I hes­i­tat­ed writ­ing this because I want­ed it to be com­pre­hen­sive, but I don’t want it to be a book. How­ev­er, I am going to let it be as long as it needs to be at this point.  Yes­ter­day, I was out at my NJ Pre­pared­ness Meet­up and one of the peo­ple asked me how I kept so much gear and food in my apart­ment.  I will get into a lit­tle of that today, my tri­als, tribu­la­tions, my the­o­ry of food stor­age, and replace­ment, as well as secu­ri­ty, guns (maybe), rent­ing and more.

Well, here is…

Table of Con­tents

Renting and financial preparedness.

The first thing you need to under­stand, is that when you are rent­ing some­one else’s prop­er­ty, you are not going to pay it off, and there is no end in sight for your shel­ter being yours, so that month­ly pay­ment you are mak­ing is in per­pe­tu­ity.  Rather, it is on going for­ev­er, which means there needs to be a reserve of cash that you have access to so that if you lose a job and have to re-estab­lish employ­ment that you have sev­er­al months of rent and bills ready to be pre­paid with­out sac­ri­fic­ing your­self to the streets.

Things to take into con­sid­er­a­tion when look­ing to save for an emer­gency are the fol­low­ing:

  • Rent
  • Rental insur­ance
  • Car pay­ment
  • Car insur­ance
  • Phone bill
  • Cable / Inter­net bill
  • Gaso­line for your vehi­cle / vehi­cle main­te­nance
  • Elec­tric bill
  • Gas / propane bill
  • Cell phone bill
  • Food
  • etc…

What I am say­ing is, is that if you are pay­ing out $1,000.00 a month for rent, you may actu­al­ly have to put out anoth­er $1,000.00 in bills for a total of $2,000.00 a month.  Peo­ple gen­er­al­ly only look at their largest month­ly expens­es and the small­er ones slip their minds, like cell phone bill, etc.  That said, as renters,  I am going to go out on a limb and say that we should have no less than 90 days worth of expense mon­ey in the bank that we should for­get about until an emer­gency.  Ide­al­ly, as renters, we should have six months to one year of finances in the bank.  In this econ­o­my, if you can put six months to a year in the bank and keep it there, fan­tas­tic.  If you can­not, even one mon­th’s worth of bills is a cush­ion that would be a start… My rec­om­men­da­tion would be to have a goal to get one months worth of bills saved in a new sav­ings account, then cre­ate a new goal to get two addi­tion­al months into that account.  I know it can sound like a tall order, but if you can get just one month saved, you have proven to your­self you can get three months saved.  Psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly, you will also feel bet­ter know­ing there is at least a small pad there for you.  Before my finan­cial sit­u­a­tion start­ed to dete­ri­o­rate in 2008 for rea­sons I will not get into here, I had a min­i­mum of six months of sav­ings in one sav­ings account that nev­er got touched, just for an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.

This is much hard­er than it looks, since we all like to spend for those things we want, but from pri­or expe­ri­ence, I can tell you the end result is worth it.

Storage or storing your stuff in an apartment

Living in an apartment clearly does not give you the sustainable space for gear and other storage that a house has, depending of course on the size of the house. Space is limited, and sometimes I feel like I am a hoarder or a junk dealer until I cannot stand everything in the way anymore.  Then I go on a tirade of re-arranging and re-evaluating where everything is hiding and finding a better way to store things.

When you rent an apartment you cannot modify it as you would your own home.  You are held hostage to the space you live in.  There, generally speaking, is little or no way to add additional storage capacity to the living space, such as an additional room that can be built, a shed, etc.  If you are looking for apartments, you may want to consider looking for something like where I live which is an apartment in a home, not an apartment building.  Unless that apartment building offers additional basement storage where you can keep your other seasonal stuff out of the way and locked up.  Just make sure it is ample storage space.

I specifically chose this apartment for a large deck on the rear of the house off of the home, as well as the shed on the property, which I have not taken advantage of because of nosy landlords downstairs, and a not so neighborly element there may be wandering around.  In fact, the apartment building directly behind the home/apartment I am in, was condemned by the township at one point and there were two homeless people squatting there.  I did not want my gear or food storage that I left in the shed to suddenly disappear one day like the Get Home Bag did our of my truck recently.

