5 Uncommon Skills That Will Be Useful After the SHTF

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
5 Uncommon Skills That Will Be Useful After the SHTF

I believe that community will be important in a post-SHTF society.

It is also my belief that each member of a community will need to contribute in one way or another to the group as a whole. It is easy to think of those contributions as something physical that you can touch and feel such as food, medical supplies, fuel, firearms, ammunition and cash. The problem, of course, is that depending on economic circumstances and logistics, even experienced preppers may have very little extra in the way of tangible assets to contribute to the community as a whole.

5 Uncommon Skills That Will Be Useful After the SHTF | Backdoor Survival

Today I would like to move beyond the need for Prepper’s to have physical and monetary assets. Instead, I would like to suggest five uncommon skills that will be needed by every post-SHTF community. These are skills that do not take a lot of money to learn and yet they will be extremely valuable and in high demand if the SHTF. These are skills you may not have thought about, but important skills none-the-less.


1. Sewing

Anyone who was a child during the Great Depression will know that new clothes were a luxury afforded by very few. Clothes were worn until they were literally threadbare and even then, they were patched and mended, usually by hand. In those days, one of the very first domestic skills learned by a young child was how to sew on a button. After that, they were taught ironing, hemming, and darning. The common opinion was that darned socks were lumpy, but they were better than no socks at all and lumpy or not, they kept your feet warm.

These domestic skills were not limited to just the girls. As the Survival Husband will attest, little boys were also taught to sew, iron, hem, and darn.

In a world where new clothes and even bolts of fabric are precious, if available at all, sewing skills will be needed to create new garments out of old. Such things as sanitary pads for the ladies will need to be fashioned out of discarded pieces of cloth and even washable TP from old rags may be needed. But most of all, clothes will need to be repurposed and made usable again. And for that, someone with sewing skills will be invaluable to the community.

2. Barbering and Hair Cutting

How often do you get your hair cut? Once a month? Every two months? When there is no salon around the corner or worse, no money for a salon, the next best thing is a good set of shears and someone with a modicum of hair cutting knowledge.

At the risk of sounding frivolous, no matter how bad things get, I know that I am going to feel better if I am well groomed and look nice. I am not talking about a fancy hairdo and salon highlights (which, by the way, I do not have). I am talking about a nicely trimmed hairstyle, nothing fancy, that keeps hair out of my eyes and is short enough to wash and keep clean using only a modest amount of water. The same applies to men although, for many, a shaved head will be a viable option.

To get started in home barbering and haircutting, you need some barber shears and a trimmer. I happen to use a Wahl Peanut that also does double duty for dog grooming. A portable trimmer will run off of solar power so the lack of electricity should not be a problem although there are plenty of battery operated models to choose from as well.

The other thing you need are some warm bodies that will let you practice on them. Note that I am not suggesting that you set up shop; States have strict licensing requirements when it comes to cutting hair and barbering. What I am suggesting, however, is that you acquire some basic skills practicing on family and friends so that when the time comes, you can perform basic hair cutting for other members of your survival community.

3. Cooking and Baking for a Crowd

When the pioneers traveled across the country in their wagon trains, certain individuals were designated “Cookies”. These individuals were responsible for cobbling together family style meals from whatever provisions happened to be available.

Cooks, or “Cookies” will also be sought after in a post-SHTF community. The reason for this may not be obvious but in truth, there will be so many chores to do that for the sake of efficiency, it will be useful to have a central kitchen, where communal meals are prepared, perhaps even outdoors over an open fire.

People need to eat and anyone who has the skill to cook and especially to bake for a crowd will find a welcome place in the survival community.

4. Teaching

Young people are going to need to learn the basics of reading, writing, and science. As I wrote in Education After the Collapse – A Journey Back to Little House on the Prairie, the schoolhouse of old was likely the kitchen table, with Mom and Dad pitching in to teach their children the basics.

