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How I Organized My Emergency Supplies Closet For Quick, Easy Access

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image: emergency supplies on a table

Are your disaster supplies an unholy mess? I wish you could have seen my Survival Closet after we moved into this house. It was all manner of chaos. Kind of embarrassing for The Survival Mom! However, with a great deal of assistance from my intrepid daughter (she actually did most of it), we organized my emergency supplies.

How did my Survival Closet become so unruly?

After the move, whenever we unpacked something related to prepping, I said, “Go put it in the Survival Closet.” And that’s what everyone did without any regard to how it was organized.

If it was related to prepping, into the closet it went.

As I added new preps over the years, we piled them into the closet, and soon it was crazy-messy.

What finally prompted the organization of the emergency supplies?

My daughter. My daughter prompted it.

One weekend, and without being asked, my daughter tackled that closet. She told me what size storage bins she needed and how many of each, and that was my main contribution to this monumental task.

I was impressed with her skills. After a few organizational changes of my own, our Survival Closet now serves its true purpose — having emergency supplies and gear ready at a moment’s notice when any sort of crisis strikes. It was magnificent.

Are you in a similar predicament?

If your preps are a mess and you have no idea how to put them in order, read on. Plus, I’ve got a checklist and a free printable for you at the bottom!

The Categories for Organizing My Emergency Supplies

Keep in mind our food storage, stored water, and some larger preps are located elsewhere but this closet contains smaller supplies in 8 general categories:

  1. Light sources (candles, flashlights, light sticks, headlamps, etc.)
  2. Emergency kit food (energy bars, MREs, Extreme Sports Beans, etc.)
  3. First Aid/medical
  4. Energy sources (batteries, solar chargers, battery packs)
  5. Water purification
  6. Clothing (work gloves, neon yellow safety vest, hardhat, etc.)
  7. Outdoor/camping (mess kits)
  8. General survival gear (paracord, a couple of multitools, etc.)

When my daughter unpacked everything in the closet and laid them out on the floor, these categories were the best fit. Your categories might be different, but the key is to first get everything in one place where you can see it and then begin sorting.

image: organized emergency supplies closet with shelves filled with many types of disaster supplies

Although most supplies are in bins, there are a few things stored in their own boxes, such as three waterBOBs, a couple of boxes of fuel tablets, our Sun Oven, and so on. We stacked them on the floor, and the labels are easy to see.

One challenge we encountered was how to store oddly shaped items like a large emergency radio, battery-powered fans (a must-have), and some solar lights and chargers.

Finally, inside the closet on both sides are hooks that hold our backpacks, a LifeStraw Mission water filter, and a couple of rain ponchos. If we had young children, we would place a second set of hooks at their eye level, holding their smaller backpacks.

One improvement I may make in the future is the addition of a third shelf since we have the wall space for it.

Bottom line? I’m thrilled with the results.

Why I chose a closet for these emergency preps

Here’s the reason I decided to store most of our emergency preps in one location. With everything in one location and sorted by category, we’re able to find what we need for specific situations.

For example, when we were hours away from the arrival of Hurricane Harvey, I went to the closet and found the emergency lights I was looking for along with a solar battery panel in the Energy Sources bin. When I packed my daughter’s emergency kit before she went off to college, I was able to find what I needed quickly from the labeled bins and containers.

Another reason I like having most everything in one location, rather than scattered around the house, is response time. I can quickly tell my kids, “Get a flashlight from the Survival Closet”, and they know exactly where to go.

Get your own emergency supplies organized

If you’ve accumulated a lot of preps or emergency supplies, organization is key.

The word “emergency” implies a hurried, perhaps panicky, event in which adrenaline levels are high and decisions are made instantaneously. In such a scenario, you need to know exactly where to find what you need.

There are different ways of organizing, but the system of sorting similar items by categories and then storing them in containers works for us and is how my Survival Closet is organized.

After organizing my emergency supplies, I created this checklist to help you start the process in your own space.

  • Assemble in one place everything you have that you consider emergency supplies and preps.
  • Separate the largest items from everything else. You may have to store them separately in other locations, but for now, focus on the remaining preps.
  • Use my categories and begin sorting everything in separate piles:
    • Light sources
    • Emergency kit food
    • First aid/Medical
    • Energy sources
    • Water purification
    • Clothing
    • Outdoor/camping
    • General survival
  • After sorting into these categories, identify additional categories for the remaining items, if you can. If not, they can go in their own container marked “Miscellaneous”.
  • Decide what type of containers you’ll need for each category and how large those containers should be. Don’t stall at this step. It’s not necessary that the containers match or be color coordinated! Cardboard boxes are fine.
  • Fill and label each container.
  • If you have a closet, a spare room, or another fairly large area for storage, move your now-organized supplies there. Use shelving if you have it. This article contains instructions for building your own shelving system for cheap. Increase your storage area by using vertical space; inexpensive wall hooks are a simple way to do this.

