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Normality During An Extended Emergency : An overview of what to put back and how to keep up morale

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: March 8, 2020
Normality During An Extended Emergency : An overview of what to put back and how to keep up morale

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Prepping for a disaster or SHTF should go well beyond just the typical beans, bandages, bullets, and bug out plan scenario.

You need to take care of the mental health and overall wellbeing of those in your group, and that is no easy task.

The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to make it easier now and they don’t have to cost a fortune.

So what is “normality?”

Anything that is comforting or reminds someone of good times before SHTF is what I am talking about when it comes to normality.

This post is intended to help you “keep it together” during an emergency and keep your family sound of mind and body. I know first hand how much stress affects your body and overall health. One should remember that there is only so much that can be done to maintain some sense of normal during an extended situation or SHTF.  Things may be very tough or even seem totally unbearable at times. Small reminders and comforts can make a big difference.

Normality reminders are the key; you are not going to totally replicate the ideal no matter what. Do the best you can. Not having the same routine is one of the major ways that life can change. You may find that you have to do some things at night that you are used to doing during the day or deal with extreme isolation in some cases. For those that have family members that are used to being out and about when they get bored, it can be pretty tough to get used to a new routine.

Why do these “nonessentials” really matter? Wouldn’t it be better to spend the money on food, weapons, or emergency gear?

So much of survival has to do with the state of someone’s mind at the time. Having the right attitude during a SHTF situation can make all the difference. That being said, don’t be surprised when those that are very young prove to be amazing during an emergency. Kids are tougher than they are given credit for.

Of course part of this toughness is dependent on how strong the adults are around them. Kids pick up on the vibes adults give off. They can tell if you are on the verge of a breakdown and don’t take a lot of steps to hide it. This is also a quality that can make them an enormous comfort during stressful times.

An improved mindset increases the odds of survival. How much? I don’t know but during SHTF every little advantage matters.

Knowing that there is something good out there is important. During a survival, situation morale is everything when it comes down to the motivation needed to get through things you might never have even imagined.

Reminders of normal times and small comforts can give people hope when they need it most. Things that seem like nothing to us now may seem like a blessing in another time and place.

Normality is a very individual thing

What you put in a normality box is dependent on the person. What reminds me of normal times is not going to be the same as for you.

Normality for Kids

A box for kids may include any or all of the following:

  • Candy or other treats
  • Toys
  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Coloring books
  • A small tablet that charges via USB and that is loaded with entertainment. You can store extra stuff on SD cards too.
  • Handheld video game console. You can get a small handheld system for $20-$40. There are even a few for under $20. Most run on either AAA batteries or charge via USB.

Children vary in their interests so take some time to pick out some things you know they would like and consider how fast they are growing and developing their mind. You may consider putting back mostly things that are suitable for them within a year since there is a good chance you won’t need to get into your preps that fast.

Normality for Sam Biggers

Here are a few things that I keep in my preps for maintaining normality.

  • Notebooks
  • Pens
  • Word processor. Yes, I mean an old-fashioned and only good for writing word processor. It runs on AA batteries so easy to use during an extended emergency. Not so great for long term SHTF but for typical events like snow storms, these are great to have.
  • Ereader
  • Mp3s
  • A good bottle of wine or liquor
  • Skincare and makeup products I have hoarded up from inexpensive beauty box subscriptions
  • Emergency Radio with SD card reader and a reading light
  • A few fleece blankets. I get the 2 for $10 impulse buy fleece blankets sold at grocery stores. They are pretty nice and have a lot of uses.

A small library of books is helpful for normality

Matt and I also make sure to maintain a small library of books in paper format. We have a big range of books, and I rotate out some fiction books and replace them with new ones as they are read. This ensures that there is always something new to read without cluttering up the house with a lot of books at once. I donate books to the county library book sale.