In a post SHTF society, there will not be traditional schools to educate children. Instead, children and their parents will be on their own unless someone is willing to step up and teach them not only the basics but also how to solve problems and how to think critically when solving problems.

What will it take to teach? Some textbooks, paper, writing materials and flashcards will be good to have but even more important, is a willingness to share knowledge and to exhibit patience when dealing with children who have been displaced or may be confused by the scary world changes taking place around them.

5. Entertaining

This last skill is something I have rarely, if ever, seen mentioned in prepping circles. In a world where there are no movies, no TV, no video games and no mall, staying pleasantly occupied during leisure periods will be a challenge. The risk, if there is no entertainment, is that you will either work yourself to death because you are bored or you will become depressed due to the lack of imaginative stimulation.

Entertaining in a post SHTF world may include singing or playing the harmonica, guitar or accordion. It might also include teaching a group to dance, play charades or even to play a rousing round of canasta. Knowing how to entertain others and bring a bit of fun into their lives is a special trait that can be honed now and put into use over and over again, regardless of how bad things get.


Let’s face it. In a post-SHTF society, there are going to be the haves and the have-nots. As a matter of fact, one of the fears that many of us have is that someone will come knocking on the door empty-handed and will ask or even demand to join your community of preppers. This could be a family member or neighbor or even a stranger who has done little if anything to prepare in spite of the many warning signs.

Although you may have some charitable handouts at the ready, inviting someone to be accepted into your home or community is going to require some tough scrutiny. Part of that scrutiny will be to evaluate whether they have a useful and needed skill to bring into the mix. And by useful skill, I mean a skill that will enhance the lives and lessen the burden of the others that are already there. The five skills I have outlined today are the types of skills that will be sought after in such a situation.

My recommendation is that even if you do not think you will need them, it is a good idea to become proficient at one or more of these skills now. After all, if you need to bug out with simply your bug-out-bag and the clothes on your back, you may be the one knocking on a stranger’s door with nothing but your skills to offer.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon. In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin: I put some thought into the things I would want to have if or when there is another Great Depression. I own all of these items.

Wahl Professional Peanut Classic Clipper/Trimmer: This little clipper is easy to use on both human and doggie hair. I know since I am the official household haircutter. Of special note is that this clipper runs great on solar power! There is also a battery operated version: Wahl Professional Peanut Cordless Clipper/trimmer.

Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet: Cast iron items were at the top of the list. My readers love cast iron and so do I. Also at the top were Lodge Set of 2 Pan Scrapers and the Lodge Max Temp Handle Mitt.

Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression: If you don’t know about Clara, be sure to read Depression Cooking: A Visit to Clara’s Kitchen.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking: At an average cost of 50 cents a loaf, this bread is easy, delicious and inexpensive to make.

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients: Ditto.

How to Live on Wheat: Everything you need to know about wheat.

Fiskars 7855 8-Inch Hatchet: The Fiskars products are easily sharpened and will last a lifetime. Oh, and while you are at it, you might also like the Fiskars Axe & Knife Sharpener .

Kaito Voyager KA500 Solar/Crank Emergency AM/FM/SW NOAA Weather Radio: A lot of different hand crank radios were sold but this was by far, the most popular.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): I do believe in helping my neighbors in the community so a supply of these will be handy to hand out to those in need. You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency.

Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: This book, by Joe Nobody, is the book you need this book if you care about defending your homestead.


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41 Responses to “5 Uncommon Skills That Will Be Useful After the SHTF”

  1. LOL My Mom is no longer here, but she was self sufficient before it was cool 🙂 She had every one of these skills and then some. She passed most of them on to me, just dont ask me to cut your hair anytime soon 😉 A potential SHTF situation has given me a better reason to hoard yarn! On a serious note, I cannot imagine going into this without some of the skills our grandparents didnt consider skills, just maybe chores that needed doing. I think its important to sharpen the skills we have, and to learn a new one every chance we get.

    • I know what you mean. On the other hand, leaning some of these skills now has become a hobby and for me at least, rewarding and fun.

