Day: June 12, 2023

Mon. June 12, 2023 – organization, you need some kind that works for you

Hot in Houston.   Muggy.  Probably clear, but micro climates…  it was hot at the BOL but a steady breeze helped.   When that went still, it was drippy wet.   It was a hot sunny day after the overcast and rain.

Which, combined with the relatively short work day, meant I did little things and not major projects.  I found a new home for 8 buckets of bulk food and moved some stuff around.  Still not “organized” but better.

Which brings me to the actual title and topic of today’s post.   Organization.   You need it.   HOWEVER.   That said, you need a system that works for you.  If you try to impose a system, it won’t work as you’ll fight it and undermine it so that it fails, thus “proving” your original determination that it wouldn’t work for you.  Or is that just me?

Anyone with important stuff, or a lot of stuff, needs some way to organize it so that it can be found and used when needed.  A lot of preppers have borderline hoarder tendencies to begin with, and it’s hard to say what will be useful and what won’t so there is a bias toward keeping it “just in case.”  This can lead to a whole lot of stuff jammed into a small space and become the opposite of ‘organized’.   I had an epiphany recently about how I organize and thought I’d share.

First off, I don’t make lists.  I don’t do spreadsheets.  I don’t do written inventories.  I don’t track inventory.   There is nothing wrong with those things.  Many people find great comfort in using them, reviewing them, updating them, etc.   If you are one of those people or could become one, I honestly think that is awesome.   My only warning or critique is “don’t let the system become the boss.”   The goal ISN’T a shiny inventory management system that is up to date, and complete.   The goal is to be ready to survive and thrive when the bad thing happens.   If the barcoded spreadsheets, inventory management, and labeled shelves help you meet the goal, awesome.   If they have become an end in and of themselves, or you find yourself making decisions based on “pleasing” the system (like buying 22 cans because that fits in your tray, and there are 2 trays per shelf but you know you will use 26 cans during your time frame), the system may not be helping you achieve your goal.

I store important things where I can see them.   I want to look and see what I have and what I need.  I don’t actually look often enough and sometimes my mental model of what I have and the reality don’t match.  That’s an argument to review more often.

I ‘unitize’ things when I can.   I like to store food in “meals” or “months” not calories.  I don’t sort by type.  I’ve mentioned previously using cardboard flats (not any more) and rectangular tubs (still) and most recently even using milk crates to group cans into “meals per month.”  It is easy to see at a glance, x many buckets = x many months of rice or flour, or pasta.   X many flats of cans = x many months of side dishes.   I’ve added to the Mountain House variety packs to build x number of days food for x number of people, and then written that on the box.   In other words, if you could serve a dinner consisting of one meat, one veg, one starch, dessert and a drink, that is what you could stack, without counting calories in each can, or each cup of rice, and call that unit “one main meal”.  Put 30 of each of the pieces together in one place and get the unit “one month of main meals”.  Or one bucket rice, one crate meat, one crate veg, one crate misc.   Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.  If you already think in terms of meals, stack meals.

But, there is a lot more to prepping that just stacking food.    For other things, I’ve realized that I organize by association and place.  In other words, I organize by “clumps.”  I’ve been doing it for years.   Decades even.   And that was my epiphany, especially wrt getting angry and frustrated when other people {cough} move my stuff.

I put “like with like” and I put it somewhere TOGETHER.   Then I leave it there.    I can and do retrieve stuff from my stacks that I  put away 10 years ago.  I can walk up and put my hands on stuff that I put away even longer ago than that, IF no one moved it.   I don’t even have to know for certain that something is somewhere or that I even have the thing.

What I know is that IF I have a plumbing part, it will be with the plumbing supplies (top of the stairs in the garage attic, just to the right, irrigation in one box, materials in another, parts in a third, and whole items (like a faucet, or soap dispenser) in yet another.   If I have a need for wall wart power supplies, they are in bins sorted by voltage and the bins are stacked.  If I need computer stuff, it’s all clumped together too.

My books are sorted alphabetical by author for fiction, but they are clumped by subject for non-fiction.  Radio stuff is clumped by use.   Tools clumped by type and doubled up in clumps by use (ie. a tile toolbox, a plumbing bucket, a carpentry  box, an airtool cabinet, metalworking area…)

Like goes with like, and they have a place to go.  New stuff is added to the old in the same place.

Of course there are issues and problems with my system.   I know where the clumps are, but someone else might not.   They can see them though, and if they find the plumbing clump, they will find the item if it’s there.  Another problem is not sorting and adding stuff as it comes in.   That can lead to ‘orphans’ that get lost because they aren’t in the right area, with the other similar stuff.   Frequent review and staying on top of sorting and putting away can help to mitigate that.  The biggest deficiency though is that someone else can move items or mix up the clumps.  Of course they can do that to any organization system, even libraries have issues with mis-shelved books.  It’s just not always obvious to an outsider that the clump is all related, and all in one place.

In any case, as loose and haphazard as it might look, it is a SYSTEM, and it works reasonably well for me with VERY LITTLE overhead cost in time, effort, or money.  It lets me focus on the result and not the process.  A little extra effort (organizing the clumps into a system that makes sense spatially (shelving everything, or storing it in the same place) could be spent to help others participate in my own system, and maybe with my kids grown up enough to contribute, that will happen.  I’m trying to make it happen at the BOL, but we are only now transitioning from a jobsite to a living home…and I have a year invested in knowing where the clumps are.    There are things that are obvious improvements, like putting all the food in one area, and all the tools somewhere else, with the supplies and parts in another… and I’m working on getting that done.



Whatever your own organizational system is, you should have something that is consistent, and useful and USED because ‘If you can’t find it, you don’t really have it.’


Today and really, all of this week, will be nuts.   Swim team, my client’s changes and upgrades, some issues at my rent house, and getting ready to do the earthmoving at the BOL while the girls are away on a trip, are just some of the things pulling me in different directions.  All the normal daily stuff is going on too, as are some additional ‘summer learning’ opportunities.   I’ll be working off a calendar daily for this week and next.   Not what I envisioned for my summer vacation…

Stack it high my friends, but do it in a way that makes sense to you…


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