Last Updated on October 18, 2020
I think most of us, regardless of our situation, periodically wish we had a little more elbow room. For some, though, available space is even tighter.
That doesn’t mean prepping is impossible, even for super-tight residences such as apartments or trailers on small lots. Nor does it mean prepping should get shelved until bigger space is available. All kinds of things go wrong, every single day. A lot of progress can be made even with very limited space.
Most of the suggestions here also apply to folks who are short on disposable income.
Prep By Priority
One of the first things small-space and cash-strapped preppers need to do is focus on the things that are most likely.
That definitely includes short-term outages and hunker-in situations, and house fires.
It also includes income reduction/loss, both directly and due to large payouts (everything from medical bills to covering insurance deductibles, as well as things like increased fuel, property, and grocery costs).
Getting right financially is never going to be a sexy prepper topic, but it has huge impact when something happens. From being able to absorb some of life’s hits to being able to evacuate by renting a moving van if necessary, having some disposable income available is important.
Personal defense is also always up for grabs as a top priority.
Anyone looking at a gun, particularly, should give serious thought to what they’re shooting and whether or not it’s going to go through walls, windows, and bystanders. Common construction and typical living situations make it even more vital anywhere with densely packed humanity.
Every inch is precious in limited storage situations. Sometimes we can “steal” some space, which can help, but we still want to fill those areas as tightly as possible. Organization makes that easier and more efficient.
Going right back to “prioritize”, maximizing the space also means being realistic about where we are and what our current capabilities are.
That may mean we skip some of the sexy prepper goodies, because right now they’re only going to eat up space (and budget). That goes for everything from the woodsman hatchets and conibears to books focusing on homesteading, SAS survival tactics, and back country medicine.
*I’m saying avoid purchasing those books, and those topics, in a set of specific conditions. Libraries, the internet, and downloads take up less space/income until we’re in a position to need and use those particular subjects and able to survive a situation that truly removes the use of electronics.
That also applies to the more pedestrian prepper backups.
If I have 6 weeks/months of savings and 6 weeks/months of food storage (+/- growing space and preservation methods), how many toothbrushes, socks, gloves, and bottles of bartering booze do I really need?
Keep storage balanced by time and likelihood of need/use to maximize limited space.
Make More Space
There’s several ways to do this. One, we use dead space. Two, we add some elevation. Three, we switch out “normal” furniture for hollow options and stacked supplies.
Dead space would include bricking in the back of a bookcase with supplies that hide behind books, or putting a picnic basket or trunk behind a recliner and long, skinny luggage or shelving behind a couch.
Rolling carts can maximize the dead space between appliances/furniture and walls. Less long-legged people also regularly have some space on the undersides of desks and tables.
We can also go really wild and make shallow storage drawers under bookcases and cabinets, or shallow cabinets between struts in the walls (but only if we own that property or want to repair the “damage” before we move out).
Adding elevation would be things like taller bed frames to increase under-the-bed storage, and overhead shelving around a room and above closets (which gets our cute/normal stuff or candle collection, making room inside closets and under beds for brow-raising supplies).
Replacing things means instead of a coffee table, maybe we have a trunk. It can also be replacing a side table with a small bookcase or filing cabinet, or stacking up some cases of canned goods or water, adding a small board for a nice, flat surface, and covering everything with a tablecloth (or sheet/curtain).
*This site http://www.calamityjanet.com/one-year-supply-easy–cheap.html has some good tips for stashing supplies, whatever we think about *that* show.
As often as possible, we’ll want to go with things that multipurpose. From our pantries to our everyday household goods, the fewer things we “need” and the more compact they are, the more we can fit into our space.
One of the super easy examples is stocking pine cleaner concentrate that can be used for laundry, floors, counters, and carpets. Another would be Crisco that can be used in cooking, for lubricants and sealants, and turned into candles or cookers.
Pack It Tight
I’d like to say right off the bat that I’m not a fan of the big space-saver bags for bedding and clothing. I have spent a fortune on good ones and tried less-expensive generics, and within a few months, they always lose seals and fill back out to regular size. That’s particularly “funtastic” if they were stacked in boxes, under a bed, or in dresser drawers or a packed closet.
However, using fairly inexpensive 1- and 2.5-gallon zip-close storage bags, we can still press or lung-suck a lot of air out of gear, be it clothing, gauze, sanitary pads or spare curtains.
Packing things tight also applies to our food storage.
Removing foods from boxes limits our ability to donate them if it’s not something we consume, but that alone can make a big difference in wasted air space even if we use something bulky like a jar for storage.
When we pack for long-term storage, settling will also occur in our dry goods.
For things like oatmeal or dehydrated potatoes in canning jars or washed pasta/jelly jars, we can pop them open and top them off. Working one at a time, even if we used oxygen-absorb-er packets to seal them, they won’t be open long enough for significant loss.
Likewise, check the totes and buckets that hold our self-packed Ziploc and mylar bags. Those, too, will settle over time and we can add another layer.
Pop open pre-packed kits in totes, too. I’ve yet to see one stuffed to the gills, and they’re usually prime for augmenting with our own supplies.
*Pre-packed buckets are an end-user call. Mostly it’s safe to break the seals so long as we’re not puncturing the contents, and most of them also have ample space for personal additions.
Condense Pantry Goods
One of the fastest ways we can compress our storage is by leaning on dehydrated foods. They significantly reduce the storage space versus freeze-dried and wet-pack canned goods.
I would still suggest at least a few days’ worth of foods that don’t require water (or cooking) and a minimum of week of water storage. However, most crises don’t remove all modern conveniences. Even if our stored water supply is limited, dehydrated and dry foods are still reasonable options for mid-duration and personal-scale disasters.
We also want to assess what types of foods we keep in, in both our everyday and deep pantries.
Whatever food storage format we choose – canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried – if we’re tight on space, staples take priority.
Having calories, fats, and proteins available is more important than the lower-cal fruits and veggies, especially as we move past an initial few days.
While fruits and veggies are necessary, we can go without them the longest, they’re the easiest foods to source without infrastructure, and there are condensed sources for the minerals, vitamins and fibers they offer.
As mentioned above, we might want to give some thought to food packaging, too.
Repacking those supermarket foods isn’t a big deal. In many cases, they’ll gain shelf life being in canning jars and bottles even if we don’t use oxygen absorbers. However, there’s a usually a trade off if we opened something like those #10 cans.
On the other hand, a lot of #10 cans contain a lot of air space. A couple inches at a time adds up even with a single case of those cans.
Rather than lose the investment of long shelf life, we might find it more economical both financially and for space savings to skip that packaging format and create our own off grocers’ shelves, from the basics to just-add-water meals.
Limited Space Shouldn’t Preclude Prepping
While it might lead us to skip over common categories of prepper/survivalist skills and supplies, especially if we’re in an apartment that doesn’t have a decent window for even solar battery chargers or a mini tower of salad greens, being in a small space shouldn’t stop us.
Nor should we focus solely on research and savings, waiting “until” for tangible preps. There’s still plenty of upsets that can occur – and do, daily and annually – that we can mitigate with preparedness.
With mindful storage choices and creative storage practices, we can account for those personal and regional disasters and be prepared when they strike.
Follow The Prepper Journal on Facebook!