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How to Store Bulk Supplies in a Tiny Apartment

A small, apartment kitchen.
Michaela Klenkova/Shutterstock

Recent news has proven that “preppers” aren’t quite as extreme as people once thought. These days, it’s hard to argue against the wisdom of storing a few weeks’ (or even months’) worth of supplies at home.

But prepping for disasters, although wise, is a luxury that requires a certain amount of storage space. People in small apartments already have to contend with not being able to save money by shopping in bulk. Now, the lack of storage space can feel downright threatening.

However, those of us who live in small spaces shouldn’t give up on preparedness. While you might not be able to store enough supplies for several months, some creativity can help you make enough space for a few weeks’ worth of groceries and other essentials.

From one person in a tiny apartment to another, here are the best ways to make more storage space for supplies.

  • Ditch the packaging: Dried and prepared foods often come in bulky packages, like cardboard boxes. Taking individually-wrapped items out of their packaging can free up tons of space. You can also put dried goods in containers, like mason jars, to both maximize your space and keep things organized.
  • Use your trunk: If you have a car, your trunk offers some valuable extra storage space. Try to store things in there that would also be useful if your car breaks down, like blankets, practical shoes, and some extra water. However, you can also stash some of your household items or cleaning supplies back there, too. While food should stay in your apartment where the temperature stable, paper towels or rags are indifferent to temperature swings.
  • Buy dehydrated food: While canned food is the typical go-to for emergency prep, dehydrated and dried food often takes up far less space. You can find many dehydrated food products designed for avid hikers and campers. They might not be as tasty as canned products, but you’ll be glad to have them in a pinch.
Four paper bags of dehydrated fruit with some of the contents of each spilled out on a table.
Alexandr Kazharski/Shutterstock
  • Look up: You might have some unused storage space higher up. If you have space between the tops of your kitchen cabinets and the ceiling, for example, that’s storage! So is the top of the fridge, and any wall where you can install some high shelves.
  • Buy larger sizes: Large bottles actually tend to be more space-efficient than smaller ones. Compare one large bottle of shampoo to the equivalent amount of travel-size bottles, and you’ll see what we mean. If you don’t want large containers taking up too much space in your bathroom or kitchen, buy a smaller bottle of it, and then refill it from the larger container.
  • Get a water filter: Storing large quantities of bottled water isn’t practical, nor is it necessary. Even if grocery stores are closed and you can’t leave your home, you still have tap water. If you’re worried about the quality of the water in your area, buy a water filter or two.
  • Raise your bed: If you don’t store stuff under your bed, you’re missing out on a huge pocket of space! This is why dorm beds are so high off the ground—you can cram a whole lot of stuff under an elevated bed. You can add more under yours with a set of bed risers. To make your stash more accessible, pick up some rolling bins designed specifically to fit under a bed. You can also put your sofa or other large furniture items on risers to add more space there as well.
  • Use your suitcase: You can fit a surprising amount of food and supplies in an empty suitcase. You’ll have to unpack it all before you travel, of course, but that’s better than not having enough space for what you need. Other empty items you don’t use much, like a cooler or a large cooking pot, can also store additional supplies.
  • Install some shelf risers: These can just about double the storage space on your shelves. Try them out on your bookshelves, kitchen cabinets, or counters to create more space. You can even put one on the sill of a window to create some extra shelf space.
  • Hang your pots and pans: If you have large drawers or cabinets devoted to pots and pans, consider hanging them from the wall or ceiling, so you can use that cabinet space for other stuff. Apartment Therapy offers some creative ideas for getting those pots and pans out of the way—a simple curtain rod with a row of S-hooks always works well. You can even put hooks inside your cabinets to maximize the vertical space inside.
Two rows of Pots and Pans hanging on curtain rods that are attached to a wall.
Malisa Nicoau/Shutterstock
  • Buy an over-the-toilet shelf: These add precious space and are ideal for storing cleaning and personal-care products. They aren’t super cheap (the least expensive tend to run around $40), but they’re easy to order online and install yourself.
  • Look behind your books: Even if your bookcase is full, there’s probably some space left between the books and the wall. This little crevice is a good place to store a row of canned food or similarly small supplies. Just take out your books, fill the space against the wall with useful items, and then replace the books.
  • Fill half-empty dresser drawers: If your dresser drawers aren’t totally filled with clothes, use the extra space to store dry goods or other essentials. There’s no rule that says you can only use those drawers for clothes!
  • Buy a shower curtain with pockets: Even your shower curtain can become a source of storage space. These allow you to store bathroom-friendly (that is, impervious to water) supplies inside. You can hang it in reverse so the pockets are on the outside and away from the spray of water. Be cautious of the weight limits of your shower curtain rod, however. These are best for lighter items, like cotton swabs or extra loofahs.

The coronavirus pandemic is bringing out the inner prepper in all of us—so don’t feel left out if you live in a small apartment. At least a few of these tips should be feasible for anyone, no matter your budget or space constraints.

Even under normal circumstances, you might find these tips helpful for using your space wisely.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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