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Preparing for Multiple Family Living During SHTF

Are you and your family or tribe (my favorite term for mutual assistance group) truly prepared to bug in on your homesteading survival retreat? You have stockpiled all the essential preps, have crops growing, animals in the barnyard, and trained physically while enhancing your survival skillset – but may not be enough to get you and your loved ones through a long-term disaster.

Previously on Survival Sullivan, we laid out a detailed plan to prep your bug in home location or bugout survival retreat for the arrival of your adult children, extended family, and tribe members – whether or not they are preppers themselves. There, we focused on the logistics and layout of the home. All highly important parts of the survival retreat equation to be sure, but the human aspect must be considered and prepared for well in advance of everyone hunkering down together.

Having your children (adult or young ones – or both) grandchildren, siblings and their families, in-laws, parents, cousins and their families, etc. etc. all under one roof is a recipe for stress and chaos during good time, like holiday gatherings. Magnify the stress, chaos, and clashing personalities tenfold at least, and you will get a good picture of what life will be like when bugging in with other families.

When initially getting your bugout location or live-in homesteading survival retreat ready, you sole focus was on the brick-and-mortar aspects of the place, as well as stockpiling enough supplies and food to last the tribe for hopefully at least a year.

All of your daunting efforts were both worthwhile and essential. Now that they are completed, or even while they are still in progress, start developing a plan to keep everyone fully functional, productive, safe, and sane while dwelling on the prepper retreat.

Part of this creating the prepper retreat living plan is mental preparedness but organizational and stability aspects are equally important…and all intertwined!

Mental Preparedness

Regardless of your professional background, the stressors of SHTF will be enormous. An emergency room doctor, nurse, or surgeon used to dealing with blood and guts on a daily basis will still struggle with mental clarity and emotional turmoil when the bodily fluids being mopped up belong to loved ones, especially small children – and he or she is the only person standing between life and sudden anguishing death for the entire group.

A military veteran is also trained to deal with harsh living conditions, blood and guys of people they care about, and a constant threat of armed attackers. The training and experience makes veterans highly valued members of the survival retreat tribe, but does not exempt them from the emotional stress of the battlefield – which has now become their backyard and their fellow soldiers members of their own family.

No one knows better than a soldier how quickly a seemingly safe and secure place can turn into a pure blood bath. When a soldiers goes off to battle, he kisses his wife and children good-bye, sorrowfully leaving them safe at home. That will absolutely not be the case when SHTF. Nowhere will ever be completely safe. Every time the soldier walks out the door to take a shift on perimeter patrol (probably more shift than anyone else), he is doing so to protect his family, while at the same time, know that his absence also leaves his wife and children…less safe.

Police officers, firefighters, and paramedics are very familiar with blood, guts, and dangerous situations. They too will be aware of the dangers lurking around every corner, even on a secluded and bolstered prepper retreat.

These folks will be the ones trying to keep everyone calm and assured they are going to be just fine, even when their first instincts might be screaming otherwise. They will push themselves excruciatingly hard to keep harm as far away from the survival retreat as possible, and perhaps cause themselves to become sleep deprived, edgy, and fatigued.

The human body can only function under such mental and emotional stress for so long, and then it either blows or collapses, or both.

Fear of the known and lack of ability to prevent harm, no matter how well trained they are and how hard they try, will take its toll on not just the veterans, first responders, and medical professionals noted above, but the entire tribe.

Fear of the unknown and their lack of ability to prevent harm, could drive every member of the tribe, regardless of their age or professional background, to reach the same state of exhaustion and mental dysfunction.

Keeping both the most valuable tribe members and the rest of the group as mentally and emotionally healthy as possible will take not just planning, but alertness to evolving stress levels while bugging in at the retreat and frequent checks on all tribe members to ward off breakdowns.

Appointing a “health official” to observe every member of the tribe, check in with those who seem like they are struggling – or should be struggling but are showing no outward signs of being stressed, and making the call on a mandatory break from duties, is a great idea.

