Strategically Relocating? Here’s How to Move All That Prepper Stuff

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By Daisy Luther

In the prepper world, everyone always talks about “strategic relocation” but it’s rare to hear about the actual act of moving the enormous amount of stuff that we accumulate.

We’re preparing for what I hope is my final move ever. We have a nice little farm awaiting us, with a deep well, a greenhouse, and a barn: everything we need for self-reliance heaven.

But holy cow, we have a lot of stuff.

Nothing makes you come face-to-face with the extent of your stockpile like moving it from one place to another, trying to find space for it in a new home, and trying to move it with OPSEC (operational security) in mind.  Most of my prepper friends who have moved to a better location have shared my opinion: the sheer amount of “stuff” that we have makes a move quite an undertaking. When you’re setting up your little homestead, the first step is to get there, with all of your belongings intact.

Long distance moves have many logistical challenges, but local moves are also nothing to sneeze at when you have a stockpile to move.

Because my family has moved numerous times (including one move that included an international border crossing and a drive across the continent), I’ve put down some tips to make it a little easier. Note that I said “a little” easier. Moving is never actually easy, as anyone who has ever done so can tell you with technicolor details of what went wrong.

A word about OPSEC

A very important issue is OPSEC – (operational security).  Preppers are private people, and moving opens us up to others seeing our supplies. Whether you have hired movers or you have friends and family helping you, suddenly, someone outside your immediate family knows how much stuff you have. When people are unloading your truck, you want to take care that your possessions don’t scream PREPPER.  Otherwise, you’ll hear that phrase we all love so much, “I know where I’m coming if I ever run out of food.”

One option is to box up your supplies like long-term food storage or weapons in boxes labeled with different names – even something vague like “basement”.  I know that all of the moving specialists tell you to be specific about what you write on the outsides of the boxes, but you really don’t want people commenting on the 90 boxes of ammo that they’ve just lugged into your new abode. (There’s more on organization below that will keep this from being a logistical nightmare when unpacking.)

Of course, the best OPSEC is moving all of the items yourself.  This isn’t always an option, though, for smaller families or those with physical limitations.

Before the move

The things you do before the move can make all the difference in the world to your ease during the actual move and while you’re getting settled in.

Get good quality moving boxes.

One thing I like to splurge on when I move is professional moving boxes. Sure, you can get boxes from the grocery store and liquor store, but the pro boxes are uniform in size, making them easier to Jenga into the moving truck. This saves space, stacks more securely, and these boxes tend to be very sturdy. (This is a great resource for inexpensive moving boxes.)  As well, I often use these boxes at my destination for organizing my supplies for the very same reasons – ease of stackability and uniform sizes mean your storage space is used efficiently.

Get organized.

This is your chance to become the uber-organized prepper you always see on websites, with their glorious pantries, labeled tubs, and storage rooms, where all things needed can be found in a matter of seconds.

Before you start packing, if possible, designate a room to be packing central. (We used our dining room and have been eating in the living room since we began packing.)  Move everything of a type into the packing room. Here’s an example. Pull all of your food storage from various nooks and crannies in your home.  Divvy it up according to type: cans, dried foods, etc.  Check to be sure everything is packaged properly, with dates marked clearly on the packages. Wipe them if they’re dusty, and then box items according to their type.

Make a “key”.

For our moves, we have a notebook with a “key”.  This is a little trick we learned when we moved here from Canada and were required to have a complete manifest for crossing the border.  For the obvious reasons of OPSEC, you don’t want to write “Food” on dozens of boxes, but you could mark them F and add a number. In your key notebook, you can put a description of what is in each box to make unpacking or finding an item easier.

If you already know where the item will be stored once you move, mark the room on the box too, so the movers can take it right to its destination.

Of course, at the end, you may lose steam and just start chucking things into a box with no care for organization at all. But if most of your boxes are packed with organization in mind, unpacking will be vastly simpler. As well, if you absolutely must have a certain item, it’ll be far easier to locate in the pile of boxes with your notebook.

Do some decluttering.