Here are a few ideas on how to store your gear and oth­er items  in your apart­ment.  Some of this will be expand­ed on lat­er in this post:

  • Use ver­ti­cal stor­age, such as shelves or portable cab­i­netry you can buy and take with you when you move to help stay orga­nized and keep your stuff out of sight.
  • Shop for fur­ni­ture that gives addi­tion­al stor­age space, as men­tioned above and below such as:
    • Under bed stor­age
    • Cof­fee table stor­age
    • Bench stor­age
    • Shelv­ing in a spare bed­room
    • Small dress­er inside of a clos­et
    • Get cre­ative and use cre­ative use of space by mod­i­fy­ing areas and “stuff” you do have, such as a table you may be able to drape a full length table cloth over to store stuff under­neath it.  I heard this some­where, but for­get where…

Security for your apartment

What are the reasons for Apartment Security?  I mean you live in an apartment, right?  With other people around, right?  Well, let me outline a few things here.  First, personal security in an apartment is pretty important.  I say this because, there are a lot of people around.  Personal security, to me comes in two forms; property and physical.  Let’s examine both for a minute.

  • For your prop­er­ty:  If some­one comes to your apart­ment, and they see what kind of stuff you have, and want it, they may be back for it if they do not see that it is secured in some way, then they may come back for it when you are not around.  When peo­ple in your neigh­bor­hood see you come and go, they may get to know your sched­ule, and when you are not home, your stuff is vul­ner­a­ble.  Homes and apart­ments with secu­ri­ty sys­tems dis­play­ing the win­dow stick­ers that the home is alarmed are three times less like­ly to be bro­ken into than those that do not have them.  That is a real life sta­tis­tic.
  • For your life:  If your apart­ment is secured, the like­li­hood of a home inva­sion also goes down dra­mat­i­cal­ly.

If you are allowed, get and install a mon­i­tored wire­less alarm sys­tem for your apart­ment.  If you are allowed to have a mon­i­tored alarm sys­tem, you may have to pro­vide the land­lord with a code for access to your apart­ment.  The alarm sys­tem may not have to have heat or fire detec­tion, as you already should have that in the apart­ment you are liv­ing.  Depend­ing on the town­ship, city, or coun­ty build­ing code, you may have to have them in the home/apartment not unlike where I live.  There are three apart­ments in this home, and because there are three, the build­ing code requires hard wired smoke detec­tors through­out the build­ing.

If you live on the first floor of an apart­ment build­ing or home with an apart­ment in it, I par­tic­u­lar­ly rec­om­mend a mon­i­tored home secu­ri­ty sys­tem, because your apart­ment is that much more acces­si­ble than a sec­ond or third floor apart­ment.

I will not get into brands of wire­less alarm sys­tems here.  I do have expe­ri­ence with some of them bug a Google search or search on Amazon.com will give you a good edu­ca­tion as to what is out there and what they cost.  I will insist that you get one with a key fob, so that you can arm, dis­arm, and hit a pan­ic but­ton remote­ly to alarm police that there is an issue if you ever need to.  Your mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice should also cost between 20 and 30 dol­lars month­ly.  Most alarm com­pa­nies try to lock you into an agree­ment for 36 months and will move your alarm sys­tem for free if you ever move.  Make sure you get that in writ­ing.

Backup power in the apartment

It is a lit­tle hard­er to prep for pow­er out­ages when you live in an apart­ment because you are on the build­ings elec­tri­cal sys­tem.  If the build­ing or the local­ized grid goes down for any rea­son you are SOL when it comes to pow­er.  For many, unless they have a deck or s small bal­cony on their apart­ment (unless they live on the first floor) it is going to be hard­er to have pow­er back­up.  My sug­ges­tion is a solar pan­el and a deep cycle bat­tery or two and a pow­er invert­er, but make sure that your deep cycle bat­tery is one that you can keep indoors with­out leak­age of harm­ful fumes.