    • The sad thing is that so many modern tools are not repairable. Making things or re-purposing things is going to be important and folks with those types of skills will be in demand. It will not matter how much money they have or how much “stuff”.

    • Absolutely. Too many people today are too technologically inept even to put a new plug onto a lamp.

  2. Luckily my brother is a barber … he has his own shop, so I may not have to worry about that… of course I dont have has much hair as I use to, so all I really need are good clippers 🙂

    I do agree though that certain skills are a must, and never thought about sewing. I can’t use a sewing machine to save my life, but I can sew by hand and was something I learned, albeit my mom forced me to learn, at an early age. Sewing buttons on, fixing shirts etc. My mom made us always fix our own. I didn’t understand why then, but I do now. Thanks Mom!

    • My husband, Shelly, basically said the same thing about his Mom. She also made him learn how to iron but one thing she did not do is teach him how to cook. I had to do that LOL.

  3. Good thoughts. Repairs will be much bigger than they are now in our throw-away society. Repairing of clothing/shoes, bicycles, small engines, electrical systems and electronic items will see huge resurgence and employment or barter ability for those that can.

  4. Good points, Having been in a survival/rough environment I can attest that morale is extremely important and in the long term crucial to not giving up.

    • I know that when I get bored I keep working until I crash from exhaustion. After doing that for a week or two, it is easy to want to simply give up. (LOL writing a blog will do that too!) Hopefully we will never get to the point where things are so bad that we want to give up.

  5. I love this article. I have pondered each of these categories as well. I bought a treadle sewing machine 2 years ago specifically so I would be able to sew/repair clothing without electricity. I am able to cut my families hair and have all the tools to do so. I’m a certified teacher and have made plans to teach the children in my community if necessary. (This will be no small undertaking since security could be a paramount issues with children gathered together.) We have taken measure to be sure that we can entertain ourselves. We’ve purchased astronomy books, other great books to read, a piano, 2 autoharps, 3 recorders (simple flute-like instruments), board games, playing cards, etc. SO much to consider. Thanks for the great post.

  6. I am sorry to burst your bubble, but when the SHTF, some of this will not be possible. You will have to be constantly mobile. Why? Because TPTB are going to hunt you down.

  7. With very little effort, it’s possible to learn to cut your own hair into a standard men’s haircut. It can be done with scissors from the dollar store alone, without even a mirror, and can be done while sitting in front of your own computer. I used to pay serious money for haircuts and nobody seemed to care, and for the last several years I’ve cut my own hair using this method. I’ve received complements on my hairstyle, and don’t bother to tell anyone how it got cut.

    The only danger is that you get carried away if too stressed, and cut too much. Even that fixes itself after a month or two.

    • I have been cutting my dear 83 year old Dad’s hair now for over 4 years…what I love about my Dad is no matter how he ends up looking (sometimes like a monk, sometimes a little sheared around the ears military style, sometimes a little too short all over), he takes one look and says, ‘you did a beautiful job.’ And thank God his hair grows back so in 3 or 4 weeks I practice again…the truth is – cutting someone else’s hair is a LOT of fun….I have only cut my bangs in the past, so wouldn’t dare try to cut the back, but I might let you do it! I also give him a shave, nose trim, ear hair trim, and mustache trim…he loves the attention as he can no longer do these things for himself and it makes me feel like a million billion to give back to this wonderful man, who really cut all of his 9 kids hair when they were young….he used a bowl…

    • When we were kids, those were called “Rose Bowl” haircuts. Thanks for the memory!

      I cut Shelly’s hair – actually I mostly shave it with the Wahl peanut but unlike you, I hate doing it. On the other hand, I feather it nicely so it looks good and the price is right.

    • Two months ago I gave up sending Tucker the Dog to the groomer. It was a hassle to drive to town plus it cost $65. Now I do it myself and although it may not be perfect, he sits nicely and seems to enjoy the process. No one other then me knows that it is uneven. And besides, like you say, it fixes itself after a short period of time goes by – in his case, in a week or two.

