Where Are My Keys!?

We’ve all experienced the frustration of not finding our keys, especially when we’re in a hurry to get to an appointment or make it to the airport on time.  There are indeed very few things more aggravating and frustrating than not being able to find something important or necessary to accomplish a task.

I had a very disturbing and frustrating dream a couple of years ago.  For more than 30 years, I’ve been very active and involved in the prepper world.  I’ve prided myself in going the extra mile in not only preparing extensively for my family but continuing to store food and supplies for others that I’m certain will need help in times of collapse.

Well, in my dream, the time I’ve been preparing for all these years was upon us.  There had been a communication to relocate for safety’s sake.  There was a distinct sense of urgency and I was actually excited to gather my family and gear and meet at the announced time and location.

As I ran down stairs to my storage room, I was surprised at the unorganized mess I saw.  It looked as if there had been an earthquake or something.  I could hardly get down the stairs to the storage room due to miscellaneous debris and items on the stairs.

As I made my way into the storage room, I became very upset as I could not seem to locate any of the essential gear I was trying to collect.  I could not find my sleeping bags or any camping or survival supplies for that matter.  I was getting more and more upset because I knew time was very short and I had to go but also knew I needed my gear!

In my dream, I thought of how I had just purchased several thousands of dollars worth of the best survival equipment and supplies and now I couldn’t find any of it!

I ended up having to leave without any of the necessary equipment or supplies I had spent so much time, money and effort to acquire.  The level of frustration I felt was off the charts!

After evaluating my dream, I made the commitment to review how my preps are stored.  Even though in reality, my preps are pretty well organized, I still felt the need to analyze my storage systems and refine some of my plans.


As I’ve matured as a prepper, and my stockpiles have grown larger and more diverse, I’ve had to get creative.  Here are a few techniques that I’ve employed that you might find useful:

1)  Always use storage space efficiently.  Think: Volume, footprint, weight, redundancy, shelf life, and frequency of use.  The most frequently used items should be most close at hand.  For example: Extra laundry detergent is stored right in our laundry room just a couple of steps from our washing machine. (Yes, we also have a manual washer, and a wringer.)

2)  If you can’t see it, or at least see it on a list that mentions its location, then your will end up forgetting you have something.  That can lead to needless redundancy or worse yet, using up new stock before you use older stock.

3)  Take a “kits” approach.  I’ve found that it is best to group items with related items.  Most importantly, group tools with other items that are most commonly used together.  For example, all of our car camping items are grouped together.  Likewise, most of our gunsmithing tools are stored together.  And all of our cold weather clothing and camping gear is store in a cluster of just a few bins. Each bin is clearly labelled, and they are all stacked contiguously.  Most of our fence tools and related consumables are stored together.  (Fence pliers, tensioner, galvanized wire, fence clips, T-post driver, and a pair of gloves.)

4)  There is no need to store repair manuals and spare parts items right with the equipment itself, if that equipment is used mostly at home.  However, it is important to keep a central repository of repair and maintenance manuals, so that they don’t get misplaced.  In my experience it is wise to keep the original receipts for equipment paper-clipped of stapled inside of each user manual.  That could facilitate a later warranty or insurance claim, without wasting valuable time hunting for them.

5)  If you have a camping trailer or RV, then build a separate binder of manuals, warranty information, and receipts.  (A binder with clear 8.5″ x 11″ document protectors works great.)  Keep that binder onboard for reference when you travel.

6)  Some redundancy is needed, especially for mobile equipment.  For example, nearly every vehicle will need its own town chain (or tow strap), jumper cables, and can of starting fluid.  Without that redundancy, you’ll end up needing something and then realizing that it is stored with your other vehicle, which is miles away.

7)  Think vertically for storage, but try to stow the most often used items between knee height and shoulder height.

8)  Never store heat sensitive items near the ceiling.  Keep them low in the room.

9)  For gun collections, use 3″x5″ cards for recording serial numbers and descriptions.  Lists get out of date too quickly, but note cards are inherently efficient.

10)  Don’t acquire additional farm machinery or ATVs until you have first built weatherproof storage spaces to keep them safe from the elements.

11)  Never store flammables indoors.  It is best to have a dedicated outdoor shed for paint, stains, and assorted POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants).

12)  Color coding works!  The color of container used–or the color of label used makes for quick reference.  For example, when organizing your ammunition cans, use one color for the labels for shotgun shells, and contrasting colors for rifle and pistol ammunition.

13) Never store anything aromatic in proximity to bulk foods.  There is nothing quite like eating soap-flavored rice.

14)  A “cool, dark place” is good for most items, but also be sure to rig adequate lighting so that you can see what you have stored, at the flick of a switch.

Some Trial and Error

You may have heard the quote, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.”  I please guilty to that.  Through many years of trial and error, I’ve learned a few lessons:

 1)  Use first-in, first out (FIFO) rotation of any items with a shelf life.  Special FIFO shelving can be helpful for that.  I once found a full case of peanut butter that had been tucked away out of sight and forgotten for nine years.  It is sad finding expensive food that must then be repurposed for animal feed, fuel, or composted into fertilizer!

2)  Unless you are storing very light foodstuffs (such as onion flakes) don’t stack HDPE storage buckets more than four buckets high, if they are equipped with Gamma Seal lids.  They simply can’t take any more weight than that.  However, buckets with standard lids can be up to stacked six buckets deep, for all but the heaviest grains.

3)  Always keep mice and rats in mind.  The ability of mice to squeeze through small apertures is amazing.  And once they’ve found something that smells good, their persistence at chewing through obstacles is phenomenal.

4)  If in doubt, print label text larger rather than smaller.  This is particularly important in any dimly-lit storage spaces.

5)  Label every container in your storage spaces.  Having any “mystery boxes” or stuff sacks is a huge waste of time.

Learn from the experience of others – you don’t want to experience in real life anything similar to my dream.

More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry

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