Prepping in Small Spaces

Most preppers admire photos and videos of well-organized prep rooms, walk-in pantries, or underground cellars lined with jars of pickled vegetables. However, with 55% of the world’s population now living in major metropolitan areas (source), fewer and fewer people have the option to harvest their own seasonal food or have large rooms set aside for preparedness storage.

With the rising cost of real estate and the attractive setting of cities, more and more people are opting to live in small spaces and apartments. People living in major cities find space to be at a premium and often live in spaces that would be unthinkable to their rural-dwelling counterparts.

So is it possible to build an effective and sustainable prep inventory with limited living and storage space? The answer is absolutely yes!

And it may be even more important for them to do so. Those in major cities may have even less access to supplies, given that the competition for supplies at the grocery stores will be heavier. It’s also possible that electricity or water supply will give out sooner.

Living in a small space does not preclude you from preparing for a disaster and keeping your family fed and healthy. Here are our suggestions for making your space work for you when living in an apartment, especially one with no yard space.

Step 1: Get rid of stuff you don’t need

No matter how large or small our homes are, all of us seem to accumulate things we don’t need over the years. In order to build a supply in an apartment or small space, you’ll need all the spare room you can get.

This means getting rid of things like toys your kids have outgrown, clothing that doesn’t fit or that you don’t wear, books that are not being read, or items you’ve been saving ‘just in case’ that actually serve no purpose.

Remember the post on Prepping vs Hoarding? Hanging on to items you no longer use, and that you have no actual plan for using, is a sign that you may be more on the ‘hoarding’ side than you want to be.

By doing the tough work of purging your belongings, you’re making room for things that are much more important – the food and supplies you’ll need in case of an emergency.

Step 2: Prioritize what you DO need

When you look into prepping resources, you’ll find endless lists of things you ‘might’ need or lots of extras to keep your supply from getting boring. However, when you’re working with limited space you’ll need to start your inventory with the most important items and go from there.

You and your family won’t survive long without water, so that should be the first thing you seek to prepare. Recommended storage for water is one gallon a day per person, so as you can imagine, water will take up a lot of space.

However, there are ways to maximize your space such as water purification tablets and water filters. You might also consider a collapsible system like the WaterBob, which will allow you to fill up and purify water in your bathtub without taking up space on a regular basis.

After water, you’ll want to prioritize food next. Because canned food contains water that takes up space, consider storing dehydrated food that is calorie-dense. Five-gallon buckets and bags can be used to store good quantities of dehydrated food, as well as prepping staples like rice and beans, that can easily be cooked.

You can also choose herbs or medicinals as house plants. Plants like aloe, basil, and rosemary have many uses and still look attractive as decor in your home.

After water and food, consider how you will cook the food (taking into consideration that portable stoves can give off carbon monoxide and should be used with ventilation) as well as storing hygiene supplies.

Step 3: Practice Smart Storage

While at first glance it may seem like you have nowhere to store stuff, a few strategic tricks can keep your home looking neat and attractive while also keeping your family safe in the event of a disaster.

Some easy and immediate changes you can make include:

  • Putting beds on bed risers
  • Buying a couch and other seating that opens up to allow for storage
  • Getting end tables and coffee tables that are hollow and allow for storage
  • Maximized closet space with stackable bins or shelving – you can and should use the space there from floor to ceiling
  • Your medicine cabinets should be cleaned out of anything that is expired or rarely used, and the space used to stock up on hygiene items. Some hygiene items can be vacuum-sealed and will take up much less space than before, including toilet paper, diapers, and sanitary pads.

There are many creative solutions to storing your supply in plain sight, like covering five-gallon buckets with a cloth and utilizing them as end tables or plant stands, or buying a decorative armoire to serve as a storage pantry.

Step 4: Think Outside the Box

There are many options outside your apartment that can keep your family safe, fed, and healthy in the event of a disaster.

If you’re finding your space is not adequate for the supply you need, consider renting a storage unit nearby. This could serve as your prep room, allowing you to store as many supplies as you like.

The downside of this could be that your supply will be out of sight and could become out of mind as well, leading to spoilage and waste. Use a system like our Ultimate Prep System to make sure you’re on top of what you have, where everything is, and which food or supplies need to be rotated through to avoid spoilage.

Some cities offer small garden plots you can rent, which allow apartment-dwellers to grow their own food. You might also carefully consider talking to some neighbors in your building and seeing if they too are on board with prepping. This could allow you to prepare water drums as a building or utilize common storage space for preparing supplies. However, many preppers advise being low-key about your supply, so proceed with caution.


Prepping for a disaster, emergency, or even SHTF is not reliant on having a sprawling country home with endless acreage and an impressive cellar. Prepping is also possible without a massive state-of-the-art kitchen or expensive equipment.

No matter what your budget or your living situation is, you can always take steps toward building disaster preparedness, and you can live with the peace of mind that brings.

