Practical Skills That People Once Knew

Here is a list of practical skills that more people knew ‘back in the day’, compared with today.

(updated to include many of your prior comments below)

Technical schools, trade schools, apprenticeships, journeyman, etc… used to be much more popular. It was pretty common for many young adults just out of high school going on into various trades.

Today however it’s almost expected that every high school graduate must go on to ‘academia’ in order to ‘succeed’ in life. Although lots has changed over the years, I do wish that more young adults would explore the trades. Similarly, I wish that we in the USA made – manufactured – more ‘stuff’ like we used to. The country was much more self-reliant back then. But I digress…

While there certainly are people today who posses these skills, I wonder how fewer there may be than days gone by. Many years ago, life (and our jobs) required that we posses more hands-on and practical skills than required of us today.

It seems to me that for decades now – far fewer kids are being taught the practical skills which would better help them make it on their own in a more self-reliant way than today. We have evolved into a modern and dependent society – one which would be in deep doo-doo if the SHTF, or TEOTWAWKI.

Practical Skills List

This list could be endless, given enough time to think about it – but I’ve noted some practical skills which crossed my mind as I wrote this.

>> Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills
(view on amzn)

Some of these could be a career. Others, just good practical skills to know. Still others, maybe hobbies.

Even though we live in a modern world requiring little or no traditional practical skills to survive, I sure do recommend learning a few of them. It makes you a better person (e.g. more self-reliant and independent), and some of this is great for general preparedness.

In no particular order:

  • Woodworking
  • Metalwork
  • Hand tools (versus powered/electric)
  • Carpentry
  • Drafting
  • Cooking
  • Home Economics
  • Reading & Writing (don’t laugh, I’m serious)
  • How to build basic things
  • Basic math skills (by hand or ‘in your head’)
  • Knitting, Crocheting
  • Sewing (by hand, and non-electronic machine)
  • Making clothes
  • Gardening (and it’s many sub-categories of skills)
  • Composting
  • Fence building
  • Fishing
  • Forestry
  • Pottery, sculpture
  • Making bread from scratch
  • Make your own soap
  • Primitive fire making
  • Raising chickens for eggs and meat
  • Foraging
  • Well driller, maker
  • Archery
  • Backpacking
  • Camping
  • Shooting, marksmanship
  • Canning, food preservation
  • Budgeting, staying out of debt
  • Knot tying
  • Car, engine mechanics
  • Gunsmith
  • Blacksmith
  • Textile
  • Welding
  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Medical – the basic practical skills
  • Map reading, pathfinding
  • Cobbling
  • Leatherwork
  • Entrepreneurship, inventing
  • Reloading
  • Washing clothes by hand
  • Stay at home mom
  • Adapting, making the most of what you have
  • Food pantry storage
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Raising farm animals
  • Dehydrate fruits and veggies (without electricity)
  • Greenhouse
  • Handyman
  • Tree-cutting, firewood
  • Bicycle repair
  • Shearing, spinning wool, weaving
  • Herbalism
  • Midwife
  • Frugality
  • Analytical thinking
  • Alternative energy
  • Solar design
  • Basic electronics
  • Firearms training
  • Making moonshine
  • Masonry
  • Plumbing
  • Butcher
  • Baker
  • Candle stick maker

Most people today (especially our young) are caught up in an electronic world. Many practical skills have been left behind.

Entertainment is more high-definition TV, video games, and celebrity, rather than stepping outside and smelling the fresh air. Remember when you were younger and would spend nearly your entire time outdoors after school or after dinner or on the weekends? Our minds ‘worked’ differently in those environments, and we learned many practical things and lessons in life just by the fact we were closer to the land, nature, and getting our hands dirty. But I digress yet again…

The Foxfire Series:

The classic series of old traditional practical skills of an era gone by… Each book covers a unique variety of skills. I bought the series years ago. Classic.
(view on amzn)

The Foxfire Book
Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining, and Other Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 2
Ghost Stories, Spring Wild Plant Foods, Spinning and Weaving, Midwifing, Burial Customs, Corn Shuckin’s, Wagon Making and More Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 3
Animal Care, Banjos and Dulcimers, Hide Tanning, Summer and Fall Wild Plant Foods, Butter Churns, Ginseng, and Still More Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 4
Fiddle Making, Spring Houses, Horse Trading, Sassafras Tea, Berry Buckets, Gardening

Foxfire 5
Ironmaking, Blacksmithing, Flintlock Rifles, Bear Hunting, and Other Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 6
Shoemaking, 100 Toys and Games, Banjos, Wooden Locks, Water-Powered Sawmill

Foxfire 7
Ministries and Church, Revivals, Gospel Singing, Faith, Camp Meetings, Foot Washing, Snake Handling

Foxfire 8
Southern Pottery, Ash Glazes, Groundhog Kilns, Churns, Roosters

Foxfire 9
General Stores, Jud Nelson wagon, Catawban Indian Potter, Haint Tales, Quilting, Home Cures, The Log Cabin Revisited

Foxfire 10
Railroad Lore, BoardingHouses, Depression-Era Appalachia, Chairmaking, Whirligigs, Snake Canes, Gourd Art

Foxfire 11
The Old Home Place, Wild Plant Uses, Preserving and Cooking Food, Hunting Stories, Fishing, More Affairs of Plain Living

 Add your own comments of the skills we’ve gotten away from as a modern society.