The sec­ond option for a pow­er back­up unit is a small gen­er­a­tor that can be put on the deck or small bal­cony, and you can then run a cord inside to pow­er sev­er­al items such as a radio, a few lights, etc.  The down­side to a gen­er­a­tor is that they make noise your neigh­bors can hear.  If you are on the first floor of your build­ing, this adds a whole new secu­ri­ty risk to the equa­tion from would be loot­ers if the out­age is wide, and the noise of the gen­er­a­tor attracts atten­tion.  Admit­ted­ly, back­up pow­er is some­what of a con­cern to me, espe­cial­ly in the win­ter, and is some­thing I have done lit­tle about.  Pri­mar­i­ly due to the finan­cial side.  If I had my way, I would have a small gen­er­a­tor, two deep cycle bat­ter­ies, and a solar pan­el.  The upside is that you can take them wher­ev­er you move, and they will always have some appli­ca­tion for you.

Anoth­er pow­er back­up option to think about is a Pow­er Dome EX.  The Pow­er Dome EX is a deep cycle bat­tery unit that has a 400 watt unit made to jump start your car, but also has the abil­i­ty, and capac­i­ty to run lights, radio, etc. for sev­er­al hours.  It was reviewed by Jack Spirko of The SurvivalPodcast.com on his YouTube Chan­nel.  You can watch the video here:  http://bit.ly/b8gZxu.  It may be worth the $100.00 price tag to have it charged and sit­ting around the bot­tom of a clos­et in your apart­ment until you need it.  If you go on a long road trip, just throw it in your car, and take it out when you return home…

Also if you have an elec­tric stove, make sure you get your­self a cou­ple of burn­ers or camp stoves that run on the on pound propane tanks so that you can cook if the pow­er is out.  They are pret­ty inex­pen­sive if you buy some­thing like this:  http://amzn.to/aJG9m4 or this http://amzn.to/cV53aJ

Backup Heat for Your Apartment

Real­is­ti­cal­ly this is a tough call, assum­ing you live some­where in the north­ern hemi­sphere where it gets very cold in the win­ter.  This is a con­cern to me, because, frankly, I hate the cold weath­er.  So, in the event there is a pow­er out­age, and / or the heat goes out, I pur­chased a Mr. Heater.  Here is anoth­er video giv­ing a quick overview of the Mr. Bud­dy:  http://bit.ly/d1V46V.  The ver­sion I have uses two one pound propane can­is­ters.  One thing you should also con­cern your­self with is whether or not you can have propane in your apart­ment.  I am not, but I have them any­way, for a portable Weber grill on my deck, and they also work with my Mr. Bud­dy.  I know I can close off one room in my apart­ment if I had to, and run the Mr. Bud­dy to keep warm for sev­er­al days with the num­ber of propane can­is­ters I have.  If I need to crack  a win­dow I can do that as well…  Oth­er ancil­lary items that I have to help keep warm are a few hur­ri­cane lanterns and lamp oil.  The lanterns get VERY hot to the touch, but you will want to make sure you have a win­dow cracked or two, as they do not burn so clean­ly… They are a last resort, but I have them any­way because they were inex­pen­sive.

Water Storage, this is always a question I get

For Water Stor­age I have six five gal­lon col­lapsi­ble water con­tain­ers that sit at the bot­tom of a clos­et giv­ing me 30 gal­lons of water stor­age.  Each five gal­lons of water you store, add 1/2 a tea­spoon of unscent­ed bleach, and this should keep the water potable for one year.  I keep the water in five gal­lon con­tain­ers because it rations, com­part­men­tal­izes, and makes the water more portable if I need to throw a cou­ple of con­tain­ers in the back of my truck for camp­ing or to bug out.

