How do I manage all these heavy boxes?
August 25, 2011 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Ideas for packing for a climate controlled storage unit?

Any tips for packing boxes (about half done with this), packing the truck (I have to move our stuff 5 hours to the storage unit that is closer to our family), and then packing the actual unit? Getting ready to move out of the country for 2 years and we are putting some furniture, kitchen wares, and lots of books into climate controlled storage unit. Thanks!
posted by mutt.cyberspace to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
Take pictures of what is in each box if you can - and label well. Two years is a long time to remember what was where.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:38 AM on August 25, 2011

Use shelving if you can. If you have a saw and a drill you can get some 2x4s and plywood and make your own custom shelves in place. They don't have to be pretty, just durable. You will be able to pack a lot more in as most storage units are much taller than you can safely stack boxes, and you can stack irregularly shapes things like furniture more easily. If you have family checking on the stuff periodically, it will also make checking for insects/mice easier. If you have plastic containers put these closer to the floor and cardboard on top. Number your boxes at the least and make a master list, even if you label each box. If you might need some things on a trip home, put them in the front.
posted by Yorrick at 9:26 AM on August 25, 2011

I no longer have storage, but previously I had storage for many years and for a while I had ALL my furniture and 99% of my belongings in a huge storage unit that was packed to the gills.

I second labeling and inventorying the boxes and shelving. Keep a separate inventory list that lists everything in the storage unit, if you can, including measurements of furniture. You'll thank me in 2 years when you can remember what the hell is in there and you have no idea what size it is anymore. Photos are a good idea too if you can swing that. On your actual boxes, label in LARGE, CLEAR LETTERS on multiple sides of the box so you can see the label from any angle.

For shelves, after experimenting with a few different kinds, I found that inexpensive, heavy-duty plastic shelving from the hardware or Walmart/Target worked the best. This kind of thing is what I typically used. If cost hadn't been a factor for me, I would have gone with Metro shelves, which are wonderful.

I planned out the storage unit as much as I could before I moved anything in. I put all my existing bookcases and other shelving-type furniture around the walls of the unit and loaded them up with boxes and random loose items. I then got in all my large pieces of furniture, stuffing boxes and random items all around, below, inside, and on top. Large, lightweight items (wicker furniture, bags of pillows/linens/clothing) got tossed on top.

A really important tip is to use the vertical space in your unit. If you don't have a tall ladder, get one. Have your large ladder, a smaller stepstool, a Sharpie, scissors/a box cutter, extra packing tape, a flashlight, paper towels, and trash bags with you whenever you go to the unit to load in, and keep a box or container with all those supplies in it near the front of the unit for when you go back. Also include a copy of your inventory list, if you can.

Your storage building should have large carts for you to use, which are great. You also may want to get your own hand truck/dolly. I have a flat furniture dolly like this and a Magna Cart and both have been awesome for shifting things around in storage. I also use furniture sliders (the style in the link is for sliders you use on carpet. They are also available for hard floors; both kinds are awesome -- indispensable -- get them!! You can get them at a hardware store) and Tiger Tacos (they seem kind of silly but they are wonderful. By the time you've packed or unpacked 100 boxes, you are about ready to kill the next box flap that hits you in the face) (I got mine at The Container Store -- haven't seen them elsewhere).

Also, pad your furniture, especially if you're putting other furniture or boxes on top of it. Old towels or blankets are totally fine for pads or you can buy moving/packing pads.

The only other tip I can think of is to be sure to put items you may want to access or have your family access for you near the front of the unit. If it is packed tightly in there, you are not going to want to try to get something out of the back until you're moving out of the space.

If you have any other questions, please memail me! I didn't even realize I was such a storage expert until I wrote this. :)
posted by pupstocks at 3:18 PM on August 25, 2011

Sigh. I meant "when you CAN'T remember what the hell is in there"

Also I remembered that for long-term storage, I used mattress bags for mattresses & box springs.

And finally, although you should in general use the principle of putting heavier boxes below lighter boxes, be careful with books on the floor of your unit. This is VERY rare, but I did once lose an entire box of some of my favorite books due to some water damage in a storage unit. If they had been on a shelf (even on the bottom shelf), they would have been completely ok. :( Since you'll be gone so long and may not be able to check on your storage unit (and even if you can check, if it's tightly packed you may not realize anything's wrong until you move out), I'd recommend putting stuff in there in such a way that water damage on the floor won't ruin anything very important to you. Check out the unit thoroughly before you move into it and if there are any spots that might be more vulnerable to water or some other out-of-your-control issue, don't put treasured things there.

Also, for packing, there are some excellent tutorials and videos and such out there about how to pack fragile items like dishes so they won't break. Use LOTS of packing paper!!
posted by pupstocks at 3:25 PM on August 25, 2011

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