Organizing your home is for survival is more than buying in a whole lot of gear, packing it in boxes then sitting back until TEOTWAWKI… or simply making lists of the contents of cupboards.
Life happens, kids move things around, stuff doesn’t last – so what can folks do to make their daily lives easier day with an increasing stockpile?
Unfortunately, stockpiling goods isn’t the hardest part of the battle – it’s finding room to store it all. In this post, we’ll walk you through simple ways you can keep your home and your preps organized. Let’s dive in!
What Should I Stockpile?
Before you start figuring out ways to amass and then store/organize your stockpile, let’s break down what you might need to collect. Here’s a simple starter list:
- Water – you will need at least 15 gallons of potable water per person (a two-week supply for each person, ideally)
- Food (at least 2,000 calories per day of shelf-stable food per person)
- Fire sources (lighters, backup fire starters, matches, etc.)
- Light (flashlights, lanterns, candles, headlamps)
- Heating and cooling (extra blankets, fans)
- Shelter (tarps, etc.)
- Medical items (first aid gear)
- Hygiene (soap, wet wipes, etc.)
- Communications equipment (radios, etc.)
- Power (batteries, chargers, power banks, and so on)
- Tools (hand tools, work gloves, zip ties, duct tape, etc.)
- Self defense (firearms, knives)
- Entertainment items (these are for your mental health, so things like movies, headphones, books, board games)
- Documents (deeds, insurance policies birth certificates, photographs, etc.)
- Local and emergency info
Those are the basics to help you get started. Before you start buying gear you need, make a detailed list of what you might want to stockpile for your unique situation.
When you’re trying to put together items for your stockpile, an easy way to avoid overwhelm is to start with the items that are easiest to attain.
If you know that batteries will be relatively easy to come by, for example, start with those. Then, start building up a stockpile of gear that might be harder to find. Work your way down the list until you have everything you need.
It can also be helpful to start with gear that will be necessary for a wide variety of survival situations. For instance, food and water are going to be essential items regardless of the situation or emergency you might find yourself in. Start with those. Things that aren’t broadly applicable to all situations, like a gas mask for a nuclear apocalypse- those can wait until later!
Our Stockpiling Organizational Ideas
Whether it’s your preps that you are trying to get in order or just your general home environment, consider these ideas for a tidier, more organized space.
1. Water Stashing
If you are in an apartment or house keep at least 4 containers each with 1 gallon of water in the fridge for emergency drinking water. Replenish them regularly from either municipal supplies if the water is good or buy bottled water.
Have a stock of at least 4 gallon containers or some bottles stashed in the apartment. Purchased water in plastic containers often has expiry dates listed– note these dates in your diary/phone planner so you can use and replenish.
If water is in clean, dark glass containers and stored in a cool dark place it should last, in theory, indefinitely. The dark glass keeps the sunlight out, which could stimulate bacteria growth.
2. Water Bricks
These are easy to stack up and store in a small space. They are also easy to carry when you need to find a place to refill them.
They can also be used for storing dry good like beans, lentils, and rice – the screw on lids can’t pop off like some plastic containers do allowing in damp and insects that will spoil your goods.
3. Indoor Firewood Storage
In a long term SHTF situation when the electricity goes down and you can’t get out to replenish gas cylinders its back to the basics used for thousands of years – wood-fired cooking and heating.
The question is where to store all that firewood for pizza ovens and wood-burning stoves. Some people have made space in their lounges for a “feature wall” made up of logs stacked neatly to create a natural texture to the interior of a home.
Some people use a section of shelving usually used for books. You can also use wooden cubes that are 12 x 12 x 12 inches made from shelving to store firewood – group 4 as a coffee table filled with wood or use single cubes as side tables.
Alternatively stack higher in a corner of a room or put 4 together as a low bench and place cushions on top for seating.
4. Outdoor Firewood Storage
Buying the big 32 gallon wheelie plastic trash cans is a good option – they come with a removable clip on lid that prevents moisture getting in and can store quite a large amount of wood – so it doesn’t matter if it rains – the wood stays dry inside and instead of a tote you can wheel them to where you want them.
Alternatively, build large boxes that can double as outdoor seating in summer from marine plywood with hinged lids. Pack with firewood.
Make sure the boxes are treated with a quality timber preservative/moisture repellent and preferably place din a covered patio area on under the eaves where they have some protection form the weather.
5. Emergency Lighting
Make a handy pocket from fabric that has a hanging loop that slides over the doorknob. Inside this store a candle and matches, a lighter and/or a small torch (with spare batteries).
In lounges use an attractive carved box on a coffee table, to store candles etc. There should be something to light the way in every room in an emergency until you can get to other emergency lighting.
