There’s a little bit of “prepper” in all of us. No, I don’t mean the dig a bunker in your back yard, claymore the driveway type of prepper. Like most things in life, being a prepper has various degrees to it, and if we’re honest, we all have a little bit of the prepper mentality. You can see this clearly by going to your kitchen and opening that one drawer that everyone has that seems to collect every kind of random stuff the human imagination can come up with.
I grew up on my grandparents’ farm for much of my early childhood, and that junk drawer in the kitchen held a special kind of fascination for me. There were old pocket knives, a set of tiny screw drivers, a piece of twine tied through about fifty various sized washers, an enamel pan patch kit, a glass cutter, at least three dozen keys that no one knew what they unlocked, and about ten thousand other fascinating and confusing little items that just didn’t fit anywhere else but in that drawer.
The junk drawer in the kitchen is where all of the stuff we collect that we know in the back of our minds might be useful one day ends up until that useful time comes—it is prepping in its purest and simplest form, and we all do it.
With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your junk drawer when the time comes.
It’s good to have a small flashlight in this drawer for when the power goes out in a storm, a rolling blackout, or an end of the world EMP attack, whichever comes first. LED flashlights are insanely cheap these days, and you can get multi packs with anywhere from 2 to 10 flashlights from places like Home Depot or Lowe’s Home Improvement. I recommend LED lights over traditional ones because the LED’s are less likely to go bad over time and they draw down battery power a LOT slower than the traditional incandescent lights do. If you’re interested in going a little higher dollar than the cheapo three for five dollar lights, you can find high quality small flashlights from Maglite and Stream Light (my favorite).
Every kid goes through it at some point….you get downstairs on Christmas morning, open your presents, and get that one awesome remote control truck, helicopter, or whatever. You’re stoked, thrilled, exhilarated, and excited all rolled into one big bundle of just can’t take it anymore. You rip through the packaging, grab the remote control, and flip the switch to on…..and nothing happens. The dreaded words no kid wants to read, “Batteries Not Included.” Well, I have to admit that while I try to find those hidden little disclaimers on any gift I pick up, I’m not perfect. There have been times that I’ve had the kids unwrap presents and there just weren’t any batteries in the box, in the package, or anywhere in the house. Thankfully, though, there always seems to be a handful of AA, AAA, and even 9V batteries stuck in that junk drawer in the kitchen.
But, as a recent story on the local news highlighted, you have to be careful with batteries in a drawer that also contains metal objects like steel wool, screw drivers, and pocket knives. If metal contacts both terminals on those small square batteries, it can cause enough heat to start a serious fire. A good way around this fire risk is to get a package of party balloons and stick your left over batteries in them. You can group batteries together with rubber bands and stick them in the balloon, then write what type of battery it is on the outside with a marker. This keeps the batteries safely away from metal contacts and keeps them grouped so they’re easier to find.
- Fire Starter
This can come in several different forms, and I actually recommend keeping more than one on hand. A book of matches is always a good standby that is low-tech and carries a low risk of failure, provided
that you keep them dry. To keep moisture out I would recommend would matches and that you store them in a small sandwich bag (with a Ziploc type seal) or wrap the package in plastic cling wrap. I would also recommend keeping either a butane or Zippo type cigarette lighter as an alternative means to start a fire in a high moisture or high wind environment.
Between the matches and the lighter you should be able to light any candles around the house to augment your emergency flashlight. And, finally, I’d recommend keeping a flint and steel fire sparker on hand as well. If you find yourself in a situation where the matches and lighter run out, or when you have to leave home and you’re not sure when or if you’ll be back, having a flint and steel starter set is a good thing. I keep one that has a small block of magnesium metal attached for the very extreme situations. You can shave a small pile of the magnesium off and when you spark the steel, direct the spark into the magnesium. No matter how wet it is, the magnesium will catch the spark and burn VERY hot. This gives you the ability to spark a fire even in the most windblown and water soaked situations.
- First Aid
Okay, unless the drawers in your cabinets are a lot bigger than mine, you won’t be able to fit a full First Aid kit in there, and that’s okay. It’s still a good idea to keep a few Band-Aids, a small roll of gauze, and some form of disinfectant where you can get your hands on them fairly quickly. At Nanny’s house, the disinfectant of choice was Mercurochrome, and that stuff burned like liquid fire when dabbed on skinned knees, briar scrapes, and other minor cuts and contusions. Thankfully that stuff has since been removed from the market as “not safe” for use (apparently the mercur in the name stood for mercury, which is a big no-no for First Aid).
A small vial of iodine, alcohol, or peroxide will work for a quick disinfectant. Along with the basics listed above, I’d also recommend including a pair of sharp-nosed tweezers and a magnifying glass of some kind for your junk drawer First Aid needs. One of the most common reasons I had to go running for the medical supplies as a kid and as an adult is for splinters. You’ll make your life a lot less painful if you have a good pair of tweezers and a magnifier on hand when you need them. And, as an added benefit, the magnifying glass can double as a backup to the backup fire starter system….but only on sunny days.
A knife is something that come in handy for all kinds of situations that are encountered in day to day life as well as in emergency scenarios. I try to keep at least two knives in our junk drawer to be able tackle whatever circumstances come up where a cutting implement is needed. For the small day to day stuff I keep a folding pen knife style pocket knife handy. In the picture of the junk drawer from my kitchen, you can see the small bone handled Case folding knife in the bottom left corner. These small-bladed knives are good for opening packages, cutting out deep splinters, slicing lengths of twine or paracord, and all kinds of other small cutting tasks. If you have enough time on your hands, they can also be used to whittle and carve, though that can be tough on the blades and cause wear and tear over time.
I also keep at least one small to medium fixed-blade belt knife in the drawer at all times. Pictured is an antique Old Timer Sharp Finger knife that has been one of my favorites for more than twenty years now. It used to be my father’s hunting and fishing knife before it was passed down to me when I was thirteen years old and started deer hunting. I skinned, gutted, and butchered the first buck I ever killed with that knife, and I’ve cleaned several full grown deer since. The blade is small (3 ½ inches, I believe) but it has a good curve to it that makes it very suitable for use as a skinning and hunting knife. It’s also made from very strong steel and holds and edge incredibly well. The small size makes it light and easily portable without compromising on strength or functionality.
Small bladed knives can also be very effective for self-defense applications. People are often tempted to reach for the large kitchen chopper of butcher’s knife, but those can present a real danger to both an attacker and yourself if you are in close quarters (like in your kitchen). In extreme close quarters, it’s difficult to maneuver a large bladed knife unless you have lots of training, experience, and practice. With a smaller blade, the knife is easier to control and easier to avoid causing damage to you while attempting to ward off a would-be attacker. Smaller knives also make it more difficult for an assailant to grab onto the blade and disarm you.
It’s als good to remember that along with your knife, you’re probably going to need a way to sharpen it from time to time. A small file or a whet stone will work, and with a little patience and practice you can get pretty proficient at putting an edge on a blade relatively easily and quickly.
These are just a few of the items that you can place in your junk drawer so that you’ll have quick and ready access to them if they’re ever needed. I’ll come back to this topic from time to time and discuss small items to be added or that can be re-purposed from just random junk to an actual targeted application.
As you can see from the pictures I posted, it’s impossible to hit all of the elements in anyone’s junk drawer. The contents of these catch-all drawers really become a reflection of the person and of their lives. But one thing to remember is that with a little planning and forethought, your junk drawer can become either an integral part of an existing preparedness plan or a stepping stone into the world of disaster readiness.
Stay safe, and God bless!!