As you pack, you will find that this is an excellent time to declutter and pare down your belongings. While the move we’re undertaking now is just a couple of towns over, when you’re undertaking a cross-country move, reducing the amount you relocate is even more important.  Many people who lead a preparedness lifestyle have accumulated a lot of “stuff” – we dismantle no-longer-working items for the spare parts, we save buttons and rubber bands, and we have stockpiles of all sorts.  If you are going a long distance, for some things, it will be far cheaper to replace them on the other end than to move them. Large items require a larger moving truck, and the weight increases the fuel usage. Make your judgment based on the following questions, particularly in the case of a long distance relocation.

  1. Would I be able to easily replace this in the future?  I get a lot of my things at yard sales and thrift stores, and this makes some of them tough to replace.  For example, I have an antique coffee grinder, an adorable little device with a hand crank.  I picked it up for $3, cleaned it and now use it on a regular basis in my kitchen.  It could be tough to replace because of the age and condition, so my beloved coffee grinder has always made the cut.  On the other hand, I had a toaster that I still use even though only one side actually works now. (Yes, I am so cheap that I turn the bread partway through the toasting time.)  I could easily find another one (that works!) for just a few dollars at a thrift store when I move, so the toaster is history.
  2. How much would it cost to replace this in the future?  This is a similar concept to question #1.  If you have a  collection of shampoos and soaps from the dollar store, they will take up a lot of space, but you could quickly and easily build a new stockpile of these items.   If most of your furniture is “vintage” – which is a nice way of saying that it came from yard sales and the occasional curbside pile, you can refurnish from yard sales when you arrive at your new home, rather than moving a couch that cost $20.
  3. Is it worth the space in the moving van?  How you rate the importance of an item is a personal decision for everyone.  There are some things that aren’t particularly useful, but they are sentimental – gifts from departed loved ones and photo albums, for example.  Expensive preps, like the Big Berkey water filter, the pressure canner, an assortment of books collected over the years, hand tools, and other off-grid kitchen tools, would be very costly to replace.  A great way to save space is to pack clothing and linens in “space bags”.

Make sure to have Box 1.

On the last day at your old home, put together Box 1 and keep that with you. Box 1 should contain the things you’ll need immediately: bedding; pjs; bathroom supplies like toilet paper, towels, soap, and shampoo; the coffee maker and supplies needed for coffee; paper plates and cutlery. This way, when you arrive you can immediately have these necessities available without a frustrating search.

Actually moving

When the big day arrives, your truck or trailer is loaded up with all of your worldly possessions.  The kids are buckled in, and the dog has her head out the window.  If your move is not local, there are some considerations for the road trip itself, some of which are unique to preppers.

Be prepped for the potential of disaster.

I always worry that a life-altering SHTF event will occur when I’m in the middle of a field in South Dakota, with no friends or family within 500 miles. (I can’t be the only one who thinks this way!) It is the preparedness mindset to constantly run scenarios – EMPs, sudden gas shortages, nuclear disasters, natural disasters… if these things happen while you’re on the road, you are a refugee.

The good news is, if you are driving your possessions, you have every prep that you felt was worth keeping in that big rolling bug-out bag of a trailer.  The bad news is, you have to protect those items, and you have to get them to a secure place.  Be as prepared as possible, with food that doesn’t require cooking, comfortable hiking gear readily available, camping gear easily accessible, and all of the necessary defense items.

Pay special attention to security.

Another consideration is general security.  This is particularly important if you are moving weapons.  Be sure that your truck or trailer is locked securely and consider installing some type of alarm on the door of the cargo area.  Be prepared to protect your family and possessions (all within the confines of local laws, of course). Choose stopping points and parking spaces carefully, and consider cracking a window if you are staying in a motel, so that you can hear what is going on outside.

Use common sense safety measures during the road trip.

  • Keep the kids within view of an adult at all times.
  • Keep a cell phone charged in case you need to call for help.  (If you are like me and don’t use cell phones, consider the purchase of an inexpensive Tracfone for the trip).
  • Make sure your vehicle maintenance has been taken care of before your departure.
  • Don’t let the fuel level drop below 1/4 of a tank – in remote areas, gas stations can be few and far between.
  • Always have plenty of drinking water in the vehicle, especially in hot weather.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Remember that the police are not always your friend.  Strictly abide by speed limits to avoid lining the pockets of small town PDs. Be very aware of your surroundings if you are pulled over.  If possible, pull over in a public area, like a restaurant parking lot.
  • Don’t get lost – use a GPS or maps to stay on course.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings – ditch the headphones and remain alert during rest stops.
  • If possible, keep one adult with the moving van at rest areas, and take turns going to the bathroom.
  • Be constantly prepared to defend yourself if necessary.
  • Follow your gut – if you have a bad feeling about a situation, chances are, you’re right.

