Survival Buzz: Tips to Help You Organize Your Preps

Gaye LevyGaye Levy | Jul 3, 2019

Welcome to this week’s Survival Buzz with answers to your questions, an update on my own preps and announcements from the Backdoor Survival blog.

This week I return to your questions, with the query this week having to do with organizing your preps.  Here is the specific question that was asked:

Can you tell us more about organizational techniques? Inventories and the like… I swear, I might have enough to survive in my apartment for six months, but that’s only if I can FIND all the stuff!

This is a timely question since, at the moment, I am attempting to minimalize my surroundings by finding a new home for for the excess accumulation at my Washington State home.  It is not easy.

Tips to Help You Organize Your Preps | Backdoor Survival

As I see it, here are the issues that a preparedness minded household faces:

Food and water storage take up a lot of space.

Food storage, because it is heat, light, and humidity sensitive, needs to be stored in a prime-time location, preferably in the main living quarters rather than a garage or outbuilding (if you have one).

Rotating supplies is tedious at best, especially if they are tucked away out of sight and out of mind.

If rotating supplies is tedious, inventorying is a nightmare.  If you are lucky enough to have started from the get go and have kept your inventory up to date, you are in the minority.  Most of us are too busy living life to get around to it, even though our intentions are good.

Emergency and survival gear often does double duty as recreation and camping gear.  Upon arriving home from an adventure, it gets thrown in a pile until the next time.  It gets lost in the shuffle.

You save every half filled bottle of shampoo, cleaner, medication, and everything else you can think of because even though you no longer want or need it, it will be good for bartering.  Or, as Shelly and I like to say: “let’s save this for SHTF”.

Have I stuck a  chord with some or all of these issues?

I know that many of you consider me an expert but honestly, I am as human as the rest of you and find my household inventory techniques to be lousy.  I am always making a purchase, at Costco, only to find that I already have a two year supply of whatever it is I purchased.  Not that a two year supply is bad, but my house is only 1500 square feet and the cupboards and closets are full!

On the other hand, my organizational skills are good.  Everything is organized but I don’t know what I have.  That may sound odd but it is what it is.

So, in answer to the question, I will share some of my organizational tips then let you fill in with your tips in the comments.

5 Tips for Organizing Your Preps

1.  The first step is to make room for your preps by getting rid of stuff you do not use or need.  As simple as this sounds, it is difficult to do.  I find that it makes it easier to part with treasures by either donating them to a local thrift store or giving them away for free to someone in need.  These days most communities have a Facebook page where you can buy, sell, and trade items.  Put an ad up giving something away for free and it will be gone before you know it.  If you do not want someone coming to your home (a personal choice), agree to meet in a parking lot or some other neutral location.

2.  Once your make room for your preps, acquire storage boxes that are sized so that you can store like-sized items together.  I favor shoe box sized plastic boxes and banker-style boxes.  For me, it is a lot easier to store items under the bed or in your bedroom closet when the sizes are consistent.  These two sizes work best for me.

3.  Create individual boxes for various categories of items.  I have separate boxes for light sources (flashlights lanterns, glow sticks, candles), fire starting equipment (including pre-made cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly), knives, cordage, solar items, barter toiletries, and even a box for “survival junk”.  In this latter box are oddball items that can not be classified.

4.  Label your boxes.  About six months ago I stopped using labels and began using painters tape instead.  This has become a real game-changer in that the labels do not fall off.  Not only that, they are easily removed and replaced as the contents of the boxes change.

5.  To the extent you can afford to do so, keep your preps separate from your day to day supplies.  I realize this is difficult from both a financial and a storage point of view, but do the best you can.  It really does help.

Let me reiterate that this is the organization system that works for me.  I try not to spend more than a dollar for my plastic shoe boxes (try Target for the best prices) and I watch for coupon sales at Staples for the bankers-style boxes.

For those of you that struggle with space, here is an article I wrote that might help: 16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper.

Heare Me On the Radio

Want to hear a replay of the radio show I did with Knoxville NewTalk Radio 98.7?  Here is a link: Survival Prepping on Howell and Yarborough.  The show was an hour but the replay has been condensed to thirty minutes.

Enjoy the show!  And try to ignore that I still  had a remnant of last week’s cold.

What Did I Do to Prep This Week?

As I mentioned last week, my focus has turned to skills rather then stuff.  That said, in addition to clearing away unused clutter from my home and garage, this week I added three items to my preps: Quake Hold (I was almost out), Dentek Lost Filling & Loose Cap Repair, and Open Fire Roasting Sticks.

Coming Soon: Free Online Class Teaching 13 Ways to Harness the SUN’S POWER to Save Money & Be Prepared!