      I cut my own bangs but am chicken to do the rest of my hair.

  8. I think I have these covered. I am an expert seamstress with plenty of machines, even a treadle. I can cut hair and cook for a crowd–delicious and healthy food. I am a teacher and can be counted on for entertainment, if my guests are telling the truth. I had a party once a month for three years. We entertained each other and I organized fun games that adults wanted to participate in. Plus, I have lots of board and card games.

    • It sounds like you are in good shape. I am not too certain of my own teaching skills – at least when it comes to the kiddos – but like you, I feel I have everything else covered.

      So many folks focus on food and water preps plus of course, self-defense. I think that someone that is more well-rounded will prevail.

  9. Often overlooked but just as essential is knowing how to make and/or repair shoes. At least one in each group should have a solid basic understanding and some basic tools for cobbling. Great article.

    • Stacie: Just be sure to stock up now on your supplies, as when all this stuff happens you will not be able to get any yarn, needles or anything else. We need the water, food, basics now and what about medicine? The pharmacy won’t have any oxygen, diabetes supplies, no high blood pressure medicine, no anxiety medicine, nothing…It’s like a now or never situation.
      What about people that are addicted to caffeine, cigarettes (nicotine) wine, alcohol etc. What about drug addicts that won’t be able to get their fix? Those people might go crazy and do uncalled for things.
      As for being hunted down, the best community to be in would be one that is out (way out) in the country where it will be very difficult to be found. Any city will be hell on earth, any town as well. Small villages, hamlets, and communities way out are the only way that anyone may survive in perilous times that are coming our way.
      Better safe than sorry, and I’m like Gay, I do not get it when people don’t prepare and try to care for themselves. Makes no sense whatsoever.

  10. I learned at an early age sewing, cooking, and housekeeping. Even took Home Economics in school, right before Vo-ag class. These skills served me well as a single guy in the military. My sons learned these same skills which also has served them in the military and college.

  11. I learned to sew when I was a kid. When I was a SAH mom, I made some of my toddlers’ clothes. Haven’t sewn much for 20 years, except for 3 of the 4 bridesmaids’ dresses for my daughter’s wedding – and I think they looked better than the 4th bridesmaid’s dress, which was sewn by a professional! I purchased a treadle machine at a garage sale a couple years ago; I need to sit down with it and get comfortable using it! (when I retire . . . ) 😉 I also need to start collecting (hoarding has such negative connotations!) fabric and notions.

    When my daughters were young, I cut their hair – of necessity, a very simple pageboy! Personally, I think Carol’s hairstyle on Walking Dead would be the style of choice for SHTF.

  12. Storing some modern repair materials also makes some sense. Glue sticks are very inexpensive and are easy to store. You don’t need an electric glue gun to make them work – a candle brings them to melting point easily and you then use it per demand. I’ve found that some sewing repairs can be made much stronger with a coating of this material over the threads – not pretty, but sometimes durability trumps fashion . . .

  13. We have an extensive dvd collection….if the power goes out, we have a portable dvd player that runs on batteries..we didn’t get it for prepping but will sure work out for that, we got it so we could watch a movie if we wanted in our rv, if nothing else to do some evening…..its a thought for entertainment for you!

  14. desert: Good thought. I think telling clean jokes would be fun, playing cards, all sorts of board games. Electronic Monopoly does not require electricity, and what about scrabble, you can play it for hours, connect 4 for the kids, and of course battleship. Art and craft supplies for the children will always keep them occupied. Children will enjoy playing with the pets, (dogs, cats, etc). If you still have the photo albums and some old pictures, you can always share them for something to pass the time and take away the boredom. Being creative and thoughtful at times like that will sure come in handy.
    I can mend fabric, socks etc. I am a retired elem. school teacher so teaching is always on my mind, I like to cook up good dishes even for a crowd, even though I’m not a baker. I can keep things in order and cleaned up and organized if needed.
    A SHTF situation is a time when we will need all hands on deck to survive. All kinds of skills will be needed then from security watch to homemaking skills, teaching, sewing, cooking and everything in between. GOD bless us all and we pray for the best, and prepare for the worse.

