05 September 2012

Storing emergency food and supplies in a small home

Rowhouse Livin' appreciates its readers in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, readers in the inner suburbs and surrounding five counties, and indeed readers much further afield. We love each and every one of you equally -- you and your large homes and acreage. But if we read one more blog exploring the pros and cons of storing food out in the garage, or a book that tells us how to convert part of the basement into a root cellar, or a survivalist zine that tells us to store extra water by linking together six 50-gallon water heaters on the back porch under the deck, we're going to start feeling a little discouraged.

Though we no longer live in an authentic trinity house, we do have just under 1,000 square feet in our home. Our galley kitchen, while large for some city apartments, is still only about half the size of what most Americans expect in new construction or a renovation. To conserve counter space, our microwave oven is kept on a shelf in the dining area. And outside of the fridge, we store almost all of our food in a tall, freestanding pine cabinet by the dining table -- not in the kitchen at all.

Our two small bedrooms have closets, but definitely not of the walk-in variety. Our linen closet holds just enough bath towels, tea towels, sheets, and blankets for the household, with a little room left over for a toolbox and spare curtain hanging hardware.

If you think it's unusual to store a toolbox and curtain rods in the linen closet, then you've just recognized our most important home storage strategy: unusual locations. Small spaces (PDF) require some big thinking. How about inexpensive risers to lift your bed a few more inches off the floor, so that you can fit a few low-profile storage containers underneath? Get them in a heavy-duty style and you can use them for items that are bulkier than clothes and blankets, and things that don't seem like they belong in a bedroom: cans of food, sacks of toiletries, boxes of lightbulbs.

As another example, my open-concept living room has no closets or built-in cabinets, so I've placed an antique linen press by my sofa. But since I do have a linen closet, I keep all manner of other items in this cabinet instead: board games, yarn and tools for crochet and knitting projects, candles and matches, CDs and DVDs, and a set of china that's on my list to sell or donate sometime soon. The cabinent's contents are a real hodge-podge, but it's great to have my candles and matches right there in the living room when the power goes out.

Probably your first step, however, is to do a little de-cluttering your home. There are a million websites and books to get you started; far be it from me to tell you how to clean up your house, or to even suggest that it needs to be done. But "a place for everything, and everything in its place" is a good, um, place to start. Look at what you have. Is it serving your urban home economic needs? Or is it clutter? If it's clutter, get rid of it to make room for some canned soup.

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