Settling in

Once you’ve arrived, it’s time for the fun stuff: settling into your new home.

First things first, unpack Box 1. This way, your basic necessities are available.

Get some food.

Before unpacking everything, make a quick run to the grocery store. Grab some healthful snacks, but splurge and get things that are already prepped. We usually get a veggie tray and a fruit tray from the deli, a rotisserie chicken, and a couple of frozen pizzas. Make it easy on yourself while you get unpacked.

If needed, do a quick clean of the house before putting things away.  (Hopefully the previous residents left things nice for you, but you always want to do at least a swipe to get rid of the cooties.)

Prioritize the most important rooms.

I usually prioritize unpacking in this order:

  • Bathroom
  • Small children’s rooms
  • Kitchen
  • Living room
  • A place to sleep in my room
  • Everything else

Once the necessities are put away and you can function, it’s time to get to all of that other stuff. Now’s your chance to be the most organized prepper around.  Remember all of those belongings you carefully sorted? Before putting them away, try to get the necessary modifications to your storage areas made. That way, you can put away your carefully organized possessions with the precision of a Costco warehouse.

Tell us about your experiences, moving as a prepper.

Keep in mind that during every move, there’s a catastrophe. There’s always something that goes wrong.  One friend was moving across three states when something flew off a vehicle ahead of her and punctured her fuel tank. She had to get a trailer to go on the back of her Uhaul at the last minuted to take her damaged vehicle to the new location. For us, the internet tower we thought we could hook into was shut down. Because we’re moving to a more rural location, I couldn’t find a service provider. (Panic-inducing for someone who works online and homeschools using an online resource.) Thankfully, we finally found a company that could work with us, but it was a sketchy, stressful couple of weeks.

The point is, there’s always some chaos. As a good friend of mine says, adapt and overcome.

It’ll be worth in when you look around your well-organized new home.


Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • It is obvious that you are VERY well organized when it comes to moving! I can only add a few things that always seem to work for me. I use Rubbermaid or Sterilite totes for clothing, sewing items, or things that I don’t want soiled. Like moving boxes, buy the same sizes so they can stack well. I pack family groceries that are easy to prepare, along with the dogs’ kibble in the F#1 box. That way I know everyone can be fed until I can make it to a grocery store. I make sure that I include instant milk, cold cereal, ground coffee & my beloved coffee pot, apples, bananas, raisons, cookies, and some health bars. You may not be satisfied, but you won’t be hungry either. I am a water freak: I am paranoid over not having access to water! So I always put a 24 water pack in the car. I also pack one box (labeled) with cleaning rags, clorox wipes, hand soap, and dish soap. Moving guns is something you DON’T want attention on. A rolling large duffel would probably work well-people will assume that it is clothing. I also label a large tote for dog stuff: extra leashes and harnesses, medication, and a muzzle. Above all, I make sure that I have my Great Big Book of Everything in the car. It contains passports, dog and people medical info, insurance, etc. Some folks carry a file box but I want complete access to my info! It is packed into a college type portfolio that zips shut. Again, I want no special attention on it.

    • +1 on the Rubbermaid totes. I prefer the solid color ones as opposed to the transparent ones. Less obvious what’s inside them

  • Years ago my husband & I, 6 kids & a load of animals moved into a bigger house & settled in. Two weeks later a man showed up at the door wanting to know why we were living in his house! The people who rented it to us didn’t own it; it was tied up in a property dispute. One of my lowest moments – had to re-pack everything & house hunt quickly, but we survived.

    • Linda! Oh my gosh! That would be AWFUL! Yikes, it’s one of the worst moving horror stories I’ve heard!

  • Weather was our bane when we moved from a northern part of the state to the southern half. Forecast was fine, but we got caught in a pretty heavy summer storm. And half of our stuff was packed in the bed of a pickup truck! Luckily, we had tarped it, but it was still a mess. So yes, something always goes wrong! Safe travels and good luck with your move, Daisy!

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