Packing valuables can be one of the hardest and most expensive parts of packing for a move. It honestly doesn’t have to be either difficult or expensive, though. Sure, there are products that moving and storage companies will want to sell you, but you can safely pack delicate and valuable objects without spending hundreds of dollars. I collect things that are expensive and easily broken. Over the past decade, I’ve also done quite a bit of moving that has taught me how to save significant amounts of money, as well as packing space.
Make Your Own Packing Pillows
Many retailers that ship product to consumers have started using small plastic air pillows to protect things in shipment. They’re excellent and remarkably effective and efficient. There are packing and storage stores that sell these plastic envelopes or pillows, but I found a better way that saves me a bunch of money. I stop off at the dollar store and buy balloons for a few bucks. I try to buy a variety of shapes to give me a variety of options.
Balloons are better than the envelopes or pillows you can buy because they don’t lose any of their elasticity at most inflation levels. I can blow in just enough air to create a small teardrop, or enough to create a huge balloon. Long snake-like balloons can be inserted in glasses and blown up enough to provide stability for stemware. Other shapes can be used as filler to keep objects from bouncing around in transit. I use these liberally when I’m packing the contents of office and kitchen drawers and cabinets, as well as pictures.
Packing Valuables in Expanding Foam
More than two decades ago, I worked for a company that made packing materials for shipping computers. We used a two-part mix that expanded to fill the voids in a mold and solidified into a semi-hard foam material. It has made its way to the consumer market now. While it isn’t marketed as something to use while packing valuables, it is a very similar product. Here’s how I use it to protect my model airplane collection and my eagle statues.
While picking up the foam, I also pick up either plastic sheets or something like Saran Wrap. I use books to create a box and lay the plastic over the top, pushing down to create a plastic bag. I then spray in some of the foam and cover it with another layer of plastic and the object I’m packing. I then quickly add another layer of plastic and some more foam, and finally, another layer of plastic covered by books. About 30 minutes or so later I then separate the two pieces of the mold and remove the outer layers of plastic to reuse for the next object. Sandwiching the item between two layers of plastic first allows the two halves to be opened and the object easily removed.
This works great for my die-cast car collection as I can layer 20 or 30 of them into a single “multi-piece brick” of foam, offering the best protection possible in the smallest possible space. I can even use this method to create packing material for collectibles that remain in their boxes. My model airplanes and ships get excellent protection because it conforms to unique shapes much better than anything else. Since the foam is really light, it doesn’t add much to the weight, so I use this when I sell stuff on eBay, also.
Using Clothes While Packing Valuables
I was packing up my apartment once a few years ago and a friend asked me why my clothes were folded and rolled in a variety of ways. I told him I use my clothes as packing material for basically everything but the most delicate and strangely shaped objects I own. I use blankets and towels to cushion my printer and monitor, as well as balloons.
Take my stemware, for example. If I don’t have enough balloons, I’ll stuff a rolled up pair of socks (clean, of course) into the bowl of the glass before I wrap it in newspaper and a towel. The socks give structure to the glass, ensuring it doesn’t crack in transit. A couple balloons in the box make sure that nothing moves around, also.
I’ve got some heirloom silver that I don’t want getting scratched in moves. My daily silverware just gets tossed in a box with other kitchen utensils. My good silver though, gets rolled up in shirts and pants to keep them from jostling and scratching. Another example is that I use other smaller clothing items to keep the cartridge carrier in my printer from bouncing around and breaking.
My method of packing valuables may take me a little extra time on both ends of the move, but it not only saves me an incredible amount of space and weight (and money), but it makes for a much easier and quicker cleanup when unpacking. There’s nothing to throw away if I’m not going out and buying air pillows, popcorn, and newspapers. Almost all of my packing material gets folded or hung up. Less space required to pack my belongings also means I can rent a smaller and less expensive truck when I move. It also means fewer trips when the move is local and a friend’s pickup is being used.
Photo Credit: James Yu