Editor’s note: I invited readers to share their favorite storage tips for emergency supplies in an apartment. We got some great responses.
Use every available space
Always be on the lookout for somewhere to put more preps. All the usual space is taken up, and if you are like me, you can always use more space for those goodies you want to
stock for later.
Think you are out of space?
You have space under the bed, on the floor of the closet, and on closet shelves.
Buy a shoe bag and hang it on the inside of your closet door. Those little pockets can hold an amazing amount of stuff. Extra prescriptions, medical supplies, baby wipes, or food. Candy, dried fruits, etc. Whatever you want to store that is small enough to fit and not so heavy as to tear the pockets.
You can hang one on the inside of the bathroom door for extra supplies there too.
Bath tissue, peroxide, q-tips, make up. And yes you can store extra make up.
Under the bathroom sink is a good place for plastic containers with goodies. Make sure
that if the pipe breaks it will not ruin whatever is under the sink.
For forty dollars you can buy a shelf stand that goes
over the toilet tank. It will have either open shelves or one or two with doors over
them. This will offer you storage you can take with you when you leave, and also does
nothing to alter the walls of your bathroom.
Bookcases: you can stack cans behind books on bookcases. or put doors or a curtain over the front of the bookcase and stack food or supplies there.
Do you have a suitcase or overnight case? Fill them with items to take with you if you have to leave.
The trunk of your car holds an amazing amount of blankets, water, and dry foods.
Do you have extra purses? Fill them too. The drawers of your dressers, Canned foods
can go in the back of the drawers, or under clothes.
Is the furniture yours? We found end tables at the thrift stores that look like a drum,
closed on the sides, with one door that opens, it holds lots of food out of sight.
You can slide a flat of tuna under the couch. Do you have an entertainment center, are
there doors on it? If the doors are glass or plastic see through, put a covering over them and put food in there.
You can buy a shower curtain with pockets on it to put in shampoo, soap, scrubbies, etc.
or make one.
A hanging shelf in your closet that is supposed to be for handbags and sweaters, can
hold those and also supplies. Zip up and things are out of sight.
Put extra blankets and sheets under your mattress. Take out the last drawer of your dresser and put things on the floor. Under your kitchen sink for plastic bags, and
items that won’t ruin if wet.
Do you use the oven of your stove? Does it have a pilot light.? Store extra kitchen tools there, buy gift boxes, fill them with whatever you want, slide them under the living room
Cover a window with cardboard covered with material to look like a curtain from outside.
Then put small shelves in the window, fill with goodies, and hang a curtain over it from
the inside of the house. From outside it looks like a curtain, from inside it looks like a curtain.
You can also get boxes and label them, summer blouses, winter blouses. Hats, scarves,
Christmas decorations, and put them on a closet shelf. Fill them with supplies you need.
How much company do you have visit, do they come for dinner, or lunch? How long do they stay? This is not to be nosy, it is to help you think of how to store things without
bringing them to someone’s attention and asking you questions you may not want to
answer. Or to expose you to problems later.
If you have the room in the kitchen, you can buy a small storage unit designed to hold food or tools. They don’t take up much floor space, but have four or more shelves. They
can hold lots of food.
Wooden file cabinets two or more can also be used for food storage. They also make nice end tables to hold a lamp.
Either buy the blocks that raise your bed up or make some with concrete blocks covered
with contact paper, fabric or painted. This will raise your bed up a few inches and allow you to store more things there.
Make some shelves for the hallway with 1×6 or wider pieces of wood, which can be cut to the length you want at the store you buy them from. You can again use concrete blocks, or glass blocks.
I suggest you cover the sides and front of them. You could put books on the top shelf. I
suggest that in an apartment you cover, conceal your storage. .
You have most likely a contract you signed when moving in the apartment that gives
management the right to enter to make repairs, treat for insects, or to inspect for
up keep on your part. Not usually a problem.
Do you have a headboard for your bed? You can use bookshelves for a headboard. Fill
the shelves with supplies, and cover the shelves, or turn the open side of the bookshelf to the wall, push the bed against it, and bingo, you have a headboard. And a place to store extra food or whatever you want.
You can make a foot board for the bed this way too. Probably want doors on it. or use a
short dresser for a foot board.
If you have the room, extra dressers can be put in the bedroom for storage.
If you can’t lift the mattress on the bed to put extra blankets under, put them on the top
of the mattress, cover them with a plastic mattress cover, and make the bed as usual.
Cover the pillows with extra pillow cases and cover them with plastic pillow covers, then
put one over the plastic one for sleeping.
You can hang quilts on the wall as decoration until you need to use it. Sheets can be
folded and put under couch cushions or chair cushions. Sometimes blankets too.
Blankets can also be used as a throw cover over chairs and couches. Some people don’t
like the look, some do. It is storage in the open.
