If you're learning about survival and have already started your journey to self-sufficiency, the team here at APE Survival applauds you. But as your stockpile of stored water, food, supplies, and all the new equipment begin to pile up, have you put any thought into organizing all of this so your house doesn't deteriorate into yet another episode of Hoarders? If you're anything like me, you probably haven't. It's much more fun checking out the latest survival gear than building a running inventory of supplies, but what I failed to realize was that without any order to my prepping, I was actually putting my family at risk. I had no idea when certain foods and medicine would expire, I didn't know what I was actually missing, and if there was an emergency and I had to find aspirin in the next 30 seconds, there would be 10 open boxes with their contents strewn everywhere as I rummaged looking for it. I simply wasn't organized. Today, I'm going to cover how I got on top of it all, and with almost 6 months of supplies trust me this was no easy task. At the end though, I was happy with the system I put in place, and this is the same system I've been using for the past three years to stay organized. With one quick glance in my notebook I can see what needs to be consumed before it expires, and I know precisely what is in every storage box in my home. So take a deep breath, we're about to jump in.
Build a mountain out of your suppliesWhatever I do I tend to do with 100% commitment, so the first step (much to the frustration of my wife) was to pull every single item from where it had been tucked away and stacked it on our dining table, all over the kitchen, the living room, and into the garage. There was a lot of stuff, and this entire process took me 3 days, so aim to do this over a weekend which will give you plenty of time to get the house back in order. As you're doing this focus on three areas:
- Group similar items together. Tools go with tools. Baking supplies in the same pile. Tinned food stacked in the corner. This gives you a rough idea of all the things you have.
- Make note of every item you have. It doesn't need to be fancy, this is just to record all the items, we'll build this into a master inventory list in a later step.
- Bring out the cleaning gear and give every storage area a good scrub down, especially the areas you are planning to keep food. Keep the cupboards open, so it can dry while you're organizing everything else.
Create a storage systemI'll admit, I prefer my supplies to be in matching containers, so I went out and bought around 20 large tubs, and a ton of smaller containers that would all fit together nicely. Figure out a system that works for you, and remember to put similar items in each tub. Any smaller pieces, like spices, I grouped in smaller containers that were clear, so I could easily see what's inside without needing to open it. As you pack each tub, number it, and note down the weight, items and expiry dates on everything you are putting in.
Find a place to store everythingPutting your newly containerized items into a new home is the next step, but remember they don't all need to be in one room. What I would recommend (in practice) is to keep similar items together, so that all of your food is in one place, cleaning supplies in another, and so on. This will make it much easier to find particular items 6 months down the track. What you do need to be careful of at this stage is where you store your items. The garage works well for equipment, but because it's not temperature regulated, this is not a good place to store food or medicine. Keep an eye out also for any moisture or rodents which may damage your supplies, and don't forget about operational security. You want to keep as many of your stockpiled supplies out of sight from any nosy neighbors or guests into your home. The more people who know you have food for when disaster strikes, the more people who will come knocking looking for a handout. Use the top shelf of your cupboards, space underneath your beds, the cupboard under the stairs, and even attics and basements to keep your supplies within reach, but not on display.
Creating your treasure mapUnless you live in a studio apartment, after a few months it is going to be very difficult to remember where specific items, or even entire boxes of supplies have been stored. Draw a quick floor plan of your house, and as you put each tub away, make note of which numbered tubs are stored where. This ties in to your inventory list of each tub, which means that with your notebook you can quickly ascertain how much of each particular item you have, manage any expiration dates, and most importantly - find whatever it is you're looking for without too much of a fuss. The way you choose to manage your inventory list is up to you. I was told that the easiest way is a spreadsheet on the computer, but my trusty spiral-bound notebook has proved easier for me to manage as I don't always have my laptop with me when I'm rummaging through supplies in my attic. You could also use a dry-erase board mounted on the inside of your pantry, just pick what works for you, and if you are managing it on your computer, always have a printed copy just in case the grid goes down.
Fast access kitsOne problem that I found in practice was that having a half-years worth of supplies is a fantastic reassurance I can be self reliant, but it's often not practical to bring out 5 tubs of medical supplies to treat one of my daughter's scraped knees. The last step to getting organized was to produce a number of emergency kits, that are each about the size of a shoebox, and contain everything needed to deal with specific emergencies.
- First Aid Kit. The obvious one, which has everything needed to treat most minor injuries.
- Blackout Kit. Torches, headlamps, batteries, matches, candles, and a small camp-cooking set, to make it through a power outage.
- Home Repair Kit. In addition to a basic set of tools in my garage, I put together an emergency kit with manuals to all the major appliances in my house (air-con, heaters, and rough guides to turning the water and gas on), duct tape, plumbers putty, wd-40, and a lock-picking kit.
- Disaster Kit. A warm change of clothes for everyone in my family, basic hygiene items, a gallon of water per person, ready to eat meals, and some utensils. This one is additional to our bug out bags, and is intended to extend our ability to survive on the road, or in our home, if we lose access to our stockpile of supplies.
- Bug out Bag. The contents of my bug out bag could cover an entire post, and we touch on the most important items. Basically it has everything inside that I need to stay alive for 72 hours on the road with my family.
- Heart-strings kit. This one contains the items I cannot bear to part with, and contains a handful of items that are simply irreplaceable, pictures of my family, jewelry that has been passed down, and a few other items that I would not leave behind by choice. Keeping them together in one place makes them easy to grab and evacuate.