Presuming all members of the tribe are well acquainted with one another, the signs of stress should not be very difficult to detect. It’s the apocalypse, so of course everyone is going to be going through some measure of stress, but taking a time out before the person becomes overwhelmed is a realistic goal.

During your pre-SHTF tribe training sessions and meetings, talk about duties, and choices for the appointment, as well as a back-up appointee that can be used as a sounding board for the official and to watch for signs of stress in the official, in great detail.

Such a conversation and plan will not be a comfortable topic for many folks, especially big strong men with a first responder or military background, or stubborn strong women, like myself. There will be many sacrifices that must be made during a long-term doomsday disaster, just count having a touchy feeling conversation about your emotions, as one of them.

Urge the military veterans in your tribe to discuss cases of PTSD he or she have personally witnessed, helped a friend through, or perhaps even dealt with themselves. If a heroic patriot can bare his or her soul to talk about how much living through traumatic events can impact the way a person feels and behaves, everyone else in your tribe should be able to put aside any feelings of “weakness” they associate with admitting to struggling with emotional and/or mental stress.

Once the tribe understands the importance of dealing with stress before it overwhelms a person and the health inspectors have been selected, hammer out a plan for monitoring the members for signs, how to help them cope, and when type of process is involved with limiting or removing them from their duties – and what he or she will be doing while off duty, An immense amount of unstructured downtime may help some get back on an even keel, but could send others deeper into a bout of anxiety or depression.

The health inspectors, along with any willing members of the tribe, should engage in some type of learning or training, formal or otherwise, to help them learn how to detect signs of mental and emotional struggle and how to help the person through it.

If only the health inspectors are learning more about dealing with stress, they must share their findings and new skills with the group and include members in any standard operating procedures (SOPs) or techniques they plan to employ as needed during a SHTF scenario. The SOPs might need to be adapted, enhanced, or completely rewritten several times as additional learning and tribe discussions take place.

Stability

As much as many of us hate being tied to a schedule, having a routine helps breed both functionality and stability. No longer having a set schedule and tasks to complete is most often the hardest part of post-work life for a retiree to adapt too.

Sure, no longer having to get up early and go to work each day sounds AWESOME, and I am sure that it is, but the retiree still has to find something to do with themselves all day. A feeling of isolation and worthlessness can evolve in a short amount of time if a person of any age doesn’t have a meaningful way to spend their time.

For all of the Walking Dead fans, think back to the scene during one of the early seasons of the show when Lori was having a fuss in Hershel’s kitchen with Andrea. Now, Lori was always one of my least favorite characters and I clapped when she finally became zombie bait, but she did make an extremely valuable point when yelling at Andrea over “providing stability” for the group by making meals, doing laundry, and generally keeping house the best way you can during the apocalypse to make sure everyone felt like family living in a home.

I am not saying the ladies of the survival retreat should be planning elaborate luncheons, but keeping to as normal a routine as possible will give many of the tribe members something to do and allow for calming and rejuvenating meal times gatherings for everyone – giving them a chance to de-stress as much as possible.

The elderly and youngest members of the tribe won’t be pulling perimeter checks, but they will need be – and feel, like a vital and contributing member of the group. If left to do nothing more than twiddle their thumbs all day, mental and emotional stress can overwhelm them as well.

Food needs to be grown, prepared, preserved, and served. These chores not only fulfill necessary tasks, they all for the cross-training of skills and times when the ladies and children engaging in them can chat, sharing stories and family history in an effort to keep their minds as busy as their hands, and pass time in a positive way.

The home must be kept cleaned to prevent the spread of germ and sickness. Inventory of the stockpile preps, a log of eggs collected, the communications hub must be monitored, seeds planted, etc. must also be conducted on a regular basis. The folks assigned to these tasks do not need to be exceptionally mobile, below the age of 60, or capable of lifting heavy bundles. The cousin with the broken arm, the great aunt confined to a wheel chair, and the young mother with a baby on her hip, can all contribute to the functionality of the survival retreat by completing these types of chores.

Creating stability on the homestead survival retreat involves a lot more than doing chores and sitting down at the table for meals. Children need to learn, updates from the defense team need to be given, and comfort items and activities also must be a part of routine life on the survival retreat.

