Is Prepping a Monkey On Your Back?

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: January 5, 2022
Is Prepping a Monkey On Your Back?

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At one time or another, every prepper on the planet has asked themselves whether they have taken things too far.  Has their passion for preparedness gone too far?  Has it taken over daily life in such a way that every trip to the store involves scouting out that perfect something for when the poop hits the fan?

How do you determine whether being prepared is an addiction, an obsession, a chore, or simply smart living?  Has prepping become a monkey on your back?

Is Prepping a Monkey On Your Back | Backdoor Survival

For many individuals and families, prepping has been a mission, passion, and way of life for years.  In my case, for example, it has been close to seven years and in some ways, I still feel like a newbie.

It all starts innocently enough. We get bit by the prepping bug and start storing some extra water, food, flashlights and batteries in response to a widely publicized natural disaster. Soon we move on to first aid supplies, home defense systems, and bug-out-bags.  Then comes off-grid solutions for cooking, heat, and power. And still, there is more.

Somewhere along the way, prepping takes over our lives and creates a significant shift in our lives and our lifestyle.  Our spare time is spent planning for the big disruptive event.  It makes no matter whether it will be a natural, man-made or even a politically motivated apocalypse. It is coming and we know it.

We have read the books, watched the DVDs, compiled resource manuals, and purchased gear.  And even though we are bursting at the seams with stuff, we are compelled to get more.  Does this sound familiar?

And so I ask again: Is being prepper an addiction, an obsession, or a chore?  Can we call it quits if we have to?  How do we know when enough is enough?  Or are we hoarding?  And what is the difference between prepping and hoarding?

These are tough questions which we each must ask and answer for ourselves. To get you started, let me offer up some definitions so that you can begin to formulate a response and arrive at some personal conclusions.

Addition versus Obsession versus Hoarding

  • Addiction:  the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.
  • Obsession:  a compulsive or persistent preoccupation, idea, or feeling.
  • Chore:  a routine or minor duty or task.
  • Hoarding:  a supply or accumulation that is hidden or carefully guarded for preservation or future use.

The Reality of Prepping

Perception often blends with reality so what I say next needs to be taken within that context.

In my own household, it seems as though every spare moment is spent learning or doing something related to preparedness.  When we shop, foremost in our mind is “would this work if the SHTF?”.

We learn new skills and revisit old ones so that we stay current and up-to-date with our survival skills.  We no longer garden for the joy of it but because we feel we have to. Even during our recent move, the punch list we created as selection criteria was dictated by the need for isolation, storage facilities for three years worth of food, and a place with plenty of water sources and firewood nearby.

This business of prepping can be utterly exhausting!  And not only that, with extra money being directed toward the purchase of prepping supplies and gear, the budget often gets stretched to the point where a non-prep related purchase becomes a gut-wrenching exercise in guilt.

This is not an isolated phenomena.  The like-minded people I pal around with feel the same way.  With a life that was very busy to begin with, the additional time and energy taken up with prepping activities takes precious hours away from the rest of our lives.   A breaking point is reached and without realizing what has happened, prepping becomes work.

A Call For Balance In Life

How do you feel?  Has prepping taken over your life to the exclusion of everything else? Do you feel you have balance in your everyday activities?  Or not so much?

To help come up with answers, I would like to share a quiz that includes topics I ask myself when I feel overwhelmed by the never-ending to-do list:

Do you have more than enough time to do what you want to do?

Do you spend quality time with the people who matter to you?

Do you have at least one hobby or pastime outside of your work, family and prepping activities?

What have you done for fun and entertainment lately?

Do you treat yourself to something special at least once a month?  What is that?

Do you sleep well and do you look forward to getting up every day?

When is the last time you spent a day doing nothing more productive that watch a DVD or read a book?

When is the last time you ate a meal at a table, without the television or other distraction?

Do you have something to look forward to such as a vacation or special event?

I hope that you will take the time to ask these questions of yourself, for in spite of the dire outlook you may have about the state of our world, the economy, and our planet, you still need to get on with this business of life. What we perceive as a bubble in time may go on for decades and, depending on your age, a lifetime.

Can we put our lives on hold and wait it out?  I think not.  Balance is the key to avoiding prepper burnout while at the same time embracing the secure feeling you get from knowing you are as ready as you can be.