What if I don’t have one spot big enough to store everything?

If you don’t have a single area large enough for everything, identify the locations you do have. Then, divide your supplies between those areas. Alternatively, you could relocate the contents of a large closet, a room, or part of a room in order to keep all your preps together in one place. This article can help you rethink how your various living spaces could be organized.

Use this free emergency supplies organization cheat sheet to start today!

Don’t delay in organizing your preps. You don’t want to be the person in desperate need of something in an emergency, only to face a disorganized drawer, cupboard, or, hey, maybe it’s under the bed or on the top shelf of the pantry! That’s what happened to this minimalist prepper, so she also took action.

Don’t be that person!

You can print out this pdf with more photos of my emergency supplies, a checklist for getting your own supplies in shape, and a helpful inventory so you’ll know just what you have.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite tips are for organizing emergency supplies and preps.


This article was originally published on October 12, 2018, and has been updated and revised.

14 thoughts on “How I Organized My Emergency Supplies Closet For Quick, Easy Access”

  1. Clear bins with labels are my jam. No doubt about what’s in them. No doubt about how much room you have left in each. The bins ideally are from the same maker or at least bins where sizes are consisent to make stacking easier. I only use rectangled or squared shaped containers. Circles and ovals waste space. I put what I’m more likely to need either at chest level or in the forefront and items I’m less likely to need toward the back or up high & down low. I diversify where I store. If my hygiene supplies in the basement get flooded I still have my cookware in the garage, my safety gear in the upstairs closet and food under the beds. Consider hooks for things you’ll need to grab in a flash. My flashlights are all on squeeze prongs in the five spots I place one – no need to rummage through bins in a power outage. Love the dumping it all in a pile and sorting idea. Sometiems you do need to make things an even bigger mess in order to get them tidier!

  2. Thanks for all this info Lisa….Passing it on to my Daughter who will need them for her Daughter in a yr….She has a yr. to plan for it and by that time she should have it all…a great idea thanks to you and we will be passing this along to others to check out your blog, they may want to do this also….

    I really never thought of this….maybe she has, but she hasn’t mentioned it to me….

    My 2 kids went to College about 1&1/2 hr. away and stayed on campus, and my Daughter came home every week-end for 2 yrs….I think. my Son rarely came home…..think he has a GF…lol and my Daughters’ BF lived in our town too….so that is why she came home…..I’m sure lol…

    Thanks so much Lisa,

    Mona (10/13/18 )

  3. Very organized, great job! I would add lots more camping stuff, especially tarps, solar shower, tent, paracord which may be there already, hard to tell. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. The Survival Mom

      In our case, we have all our camping gear in large bins in the garage — tents, tarps, rope, etc. The stuff in the closet is more “emergency preparedness” supplies.

  4. katherine shields

    I recently put all the emergency supplies in the master closet. afterwards I was so relieved to have everything gathered together- guess this was a source of subconscious stress for me! the idea was that we could hole up in the master suite if we need to. I added the emergency toilet, and some board games/colored pencils/coloring books/playing cards. Now to do the ‘labelled bin’ thing.
    thanks for the great ideas.

    Our prepper meetup suggests making “kits” in gallon ziplocks; one per person, then put those in a bin so you can grab and go. For instance, the airborne hazard kit is: N95 mask, gloves, goggles, shemagh.

  5. Pingback: 17 Hall Closet Organization Ideas

  6. Timothy Jalbert

    I have 1 solar panel it charges most portable lights and a phone. I am trying and suggest you do the same get everything so you can charge it by a solar panel. Batteries don’t last long.I would suggest getting a kerosene heater and extra fule. A kerosene lamp is a good idea. A gas grill and spare gas.

  7. I’m torn between keeping everything together in ONE spot vs. a couple of places around the house. I worry if my 1 spot gets flooded (think leaky hot water heater) then everything will be ruined even if things are in bins. I know I need to get things organized I just have to make a decision and get to it. You have given me ideas!

    1. The Survival Mom

      For me, the key was to organize my preps by categories. When you do that, you can always assemble smaller kits from those categories to have in different parts of the house.

  8. I think it is a good idea to have an er backpack for each for unexpected hospital stays, unexpected evacuation like fire………I find you can roll quite a few tee shirts and lightweight pull on pants…….so if you get stuck at a motel etc you can change clothes often…….also someplace in house or apt have an er sheet for information for emergencys that someone can grab…….and leave one for er personnel….hanging on side of fridge. this tells them of meds, docs, etc for whole family……they can grab and take with you if necessary……..have a safe day! xos

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