6. Using the Space Under the Stairs
Because this space is quite deep it tends to get really messy. Consider building rolling cabinets with drawers that fit under the stairs so you can easily pull out the whole cabinet, then slide it back into place or simply pull out the drawers to reach stuff.
Some people construct their wooden stairs so that each step has a pull out drawer for storing goods.
7. Using Edges of the Room at Ceiling Height
Construct partitioned shelves that run the length of a room – touching the ceiling and around 12 inches deep and 12 inches high mounted to the wall.
This is not space you need and if the shelves have sliding panels covering them, lift up or drop down doors painted the same color as the room they will give a huge amount of storage space for items that are not used that often or emergency food supplies.
8. Narrow Cupboard Shelves
Why oh why are kitchen cupboards designed with such deep shelves? It is just asking for stuff to get pushed to the back and lost behind everything in front of it.
Cupboards also stay tidier if they don’t have doors – and in humid climates it means no moldy smells. You can see at a glance what you have. And how many kids and adults haven’t knocked glasses over as they try to reach for their favorite one behind three others in front of it.
If you can, remake cupboards with shelves around 6 inches deep for coffee mugs, glasses and water jugs, and around 12 to 15 inches for plates and other dishes. Leave the lower cupboard at around 2 ½ feet deep to store bigger totes.
9. Repurpose Old Drawers
You can use them to grow plants,
Kitchen: Instead of a jumbled clutter under the kitchen sink these old desk drawers were turned on their side and fitted to the wall in the scullery area to store kitchen-cleaning materials.
There is no need for complicated inventories – at a glance one can see if there is more than one of a type of cleaner – store the full one until the other one is empty then replace it.
Bedroom: If a drawer is in good condition and has a bar type handle hang vertically with the bar facing downwards.
You can hang clothes to be worn the next day – for example kids’ school uniforms, place the lunch box on the shelf and any other items needed for that day – all handy and ready to be grabbed on the way out.
Repurpose drawer fronts complete with their knobs or handles on by attaching to the wall or to the back of doors to hang clothes, scarves or jewelry. You are unlikely to have so many clothes lying on the floor if there is a handy hook. It also makes planning what to wear the next day easier – all in one place, ready to wear.
10. Repurpose Old Drawers
Open shelving means things are on display – so you are going to keep the best and ditch the chipped plate or cracked mug. If it’s gathering dust on the shelf it means you are not using it often enough and you don’t need it – be ruthless.
Things don’t only have to go on the shelves – attach hooks underneath so you can hang stuff – in a bedroom a lovely collection of boots can be hung – working as a display with the handbag on the shelf above and boots hanging from small clip type hangers underneath.
In a kitchen the cups/mugs can hang under the shelf, or muslin drawstring bags filled with spices.
Here are loads of ideas from Pinterest on open shelving.
11. Kitchen Cupboards With Doors
Not everything should be on display – all baking and muffin pans can be stored in a plastic tote with a clip on lid inside a cupboard behind closed doors. Want to bake? Pull out the tote and voila – every size and shape you own in one place.
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Cupboard shelves too far apart so you have waste space – try this handy kitchen shelf organizer.
Rolls of tin foil, baking paper and cling wrap tend to be difficult to store – either a plastic file storage cover mounted to the inside of the pantry door or an organizer made from fabric with long narrow pockets will do the trick.
While the toaster and kettle are used daily, how often does one use the waffle maker, the mixer and other appliances?
Put them- with all their bits and pieces in a tote and into a cupboard. Kids want waffles – haul out the tote. This way there is no scrambling through cupboards to find appliances – they are all in one tote or two if you have many appliances.
13. Drawer with Dishcloths
When you have dishcloths in a pile the ones on top get used first and the ones at the bottom stay there as the freshly laundered ones go back on top. Pack them into neat rolls and place them in the drawer.
You can see at a glance what you have. The same principle can be applied to wardrobes – install drawers and roll items like gym wear so it’s all in one place – to pull out and choose at a glance.
14. Storing Small Items
Dogs leads, collars, brushes, worm tablets, flea shampoo all go into a medium size see-through tough plastic box with a clip on lid. No need for labeling – anyone can see what is inside.
Car shampoo, wax, interior spray, tire black and all that stuff goes into another see through plastic box.
15. Double Rails to Save Space
For many it’s the ultimate dream to have a walk-in wardrobe. However in real life most walk-in wardrobes look like they are the dumping ground for anything and everything that needs to be out of sight – cooler boxes, umbrellas even unused gym equipment.
Unfortunately, most homes come with built-in-cupboards with only one hanging rail. Check your heights – you can usually alter them so you can fit two rails doubling your hanging space. It’s only long dresses that may cause a problem.
16. Use Deep Cupboard Space
Often cupboards are built quite deep so there is space behind where the hanger reaches. Build narrow shelves in the back of the cupboard and use them for storing canned food or water.
