The skill of improvising

I’ve always felt that proficiency in improvising, or “MacGuyvering,” is a key element of prepping. Being able to look at a common object and imagining all sorts of alternate uses is a great way to practice this skill.

Take, for example, an ordinary spring clothespin.

Naturally, you can always use them to hang your hand-washed clothes to dry. You could also use them to suspend a tarp or sheet to close off an area of a room for privacy.

What else?

Well, a clothespin makes a great trigger for an electrical powered alert system. Wrap copper wire around each of the jaws of the clothespin. The wires then go to the alert device and on to the power source. Place a piece of plastic or other non-conductive material in the jaws, interrupting the circuit. Tie your trip line to that piece of plastic and affix the clothespin to a board or something to keep it in place. Someone trips the line, which pulls the plastic, and completes the electrical circuit.

I suppose in a pinch, the wood of the clothespin is dry enough to be used as kindling too.

Headphones / ear buds from an mp3 player? Great for lashing together limbs in an improvised shelter. String a few of them together and you might have enough to use for fishing line. Not great, I’ll grant you, but better than nothing.

Look around you right now. Pick up a random object and think about it for a bit. How many different ways could you use it, or parts from it?

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

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