As of Friday morning, over 400 have registered for this class.  I so want to let you know that this class will be recorded and available for replay for a limited time after the fact.  That said, everyone who registers will get a free, 600 recipe cookbook so for that reason alone. it is worth registering.

Note:  The cookbook will be send to you via email on Wednesday, after the event.

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This is an all-new class that has only been given once.  I have previewed the class myself and can assure you that you will learn something useful if not for now, for when the SHTF.

The Final Word

There are undoubtedly as many ways to organize your preps as there are preppers.  One thing we all can agree on, however, is that knowing where our stuff is located will be important if we are ever called about to survive using  our carefully stashed supplies.

And as far as the survival supply inventory?  I don’t know about you, but for me that is still a work in progress.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to email updates.  When you do, you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-Book, The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

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Here are a few of the items mentioned in this article.

Quake Hold:  This is great stuff for securing items on shelves and against the wall. If you live in an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane area, the time to secure your stuff is now.

Dentek Temparin Max Lost Filling & Loose Cap Repair:  After writing this article I ordered some because, like many in my age group, I have a number of fillings and crowns.

Open Fire Roasting Sticks:  These “marshmallow” sticks will be useful if I have to cook items over an open fire without the benefit of a pot or grill.  They come in a pouch and take up very little storage space.

3M Painters Tape:  Hands down, this beats using labels.  I use this stuff on boxes, cans, buckets – pretty much everything.  Don’t forget the Sharpies!

Staples Economy Storage Boxes:  This is my preferred brand of “bankers boxes”.  To me, they are sturdier than the Bankers Box brand.

Sterilite 6 Quart Storage Box: This is the type of “shoe box” I mentioned in the article.  

Tac Force TF-705BK Tactical Assisted Opening Folding Knife 4.5-Inch Closed: FAVORITE! This is a great knife that is currently priced with free shipping.  Not only that, it is ranked as the #1 best seller in both the camping and hunting knives categories.  The reviews raved about this knife so I bought one, used it, and and can recommend it.  See The Inexpensive Tac-Force Speedster Outdoor Knife.

Note:  the price can vary by color so if you are not particular, scroll through the colors and safe a couple of bucks.


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12 Responses to “Survival Buzz: Tips to Help You Organize Your Preps”

  1. Nice set of tips. I especially like #1. Having a dedicated space has made a big difference in my planning.

  2. We have just downsized and moved from 2500 sq.ft. to 1300. EEkk! BUT…when we get all the stuff moved in and sorted out and given away—I will be able to inventory preps as I store them. I hope. :)) And we did agree on a dedicated space.

  3. Food & food prep items (grain mill,pressure canner,etc) are stored in a dedicated space in my basement, but other items are all around the house. I have 2 hard copy lists of where things are & what needs to be grabbed in a bug-out situation. The rotation schedule for the food is currently on my cell phone calendar, but I plan to get it on a paper calendar in case of an emp. Now I just need to find the time to do it!

  4. I have a spread sheet list of every food and drink item for preparedness that we have in the house, how much, when it lists expiration date and other items to purchase. There are spread sheets for preparedness gear and go bags, one for car survival box, book library and first aid items. Next spread sheet will cover all prescription and over counter meds we have on hand and a column for items to get. I have also started a spread sheet for what I call the old age needs. Every year we are all getting older. This list contains items we have from previous surgeries or broken bones, items I have kept after my Mom passed away and a column for items I am keeping my eye out for, like a sturdy walker, weight rated wheel chair to cover many family members that have different weights. If things go south there will be no nursing home care and I would prefer to have my family all together and be able to have items to care for them as best as I can.


  6. I do the same thing to label, only I use red masking tape that (I think) it’s Scotch makes now. I found it with the rest of the masking tape at Walmart and thought “oh, that would make all the prep stuff easier to identify!”

    We made the basement into a dedicated storage space, but with Life happening every day, it’s turned into a gigantic disorganized mess at the moment. The guys don’t necessarily put things away properly when I bring them home, and now I’ve got a disaster to clean up. Plus I thought with “all that storage”, (ha, ha) I could put ALL of it down there, but now I can’t find the matches/candles/whatever when I need them even with labelled boxes. That stuff would be much better off up here where we can find it in a pinch. Lesson learned.

    I think that’s probably the real way to organize it. You put it somewhere, live with it a while, and see if it works. If not, you shift it till it does.

  7. I had a list of all the storage items but foolishly didn’t print it off. I had been using Emergency Prep’s Food analyzer calculator and kept updating it but when they “upgraded” their web site the Food analyzer wasn’t compatible and I’ve lost it.they supposedly are working to get that up and running again. They didn’t say if it was available anywhere else when I asked. Am slowly rebuilding my list when I can. Life has throw us a couple of curves and we are progressing slowly.

