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20 Skills You Can Trade After TEOTWAWKI

People sometimes forget that the smallest and most convenient storage space is in their own heads. If you find yourself in the midst of a disaster and you need to either build or fix something, having the necessary knowledge and experience in your mind instead of in a book will hugely benefit your ability to survive. And if there’s something you need from your neighbors but you’re not willing to trade any of your supplies, you could do some work for them in exchange.

But what sort of skills will be the most useful after TEOTWAWKI? Knowing Microsoft Office on’t do you much good, but knowing how to make soap could mean the difference between health and sickness. Or maybe you could trade your soap for more food. The point is, you need to learn a few skills that will be useful in a post-disaster world. I suggest you take up one as a hobby while you still have time.

Here, then, are 20 skills you can trade after TEOTWAWKI, listed in alphabetical order:

  1. Animal Husbandry. The ability to raise animals such as chicken for eggs, rabbits for meat, goats for milk, etc. There is a limit to how much meat and dairy people will be able to store, and there will be a huge demand for for fresh food.
  2. Cleaning. Not just washing your hands, but the ability to clean clothes without a washer and dryer, make cleaning products to use around the house, and keep your home germ free.
  3. Clothing. If times are tough, people won’t be able to go out and charge new clothes and shoes any time they need them. They’re going to need to fix shoes, patch torn pants, and mend shirts. This is an important skill that has become very rare in modern society.
  4. Communication. If the infrastructure breaks down, common means of communication like cell phones and the Internet will be unreliable, if not gone completely. In that case, people who know how to use all kinds of radios, especially HAM radios, will be in high demand.
  5. Construction. Especially without power tools. It’s worth knowing how to properly fix roofs, board up windows or build outhouses using only basic hand tools.
  6. Cooking. People are going to get sick and tired of eating canned soup and freeze-dried food. If you can cook a tasty meal and dessert without power, people in the neighborhood will thank you with favors or with supplies they don’t need.
  7. Dental. Most people live their entire lives without realizing how much misery they would experience if not for the dentist. A perfect example of this is in the movie Cast Away where the main character has to knock out one of his own teeth. Someone who knows how to clean and remove teeth could be a great help.
  8. Fire Making. Most people won’t know how to start a fire once they’re lighters run out of fluid. People in your area will be safer and healthier if you can help them get a fire going so they can boil water and cook food.
  9. First Aid/Medical. Like dentists, people tend to take doctors for granted. Without them, they will need help sewing up wounds, setting bones, performing CPR, and deciding which herbs and medications help with which ailments.
  10. Food Storage. Canning, dehydrating, sealing, smoking, etc. Most people don’t know how to store food without a refrigerator. Offer to preserve someone’s leftovers in exchange for help or supplies.
  11. Gardening. Yet another skill that has become more and more rare. Learn to grow fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables, preferably indoors unless you have a secure backyard.
  12. Gathering. The main thing here is knowing which naturally-occurring plants in your area have nutritional and/or medicinal value and which ones are useless or poisonous. But you’ll also need a MacGyver-like ability to find and use trash and items that might otherwise be ignored.
  13. Gunsmithing. If you’re facing a long-term disaster, people are going to need guns for hunting and self protection. It will help if you know how to repair guns and reload shells. But only help people you completely trust.
  14. Hunting and Fishing. When food supplies get low and gardens fall short, people are going to have to hunt and fish. If you can provide meat for your friends and family, they’ll have time to take care of other necessities.
  15. Mechanic. Even if the Great Recession turns into Great Depression II, most people are still going to have jobs (remember, unemployment only got up to 25% in the 1930’s), which means they’ll need a way to get to work. The problem for many people is that they won’t be able to afford to get their cars fixed. If you learn how to work on cars, or any machine for that matter (lawnmowers, generators, etc.), you’ll have a particularly valuable skill.
  16. Plumbing. People will still need their sinks and toilets, even more so if they’re washing clothes in the sink. Learn to remove clogs, fix toilets and replace leaky pipes.
  17. Security. In a world full of criminals and looters, someone is going to need to stand guard when others are busy or sleeping. This person will need to know how to use weapons and be practiced in hand-to-hand combat.
  18. Soap and Candle Making. If the disaster goes on for long, soap and candles will be in high demand and a valuable trade item.
  19. Teacher. Even if the schools are closed, it’s still important that children spend part of their spare time reading and learning. Remember, these are the children that will grow up and rebuild the world.
  20. Water Purification. One of the most important skills of all! In the weeks after a major catastrophe, many people will die from dehydration or from drinking unsafe water. It will help a lot if you learn all you can about cleaning and filtering water.

There are several other skills I thought about including in this list such as bee keeping, brewing, and electrical work, but I think the 20 listed above will probably be the most in-demand skills. Thoughts or comments? Let me know!

One Year Urban Survival Plan


  • Azratt

    I have 10 of the twenty skills….Hummmm

  • papa bear

    One skill I would like to know is leatherwork. I mean from skinning to tanning to harness, belt and boot making. Leather has a long history in the world, not only for shoes and boots, but for drive belts for early machines. Leather can be made from the hides of both domestic and wild animals.

  • aukxsona

    Psychology… really? With all the guns around, most will blow themselves up before any psychologist gets a chance to try and help. Useless in my book.

  • Jeremiah Thompson

    i would say definitely add beekeeping to the list.  honey has sooo many uses, and it would also give you some control over pollinating your crops.

  • Don Miguel

    After reading various fictional accounts (Patriots, Grid Down, One Second After or even going back to Lucifer’s Hammer) describing various system failures that are likely to abound, I think you need to move several more skills to the top 20 displacing skills like cleaning, fire making, and water purification (skills that everyone will have to have to some degree).  Given the very high rate of die-off that seems likely, we will need burial skills (not necessarily morticians).  Communication skills, especially HAM operators, are likely to be in extremely high demand – unless you contemplate a full-blown EMP disaster and even then.  One of the prospects that scares me is the imposition of martial law or rule of man (legit or otherwise) without any balancing of rules of law.  Surviving the first year will certainly require fighting or security skills from a large part of the surviving population, but at some point the survivors will need to push for a rule of law.  Who will defend the needy?  Who will prosecute the accused (not necessarily guilty…)?  Who will judge?  What about property rights?  The guy with the biggest gun wins all?  If Mr. Big Gun kicks the widow and her children out of her house, who steps in to save the widow?  The stranger on the white horse?

One Year Urban Survival Plan