I have also added a Water­bob to my emer­gency water stor­age plan.  This is nifty prod­uct that sits in your tub and you fill it up with 100 gal­lons of water in the time of an emer­gency so that you can use it for hygien­ic and con­sump­tion pur­pos­es.  You can go direct­ly to the Water­bob Web­site and learn more as well: www.waterbob.com.  I would not hes­i­tate to put this in my truck, and use a gar­den hose to fill it half way or so if I were bug­ging out either.  It is made to hold a lot of water, and you may only need 50 gal­lons or so to get to your des­ti­na­tion.    If bug­ging in, well, you should have some ample water, even if you had to give five gal­lons of water away to a neigh­bor if you want­ed to be nice…

Food Storage

For food stor­age you have to be sure to make bet­ter use of your space.  Mak­ing sure you use your space effi­cient­ly if very impor­tant so that you can store the max­i­mum amount of food in the small­est amount of space.  I have found this very dif­fi­cult to do.  To try to use my space more effi­cient­ly, I added a shelv­ing unit to my home office/additional bed­room that stands about 6 — 7 feet high.  I use it for some office sup­plies, but pri­mar­i­ly for food stor­age of five gal­lon buck­ets and canned food.  If you do not have a sec­ond bed­room, I might look into an inex­pen­sive unit from IKEA like this one: http://bit.ly/ajPZv7.  I like it because it is rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive, and has a frost­ed glass door look so that any­thing you stack in it remains hid­den from all your nosy friends who would come over and ask you why you have a stack of food lay­ing around that you are not eat­ing or is in bulk…   You may also be able to find one on Craigslist for sale under their fur­ni­ture sec­tion for much less than the 99.00 price tag.

You can also take a look at Shelf Reliance prod­ucts, although, in an apart­ment, they may not make sense unless you get the units made for inside your cab­i­nets.

Anoth­er way to store food, if you do not mind trav­el­ing to get it, is in a stor­age unit.  I am not par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of this idea, because the tem­per­a­ture may vary in stor­age facil­i­ties, short­en­ing the life of your food.  Also, should you fall in hard finan­cial times, and fall in the rears on your rental pay­ment to the stor­age facil­i­ty, they could claim all your food as col­lat­er­al or auc­tion then you are the mon­ey you paid for the food, as well as the food.  I only bring this up, because many peo­ple are liv­ing pay­check to pay­check in this rough eco­nom­ic cli­mate.

If you are luck enough to have stor­age space in the base­ment of your apart­ment build­ing, please make sure that any­thing you store down there is sealed well sev­er­al times, and at least in mylar, inside of some sort of plas­tic bins or met­al con­tain­ers to keep the creepy crawly ver­min out of it.  You will also want to cam­ou­flage any­thing that is not in plas­tic or met­al con­tain­ers so that the oth­ers in your build­ing do not see you stor­ing food and sup­plies in the base­ment of your apart­ment build­ing.  That would be a big no-no since it is a semi pub­lic area , and you do not want to have it stolen if there is an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion at some point and you are shel­ter­ing in.  This is the real down­side of apart­ments and apart­ment build­ings.  No mat­ter how secure they may be, you are still in the semi pub­lic eye due to all the oth­er inhab­i­tants of the build­ing.

An option you may also might be a friend’s or fam­i­ly mem­ber’s home close by that would­n’t mind you using a cor­ner of their base­ment.  Assum­ing of course they are of the same mind set.  I sup­pose you would­n’t have to tell them what is in your plas­tic bins, etc., but I would gath­er every­one might peek to see what’s inside.

If you are just start­ing out, take a trip to the gro­cery store with your pen and pad, write down every­thing you buy, and every­thing you want to buy for stor­age, along with the prices.  Come home, and eval­u­ate the core foods you would need to buy for sus­te­nance.  i.e. rice, legumes, soups, etc.  Then set aside 15.00 — 20.00 dol­lars a week for your food stor­age.  You would be sur­prised how quick­ly you can get that stor­age to add up.

Also research how to store it prop­er­ly.  It’s not expen­sive to store the food, but it does have to be done cor­rect­ly.  There is a lot out there on that, just Google it.  Oh, and don’t wor­ry about the long term stor­age right away with O2 absorbers and all that, just get the ball rolling.  You will fall into every­thing else as you learn…

Cash, Gold, Silver, Barter

First, as far as cash goes, I men­tioned at the very begin­ning of this post that you should have cash for an extend­ed peri­od of time in the event that you require it.  I am not going to rehash that here.  But I do want to touch on spend­able or barter-able cur­ren­cy.