17. Color Blocking
How many times have you mentally planned what to wear then searched along the rail for the outfit? Fifteen minutes later, getting in a hissy fit and cutting it fine for getting to work you drag on the nearest thing you can find.
The fashion industry uses color blocking. Buy different color plastic hangers and color code the wardrobe.
Black clothing on black hangers, red, pink and orange on red hangers, blue on blue, green on green, white and cream clothing on white hangers, grey clothing and mauve, purple on purple hangers and anything that doesn’t fit those categories on yellow hangers.
Then you hang all the white hangers together, black together and so on. So you need a black top – easy – check the black section of the rail!
18. Use the Inside of Wardrobe Doors
The inside of a wardrobe door can have place for hanging shoes or handbags. In fact the insides of wardrobe doors can be used for keeping toiletry items, like deodorant in handy fabric organizers.
When you have it in a box there is always a bag or roll that doesn’t fit and ends up getting squashed in the back of a cupboard somewhere. A takes care of gift wrap problems, or you can make your own using a hanger and some fabric.
When they are in neat piles –some kid (or adult) always pulls one from the bottom of the pile when in a rush to go swimming leaving the rest strewn over the floor. Quick fix – rolling the towels. Putting in extra shelves creates less height between the shelves taking only two rolled up towels above each other.
Kids get them out easier and they are ready rolled to go into the backpack as they head for a pool or the beach.
Do the same for bath towels – and use open shelves in the bathroom – manky-looking towels just don’t cut it on display and get moved to the box for mopping up after a storm, drying dogs or placing at doorways when kids insist on leaping out of the pool and storming into the house without drying off first – they at least catch some of the drips.
20. A Woman’s Tool Cupboard
Tool cupboards are usually outside and men have their tools all set up nicely in sizes of spanners, with outlines for hammers and handsaws so they go back into place – but going out to get basic tools can become a bit of a nightmare if the workshop is quite far from the house and is a man’s only domain. “Who used xyz tool? ” Scowl.
In the inside of a wooden cupboard in the passage place cup-hooks around the sides and back of one shelf, string a little cord onto the power tools you need – like a jigsaw, a sander, a small drill and hang them up – that way when the cupboard is open you can see exactly which tool you want.
All the little bits can go in small tool boxes on the actual shelf itself – avoid one huge toolbox – they are a pain to lug around – it’s easier if drill bits, screws and screwdrivers are in one; nails, tacks and hammer in another.
Paintbrushes can also hang up together with scrapers. Fixing up little things in the house goes quickly as you don’t have to fetch everything from outside.
21. Rotate Your Pantry Stockpile
Many preppers are into canning and preserving the bounty from their gardens. Everything must be labeled with the date it was made.
Again you need narrow shelves so you can see everything at a glance and store stuff not only by type, but also in date order. So shelf 1 has everything preserved in July – fruit, pickles, jams, and then shelf 2 has everything preserved in August.
Keep the stuff you need to eat first on the shelf at chest level. People just don’t bother to bend or stretch for items if something easier is at hand. Keep the stuff that still has six months to its use-by-date up high.
At the end of each month change the produce around so what needs to be eaten is always at chest height. Place red stickers on the currently to be used shelf – say so kids and guests asked to fetch something know where to look.
Even better, you can use can rotator racks, such as these, so you always have the cans with the expiry date closest to the present in the front:
22. Exposed Beams
If your home has wooden exposed beams, it is easy to install some heavy duty hooks and hang up attractive baskets with lids into which you have stored extra pillows and sleeping bags – the kind of things you only need when guests arrive or when you go camping
23. Corner Shelves
Corners are often underutilized areas, in bedrooms especially. Set up some corner shelves, and use attractive colorful cardboard boxes or baskets with lids.
24. Office Space
When space is minimal think of hanging you computer screen on the wall and having a narrower desk, made from a piece of wood resting on storage cubes in which you can place files and books.
To complete the organization make a wall mounted organizer with fabric pockets into which pens, pencils and various stationery items can be placed within easy reach from your narrow desk. Even the printer can be mounted on a metal wall bracket to give you more space.
If the garage strong enough supports then install a rail on the ceiling into which you can slide storage boxes. Suspended above the floor they give so much more floor space.
Box-type tool cabinets on walls that fold out with storage space for screwdrivers, spanners etc. on the inside of the door enable everything to be seen at a glance.
Install mounting fixtures for bicycles on the wall so they stay out of the way. In fact bicycles can make an attractive display in a bedroom too if they are wall mounted, and there is a mural in the background that sets the bicycle into the scene.
Use all available space – working from the lowest area at the edge with space for pull out storage totes on shelves (you need the totes to keep out the dust) then working to the higher shelves towards the middle of the space.
