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Monday, October 3, 2011

Creating Hiding Places Without Handyman Skills, by Tamara W.

freezerImage by DrBudro via Flickr

Original Article

Creating hiding places for items can be a challenge without handyman skills, a large budget and the need to hide stores in sight. Fortunately, there are some options that are easy to implement without a lot of cost without looking odd to anyone passing through your home.
Many Uses for Chest Freezers
Chest freezers have the benefits of being common, heavy, cheap to get used and not a big deal to own. How does this help when you want to store things or hide them?
  • Chest freezers are commonly locked to keep young children from climbing in and becoming trapped. A lock on a chest freezer, even if not plugged in, does not arouse suspicion. This increases the security of items stored inside.
  • Chest freezers can be kept in a corner of a laundry room, a storage shed, sun room or detached garage. Owning several is not strange.
  • Chest freezers are large and heavy. Even in the unlikely case that someone wanted to steal it, the large size and weight of many units deters this.
  • If a thief enters your garage or storage space, he’ll steal items of value or immediate use. Frozen food rarely fits either of these categories. The result is that a freezer chest will be ignored in most cases.
  • Unplugging a unit and letting it sit in a corner does not garner attention.  If asked, just state it was unplugged to save on electricity. If asked why it’s locked, simply state that is done for “safety reasons”.

What can you do with several unplugged chest freezers?

  • A large stash of freeze dried food stored inside of one is less obvious than a set of cans in the pantry.
  • Guns and tools kept in a locked chest freezer are safer than those left on a work bench while blending into the background. And foot prints and signs of handling do not indicate a stash there, since no one will think it is strange that the freezer is opened and closed periodically.
  • Canned goods kept in a chest freezer outside are protected from the elements, in a secure location.
  • Store bug out bags or valuable supplies in the chest freezer without a lock for quick and easy access. Lay a stack of towels or dirty rags on top to make. it look like the appliance has been turned into a work surface. 
  • Unplugged chest freezers can be used to hide bottled water stashes that might otherwise garner attention.
[JWR Adds: "Dead" chest freezers are often available free for the hauling. Just be sure that the freezer comes with at least one key for its lock before driving to pick it up. BTW, be sure that the owner has a "clear path" available for you to wheel it out on your furniture dolly. (As an aside, I once spent at least two extra hours helping a friend extricate a "free" chest freezer out of the back of a very crowded garage. That was a bit of a nightmare.) Also, keep in mind that upright freezers take up less floor space, per cubic foot of volume. Those lock, too. Older freezers should be washed out and scrubbed thoroughly, using a strong baking soda solution. Be sure to let them dry and air out well, before filling them.]
Where Will the Water Go?

Water is a bulky item to store if building up a long term supply. If you do not live near a lake or stream and lack working well, the space to store a long term water supply can be difficult to find. Hiding it is even harder. What can you do in the interim?
  • The water stored in a hot water heater can be consumed if filtered of sediment. However, a hot water heater in good condition can store up to eighty gallons.  Buy a used hot water heater fro someone that is installing a tankless hot water heater or [that is replacing] a hot water heater with burned-out elements. Then flush it out thoroughly and set it up in a closet, corner of the garage or even next to your main hot water heater. It stores the water in an accessible manner, since the water is available once you drain the unit. And this manner of water storage doesn’t garner attention the way a closet full of one gallon water bottles would.
  • Purchase a water cooler and accompanying large water bottles. Set the entire stack in a section of a garage or shed. While a large selection of soda bottles with water may seem odd, several water bottles with a cooler are not seen as such. One of the benefits of business closures is that these items can be purchased cheaply during going out of business sales.  If asked, simply state you got it cheap on sale or a discount for buying several at once. When water does become scarce, set up the dispenser with water coolers to use in the home. The size of the water bottles deters theft. Rotate stock by donating water cooler bottles to churches or charities that use them.
  • If you are installing a rain catchment system, install a separate back up tank for water storage. If installing a sprinkler system, bury a water storage tank at the same time.
  • Do you have a tub in a bathroom with a separate shower? Fill up a “WaterBOB” or similar water storage system and leave it in the tub. Then place a fitted lid over the tub or padded wood. The tub then appears as a converted seat, hiding the water storage inside. 
  • Do you have a decommissioned hot tub? “WaterBOBs” and related water storage devices fit there, too.