Some of these books come from used bookstores online that donate profits to charity, so it is a nice way to do a little something to help while maintaining a bookshelf for our home.  If I can help out a few charitable causes while prepping at the same time, that is a win!   Of course, we have reference books that are useful for hard times and homesteading that we keep no matter what.

Power consumption matters! Put devices and toys in normality boxes that take batteries or that are easily charged. USB charging is a great thing!

As far as powering my devices, we have solar panels and small power stations like the Jackery and Goal Zero Yeti that we keep charged up. The larger solar panels add additional energy.

Boxes can be mixed up over the years for those with multiple kids

I know that age-specific items can be hard for those with younger kids. If you have several then you can mix and match as needed over the years.

General normality Box For Families or Groups

Of course, the alternative to an individual normality box is just a big one that takes everyone into account during an emergency,

  • Music
  • Videos and a means to play them
  • Emergency radio with SD cards that contain music, audiobooks, and e-readers. Check out my review of the Kaito KA900 for an affordable option for family entertainment
  • Food treats that are compact like chocolate
  • Craft activities
  • Special beverages if there is space for it

Attitude is part of normality

It can be very difficult or even impossible for many to maintain a positive attitude if they are forced into circumstances of extreme distress. This is human nature. At the same time the more you can keep a good face for those that are looking to you for faith and support, the better. There are some of us that could feel like they are dying inside and put on a good face, but there are others that would break down very fast. Not knocking anyone, it is just the reality of it.

Think about those around you.

If you are the leader, then consider when you have those breakdown moments. There is no shame in having those times. Wait until everyone is doing okay and then go off and scream or cry or whatever but don’t do it in front of the young, old, or vulnerable when you have a choice to do it in privacy.

Be strong for those you love!

You can do it, and the secret is that during SHTF you may be braver and tougher than you expect but preparing yourself some ahead of time will make that even more likely. Remember that even the brawniest and toughest guy in the room may be the one that crumples first when faced with a psychologically stressful situation.

There are a few posts on BDS that go into more detail about keeping up morale.

Keeping Up Morale & Finding Entertainment During Hard Times

Transitioning From Fall To Winter & Staying Positive Tips For Dealing With Changes, Holidays, SAD, and More!

There is no strict definition of “normal.”

I am not the person to define “normal” on any level, I rather think you need to consider normal as it defines you and then ask yourself some small things that remind you of this.

The small things may seem like nothing now but they will not if you ever find yourself in an emergency or long term SHTF situation.

Your mind now is not the same one as during a SHTF situation, even if it is just short term. You probably don’t realize just how much you will enjoy something that seems like hardly anything at all now. There is no real way to know just the type of person you will be during SHTF. You have to live it and then see what happens. I recommend that you read Selco’s article on this topic. He saw it first hand in an extended SHTF situation.


Music is a big deal. In my family, it is a part of their identity in a major way. Music is culture, especially when it comes to traditional and regional songs. Preserve these traditions and have some songbooks or at least mp3s that remind you of your heritage and culture. This can also help with inspiration during a hard time when you need to do something that you need to get some of your gumption up for.

Get your family involved

Creating a box of luxury items is something that everyone can help out with. I can understand if you want to throw in a few items in a kid’s box that they don’t know about. This can help prevent some kids from finding and getting into the little luxuries like candy or a new toy when they get bored one day.

Budgeting For A Normality Box

Like any aspect of prepping, the important thing is to get started.  A normality box can be reacted $10-$20 at a time! An extra pack of rechargeable batteries could be a start to your box. Think of your box as a fun part of prepping where you can let loose a little and not necessarily think about the raw survival aspects of every single small purchase.

Normality items are excellent for bartering too! People really want those small reminders and comforts.

Basically, any item that you put in a normality box is going to have barter value. Some items are definitely more valuable than others, but that also depends on the situation. During part of a SHTF event, a bar of chocolate may only be worth $5 or the equivalent, but later on, that same bar may get you enough beans and rice to feed your family for a few days. The economy during SHTF is volatile. If something is in shorter supply one week compared to another, then the price is going to be higher in the short week.

