Declutter your Home in 5 Steps If you are not looking for spare room you either have a huge home or you don’t need this article. For a prepper clutter equals less room for food, ammo, water and other resource storage. Though this article doesn’t come from a website that features gas masks and other …
Last year we added a third child to our 2-bedroom, 800-ish square foot house. Once she started moving around, it felt like our space shrank dramatically. Around the same time, my parents downsized, and I inherited several pieces of family heirloom furniture. At heart, I’m a minimalist, and between these factors, my minimalist side rebelled. I wanted to get rid of everything we owned!
Among other minimalist advice, I familiarized myself with Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. Her ideas are mainly to de-clutter or sort by category, rather than the traditional advice of doing a room or a closet. For example, do all your books at once. She’s also known for getting people to ask if any given item “sparks joy” or makes you happy, or if it detracts from your life because you’re constantly tripping over it (my paraphrase).
NOTE: Get Survival Mom’s free ebook, “Declutter & Organize Your Living Space.”
This may all be very good advice, but along with being a minimalist, I’m also a prepepr. I’m determined to be prepared for everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios, using this handbook as a guide. With the addition of a child and furniture to my household, my prepper self was thinking about the future–both the bigger political and economic picture and our own family’s financial security. There was a good deal of “stuff” that I felt we needed to keep if we were to be prepared for any number of crises, but how could I continue with my commitment to minimalism?
Can prepping & minimalism co-exist?
There are certainly lots of articles out there about decluttering in general, and plenty about finding creative storage for your preps. But what do you decide to keep and store in the first place? For myself, I came up with 6 criteria I used to evaluate what to keep on hand to satisfy the prepper side of me and what to eliminate to keep my minimalist side sane.
Identify your big categories
From previous conversations, I knew that our main prepper categories as a family were generally: Food & Water, Education, Clothes/Warmth/Shelter, Security, Health (including mental/spiritual), and Communication. Whatever I decided to keep should generally fall into one of these categories.
In the middle of the exploring toddler and the inherited furniture, we had an incident in which one of the kids got injured while I wasn’t home, and my husband couldn’t find the right box of first aid supplies. We had absolutely everything we needed for the situation, but he had to take all the kids (including the injured one) to the drugstore to buy it all again because he didn’t know where I had stored it. This was a significant learning moment for me, because being prepared and having all the right “stuff” doesn’t matter at all if you can’t find it or get to it when you need it! So one of my goals was to make everything as visible and accessible as possible.
Double duty items
Of course you also want to be familiar with all your tools and equipment before the SHTF. One way to do this is to incorporate as much as you can into your daily life. For example, your cast iron pans can be used now on the stovetop or over a campfire in the zombie apocalypse. And once you’re using those on a regular basis, perhaps you can part with some of your other cookware, freeing up more kitchen space.
Space vs. Value
Throughout this process, I was always asking: does the value of this item justify the space it requires? If not, the item went in the give-away box. One of the tactics I used was to incorporate practical items into my decorating. For example, I mixed lanterns with my prized antique books on the shelves. They fit together perfectly!
Meeting needs, not wants
When evaluating my space, I had to embrace the hard truth that I just wouldn’t be able to keep everything I wanted. Once I accepted that, though, it was easier to make decisions based on my other criteria. For example, it was important to keep books that are reference material, or educational, and less important to keep contemporary fiction. Of course, entertainment and distraction is important in times of stress, so I kept plenty of fiction, too, but evaluated it in terms of quality and our family’s interests. So while I evaluated each reference book (and got rid of a few!), I prioritized those over fiction where space was limited.
Very limited hide-away storage
None of your storage does any good if it’s hidden away and you forget about it. For me, keeping lists was too much hassle for our current schedules, so really limiting unseen storage was my priority. Now I can tell you exactly what I have stored in the far corners of my basement today, and I can count it on one hand!
We have a few tubs of sentimental items and photo albums. There’s a set of collector drinking glasses from my grandma that I cannot safely display in our current space, but definitely want to keep. Our file boxes are clearly labeled by year and can be sorted/shredded as they hit their “keep until” dates. There are 5 pieces of the furniture that I could not incorporate into this space, but are certainly worth keeping in hopes of a larger home someday. And our Christmas decorations (which are definitely minimalist!).
