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By Jim Cobb, The Survival Weekly Dispatch

You know the easiest way to find something you've misplaced? Buy another one. As soon as you get home from the store, you'll find your old one sitting right where it should be, even if you've looked there a dozen times. Ask your favorite mechanic how many 10mm sockets they have, LOL.

I've heard this time after time from preppers and survivalists. They have almost everything they need, but they can't seem to find it. Things get moved, they get shuffled around, they get boxed up and unboxed again, over and over. It doesn't take long before that widget you're hunting could be anywhere from the attic to the storage unit across town or anywhere in between.

The simple fact is, if you can't find it, you don't own it. This is even more evident if there is an emergency and you don't have the luxury of time to spend searching endlessly through drawers, cabinets, and cupboards. You need that first aid kit now, not an hour from now.

Few homes have as much storage space as the occupants truly want. Hell, we're bursting at the seams here, with more to come. We've been cleaning out my dad's house and doing everything we can to avoid having to rent a storage unit. Thankfully, my wife is a certified genius in the art of stacking, sorting, and storage. She also kicks all sorts of ass at Tetris and I presume the skill sets are related.

When space is at a premium, organization becomes even more important. Not only is it easier to fit more stuff into a given space if it is organized, you stand a far better chance of finding what you need when you need it if things aren't just in a giant pile stuffed at the back of a closet.

Here are a few pointers when it comes to organization.

1) Label every box or tote. This doesn't need to involve fancy laser-printed labels. A piece of paper securely taped to the box works just as well. That said, if you pay attention, you can often find packs of blank labels at Goodwill in their office supplies aisle. Remember dot matrix printers? I've found boxes and boxes of labels for those printers. They work just fine if you write the labels by hand with a Sharpie. In my experience, labels are easier to spot and read than just writing right on the box itself.

2) Buy a tape gun and a few rolls of good tape. Just folding the bottoms closed on boxes is asking for trouble.

3) Totes work great, if you find the ones that stack nicely. Boxes, though, are free at grocery stores and such. That said, never store anything that might appeal to rodents in cardboard boxes. Keep those in secure containers like plastic totes or even 5-gallon buckets with secure lids. If you find a certain type of box works especially well for your needs, don't be afraid to ask for them specifically. We've found that our local grocery store gets in cases of bottled water that arrive in cardboard boxes. They are the perfect size (just a bit smaller than copy paper boxes) for our needs and we've requested they save all of them for us. Thus far, we've received dozens of them, with more to come.

4) Invest in a decent toolbox at a minimum, though if you have the space for a workbench and proper tool storage, all the better. Get into the habit of putting your tools away where they go when you're done with them. Leaving them in a pile and promising to get to it later never works out. If the power tool came with a plastic case, use it for storing the tool. Charity shops and rummage sales are great places to find toolboxes and such, though these days they aren't quite as cheap as they once were. You'll also find those sorts of things on sale during the holiday season as they are popular gift ideas.

5) Most of us don't have the space for an entire room devoted to our preps. For many, the best we can do is squirrel away a little bit here and a little bit there. That's fine, as long as you remember where you put it. Consider a spreadsheet or some other sort of written record of what is stored where. Think about it like this -- even if YOU know exactly where everything is, you might be the only one with that information. Should you be unavailable for consultation, having an easy way for another family member to find what they need could be important. I'm not suggesting you post the master list on the refrigerator for one and all to see, of course. But, keeping it in a set location in the home office or somewhere similar could be useful to all involved.

Own your stuff, don't let it own you. Find a home for everything and keep it there until it is needed.

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