  8. While I’m not as organized as I should be, I’m lucky that I have a fairly dry basement that is unfinished so it’s prime storage for preps. One big addition this past year was the purchase of a Harvest 72″ can rotation system. Big expense, but totally worth it to keep my short-term food preps organized. I use magnetic labels so I can shift labels around as I use up old product and move things around. My #10 cans aren’t stored in that, since they have such a long shelf life I have them sitting on shelves off the floor in case of water during storms (no need to risk rusty cans.)
    All my non-perishable items are stored on various shelves with like near like, although my fire making supplies aren’t next to my candles, Sterno, lighter fluid and lamp oil for obvious reasons. 😉
    One thing I hadn’t seen mentioned in the article or the comments, be careful when boxing up food so that you know when it needs to be used up or rotated out to keep things from spoiling. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been and ended up throwing out quite a bit of canned food that was years past expiration (when I opened some of the expired baked beans they had changed color, so out they went…) Hence the reason I got the can rotation system. For those with smaller budgets, there are various plans on how to build your own rotation systems online.
    I don’t keep a formal written inventory, but as I acquire supplies I make sure my wife knows where stuff is and how to use it, just in case I’m not home when disaster strikes and she has to survive a while (or longer) without me. I know it’s silly, but my reluctance to keeping an inventory is partially rooted in the knowledge that I’ll never keep it fully up to date, and partially from OpSec worrying that an invader could use it as a checklist to make sure they got everything – a touch of paranoia is healthy right? 😛

    • Oh my gosh-it never occurred to me that my list might come back to bite me. Yes, a little paranoia is a healthy precaution! Thanks for the eye opener.????

    • Someone will not search to hard at my house for my printed spread sheets. My husband says I have way too much paper, mainly because my job permits me to work from home with some travel, so my office is here. I mix my spreadsheet copies in with other manuals, binders and books with titles that will catch no ones attention because they do not pertain to preparedness, personal info, how-to-books or my job. I know where they are when I need them but someone else will spend alot time looking and that was the goal.

  9. I, too, like to use containers that are the same size. I also like to use bankers boxes. The cheapest place I’ve found them is Walmart…10 boxes in a pack for $16.89. They’re sturdy and store flat until I need one. I reinforce the bottom edges with packing tape just because I’m OCD. I also use chalk labels from Walmart (sold near the glass jars) and use an erasable chalk pen. Wipes off with water and the label is ready to reuse.
    The plastic shoeboxes are great as are the plastic boxes that are a little taller but all the sizes still stack. And my OCD kicks in again because I tape these boxes shut also.
    When I am buying food for storage, I try to buy “meals.” Dried bean soup mix and a can of Spam. Spaghetti sauce and spaghetti, etc. and each item gets stored in its own box. All green beans are in a box. All mixed veggies are in a box. All canned chicken….etc.
    I watch sales especially BOGO. I buy water at Dollar Tree. Rinse and refill 2 liter soft drink bottles. I do mark the purchase date of Clorox since I read it does lose some of its effectiveness for purifying water after 6 months.
    I use galvanized garbage cans to store dry dog food (in the original bags.)
    Some days prepping is sorta fun. Other days it’s a real chore!

  10. The biggest mistake I made when I started my food storage was not having a detailed plan. I budgeted so much each month, researched to find out how much of each food was recommended for each person and started buying. After I had what was recommended for 6 months I figured I should start using it. Well all that food and not everything I needed for preparing the meals I usually make, not without going to the store. Now that wasn’t going to work. So I planned a months meals, pulled out or wrote out every recipe (some just in my head) wrote all ingredients down, figured out exactly what I needed, for example 122 tsp. of salt, I multiplied that by 12 figured out how many cups/containers that would be and made a list. Turns out I had way more of some things, like enough rice for 5 years and way to little of other things, 31 cans of evaporated milk when I needed 144. I now have at least exactly what I need to make a years worth of meals, and it is all foods we always eat. At first, I would use one and buy two, now I use one and buy one to replace it. I have 50 5# bags of bread flour including the one in the kitchen that I am using. When it is emptied I get the oldest one from the basement storage and add 5 # of bread flour to my weekly grocery list. The new one gets the purchase date written on it, and goes into a tote in order. I do this with everything. I don’t have anything in storage much over a year old, and I can’t remember the last time I threw anything out. I keep a supply of longer term storage items also. I do use everything shelf stable, for example I use dried eggs and canned butter and cheese. I can most of our meat. If I use 4 pounds of ground beef this week I will buy and can 4 cans of ground beef, same for sausage, bacon, chicken, turkey, ham, pork, and beef. I do buy tuna and salmon in the foil packages. I bake once a week also. When you can get to this point it really is not that difficult.


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