Items with high trade value that could be part of a normality box

  • Alcohol. Name brand alcohol is best. People want to see labels they trust when trading with someone, especially if it is not someone they know. 375 mL or 750 mL bottles are good for trade.
  • Canned meats. If you like to eat meat more than others in your family, then you may want to have a little extra put back.

The Prepper Ham Slam

The Prepper Chicken Challenge: 7 Cans, One Winner!

  • Candy and chocolate. Sweets can be a rare or nonexistent thing during SHTF. If you go without anything sweet for weeks and then eat a piece of chocolate or candy, it can be a memorable experience, especially when things are tough.
  • Batteries. Rechargeable or not, batteries have value.
  • Soap or razors. Staying clean and somewhat groomed is absolutely part of normal everyday life for many people. Any grooming aids or soap has value.
  • Blankets. Any blanket can be used for various purposes. You can even make very warm clothing or insulate existing clothing with blankets during hard times.

Best Wool Blankets For Survival and Emergencies

Items that you have put back that are no longer suitable for your group are good candidates for trade.  You may not have any idea when an emergency will end. Plenty of people have thought it would be over soon rather than last for years.

Do you have some reminders of the nice things in life put back? How do you store your normality items? For those of you that are parents, do you let your kids have a lot of control over what they put back for luxuries? What guidelines do you use for determining how much space to dedicate in your preps to normality?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

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3 Responses to “Normality During An Extended Emergency : An overview of what to put back and how to keep up morale”

  1. I was going to suggest the musical instruments too. Harmonicas, song flutes, recorders, etc. are not expensive, and easy to learn.
    For those of faith, a Bible or prayer book can go a long way to bring hope and inner peace in rough situations. Our family enjoys singing together in harmony, especially on trips in the car. Having song books or hymnals will be handy for remembering forgotten words to songs, or remembering forgotten songs altogether.
    I have long been a proponent of having an older hard copy edition of an encyclopedia, such as World Book on hand. So much of our true history is being purged and re-written, it scares me. Kids are not being taught what struggles our forefathers went through to birth our great nation, the virtues it was founded on, or the importance of individual freedom. Where home schooling may become a must, to me, this would be important.
    And don’t forget those old family photo albums. Remembering relatives of the past and good times shared together are important to me, and kids always enjoy seeing how they have grown and changed over the years. Photos can be easily scanned and saved in electronic format for easier retrieval and storage, and for backup. I am a book nut, and have collected many of the childrens’ classics and other interesting titles over the years. Some of my favorites are “how-to” books of all kinds, from gardening, to animal husbandry, simple carpentry projects, to emergency medicine, edible wild plants, etc. which might come in really handy if the need arose.
    Love your articles! Thanks for the thought provoking, and suggestions to get started!

  2. Some of the morale boosters that are typically listed (besides food) for both short & long term emergencies are books, music/instruments & games (card & board – which weren’t mentioned in the article). The thing is, these only help w “normalacy” if they are something that is normal for your family. So I’d like to suggest that besides putting items into your stash, folks might want to start acclimating their families to these entertainments ahead of time.

    For example if you occasionally (even just several times a year) have a family game night where you play cards or a board game, and then the idea of playing a board game if you are shut in because of a blizzard (or the zombie apocalypse) doesn’t seem so odd. If your kids are or yourself are at all musically inclined consider music lessons, or even just a sing along in the car. Occasionally read aloud to the family…that kind of thing.

  3. Couple additional thoughts. Normality can mean doing things the kids might not have experienced in the modern, electronically obsessed world. For the library, don’t forget the classics. You know, the ones your kids no longer read in “school”. Robinson Crusoe comes to mind, and ironically the appropriate. Second hand books are cheap. And for music, instruments should not be overlooked. Guitars, ukuleles, wind instruments, etc. Also plenty of inexpensive ones out there, and no batteries needed. Don’t know how to play? Plenty of books out there on this too, and they will have time to learn.

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