Tame the Clutter with Totes

The author dreams of a day when his outdoor gear is fully organized as in this photo. Until that time, he uses plastic totes. Stock photo by 123rf.com

Let’s start with a retrospective look at the past week:
Fishing: not even.
Turkey Hunting: pointless without snorkeling gear.
Mushroom Hunting: too late and too wet.
Hiking: trails submerged.
Paddling: only for the criminally-insane.

So, what does an outdoor writer talk about when the entire known world is underwater?

The answer came to me as I was lying in bed this morning in the pre-dawn darkness listening to the relaxing but ultimately infuriating sound of heavy rain pounding our roof. Trying to rouse myself with thoughts of another gloomy, wet day spent indoors, I decided we will have a brief chat on what is arguably the single most important facet of an outdoor enthusiast’s life.

We’re going to move past such important topics as personal safety, camp cooking, navigation, snake bite treatment, fire building and even the merits of down versus synthetic fill for sleeping bags in order to tackle something even bigger. In this column we are going to examine the most contentious, challenging, maddening yet important matter in the life of all hunters, anglers, boaters and other outdoor denizens: gear storage.

The above paragraph might seem like a huge buildup for a fairly mundane topic but stop and think about all the difficulties you’ve faced in housing gear and those fights you’ve had with Honeybunches regarding the problem of outdoor stuff spilling into every nook and cranny of your existence.

This is a fact of life that the roommates, families and spouses of outdoors enthusiasts know all too well. Those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time in the wild need a whole lot of gear to facilitate our passions and all that gear needs someplace to rest when not in use.

This isn’t a big deal if you’re talking about a couple of fishing poles but it raises major headaches when facing a giant, post-trip pile of smaller gear that is expensive, prone to damage and easily lost. Everything from compasses to duck calls to head lamps need a place to live and we’ve all got too much stuff to simply keep it in our sock drawer next to the Playdude magazine and .38 revolver.

So, after more than a half-century of owning more outdoor paraphernalia than a reasonable person should be allowed, I’ve developed a storage system that might help ensure your domestic tranquility or at least keep the decibel level below 100. More importantly, it might prevent your GPS unit from dying a premature death. The system is pretty simple in description and manufacture but wholly sublime in execution: plastic storage totes.

The totes are strong, protective, widely available, relatively inexpensive and for those with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) tendencies, they actually are much nicer to look at wherever they are stored than those random bags, boxes or piles of stuff.

I own literally dozens of totes, each labeled and devoted to a certain category held within such as holsters, photo gear or hunting equipment. In fact, one wall of my home office is lined with shelves full of such crates containing literally bushels of miscellaneous bits and pieces safe and semi-organized until a need arises.

Another group of larger, stronger industrial-strength tubs line shelves in our garage to hold bigger items or more comprehensive collections. Smaller backpacks and bags reside in one while another houses flexible turkey decoys and yet another holds cooking gear. How you choose to organize the collections isn’t as important as the labeling. I use a label printer, covered by 2-inch clear tape, or laminated plastic cards on the bigger tubs, to identify the contents so I don’t end up rooting through dozens of containers to find that errant skinning knife.

The nice thing about plastic tubs and containers is that not only do they corral the clutter but they also keep the gear clean and safe. Storing your equipment and supplies in plastic tubs helps to prevent water, dust and dirt from ruining things even if when housed in less-than-optimal conditions such as a leaky barn. For ultimate safety in such conditions, a military ammo can is hard to beat as they are literally waterproof so long as the lid gasket is intact.

Ammo containers, either steel or plastic, are another great storage method though they are far more expensive and heavy yet hold less gear. Military surplus containers are great for safe storage of ammunition or shooting supplies while I also use plastic commercial versions to house small heavy things like muzzleloader paraphernalia and all those surplus knives that really need to be sold.

That’s my tip of the week and I hope you can use it to reduce the gear clutter that threatens to overwhelm your garage, bedroom and den. You might as well tackle it today unless you’ve somehow developed an underwater turkey call!

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Brent Wheat

A well-known and award-winning writer/photographer/radio & television talent/speaker/web-designer/media spokesperson/shooting instructor/elected official/retired police officer/bourbon connoisseur/cigar aficionado/backpacker/hunter/fisherman/gardener/preparedness guru/musician/and jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none, Brent Wheat is the editor and publisher of WildIndiana.com

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