The Final Word

To summarize, my recommendation is that you be content with the knowledge that you have prepared to the best of your ability and then move on and move forward. Embrace the life experience now. Do not wait for some undetermined time in the future to have some fun, to relax, and to savor just being alive. That future, if the SHTF, may never come.

Take the cure from prepper addiction and prepper obsession.  Continue to prep but recognize and accept it for what it is and move on to include other things in your life.  Go out for an occasional movie.  Have a few beers with friends.  Shut down the computer for a day or two and share some special time with your sweetie.  But most of all, be balanced, be happy and go for the gusto.

Being prepared can be a chore, yes.  But it can also be a chore with a happy ending.

Bargain Bin:  Today I share a mixed bag of items, including a few of my favorite books.

One Second After For many, the novel “One Second After” was a game changer that convinced them of the need to be prepared.    If you have not read this book, you really should.

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.

Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: An instructional guide and planning tool that addresses the defensive preparation of a location. If the government can no longer protect your home, farm or property, Holding Your Ground will teach you how.

Portable Solar Charger:  With so many important documents and eBooks stored on electronic devices, having the ability to recharge them when the grid is down is a personal priority.  I have reviewed many over the years and with each new unit, the form factor, efficiency, and the price gets better.  My current favorite is the Archeer 21W Foldable Solar Panel.

Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger: This nicely built charger will charge AA, AAA, C, D, N, 9V, Ni-MH, Ni-CD, and Alkaline batteries. It has an LED display so that when you first put a battery in the charging bay, you know whether it is viable for charging or simply bad and ready to go back to the recycle box.    Read about it in this article: How to Recharge Alkaline Batteries.

Maximal Power battery charger from Amazon

No Rinse Cleansing & Deodorizing Bathing Wipes: A am a huge fan of these bath wipes. I have found that one wipe is more than enough for a complete “bath”.  These are a good backup when traditional showers are not available such as the week or weeks following a disaster.  There are also good for use in the sick room as well as camping, boating, hiking and such.  Once they are used, don’t through the individual wipes away.  They can be washed and used again as a cleaning rag. Here is my review.


Note: This is an updated version of an article that first appeared on this website in April 2014.  Let the beat go on!

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10 Responses to “Is Prepping a Monkey On Your Back?”

  1. When I was in full prepper mode, it was like an obsession. It was all consuming. One day, I decided I couldn’t carry on like that anymore. I unjoined a lot of groups/newsletters/etc. I decided instead to focus on homesteading. Same kinds of goals but not the SHTF end of the world immediacy of prepping. You can debate the differences and similarities between homesteading and prepping until the cows come home. But I find much less pressure and stress on the homesteading side of the equation. And the ppl are much less judgemental and happy to share their experiences. And as I said, same goals, to be as self sufficient as possible. Homesteaders are preppers. Not sure that most preppers are homesteaders. Just my two cents…

  2. Great article, Gaye. No, I can’t say that it’s a monkey on my back, but then again, I have been a survivalist for as long as I can remember. You guys call them preppers. They are what they are- man-kinds quest to survive. Soccer moms or rednecks, choose one, we all want to survive. Some make an effort to be prepared, is all. Like us.

    Whenever times change, things change, whatever it may be that changes, I try to be one step ahead, at least. Is it an obsession? Not really. Just a way of life.

  3. Great article. As you alluded to just don’t let the preparing take over your life. Still enjoy reading, going to movies and spending time with family and friends.

  4. I think my household views prepping as one more chore, like running the vacuum or emptying the trash. It hasn’t taken over our lives because we don’t let it overcome our day to day existence. Thanks for reminding us to take a breather every once in a while.

  5. Thanks for this article, Gaye. I certainly experienced the pressure you described many times in the past number of years. I’ve taken your advice to prioritize the things I purchase, buy only what we want to eat regardless of the sale price, and use things before they go stale. I also keep in mind something I read recently – “Prepare, but do not let fear in the door!” This has certainly diminished the obsession.

  6. This is the best “prepping” blog I’ve read in quite some time and for this reason: Living in a high-anxiety/disaster preparation mentality is (unfortunately) necessary, but can be exhausting and damaging to a person’s physical and mental state. Thank you for suggesting some levity concerning a lifestyle that can totally consume one’s life to an unhealthy extent.

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