  15. I learned gardening, scratch baking, hand sewing, clothes washing, soap making, canning, pickling and polishing from my Mom. Mom was ahead of the feminist movement and she didn’t want us boys (me and three brothers) dependent on others. Dad taught me carpentry and mechanical skills as well as hair cutting (been doing that on Dad, brothers, while in the Marines, and my own children for over 50 years), electrical work, disassembly of you-name-it to scrounge screws, nuts, washers, and metal for myriad purposes. My Dad had a large shed full of “junk” that my brothers and I used to make our own racers, blow guns and nail darts, arrows, even moving targets (from a wind-up phonograph mechanism), and I fiddled with radios, irons, TVs, amplifiers, etc. I even attended college for a couple of years to learn about electrical/electronics. I consider myself a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I’ve dome some sheetrock, kitchen remodeling, etc. Most of my siblings are also musically inclined, but I wasn’t…therefore, I became the drummer in our “family band.” We played for various events and were even in a local parade. I’ve built a small cabin and a couple of sheds and several garden structures (arbors, swings, fences, etc.). We also went camping as children and I’ve continued that activity for the past thirty years, so I know a bit about “bushcraft.” I also have LOTS of tools that I’ve accumulated over the years…many of them simple hand tools.

    Trouble is, I’m nearing 70 and while I remember “how” to do things, I no longer have the physical stamina I had twenty years ago. I just “might” be useful in teaching others the various skills I’ve learned over the years.

    • This is about where i am as a thirteen year old girl now. It’s good to know this stuff is useful. Scrounging and hacking mechanical things is always a good skill. Like the shop vac powered sling bullet machine gun me and my friends just made.

  16. I think it might be a good idea too, to buy up extra handles for hoes and shovels and axes. I know they break on occasion. Would be nice to have a replacement in case of breakage. Also good knives will be very important as well as a good sharpener, that is if there is game and you need to kill something to feed your family. Don’t forget a water filter and/or water purifying tablets. The most important thing of all is to remember to stay as calm as possible. Every group or family needs someone who can remain calm and able to sooth the situation so that people can get on with what they need to do to survive. Most of all, stay in touch with your creator. He can help you more that anything else n a crisis situation. Pray.

  17. My Memaw taught me these things years ago. I still have her old fashioned Singer sewing machine. I also learned to cook and bake. I’m a retired RN, I’m told that will be a great skill. I cut hair, except for my youngest son, I accidentally nicked his ear years ago and he has never let me cut his hair since. I also garden, I’m skilled in edible and medicinal herbs and weeds.
    I have passed on most of what I learned from my Memaw. At least to those willing to learn it. My two youngest learned the most, being boys we went camping a lot, so they learned to cook over a fire too. They are all claiming dibs on my cast iron LOL.

  18. Another thing that should probably go on this list: Basic electronic hacking.

    Not computer hacking, but things like hooking a drill battery up to a different brand of sander, or a vacuum. Things that let you repurpose technology and are generally useful.

    Also, as a side note, I have these skills at thirteen. They are not hard.

  19. There is one thing I have never seen mentioned. It is ‘flex glue.’ The stuff they advertise for fixing a boat etc. i think it would be great for fixing shoes, boots, torn leather, holes, or leaks or a large host of things in the home. I used it to fix the stopper in my sink, it kept coming apart. It has lasted a long time and really works. It even comes in small tubes for your bug out bag.

  20. Another great habit to develop is situational awareness. Applies to every aspect of life. Not complacent, not paranoid. Helps prevent becoming a victim…even of your own thinking. For the most part, human problems are rooted in faulty thinking. The psychology of survival is incredibly important.

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