There are lots of things you can store in an attic except perishables.
This video will give you some ideas on constructing shelving:
Often these double as the teen hangout or the man cave – but that doesn’t mean you can’t store stuff there.
Narrow cupboards lined with shelves with doors set on strong hinges also lined with narrow shelves – so it can open out to display tinned and dry goods, spices and extra medical supplies – all easy to reach.
The cupboards won’t be in daily use so couches can be placed in front of them and being narrow they don’t take up too much basement room and can span one whole wall from floor to roof. giving loads of storage space.
28. Hidden Drawers
For a coffee table make a plywood box that can be given a suitable painted finish or covered in fabric and can simply be set over stacks of water bricks or food storage containers.
Couches can have pull out drawers for storage. Beds should have pull out drawers for storage. If not they can be raised slightly higher so totes can be stored underneath.
Construct fabric organizers with multiple pockets that hang on either side of a double or single bed. In these pockets there is space for a magazine, a book, cell phone, a pen and notepad, a small torch or whatever you find necessary.
Benches in hallways or on patios can be constructed with hinged fold up seating that allows for storage.
A small emergency medical kit in an accessible drawer, where it can be reached in the dark if need be should be in the bedroom.
Never store medicine in the bathroom – the dampness and steam will decrease its shelf life. Each member of the family’s backpack should have a small waterproof emergency medical kit left in it permanently.
30. Herbs and Spices
If you have a variety of spices, a rack in the kitchen often becomes dusty – a shallow drawer with glass bottles stored on their sides is easier to keep clean and dust free. Generally whole spices last 2 to 5 years.
Once they have been ground, shelf life drops to around 6 months to 2 years so preferably keep spices whole and grate/crush when you need them. Leafy herbs like parsley and mint only last from 3 months to 2 years.
Keep in screw cap glass jars to prevent moisture getting in and mark the date of purchase or the date you dried and packed them so you can use in rotation. Even better, add a pack of oxygen absorbers in each jar:
31. Identification / Precious Items
Each person in the home should have a small wallet that contains some emergency cash, identity document/passport and perhaps a precious photo or two, and valuable jewelry to be grabbed in an instant should there be a fire or emergency evacuation.
The wallet could fit in the under the doorknob pocket described earlier or in a fabric pocket fitted to the inside of a wardrobe door – within easy reach in an emergency.
Copies of these and other important documents should be stored in the cloud for retrieval later if the originals get destroyed.
32. Consider Making a Survival Closet
A survival closet is a great place to store everything you need for an emergency situation. This shouldn’t be a catch-all for everything you have stockpiled but rather a place for gear that doesn’t have any other home and is specific to a survival situation.
For example, you might store things like extra flashlights and batteries, camping gear, a HAM radio, sleeping bags, and emergency meals like MREs and granola bars here.
Make sure everyone knows your organizational system for the survival closet and always keep it well-stocked.
This isn’t something your family members should be poking through when they’re looking for a snack but instead more of a place where you can say, “Go to the survival closet and get an extra flashlight” – things like that.
33. Under-the-Bed Space
There is so much dead space under the bed. We don’t think about it often, but we’re wasting space on dust bunnies and clutter when we could be using it for storage.
By investing in things like bed lifter kits, you can elevate your bed and use the blank space for storing things like totes of gear or even large, bulky items like sleeping bags and tents.
Consider buying a few of those bed raisers that you normally buy for college student dorm rooms – they’ll create much more space that’s actually available for you to use.
34. The Space Between the Studs
If you rent, this might not be the best option (though you can always talk to your landlord). However, if you own your own home, this is one of the best ways you can organize your preps. Create some shelving between the studs in your wall.
You’ll have to knock out part of the wall to do this, but you can buy metal units that are meant to go between your studs (a great way to store caned goods) or build your own studs between the walls. It’s perfect, especially if you don’t have a ton of room in your pantry.
Tips for Getting Yourself Organized
When you’re trying to get yourself organized, be it for a survival situation or just for life in general, there are a few general tips you should follow.
First, make sure you come up with an organizational plan and stick to it. Consider dedicating a whole room or area of your home specifically to survival gear and make sure everyone else in the house is aware of what the plan is.
Some other tips include:
- Label everything
- Consider using clear or write-on totes to store your gear for easy marking and identification of items
- Group like items together (all medical supplies in one container)
- Separate out larger items for easier storage
- Go through your stockpile on a regular basis and replace anything that was used up or has expired
Last but not least, have fun with it! Building a survival stockpile and its associated organizational system might not be your ideal way to spend a Saturday – and frankly, it will probably take much longer than just one day to build! However, once you get a solid system in place, you’ll feel prepared for anything life throws your way.
updated 09/21/2021 by Rebekah Pierce
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor.
Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.