater percentage of people that aren’t comfortable with doing simple electrical jobs than plumbing jobs. Some of those plumbers could become electricians and maybe drive some of the monopolistic pricing down. Also, and sorry I have to say this ‘cus I’ve done both, the simpler home electrical jobs are not more complex than fixing a leak at your sink; and I would  also say that many of the plumbing jobs are more complex than a lot of electrical.

Something I first experienced in the Air Force: Cross-training. No not a fitness fad, but the idea that if the electrician wasn’t busy, he could help the engine tech change a fuel pump, and vice versa. Why not start a company that employs electricians, plumbers, and HVAC people and cross-train them so that they all can do every job. Like Aqualine (and no, I don’t have any affiliation with them).

Besides, there will always be people with more money than time (or sense) but for a lot of us, we can jump at the chance to spend an hour to save a lot of cash. I can’t imagine a healthy modern society to support almost 330 million people without some government and some basis in capitalism however, we don’t have to turn our entire lives over to it. There’s a reason the early pioneers lived such a productive existence. Do-it-yourself, claim independence, and have more money for beer and pizza.

**End Rant**