Where to Store Toiletries and Valuables
Household supplies are on many lists to stock up on. But where do you place them for easy reach and minimal inconvenience?
  • Clear out beauty supplies. Shed a lot of beauty appliances. Use the space under your sink then to store toiletries like bar soap, shampoo, razors and Kleenex. If someone looks in that space, the storage there makes perfect sense. They simply won’t know or think of the similar stocks in the other bathrooms under those sinks.
  • The cabinets above the toilet are frequently used for storing towels. Review how many towels you actually use and where they may be better placed (on racks, a stack on top of the toilet, etc.). Then use this space to store toiletries.
  • A side benefit of the discovery of a wall of toiletries is that few people will dig beyond them. Valuables can be hidden behind them.
  • Laundry hampers are rarely considered anything but holding bins for dirty clothes. Consider placing a plastic laundry hamper in a corner of a bedroom closet. Then store items like handguns, coins and heavier items wrapped in a towel at the bottom. Stack sheets and towels on top. If anyone picks it up, the weight is explained by the contents. But be careful not to accidentally dump this hamper’s contents into the washer!  
  • Remember that decorative items can serve as hiding places. Money clipped behind picture frames is well known. What about hiding cash inside decorative vases and jars in the corner of the bathroom? Keeping a spare cell phone and batteries also works. Place a wreath of fake flowers on the top of the vase so that a casual viewer doesn’t see what is inside.
  • Thieves often check under the master bedroom bed for hidden money and guns. They don’t check under the stack of towels in the master bathroom as often. For even better concealment, leave a copy or two of magazines pushed in among towels to appear as if that is what is hidden in that stack of towels. 
Storage Boxes
Using stacks of nondescript cardboard boxes and plastic bins to hide items in plain sight has been thoroughly discussed on SurvivalBlog. Large boxes labeled “Christmas decorations” can contain that or contain a layer of Christmas items and hide a small generator underneath. Boxes labeled “receipts” or “recipes”. What else can be done?

  • Label the boxes “genealogy papers” or better yet, label the box “VHS tapes”. No one will think of touching it.  
  • Actually store old encyclopedias and other books you won’t mind burning in cardboard storage boxes. This is a back up solution in case of a fuel shortage. Elderly British pensioners have actually resorted to buying old books by the pound to keep their homes warm since carbon taxes drove up the cost of heating oil and firewood alike.
  • Boxes labeled “cooking stuff” can as easily hold freeze dried food as it can recipe cards. However, be careful not to store items that will emit odors of food (like spices).
  • A foot locker or box labeled “duffel bags” can hold just that. Underneath can be bug out bags or camping gear. However, it is wise to avoid storing important items in luggage that looks like standard Samsonite, since each bag is easily mixed up with another and holds value if sold. However, you should never label a box “camping supplies”, since this could easily become a target for desperate thieves. “Boy Scout stuff” might be a compromise in identifying camping items without looking tempting.
Data Storage
USB drives provide a mobile and easy to use method of backing up files. Hiding them is easy. Hiding them where you can quickly find them is more challenging. Fortunately, the market has already come up with many solutions to make it easy to find your USB drives.

  • Buy a USB drive holder that looks like an industry logo toy. The Linux penguin and a Microsoft type memento come to mind. You can also buy industry logo toys and carve out space to store the USB drive. Set on a shelf near the computer and place it as if it were a decorative item.
  • There are thumb drives built into toys for the sake of novelty. If you are a fan of a toy line or could get away with the item sitting on your shelf while blending into the environment, buy a standard such thumb drive holder. Just be certain to place it where curious children won’t get it to play with.
  • Use a large, solid plastic case used to hold obsolete floppy disks and store USB drives in them instead.   

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