Michelangelo’s Subtraction Solution: Carving Your Masterpiece Preparedness Plan

by Todd Walker

Sometimes preparedness means saying no to 1,000’s of things – and people.


On our journey to preparedness, we’re suppose to add to our skill set, physical preps, and knowledge base. But our magnum opus, our greatest work, comes through subtracting everything that is not prepared for our future.

It occurred to me recently that we prepper-types are not keen on the concept of subtracting stuff. The latest, greatest, and shiniest must-have items don’t always make life easier – or survivable. Take a cue from Michelangelo and start subtracting. Chip away at stuff that doesn’t belong in your plan. Instead of constantly adding, subtract stuff strategically.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

~ Michelangelo

Let’s assume our world as we know it crumbles. All the technology, elevators, ‘reality’ shows, and food trucks stop. No more electrical grid, fiat money-spitting machines, or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream kiosks in the mall. Our fragility catches up to us.

Those who make it through the reset are left to rebuild. But how? Even SmartPrepper’s stuff will eventually expire or be consumed. What then?

We’ll have to become producers. The most necessary stuff first. We all know the importance of water, food, and shelter. Do we have the skills, knowledge, and tools to enable us to produce these?

Oh yea, I’ve got all that stuff saved on my computer. Oops!

Below are three key areas that will greatly benefit from applying the subtraction solution before the reset occurs. Keep in mind that less is more and simple is better.


Open your copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living. You do have this in your library, right? Bury your face in the pages. Breathe deeply. The scent of a bound book can’t be replaced or duplicated. I love the smell of a good book in the morning!

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

Below The Encyclopedia of Country Living is one of my 3-ring binders of how-to’s and such. Print hard copies of important stuff before the reset.

Now, try this exercise with your eReader, tablet, or smart phone. There’s an obvious in-your-face difference, something lost on moderns and our neo culture.

Time is the best method to determine what preps need to be chiseled away. Modern technology is young. And fragile. And I use it. I have apps that help me identify wild foods, survival techniques, and other need-to-know stuff.

But I’m not counting on electronic gadgetry to be around after the reset. If a thing is resilient, it will rebound from stressful events. If not, like all living or non-living fragile things, they will exit the gene pool or become useless paper weights.

Granted, resourceful folk have ways to charge all their gadgets for blackout events and emergencies. But don’t overlook the wise choice of hard copy, ink on paper, resources. They go long-term. And smell better!


Humans are tool-using animals. Our use of these tools separate us from other animals. Before Michelangelo turned granite blocks into angels, he needed the right tools.

Primitive technologies are time-tested. Something as simple as a wheel or lever fall out of favor in our modern mania. Mystified by flashes of light and cute ring back tones and shiny objects, we’ve traded non-fragile for fragile.

Here’s an article on 6 simple machines every SmartPrepper needs if you’d like a refresher.

Simple machines save labor. More importantly, time has proven them to be both useful and robust. The tools that survive are the ones that have been serving mankind for hundreds, even thousands of years.

I love my power tools. They save time and labor as well. Over the years I’ve tried to whittle away my dependence on these machines. What I’ve learned is that using simple hand tools ain’t so simple. They’re simple, but they take practice.

Hand tools you may want to start adding to your reset tool box include:

Woodworking: Hammers and mallets, chisels and knives, sharpening supplies, saws (rip, crosscut, miter, etc.), brace and bits, augers, rasps, planes, pliers and wrenches, screw drivers, measuring tools (steel carpenter’s square, tapes and rulers, try square, bevel), axes and adzes, drawknives and spokeshaves, levels (4 foot, 2 foot, and torpedo levels), and lots of hardware.

Bits for my brace. $10 at a yard sale!

Bits for my brace. $10 at a yard sale!

Timber harvesting: 2 man and one-man crosscut saws, felling axes, wedges, sledge-hammer, mauls for splitting, log-jack and peavy, and sharpening supplies.

buck saw

My buck saw and a small wash board. Clothes will get dirty using this tool.

Kitchen: Cast iron cookware, hand mills, containers of all kinds, knives, canning equipment and supplies, meat saws, butchering equipment, and hand-cranked meat grinders.

Metal working: Basic blacksmithing tools (forge, anvil, post vise, hammers (again), quench tub, tongs, punches, hacksaw, and files). Note: The ability to shape metal tools seems to have been delegated to China. It’s hard to find well made tools now. When and if you find a quality tool artisan, invest in his/her robust tools. Even better, learn to make your own.

Multi-use tools: Ratchet and socket sets, utility knives, adjustable wrenches, oil cans, allen wrenches, clamps and vises.

There’s many more tools to list, but in the spirit of subtracting, I’ll stop here.

Where to find tools: Flea markets, antique shops, yard and estate sales, swap meets, and farm auctions. If you want to buy new, spend some time online shopping at Lehman’s.


Cutting crappy people out of your masterpiece maybe the most difficult task, but it’s the most important. Dealing with crappy people is like carrying 179 pounds of s****t in a sack on your back. They drain your life of energy and attract flies.

This may come as a shock to some, but there are crappy people who are preppers, too. For the most part, I’ve only encounter a few of this variety. The one’s I’ve been unfortunate enough to meet are scary.

Avoid them like the plague. They will hurt you. Here’s my test to determine if someone is a crappy person and/or prepper. They exhibit the following:

  • It’s all about me attitude. They’re the center of the universe and your brain if you let them in.
  • They’re not F.A.T. – Faithful – Available – Teachable – they’re toxic. And the worst part is they think they are actually helpful and F.A.T.
  • They can be family, friends, coworkers, bosses.
  • If you’re a blogger, they show up as trolls in your comment section. They attach to you like ticks and drain your blood, energy, and creativity. You’ll never change their mind. So don’t try.

Erase them. Especially online, faceless trolls and haters. Resist the temptation to prove your point. If you jump in the fray, you’ve just proven their worth and stroked their ego. Even if you ‘win’ the battle, you’ll come out bloodied. Don’t waste your time.

When you stand back and look at your work of art, the useless shards of rock no longer hide your masterpiece. You’ll only see what belongs.

Add as many thoughts as you’d like in the comments. I promise not to subtract them.

Keep subtracting stuff strategically,



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Categories: Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Michelangelo’s Subtraction Solution: Carving Your Masterpiece Preparedness Plan

  1. Ha Ha! I have TWO copies of the Encyclopedia of Country Living!!! One for lending🙂 Oh and I’m sure that you have When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein, right?


    • I’ve wanted to get his book, just haven’t yet. Heard good things about.
      BTW, you ever going to do a basic soap making tutorial on your blog? You do teach soap making, right?🙂


      • I do teach soap-making! I could link to some good tutorials that other folks have already invested time into making. But I will think about making my own🙂


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