Prepping in small spaces is much easier said than done. So much of what we do revolves around the acquisition of gear and the material provisions so that we may be better equipped when things stop going our way and society starts to come unglued.
Everything from food and water to tools and ammunition, things that most people take for granted if they keep them on hand in any quantity at all we keep in stock and in abundance.
Naturally, this makes problems for those of us who might live in apartments, condos, RV’s, small houses or any other space where storage space is at a decided premium.
In this way, every cubic foot of storage space can be considered costly and that whatever is stored in that space means it cannot be used to store anything else, and with an ever-growing list of things to buy and future acquisitions it can be disheartening in the extreme when you don’t have a basement, garage or store room where you can squirrel everything away out of sight and ready.
So what is a small space prepper to do if you don’t want to be sitting on a sofa made out of pallets of soup? First things first, you’ll need to be as efficient as possible when storing your stockpile and second you’ll need to get creative.
The good news is that nearly any space can benefit from the techniques and procedures we are about to share with you. Creating just an additional few feet of a new storage space and reclaiming wasted inches in your existing storage can add up to a lot of new material.
Careful Assessment of Requirements to Maximize Storage Space
The first thing to assess when approaching prepping in a small space is how much gear you actually required, and in this discussion gear includes provisions and other supplies along with hard and soft goods. How many people are you prepping for? What are you prepping for? How long do you need to sustain?
Time to focus on the basics. If you are single and not prepping for anyone but yourself, rejoice, because reducing the amount of human necessities that you must keep on hand is the surest and easiest way to reduce the burden of storage.
Conversely, if you have a partner or a family to take care of your storage requirements increase geometrically, particularly when it comes to food and water but also things like medicine, clothing and so on.
Also, get down to brass tacks on what it is you are preparing for and how long you’ll likely need to sustain for such an event in order to survive until things get more or less back to normal. Are you worried about a periodic seasonal power outage due to high temperatures or perhaps caused by severe weather?
A 3-day supply is probably more than adequate with a week’s worth on the outside. Are you getting ready for major societal unrest, or even a legitimate collapse of government and the rule of law? If that is the case, you should plan for 6 months at a minimum, and possibly far longer.
Generally, the smallest and most restrictive structural living quarters such as efficiency hotels, studio apartments and the like will be more than adequate for short or very near term events, at least for one or two people.
However, you’ll be tiptoeing through a maze of stacked goods and storage racks in the same space if even attempting to prepare to go to the distance for a long haul. This is just the way things are.
Storage Solutions that Work in Cramped Conditions
If you are reading this article, it is because you are either apprehensive about trying to accumulate a large enough survival stockpile in a small living space or because you have already completely filled up the usual suspects.
A pantry full to bursting with canned goods, closets crammed with ammunition, gear and tools and every nook, cranny and out of the way cubbyhole packed with survival essentials.
Now you are in the dreaded situation, at least for most of us, where our preps start to pile up and protrude into our living spaces.
If you live alone and never host any company, this might be one thing, but if you have a significant other, a family or ever have friends and associates over, it is a bad, bad look much of the time.
So, in order to prevent this dreaded occurrence you’ll need to step up your storage game with better storage solutions.
The following are good ones it will generally do the job in most small spaces, assuming of course you have just a little bit of money to throw at the problem and are potentially willing to put in that DIY effort to reorganize or optimize a space.
For many preppers, especially those wanting to store canned or packaged goods, adding additional shelves is usually a good solution if you are able. If you are in a rental space, be sure to check with your landlord first for requirements and permission.
This could be something as simple as a few strategically placed shelves in the kitchen or increasing shelf space in a pantry, or has a radical as adding banks of shelves to an otherwise empty broom or coat closet.
You might even be able to get away with adding a large, freestanding shelf to a corner or one wall of a room if a build-in isn’t an option. Other good options for shelves include over a doorway and other unconventional places.
Compared to piling up goods willy-nilly on any surface or attempting to stack irregular and non-rigid packaging, you can greatly ease your quest for maximum storage efficiency by grouping like goods or even odd goods into containers as appropriate.
Tubs, trays, boxes and other shapes allow you to keep items organized and together and then stack them easily, one atop another, to maximize efficiency.
It might take a little bit of work and prior preparation to ensure you don’t wind up with a wasted space due to an undersized container but generally speaking you’ll be far better off storing and stashing your gear and your goods in stackable containers.
Bulk Goods by the Gallon
For any items that can be had in bulk, especially consumables like grains, beans, water and even bullets, you might be best served storing them loose in appropriately rated buckets or similar containers.
No matter what you buy that comes prepackaged, from dry beans and bulk rice to big, beautiful boxes of ammunition, some space is lost to the packaging itself.
Chances are you can reclaim this space and make your life easier by either acquiring said items in bulk already or relocating them into a suitable bucket.
For food, you can get a food grade, safe bucket that is the same size as your typical hardware store 5 gallon paint bucket, but for anything else those paint buckets, the kind with that heavy duty, gasketed lid, work fine.
Don’t be Afraid to Get Creative
Sometimes, there is just nothing for it when you live in a small space. You’re going to have to get creative! First things first, yes, if you can tolerate it and you are pursuing a higher and better purpose, you can stash your survival supplies anywhere you have room to set them, aesthetics be damned.