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  • I’ve stored 5 gallon buckets behind our sofa as well as pint jars under our dressers. If there’s space we have preps there. Our goal is to keep our preps out of sight.

  • If you don’t have a storage room- Like the idea about climate controlled storage. Seems like a better alternative than upsetting the household. (If the home is disorganized, it’s not peaceful; that’s surviving and not thriving.) One near your house might be the best bet. So you can shop and dump as often as you wish.

    Cannot imagine if a spouse, or even children, having to live with cans under the bed, if they didn’t have to. When I moved, I leased one for 2 months, and it was less than $100/month. The ceilings were 15ft high and security was awesome. It was cooler in there than I keep my house, lol.

    Imagine the only issue would be making certain you stack as high as you safely can. The home depot buckets are pretty stable. It might even help keep you organized!

  • I think, besides water, the hardest thing to prep is toilet paper. I started buying the boxes, so I could stack them. It came down to the choice between chaos and gas station t.p. I chose to defer my complaints and optimize space right now. Like many, I also began stocking up on baby wipes.

    There is a TP that is called toilet paper tablets (also known as pills.) But, they are extremely expensive, as they are intended for travel.
    Would be interested in hearing how others are storing TP and paper towels.

    • Yes, I recall seeing a video from Canadian Prepper on YouTube about the toilet paper tablets. Seems like a great solution when space is extremely tight, because you’re right, TP takes up a lot of space.

    • I find vacuum sealing and stacking in a closet or under a bed helps save space. I also hid some under the back seat in my car and truck.

  • Living in a small space causes you to think of different ways/places you can store your preps, that also includes things like precious metals. I live in a 250sq.ft. 32’ 5th wheel RV in an RV park. Not only am I confined inside, I’m also confined outside. I have employed all the above tips and tricks but also sought out information on where/how to find “extra” space within my confines that nobody would think about in “normal” times. Just one example I found after talking to my sister is that there’s a HUGE amount of wasted extra space in the 3 steps that go up to the bedroom. That provides not only extra space, but also extra security because (like me) who would even think to look there for extra preps? Just look around your particular space and let your mind look at things from a different point of view. Trust me, it’s there.

  • I rented a room for 3 years and had very little space. The things I did that helped the most was raise my bed about 12” off the floor and use storage bins and suitcases to store my preps. I also went through all my clothes and donated everything I was no longer wearing. I used space saving hangers and was able to stack storage bins on one side of the closet and put preps in the newly empty drawers in my dresser. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

  • Good article as I’m in a 3rd story apt and need to prep for hurricane and power outage. Wish I had prepped for the TX freeze.

    • Thanks Sue! You know, one aspect of this that I neglected to cover is the caloric density of the prepped food. Some food is very calorically dense, and some is just not. I think that I could update and revise this in the future to add that.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Hi Tina! I understand. For me, the purging feels so good though… it’s well worth it. And when space is at a premium, it really is essential.

    • Hi Edward. I’m with you. Now that I have a prep supply, I’m much more selective about buying on sale. When it’s on sale, I stock up.

      I think in terms of going overboard, as long as you have a clear idea of how much food you want to have on hand (number of days/weeks/months), and as long as you have good balance in your food preps (to avoid food fatigue in a disaster scenario), then you should be in good shape. If you could use help with this, I encourage you to check out our Ultimate Prep System.

      Thanks for being here and for the comment.

  • I cannot get the wife on board with prepping, she feels we have enough to get by if needed and anything more is excessive. But I’ll keep trying.

    • I get it Joshua. My wife has not exactly been supportive, but it helped tremendously to connect with her on an emotional level rather than a rational level.

      I shared with her how it made me feel that things in this world are just so crazy and unpredictable and what that means to me as a husband and father. I shared my concern with taking for granted a system that showed very real signs of weakness during the food shortages we’ve seen throughout the country over the last 18 months. I shared with her how it alleviates my stress as a provider for the family to know that we have basically just a backlog of food and supplies (that we’ll rotate through) that can get us through some number of weeks or months.

      I think anyone can agree to have food on hand – I mean, we all have pantries. So the question isn’t whether to prep or not. The question is how many days/weeks/months is our goal to have on hand, based on the risks we are trying to mitigate.

      I hope this is helpful.

  • As a very small space dweller I can relate to the struggle and overwhelm that can happen. Where am I going to store this? How much room can I make? Are there any potential ‘concealed’ areas of blank space I can utilize? What options are there for off-site storage? I’ve implemented all of these plans but I still get overwhelmed by the daily stories that things are much worse or will last much longer than expected and before I know it I’m overrun with more preps than I have space for and the process begins again.

  • Great advice for all size homes, not just limited space. I’d include a kitchen cabinet designated for food storage. Most kitchens have what we call dead space in the construction field. Those hard to reach, awkward size spaces can easily hold bags of rice, cans of food, etc.

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