Rethink how items are stacked or arranged in the kitchen shelves. Can you change them, re-arrange them to get more use from the space.
You can build a small box. wide enough to hold a can of veggies or fruit, however high
you want, and the length of a wall in the living room. fill it with food cans, then put
the furniture in front of the box. Oh, paint the box to match the wall or wall trim. Most
people don’t pay attention to little things like that. Use doors or curtains over it to
hide the contents.
It is not always convenient to buy something new, especially when you are trying to build
up storage items and supplies. And sometimes when you have used something
for one purpose for a long time, it is difficult to envision it being used for another purpose.
Being an apartment prepper you need to use any and all space available to you. I.E. Closets, under beds, kitchen & bathroom cabinets, under tables: side, coffee, and family. Also use storage that’s available inside of things: coat pockets and winter clothes pockets. Be sure to exchange when you move back to winter clothes and use your summer clothes. Maybe not be able to store a lot inside but you’ll being able to store some. Also use any luggage, duffel bags, purses, school bags (when schools out) for storage as well. Always be open minded and thing outside the box. There maybe be empty space under your couch or recliner to use. All it may take is a little modification.
Use the space above the door
Storage Hint: Aside from the normal apartment storage locations such as under beds, under couches and chairs, inside the hollows of the ends of couches and chairs and such, think vertically! That space above the door trim in the hallway… put cleats on the wall, hooked to the studs then reinforce a piece of ¾” plywood with cleats every 16 inches and lay across the span to create an apartment “attic” the width of which is usually less than 48 inches and can be as long as your hallway. Think vertically… the space above the refrigerator is another large storage spot for this trick.
— C. T. B.
Save strong plastic bottles
My suggestion is this: I sometimes cave and waste $1.48 on a 20 oz Pepsi, a “single serve” of chocolate milk, a Vitamin Water, etc. I have six packs of individual Gatorade in my pandemic pantry so that I don’t have to open a big bottle for a stomach bug. When I empty this kind of small, strong plastic bottle, I wash it and rinse it, cut off the label, and fill it with water. But my suggestion is WHERE to put it: this is the suggestion that applies to anyone in a small space. I have a lot of bookshelves, even have cookbooks in some kitchen cabinets. I put all these water bottles behind the books. Usually there is up to four inches of wasted space behind a book, when it’s pulled out from the back of the bookshelf. I now have yards of bookshelves lined with water bottles. It’s discreet and uses space that can’t really fit anything else.
Farming Salt & Light
I have been directing those who live in apartments to store water in 2-liter bottles after they have been sanitized with bleach. They can be filled with filtered water or water that has been treated. A secure way to store without leakage is to dip the top into a container of melted candle stubs. After the wax has hardened, lay them down onto the box lids you can get at a grocery or wholesale store. Slide them under the bed. Most under-bed space allows you to stack a pack of toilet paper on top of the bottles. Great utilization of tight spaces.
Use a canned goods dispenser
Keep all canned goods on a rotating storage rack rotating storage rack like a cansolidator so that your cans always stay fresh!
I have recently installed a behind-the-couch rolling can rotator in my 12×14 living room. It is 8′ long, 12″ wide, has six shelves with two tracks each. The shelf holds about 400 cans, which load from one side, roll down the 2″ grade to the other end, where I pull cans as needed. It automatically offers you oldest first.
Hide in plain sight
Hide your preps ‘in plain sight.’ Put your preps in antique trunks that can be used as end tables. You have storage that no one knows about.
Don’t neglect water storage
Throughout my extensive military training and personal survival challenges around my home state, I have learned that water is the most important resource. As a husband and father of two smaller boys, I must prep my 625 square foot apartment to support all of us. Food can often be easily condensed, but water is hard to store in the quantities necessary. My tip for storing water is to fill any extra space in your chest freezer with water in Costco milk jugs. The jugs are more rectangular and stack easily. Also, in short periods of power grid failures, your freezer will stay cold longer, allowing you to put off breaking into dry stores for a little and keeping any frozen meat cold long enough to decide if it needs to be converted to dried goods for the long haul or put back into a regular rotation to prevent spoiling. As other water stores in the house are used up, you can begin using the ice water from the freezer. While there is often not much room in a prepper’s freezer, any extra space that can be used to store water is valuable space!
Keep track with a list
My best advice for apartment preppers is to make lists of everything. In an apartment you have so little space that you have to stick things where ever you can. With so many different places, instead of one location, it is very important to know not only what is in each location but all the locations that you have. When I started prepping I would lose track of what I had because I would put something in one location and forget that it was there. The things would either go bad or I would buy more because I would forget what I had and where I had it. I started by making a list of all the locations that I had and then I made a list of what I had in each location. I keep all of the list together so when I am looking for something I can look at all the list at once.
Great suggestions, everyone! Thank you! I know I’ll be re-evaluating some of my storage spots.
For more tips on prepping on small budget, read my book: