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How To Organize Your Growing Stash of Preps

At some point in time you may realize that your growing stash of preps is beginning to overrun your home and be more of a burden on you than a help. Fortunately, I’m a naturally organized person (I even started a website about it) and I thought I would share a few tips. In my opinion, there are three major components to keeping your stuff organized:

  1. Everything MUST have a home – If there’s one thing that gets people into trouble when it comes to having an organized home, it’s that an item (whatever it is) doesn’t have an obvious or dedicated place for it to be returned to when finished being used. Does this describe you and/or your family? That’s ok, it happens to the best of us. The good news is that you can remedy this but it takes time and serious effort to get you there.
  2. The system MUST be usable (and understood) by everyone – Let’s face it, family members get into everything, even your preps. This is good because it means this stuff is being used. The problem then occurs if/when something gets used but then becomes either too confusing or too much work to return (or find) said item. For example, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of a garage with a pegboard and all the tools very neatly arranged, right? Well, this is a perfect example of an organizing system in action! Of course, it doesn’t have to be a visual system, it could be written too.
  3. Everything MUST be stored and contained properly – In this step I’m talking about the “stuff” that helps you organize your supplies, such as shelving and containers, appropriate to your gear. Some supplies don’t lend themselves to being contained well but most things do. And remember to leave room for expansion too.

So, let’s get started…

Everything MUST Have a Home

Stop and think about your supplies for a moment. Think about your food storage, weapons, lanterns, rope, hand tools, garden tools, radios, batteries, first aid supplies, cold weather gear, and everything else that you keep around generally for emergencies. Do you know where it is? Can you get to it easily enough? A good test is that if you can’t either locate or retrieve an item within a minute or two then it’s likely not where it should be. Your gear should be easily accessible and easy to retrieve by your family, just like everything else in your home. Certainly, there are exceptions such as buried caches or valuables you’re purposely trying to hide, but that’s not what I’m getting at.

The gear that you either use frequently and/or expect to rely upon in an emergency MUST have a defined home. It doesn’t all have to be in the same place (and probably shouldn’t be) but it should always have a place to be returned to. This could be a shelf, box, bin, can, bag, closet, room, or shed. If you’re completely lost, I would suggest you begin making a list of what you know you have and determine where it is right now. It would be helpful if you began to consolidate your gear into one spot but that can get you distracted and be a bigger mess than you thought. Making a list, room by room, is a start.

The System MUST be Usable by Everyone

I can’t tell you how annoying it is when others don’t follow my system… argh! Sometimes it’s my wife, sometimes it’s my kids, and sometimes it’s someone else but I can guarantee that someone (other than me, of course) is NOT following the plan… I can feel it. ;) Now, I’m not talking about my preps in this case, just stuff around the house. To be honest, chaos is a natural state of being and by choosing to be organized is to choose to fight against that chaos; it is a constant battle for sure.

What makes this fight easier is if the system you’ve designed (whatever that is) can be followed by those who are expected to use it. With regards to your preps, we’re usually talking about an inventory system. It doesn’t have to be fancy at all. You system can be electronic (like Microsoft Excel), pen and paper (a notebook works great), a dry erase board, magnetic placeholders (such as labels that say “corn” “beans” “spaghetti” or whatever you like), labels on bins/shelves (anything that makes it obvious what goes there such as “lanterns” “radios” “gasoline” etc), visual cues (such as outlining tools on a pegboard), or some combination. Make sense?

I prefer a combination approach, and use a spreadsheet to catalog my supplies (with hard copies printed periodically, of course), labels on bins and shelves, and dry erase boards (for things like keeping track of food in a freezer, for instance). The following video (which I’ve posted before) shows a very easy to follow journal and bin system to track preps:

Whatever you choose to use, it’s ok to change or modify your approach. We’re always finding a new and “better” way to do stuff. Just start now!

Everything MUST be Stored and Contained Properly

There are so many neat products out there to help you organize your stuff. The only problem is that a lot of it is too cute to be used for your preps… yeah, I said cute. We need manly stuff, like sturdy shelves and tough bins! Fortunately, most of these supplies can be found easily at your local hardware store. Regardless, you do need to decide one thing: Are you an out-in-the-open or out-of-sight type person? That is, do you prefer to see your supplies without getting into bins or do you prefer to have them contained? It makes a difference as to whether you go shelving-heaving or bin-heavy.

I prefer to have my gear contained where possible, but that’s just me. So, I invest in an assortment of bins in large and small sizes and then track what I have in each bin in Excel. Anyway, the ubiquitous plastic Rubbermaid bins that come in every size known to man are a good start for most people but I prefer sturdier options as they are often more easily stackable. In some cases I use shelving (for smaller bins of prep items, tools, and even food storage) too. One item I’ve found almost indispensable now are these Harvest shelving systems:

Don’t get me wrong, they are expensive… let’s call them an investment. But when it comes to canned food storage rotation I haven’t found anything better. They also make smaller versions that come in handy at times too. Now, back to bins…

I’m sure you know what the typical Rubbermaid bins look like, so I won’t bother posting pictures. For a sturdier option, I happen to like these HDX totes from Home Depot as they are rugged and priced right:

If you want something a bit more sturdy and lockable then consider these by Plano (they can also be stacked and include integrated wheels which makes moving then easier):

There are certainly more rugged containers out there but you’re going to pay for it. And remember the small bins too (clear plastic is usually best as you can see what’s in them at a glance). These particular bins have snap down lids but that isn’t necessary:

Last, I should point out the need to consider the growth of your supplies. Normally, organizers like to limit the amount of supplies that come into a home and would discourage purchasing more or bigger bins or shelves. That said, I understand the need and desire to stockpile more stuff! So, consider your future preps and plan your space and purchases with growth in mind. If you don’t then you run the risk of a big mess all over again. Good luck and happy organizing. :)

8 comments to How To Organize Your Growing Stash of Preps

  • Lonna

    Great ideas!! I never thought of using an address book to indicate where I put things. Thank you! And, it wouldn’t hurt to have both the address book and the computer listing. (Just in case power goes out and you don’t have a backup source for some reason.)Plus, an additional hard copy tucked away somewhere.
    Thanks again.

  • snb

    You could take a picture frame, like the kind with multiple small pictures of family members, and put a picture of something (food for example) with the background in the appropriate lid color. You would see the picture(s) and the color and know what each storage pail contained.

    • That is another good visual clue and is something organizers do to help very young children better organize their toys and clothes… guess it works for adults too. :)

  • T.R.

    He brings up a good point , I color code a lot , I find it an expedient way to keep track of certain things , and dont use more than 5 colors …….BUT as he points out , everybody must be on board with the system for it to work .

    • I should have mentioned color-coding too, but I’m not a huge fan because it requires me to remember what each color indicates! It’s like using the gamma seal lids for 5-gallon food buckets… it’s nice to have the different colored lids but since I don’t remember what each one is I still need to read a label.

      • T.R.

        I minored in fine arts , so for me color makes sense , to others it may be awkward . Use whatever is most efficient and comfortable , that will be different for each person .

  • Bev

    Another great article! THANK YOU!

    Bev :)