However, just because you have blown through every usual spot for storage and even maxed out the efficiency hacks mentioned above, doesn’t mean you are there yet.
Consider the following tricky storage spaces that you can appropriate for your survival gear.
Under the Bed
A time-honored hiding place for things you want out of sight and out of mind. Don’t be afraid to use the space under your bed for stashing any sort of small items, from canned goods to tools or other gear.
Consider using a wide, low plastic container to make sliding the stuff in and out easier, while also saving your floor. Just make sure your bed frame is sturdy so it doesn’t collapse and crush your stuff!
Bathroom Closet/Cabinet: one chronically underutilized storage solution and most living spaces is the bathroom closet where towels and linens are kept along with the cabinet space beneath the sink, if appropriate.
Assuming both are in good repair, there is no reason why you can’t store most items there without any fear of damage, as they only get moldy, damp and nasty if they are neglected or you have malfunctioning pipes. Skip this one if it is truly hideous until you get it cleaned up, but otherwise, don’t be afraid to capitalize on it.
Homes with traditional hardwood flooring might benefit from the installation of a genuine secret compartment. By removing boards or panels and crafting them into a one-piece door you can then install an appropriately sized container or craft a compartment in the space beneath for stashing small items.
The panel you created will serve as sort of a hatch to access these goods, and it also makes a nifty hiding spot for sensitive gear, especially when you put a rug or another piece of furniture over it.
The attic too is a great place for storing your survival supplies. It is a little bit more difficult to get into, depending on your living arrangements, but it is space that is typically used for nothing else besides accessing roof and other components of your home.
Be wary of extreme temperature shifts in the attic, especially if you live in a climate that is already known for temperature extremes. This might not be the best place to store food or other perishables, but for hard or soft gear it will work just fine.
Concealment Furniture: furniture like small dressers, solid end tables and anything else that serves to conceal the contents placed within it can be used for stashing small amounts of survival supplies. This can be further improved by hollowing them out or installing fake drawer fronts in order to hide a swing open door.
Getting creative with the use of furniture as non-traditional storage can greatly increase the amount of supplies you can stash if you don’t need them for their original purpose.
The PVC Pipe Revolution
Some things are just plain hard to find space for, so my solution is to create more of it without impeding the space already there for other things. PVC pipe is a great way to increase space, it can be any length, or diameter.
It can hold anything from canned goods to rifles, it’s waterproof, very durable, and pest proof (except bears and wolverines…Ha). It can be mounted on the roof rack, side of a trailer, even underneath the trailer as long as it doesn’t interfere with the suspension etc.
It’s fairly cheap, readily available, waterproof, and easy to fabricate into any size you want. Just buy a cap for one end and a threaded fitting and screw-on cap for the other end. Oh yeah, don’t forget the PVC primer and glue.
It can also be easily removed and stored under something, on top of something, vertically or any orientation, and it can be buried. When you get where you’re going, it can be used as a structural beam, tent post, post for a lean to or a drying rack, privy, etc.
A small diameter (such as 3″) can carry a lot of canned foods, tents, fishing rods, blankets, clothes, bulk dry goods, batteries, even water, etc.. and be tucked out of the way, even smaller could hold a lot of ammo in shorter sections (properly packed, pad it good).
I’m big on ‘wrist-rocket’ sling shots, rocks rarely shoot straight and are sometimes hard to find in the right size and shape.
So I buy marbles in bulk and load them into 1/2″ PVC, long ones for the trailer (mine are mounted underneath), short ones (about 2 feet long w/ push on cap on top, not threaded) in a bundle with a shoulder strap for carrying around hiking or hunting.
One thing that almost everyone complains takes up to much room is toilet paper. A section of 6″ PVC works great, we found that sections of ‘chimney sweep’ rods, they come in 3 foot sections and screw together, work very well, (they can also be used as tent poles, etc.
In an emergency and are very strong), or, use (of course) a section of 1″ PVC pipe (it’s cheaper and can hold other items, tubes of toothpaste, travel size shampoo bottles, aspirin and other meds, etc.), 1.5″ works on some rolls, but not all.
Screw a cross piece onto the end (about 2″-5″ wide, just something a little bigger than the cardboard tube in the center of the roll), thread the rolls of toilet paper onto the rods/pipe, and feed the cross piece end into the PVC first.
This way you don’t have to dismount the pipe or get a stick to fish each roll out, just pull the rod out. Also, we like T.P. in place of (Kleenex) facial wipes as you may only need one or two squares instead of a whole tissue, and the rolls take up a lot less space than boxes of facial tissues.
If you don’t like the color (white or grey), there’s plastic paint available almost everywhere, or if you want to use camouflage or other colors, we take a large can of PVC (purple) primer, paint the pipe first with it, then paint it with whatever color you want, paint sticks better this way.
You can also use ABS pipe (black) instead, but it heats up fast in the sun (cooks whatever is inside, not to great if you’re storing ammo, or candles) and you usually need a different glue.
Always consider what you’re storing in the PVC and mount/ store in a place where it won’t get to hot or cold for those items.