My results, so far
Three months into our newly decluttered–but still prepared–home, here are a few observations:
It’s been easier to identify needs and priorities. We all have limited resources, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to get next. Once you know what you do have, you can easily see what you don’t have and prioritize these needs. For me, one of the items that wasn’t on any wish list, but that jumped out at me as a need was a small household tool kit, which I now have.
My choices are now more obvious. Once you identify your needs, you still have to make a choice about how to fill it. For example, a wheat grinder was on my list. Typing “wheat grinder” into Amazon gave me almost 500 results! But now that I had decluttered the kitchen and kept my Kitchen Aid mixer, my choices for our space and needs seemed obvious: a Kitchen Aid attachment, or the Vittorio Deluxe Manual grinder. Then it was just a matter of evaluating only 2 choices, and making a decision.
I have room for new items. Since I earned my Ham radio license earlier this year, my radio equipment has been cluttering the top of my desk, which was messy to look at and probably not the safest for the radio. After I decluttered, though, I suddenly found I had an entire drawer free just for ham radio equipment.
I have more time and less stress. As someone who reads between the lines of the evening news, there’s enough to worry about already. Reducing our clothes and kitchen items has made a dramatic improvement in maintaining the household. Our laundry and dishes are noticeably less! And now I can spend my newly found free time on developing skills and relationships.
How do you make the most of your space and still stay organized?
Full disclosure: My kids ask to go to Ikea. I have been known to take them their for a special dinner, and no, actually not a joke. My parents introduced me to it. Twenty-five years later, they are still using their Billy bookcases. Really, the whole family loves Ikea. As a result, this round-up has ended up with quite a few IKEA tips to help you stay organized in every room of the house.
If you don’t have an IKEA near you, you can find similar items other places because most of these tips are really quite simple.
If you need more ideas, check out the Survival Mom Pinterest boards! The boards Wood Pallet Projects and Decluttering and Organizing (the January Skill of the Month) both have lots of great ideas. It’s worth a little time to look through. Another great resource is the mini-guide Declutter and Organize Your Living Space.
10 Anywhere Ideas
These great ideas will work in so many different parts of the house it isn’t worth trying to pin them down.
1. Dollar Store Organizing: Hair supplies, cords, crayons…. There are 150 different ideas here!
2. Organize Your Home: These 50 ideas use everything from chopsticks and silicone muffin cups to bookcases to help you organize your home.
3. The Small Things: The brush-organizer just made my short list of to-do projects, but the ring storage box is what really got my attention.
4. Every Cord is Awesome: Use Lego minifigs to hold your cords.
5. Hang it Up: From storing flip flops to Ziploc baggies, there are tons of ways to help organize and tidy up your home.
6. Pill Boxes: They hold so much more than just pills.
7. Garage Storage: This has many cool garage storage answers, but the lattice is my favorite. It could work for so many long, skinny (hard to store) things.
8. Hard to Store Items: Cords, reference magazines, belts, and other random bits of things can be a challenge to store, but this makes it simple.
9 . Mason Jars: Infinity versatile, they aren’t just for the kitchen.
10. Drawers: A simple project to organize your drawers, especially the ones full of little bits and pieces.
5 Ikea Projects
1. Crafts: I love Alex. I really, really love Alex. Alex isn’t a person – it’s my six drawer storage unit from Ikea. You can see a white one in this article. (It’s $119.) Ikea has held my kids Lego (shallow enough to see pieces), arts and craft supplies, and completed Lego sets. It would be perfect for holding holiday flags, if you collect them like my Mom does. I may get one for my closet because those shallow drawers would be good for lingerie and other small items. I love Alex, even if the silly people at Ikea do still think it’s office furniture.
2. Expedit (cubicle-style bookcase): This is actually an entire series of posts, but it really grabbed me because we have two Expedits in our master bedroom closet. We use them instead of dressers. We have a third downstairs full of records – that’s right, actual vinyl. (They are the perfect size.) In our old house, we had one in the kitchen. I love Expedit.
Bonus: 37 Clever Ways to Organize Your Life with Ikea: These clever ideas include using a tea towel holder for tank tops and hooks for your necklaces. There are also some ideas created for small space, such as a shoe rack (Trones) you can use to hold other items in your hallway, bath, or other tight areas. Next weekend, I’m heading to Ikea so I can make the bike rack they show here!
10 Kid Organization Ideas
These aren’t all just for kids, but they are definitely ones parents can appreciate!
