Packing Boxes for Self-Storage: How to Save Space While Keeping Your Belongings Safe

Are you about to move? Do you have items you need to store? Are you renting a self-storage unit for your belongings? An important part of the process is the – yes, we know – annoying task of having to pack your items in boxes.

The trick to packing boxes well is not merely packing them carefully, but also packing them with foresight: at some point down the road, you are going to need to unpack those boxes, and if you haven’t packed them in a strategic way, then the unpacking part of the process is going to be even more annoying than the packing side of things.

We at Sentinel Storage, want to make sure your self-storage experience is an easy one, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you pack boxes in the most strategic way, while keeping the unpacking part of the process in mind.

Boxes over bags

Boxes are the superior conduit for packing. One might think that garbage bags may be more convenient, but there are many reasons why bags are certainly not the best option for packing.

Bags are not friendly for loading in your storage locker. Try stacking bags on top of each other, and the best result is a pile of bags on the floor. Use boxes, and then stack one on top of the other like a game of Tetris: organized.

Similarly, carrying a pile of bags can result in a mess around you halfway to the locker. Boxes stack nicely together, and can therefore be carried more easily than bags.

Stretching and ripping are common fates for bags. They are simply not as strong as cardboard boxes. Leave your clothes in a bag, and you may find them covered in dust from a hole in the bag; or, worse, you may simply find your clothes on the floor, fallen through the hole in the bag.

And then, perhaps most significantly, plastic is one of the worst materials for storage: plastic traps moisture, which can have a detrimental effect on any items within the bag, causing mould growth.

Use boxes; forget about plastic bags.

Boxes of uniform

We say that boxes stack nicely together, and this is true. That said, if you use a hodgepodge of boxes – some fruit boxes, some electronics boxes, some moving boxes, and boxes from wherever you can find – then the stacking will be tricky.

What you need to try to do is purchase boxes of the same brand, and try to make only one purchase (or purchase again from the same supplier). This way, while you can have a number of different sizes, they’ll also have the same basic base shape that will stack together easily. In other words, while you can purchase boxes that are 2 or 3 or 4 feet high, they’ll all have the same length and width to work properly together in a stack.

The right sizes

Always be conscious of what you are putting in your boxes. Filling a massive box with books is a very bad idea, as the weight of that box will be more than simply challenging to carry: it will also probably fall apart when you try to lift it up!

Use the appropriate size for the contents: heavier items in smaller boxes, lighter items (neatly) piled together in larger boxes.

The right side up

When you are packing boxes, make sure that the writing on the outside of the box is facing the correct way. Keeping the box legible will keep the items inside safer: someone may think a box is upside down if you pack it that way, and then they’ll flip the box right side up, only to have the items on the top of the box crushed by the heavier ones from below, because now it’s inverted.

With particularly fragile items, it is always a good idea to write “fragile” on the box – on every side, and the top – with arrows pointing in the upwards direction to ensure the box is not flipped around.

From the same space

Always pack boxes with items from the same room and even from the same space. For example, fill one box with all of the items from your dresser – do not put some items from the dresser in a box, and then collect items from the kitchen and living room to fill it. Having items from all over the house will only make things much more tedious when it comes time to unpack.

This also makes the box easier to label. Rather than having to say, “Dishes from kitchen cupboard above the stove, pictures from the living room and bathroom, and clothes from the guest bedroom,” you can simply say, “Contents of guest bedroom dresser.”

At the other end, you’ll know which room to take every box to, and not have to run around when unpacking it.

Utilize as much space as possible

Always pack a box to its fullest extreme. Leaving a box unfilled will only make the box less sturdy, susceptible to being crushed under the weight of other items. Fill the box entirely, using crushed paper to fill in any gaps. The tighter the box is filled, the less movement in the box there will be, which will keep the items safer inside, and the more durable the box will be in the truck and storage locker.

Fragile belongings

For fragile items, like glassware and collectibles, be sure to wrap your belongings in paper. Never use newsprint for wrapping, as the ink can rub off on your items. Wrap your items in clean paper, and then use additional paper in between those items in the box to make them extra secure and protected. And label, label, label.

Hanging clothes

There are special boxes called “wardrobe boxes” that are made specifically for hanging clothes. Folding an old shirt is one thing, but folding your wedding dress or your suit jacket will certainly result in damaging them.

Wardrobe boxes are very large, and come with a bar that crosses the center of the top of the box to hang your clothes from. We strongly suggest using these for any hanging clothes.

Do note that these boxes will usually have spare space at the bottom of them. Do not be tempted to fill that with books or other heavy items: a few lighter items, like mitts, toques, extra hangers, or even a few pairs of shoes are good items to fill that space with. Be careful not to put too much in the bottom though, as you don’t want this box to be particularly heavy, given its large size.

Tape boxes shut

When you’ve filled a box, make sure to seal the box properly. Ensure the tape crosses the entire length of the opening and is firmly sticking to the cardboard. Taking a flat object to smooth out the tape is a good idea.

Sealing the box entirely, leaving no corners or gaps, is the best way to prevent dust and dirt from getting inside as well. We want your items coming out in the way they went in, after all.

Follow these helpful tips every time you’re packing boxes, and when it comes time to unpack them, you’ll be thanking yourself. Not only will everything be where it needs to be, it will also be in the same condition as when you put it into the box.

If you have any other questions about packing boxes – or anything storage related – speak with your Sentinel Storage agent today.