Many preppers homeschool their children already and do so by melding hands-on self-reliance and homesteading training into the curriculum. For these families, making the transition and having the materials stockpiled to homeschool during a SHTF scenario, will be far easier.

Children must continue to learn the basics: reading, writing, and math, to be fully contributing members of the survival retreat and prepared for the post-disaster rebuilding of society. You cannot cook or do carpentry on the retreat if you do not possess basic math skills. Science lesson should also continue and become even more vocational in nature: livestock husbandry, growing food, water and soil testing, composting, weather prediction, alternative energy production, mechanics, etc.

Learning about the history of America to ensure it will not be lost and the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution will always be upheld, definitely should be worked into the prepper homeschool curriculum as well.

Set aside an area in the home specifically for homeschooling, even if it a small space. Only teachers who do not want to foster a love of learning and approach it as the great glorious adventure it is, would ever want their pupils to spend the bulk of their time sitting in desks! The history lessons could be taught while peeling potatoes or canning corn and still have the same lasting impact.

You can only stockpile as many school supplies as your budget and space allows, so get creative – your kids will love your for it. Stockpiling papers and pencils is fine, but not exactly necessary. Use chalkboard paint on a wall in the homeschooling area to give the teacher a place to share her lessons and for the children to write and do their math.

Go Little House on the Prairie old school with your survival retreat homeschool and give each child their own little chalkboard to write on. Wipe off white boards can be used for both homeschooling lessons and to organize chore charts for the entire tribe.

Lego blocks are great for teaching children their colors, counting, basic math problems, how to follow a pattern, and even for spelling lessons. Write both upper and lower case letters on small blocks and sight words on longer and larger blocks for the children to put together to match their letters. They can also build sentence towers using the blocks.

Copious amount of Lego learning and hordes of other free very, very low cost or free homeschool learning activities and lessons exist on Pinterest and around the internet. Take advantage of them now, before the power grid goes down, and print of the worksheets, lesson plans, and how to articles for interactive teaching.

Comfort items and activities will give the tribe a brief reprieve from the stress of SHTF survival retreat living and boost morale. Observe birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and weddings. Make gifts for each other, stockpile Dollar Tree gifts now to pull out at Christmas and birthdays, especially for the children, dance, sign, play music, burn a little fuel for a once a week or month movie night, splash around in the pond with your significant other and the kiddos.

Make new traditions at the holidays, Christmas and Easter were never intended to become a commercial gift-giving occasion anyway. Paint pine cones to decorate Christmas trees with, play a board game together by candlelight that the entire tribe can enjoy, have a low tech karoake night and get silly, make your own Halloween costumes and sweets from foraged material and stevia you are growing in the garden.

No matter what type of fun-loving activity or holiday tradition you plan for SHTF living, it will provide laughter and joy for your loved ones, when they need it the most!

Faith is an essential part of the lives of so many Americans. Create a small chapel or space that can be used for a place of worship inside the home. Choose lay leaders and hold regular services, Bible school classes for the kids, and sing hymns to help you all get through the many tough times ahead.

Organization

As noted in the stability section above, routine is more important to our daily lives than we would like to believe. When folks know what is expected of them, they are far more likely to succeed and thrive.

A survival retreat organizational chart and chore chart should be drafted, discussed, and adapted as many times as needed during tribe meetings and training sessions. If you have not formally identified the leader or leaders of the group, that should be done ASAP.

If the group functions with a leader and a council, or entirely by council, or some combination of the two with all adult members of the tribe getting a vote on matters that impact the tribe, get the hierarchy chart written in stone, along with how leaders can be removed, how members can be removed from the retreat, how long council terms are, how new council members are named, etc.

Do not simply go with an ad hoc arrangement because you are all family or close friends and get along fine the way thing are now. When the SHTF and everyone is living together, tempers will flare, people will get sick and die, and some members will not perform as expected under pressure. Knowing all of the rules and how leadership can evolve when necessary increases stability and decreases stress.

Next, you will need a daily duty roster and seasonal tasks chart. Some chores will need tended to on an hourly or daily basis, but others will only occur monthly or seasonally. Every moment of a tribe member’s life on the prepper compound should be accounted for in one way or another.

Setting up the schedule should not occur until the group investigates not only what tasks will need to be completed and how many people it will take to do them, but how long each chore will take to complete.

If you are not living on the homesteading survival retreat now, get some expert advice about tilling a garden, harvesting a garden, chopping and splitting wood, etc. so you fully understand how strenuous each chore is and how long it is likely to take. If, the tribe members are engaging in the chores in really hot or cold weather, they are likely to take longer.

If the assigned members are working while sick or on low rations, the chore should also be projected to take longer than anticipated when the work was timed during a training session using a healthy, well-rested, and well-fed individual.

There is nothing wrong with adapting a chore length depending upon either the season or the person assigned to the job. You will need to make multiple chore charts to cover all of the tasks needed during a typical SHTF year on the survival compound.

Print our multiple chore charts and put them in binders. You can also cover them in clear contact paper to preserve them and make blank forms that are covered in clear contact paper so they can be written upon and then wiped of and reused later. Make an overall group chart showing scheduled duties and individual daily charts, with blocks of down time and sleeping hours for each person.

Surveillance and security needs will be scheduled 24/7, so defining sleeping times on the chart will help to ensure spouses get time together and time with their children does not conflict with the chores and duties of anyone in their immediate family.

Homesteading Survival Retreat Chores

Low Impact Interior Chores

1. Cooking
2. Cleaning
3. Sewing
4. Inventory
5. Laundry
6. Food Preservation
7. Homeschooling
8. Morale Booster Planning Activities
9. Nursery care for babies and toddlers
10. Library organization and tending
11. Communications hub (HAM radio monitoring, 2-way radio charging, etc.) supervision
12. Vocational training for adults – this can occur outside as well
13. Greenhouse Tending – starting seeds, compost inspection, transplanting plants, etc.

Skilled Interior Chores

1. Medical clinic staffing
2. Growing the apothecary and making natural medicines
3. Off grid utility function and repair – including taking care of composting toilets
4. Health Inspector duties

General Outside Chores

1. Planting and Harvesting
2. Gardening
3. Livestock husbandry
4. Chopping, splitting,and storing wood
5. Fence mending
6. Road/driveway maintenance
7. Baling hay
8. Water collection and transport
9. Fishing
10. Hunting
11. Trapping
12. Foraging
13. Fruit grove tending
14. Barn, home, and structure repairs

Skilled Outside Chores

1. Surveillance and Security Team
2. Retreat firefighters – reducing and inspecting for fire concerns in addition to being in charge o the fire brigade
3. Mechanical equipment and maintenance repairs
4. Blacksmith
5. Carpentry
6. Welding
7. Vocational Training
8. Construction

These homesteading survival retreat chores are just an overview of the type of work it will take to keep the SHTF compound functional on a routine basis. Each location and group will have specific needs that must be addressed.

The prospective chores should give you a good idea of the number of not only the number of chores and people needed to complete them, but the specific skillset that will be unbelievably useful in the quest to survive any doomsday disaster.

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About Tara Dodrill

Tara Dodrill
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, 'Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out', Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.

8 comments

  1. I have all the supplies, but not very organized. In the event of a Nuclear Bomb, I plan to run straight towards it myself. 🙂
    Thanks, I’ll save this in Pocket.

    • CJ,

      Then we must help you get organized, don’t want you running head long into a SHTF scenario! Desire, supplies, skills, practice – rinse repeat 🙂 So glad you are a Survival Sullivan reader, I hope the information on the website does truly help you get organized so you can survive a disaster, we will need all of the strong and good people we can get to help rebuild this country after a doomsday disaster!

  2. This is a well thought-out article. My only caution is that a lot of homeschool curriculum is computer and internet based. Homeschoolers need to be prepared to have school without a computer, & if one has a computer, the internet will likely not be available. So I recommending having textbooks & workbooks for all grades. I disagree on the paper & pencils which will be very useful. Also good to have crayons & coloring books for younger children. A few art supplies like paint, brushes, etc.

    Thanks for your articles.

    • Red C, I completely agree on how tech-based far too many homeschooling curriculum programs are. I am currently working on a K-12 homeschooling curriculum specifically for prepping and homesteading families. I hope to have it completed by the end of May. It melds self-reliance skills with educational standards.

      I didn’t intend to relay that paper and pencils are not useful, just not the only way to teach/learn, especially during a survival situation because the supplies will eventually run out. Any writing instrument will, be it pencils, chalk, or wipe off markers, but it is nice to vary what tools children use to make the learning process more engaging and fun, as well. The wipe off sleeves or homemade ones using clear contact paper over workbook sheets or lined paper will save a lot of money and space, as well.

      I was highlighting more non-traditional manners or teaching and supplies to enhance the typical stockpiles of pencils, crayons, etc. for money saving and sustainability purposes. I prefer hands-on learning as much as possible, hate seeing children sit at a desk/table all day doing book work any more than essential to learn the basics foundation blocks of education.

      Using Duplo or Lego blocks is a great way to teach both math and Language Arts without pencil or paper. Write letters and sight words on the blocks so children can practice their spelling, sentence building, and story retelling skills. Learning through play is so much the kiddos won’t think of engaging in the exercises as a chore 🙂

      • Lots of good information, but for people like me, one important item was left out: getting prepared spiritually. The scriptures provide hope and spiritual knowledge if we pray for help from above before reading them and pondering them. We learn that many trials and tribulations lie ahead in these latter-days but, if we do our best to follow our Savior, we will be able to get through them. When dark days arrive, we learn that truths will fall from heaven, the crimes and plots of the wicked will be revealed and they will want to hide under rocks as they recognize their acts will condemn them through eternity. As Joel says in the Old Testament, old men will have dreams and small children will, with their pure hearts, also reveal truths to all who will hear. Along with terrible situations will also come help and protection from above for those who sincerely try to live the gospel. Those are important things to bear in mind when preparing for bad times.

  3. Tara, why do you say that colors and pencils are not useful? I found your point very interesting.

    • Nigel, They are useful, just not essential. As I noted in the response to the reader above, engaging the children and planning for the ultimate loss of perishable school supplies. There are a plethora of ways to use non-perishable resources to teach children how to read, write, do math, and especially to grasp the concepts of science. Cross-learning is a superb idea as well. Teaching history and science as a part of the language arts lessons not only kills two birds with one stone, it also allows you to delve more deeply into the subject and include art, hands-on practical lessons relating to the material, and of course, experiments. I love doing book reports in a bag with children. They find or make items related to the story they read or were read and pull them out and retell the story from either their own perspective or that of a character in the book. Children can also create their own little skits to act out important scenes from the story or an assigned chapter. Creating their own makeshift scenery, costumes, etc. will require a lot more thinking and comprehension of the material than just rewording what they read in the book from the text. Playdoh, or a natural homemade substitute (my favorite) can be used to make letters, numbers, whole words, items from cards they are given with sight words, book report in a bag items, historical scenes, etc. As a write I love paper and pencils, just not exclusively. I still have former students coming up to me 15 years later and mention the Native American “quilts” we made when learning about our regions first inhabitants – I doubt they would still recalll a project from 6th grade if it had been just one of a thousand reports they had written. Each child was given construction paper of five different colors – one color representing each segment of tribe life they were tasked with researching and reporting about. They used crayons, markers, etc. to write three facts of their choosing on the front then drew, painted, glued, etc. items on the back of the paper to create a scene representing those facts. They then used a whole punch to link all of the construction paper together to form quilts that were hung in the library. They also used their math and science skills to make traditional recipes over an open flame to create a meal to share with staff visitors to the school library display. After the meal they answered questions about their assigned tribes and demonstrated the toy items they made from natural materials to show how native children played and worked.

  4. This a worry for me. I have a large family with lots of strong egos (ok, maybe mine too, a little bit). I think things would go great at first but I have my doubts as time passes. I may have to join CJ & run straight toward the blast!

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