1. Storing Matchbox / Hot Wheels cars: We ended up with bins of the darn things. They got dumped together so no one could see anything. This would have been much better.
2. Little Bits and Pieces: So very many tiny things come with tiny people. This has ideas for ways to corral many of them.
3. Hacks for Parents: I love the light up table, but I think my kids would prefer the Lego table.
4. Storage for Stuffed Animals: People just love to give kids plush, even if they already have 500 of them.
5. Bath Tub Toys: From dumped all over to tidied up, this is the quick solution that’s so easy even the kids can do it. (Not that they will.)
6. Family Travel Hacks: Silicone muffin cups in your cupholder and a cereal box trashcan are two of the brilliantly simply tricks to make travel a little easier.
7. Movies: I’ll be honest, I have more movies than this poster in a specific category like “military history” or “Westerns” – and those are not the big categories in our collection – but the ideas are still solid.
8. Crate Seats: Turn a crate into a simple seat and you have the storage underneath. Bonus: You can see what’s inside!
9. Lego Storage: Lego storage is a safety issue. (On a scale from one to stepped-on-a-Lego, how much does it hurt?)
10. Their Bathroom: Kids need help keeping the bathroom tolerable. This is that help.
5 Prepper Projects
1. Organize Your Stockpiles: Yep, it’s a big project and you may have done it before, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need done again.
2. Space Saving Ideas: The bed lifts up and lets you store more under it.
3. Survival Roll: This convenient little container holds all your little BOB basics.
4. First Aid: It’s an oldie but a goodie: Use a tackle box to organize your first aid supplies.
5. Batteries: Replace the cardboard package and corral them all into one easy-to-use storage solution.
5 Kitchen Organization Projects
1. Ideas for Maximizing a Small Kitchen: Ways to make the most of the space you have, even if it’s just on the side of the fridge.
2. Store Cans: Use photo boxes to store your cans and keep them clean.
3. Spice Storage: It can be hard to find the right spice when half of them are hidden behind the others in a cabinet. This is a simple solution.
4. Trash Bags on a Roll: Enough said.
5. Under the Sink: Equally valid for kitchen or bath, it’s an area that often gets wild and out of control for no good reason.
5 Laundry Organization Ideas
1. Laundry Basket Dresser: I do not want this in my bedroom – but I think it just might be perfect for my teen.
2. Laundry Room Storage: Everyone needs to store things in their bathroom. This is a way to do it attractively without breaking the bank.
3. Organization Ideas: A cute way to store your detergent. Wall storage for lint. (You re-use it as a fire-starter, right?) Repurposing the springs from a crib mattress. This has a little bit of everything!
4. $85 Laundry Room Remodel: This space was totally redone on a tight budget – she even painted the washer so it matches the dryer now!
5. Write on it: Write notes on the top of your machine with a Dry-Erase marker. (Test it on a small, out of the way space first, of course.) Brilliant!
10 Wood Pallet Projects
You can search out free wooden pallets to make these projects or buy two by fours at the home improvement store.
1. Garage Storage for Long-Handled Tools: Looking for a way to store your long-handled tools like shovels and rakes? Look no farther than this wood pallet project!
3. Firewood Storage: Inexpensive, functional way to keep your firewood corralled in one place.
3. Tool Storage: Storage for your small tools. Of course, you can personalize for your tool collection.
4. Bench: This cute bench is the perfect place to sit and put on your shoes, and the shelf under it is perfect for storing boots or other small outdoor items.
5. Patio: The prepper in me can’t help but think those sections of flooring can be removable, and other items stored underneath. Clearly, on a patio that is very limited by the fact that it is outside and very vulnerable to weather and critters, but the same idea could be used to create a new floor in other areas.
6. Doggy Dining: They don’t show it, but how could this cute little table not open up to store a few more things?
7. TV Stand: Game consoles, DVD / Blu-Ray / VHS, Cable, streaming video – the things we “need” to connect to our TV are seemingly endless, and different for every family. Why not use some pallets to make a custom one to suit your needs?
8. Recycling Center: Label it and maybe – just maybe – the kids can put things in the right spot. (Maybe.)
9. Platform Bed: Plenty of space to hide things underneath where they can’t be seen, and the mattress on top will keep the dust bunnies out.
10. 25 Creative Ideas: My favorites are the multi-tier storage unit and the under-cabinet unit they use for fruit.