If you don't know where something is, you might as well not have it. Over the years, Sir Knight and I have replaced numerous things that we already had simply because we had no idea where the original was. The phrase "I know that's around here somewhere" was more common than I would like to admit. I would buy the same thing over and over again because I didn't realize we already had 10 of them (you should see how much shampoo we have!). Finally, out of desperation, Sir Knight and I tackled our storage and organization problem and now it takes minutes to lay our hands on exactly what we need.
We began "Operation Organization" by going through our storage areas, tossing out what we didn't need and organizing the things we wanted to keep. Unfortunately, we don't have ideal storage spaces, so things are stored where ever we happen to have room. We tried to put like things together and we did our best to organize our food stuffs and equipment in the most logical format.
After we finished throwing away, cleaning and tidying, we began the daunting task of inventorying - EVERYTHING. We started with our stored foods, made our way through tools, equipment, tack and household items. We included not only the things we had stashed away in our container, but also everything in our shed, our horse trailer and our shouse. As we wrote our inventory, we labeled each bucket, barrel and tub (things are much easier to identify when they are labeled).
When we began our inventory, we started by assigning locations in our storage areas. In the container, this meant giving each shelving unit a location. First, we divided the container in half, one side being W (for west) and the other side E (for east). We then assigned each shelving unit a number, starting in the back (so we could add more locations in the future). The shelving unit in the very back, on the west side, we named W1. From there we named each shelf. Beginning at the top and working our way to the bottom location. The first shelf on the first unit had the designations of W1T (for the top shelf of the first shelving unit on the west side of the container), W11 (for the first shelf), W12 (for the second shelf), W13 (for the third shelf), W14 (for the fourth shelf) and W1G (for the ground shelf). We continued from the back of our container to the front, labeling each shelving unit as we went. We then turned our attention to the east side of the container and labeled it the same as the west side. After we had labeled each side of the container, we labeled all of the items located in the center aisle. We listed these items simply as "center location".
As we inventoried each shelf, we carefully counted each bucket, can and bag. We listed EVERYTHING, whether it was food or a scrapbook. We listed every tool (and its location), every piece of communication gear and every milk bucket. Nothing was exempt from the list.
Finally, we were done cleaning, organizing and inventorying. Next came the real work. The List. I started with an inventory of each shelving unit. At the top of the page, I listed the shelf number (W1, W3, E5 and so on) and then I listed each shelf number and its contents (along with amounts of the particular item, and whether it was a bucket, a box, a can). After I had completed a list for each shelf, that list went on a clipboard and was attached to the shelf (I also kept a complete list in the house for reference).
Once I had complied a list for each individual shelf (or location), I created a "Master List". This list took a couple of days to put together because I alphabetized EVERY item from EVERY list. Once I had everything alphabetized, I compiled the master list. This list has everything (food, tools, gear) listed in alphabetical order along with their location. This is the list I turn to when we need to find something, whether it is a plumbing part, a baby gift or some Turbinado sugar. If I send the kids out to get something out of the food stores, I tell them what I need and then give them the location - "It's on E43". Talk about a timesaver!
There is more to preparedness than just acquiring stuff. You've got to know what you have, how much you have and where to find what you have. "Operation Organization" was our answer to managing preparedness supplies. Your system may look different, but I encourage you to have your own "Operation Organization".