It is my the­o­ry that in sub­ur­ban and urban sit­u­a­tions, those with cash are going to try to cap­i­tal­ize on it’s use to buy them­selves out of trou­ble when the SHTF.  I think that your neigh­bors will use any cash they have on hand to buy goods from oth­er neigh­bors because they will still see the cash as hav­ing val­ue in their minds, so they will con­tin­ue to use it until they have exhaust­ed their sup­ply and start try­ing to trade or barter with what­ev­er they have.  This is when the loot­ing will start.  In fact the loot­ing will start by those that do not have the cash they need to buy their “just in time sup­plies” of food, water, shel­ter, etc.  It is my con­tention that most urban and sub­ur­ban fam­i­lies or peo­ple in finan­cial cri­sis only have a few days worth of food and water on hand at any giv­en time.  I may be wrong, but I remem­ber a sev­er­al years ago when I first moved to the NYC area and had a hard time get­ting a job, the roof over my head got paid first, the heat and elec­tric bill sec­ond, and third was reserved for food.  I only had a few days worth of food at any giv­en time.

Anoth­er con­sid­er­a­tion recent­ly has been junk sil­ver and gold.  Hon­est­ly, I am not sure how or what I would barter for gold or sil­ver if the sit­u­a­tion pre­sent­ed itself.  It is so expen­sive today for both, that those who own it have a high­er per­ceived val­ue than I do.  If there is no way to mea­sure it’s worth then it is worth­less, unless you real­ly need my 1lb bag of rice that bad­ly.  Then it’s worth the gold piece, in which case, I will two and get two, three, or five gold coins from you for that bag of rice.  I have been think­ing more about barter recent­ly, and will be dis­cussing it more in the future as I pon­der more about it, and the val­ue it cre­ates for those who have and for those in need… My the­o­ry stands, how­ev­er, that peo­ple will try to use cash because of the per­ceived val­ue of the paper vs. any oth­er method of trade because it is all they know at the moment.  The last time most adults prac­ticed barter and nego­ti­a­tion was as a kid with their friends for that cool toy their friend had…

On the oth­er hand, if you have skills in auto repair, plumb­ing, etc, you may be able to barter your skills for ser­vices, gear, or some of that gold and sil­ver.

On Growing a Small Garden

I think this is a good idea if you can.  First, if you have the space on your deck, ter­race, or bal­cony, do it. Not pri­mar­i­ly because it will save you a ton of mon­ey, because your space will be lim­it­ed, and you will not get the high yield of veg­eta­bles you would need to can or jar so much that you do not have to go shop­ping for pro­duce all year.  I say do it so that you learn how to nur­ture plants to grow and pro­duce those foods that you would need in a SHTF if you did have to evac­u­ate and bug out.  Do it so that you can taste the dif­fer­ence between the cor­po­rate steroid pro­duced veg­eta­bles you get at your gro­cer vs. some­thing more organ­ic that you grew your­self.  learn to under­stand the nuances of the plants you are grow­ing like spinach, toma­toes, corn, etc.  I have done this on my deck, although I have not over the past two years because of busi­ness trav­el.  Had I gone away, and they were not watered on a hot week, the gar­den would have been for noth­ing as the plants would have died, since I can some­times be gone five — eight days at a time.   Oth­er­wise, I would take advan­tage of the local farm­ers mar­ket, as I men­tioned in my post “The Advan­tages of the Sub­ur­ban Farm­ers Mar­ket, and learn how to dehy­drate and can those veg­eta­bles for the future.  If that is too much work for you, I rec­om­mend look­ing to some­one like Har­mo­ny House for your dehy­drat­ed fruits and veg­eta­bles as well as oth­er dehy­drat­ed foods.

A Preparedness Library

I think this one goes with­out say­ing.  First, every­one needs a cou­ple text­books on sur­vival that they need to be bug­ging in or bug­ging out with.  I will not get into what to have, but I do think you need both a phys­i­cal library, as well as an elec­tron­ic library.  Your phys­i­cal library can be tak­en with you, but the elec­tron­ic ver­sion you can make much more portable, as well as use as a barter tool to give to oth­ers to use on their portable PCs.  I rec­om­mend mak­ing copies of your elec­tron­ic library on CDs so that you can give them aways.

If you have not seen my elec­tron­ic sur­vival library, you can take a look at it by click­ing this link:  http://bit.ly/cfL8WY

Your Bug Out Bag

This is going to be a short para­graph.  If you want to see what is in mine, you can click on this link to see it.  But it is short­ly going to get scaled down, and will post when I do it.  What I will say is plan appro­pri­ate­ly.  Do not over buy, and do not under buy.  While I was learn­ing ear­li­er into my prep­ping lifestyle I over bought bug out packs, and gear.  I have wast­ed a lot of mon­ey, and even had a pack stolen recent­ly that set me back with some gear.  Today I still have two back­packs, one of which just takes up space.  I would look to books like Dave Can­ter­bury’s “Sur­viv­abil­i­ty for the Com­mon Man” or “Build the Per­fect Sur­vival Kit,” by John McCann to give you a bet­ter idea what you need based on your exist­ing skills.  Both books are about the same size and easy reads with excel­lent infor­ma­tion about build­ing your kit…

Build­ing your BoB is per­son­al.  It will con­tain per­son­al items based on your expe­ri­ence and your skill lev­els.  The more you know, the less you will need in your Bug Out Bag.

I keep mine in the clos­et and out of site.  Not that I care if any­one sees it, but I just do not want to keep hav­ing to jus­ti­fy myself to oth­ers, if that makes sense.   It also tells peo­ple there is some­thing you may have that they want in a pos­si­ble emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.

On Guns, Knives, and Ammunition

This is a hot top­ic for many.  I am not going to go into much detail here, as there are so many resources on the Inter­net about guns, ammo, knives, etc. that you should do your own research, and judge for your­self.

As for guns, whether you ever own one or not, you should take a safe­ty course, learn how to han­dle and not han­dle them, as well as know the impor­tance of their dan­gers in the wrong hands.  I am a sec­ond amend­ment advo­cate, and have the lux­u­ry of own­ing sev­er­al for sport and for self defense.

What I will say here, is that if you own sev­er­al, or plan on own­ing sev­er­al these may be the most valu­able barter items you could ever own.  Espe­cial­ly if you have the mon­ey to own a few.  Guns sug­gest pow­er, and pow­er sug­gests con­trol for many, espe­cial­ly those that would do you harm for your gear or oth­er items.  I would say that if you barter with ammu­ni­tion, knives or guns, be sure you are bar­ter­ing with an ally and not a would be loot­er.  In fact, if you have band­ed togeth­er with a group of indi­vid­u­als that you trust, I would not barter them out­side the group, ever.

In a per­fect world, I would own two of every gun I enjoy shoot­ing and am pro­fi­cient with.  That would be for a cache of spare parts in the event I need­ed them.  Of course you need to know what you are doing when you take one apart.

As for knives, buy sev­er­al, use them in the field.  Learn your lim­i­ta­tions and theirs.  I have sev­er­al, and they each have a util­i­ty of sorts.  Some are best for slic­ing and cut­ting, some bet­ter for bat­ton­ing (not sure if I spelled that cor­rect­ly), fil­let­ing, spear­ing, chop­ping, etc.  Become pro­fi­cient with your knife/knives, learn some wilder­ness skills, and you may nev­er need any­thing else when you go camp­ing, hik­ing, are lost, or dur­ing a SHTF.

Final­ly, if you do make the choice to invest in any guns while liv­ing in an apart­ment build­ing or com­plex, please make the choice to buy a gun safe as well, and keep them locked up away from those who might want to take them from you when you are not around, or worse.  Put it in the back of a clos­et, and don’t tell any­one you have it.


All of this is an expen­sive ven­ture.  It will not appear overnight that is for sure.  It takes time.  It took me six months to get just a few months of food stor­age built up.  It will take me anoth­er six months to get anoth­er few months of food stor­age built up.  The issue is, where to I store it?

Thanks for read­ing this rant today.  I could have writ­ten a LOT more.  I want­ed to write a lot more, but I have been at this since 9:30 this morn­ing and it is now2:30 on Sun­day after­noon.  I hope you enjoyed…

Please feel free to com­ment, and all you more expe­ri­ence guys, feel free to add to this in the com­ments as well.

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