Thursday, August 28, 2008

U-Pak-- and pack and pack

In preparation for staging, we had to dump most of our stuff into a portable, self-storage locker. Different companies provide this services (U-Pak is one). Done right, these can hold a tremendous amount of stuff: over 420 cubic feet of items-- the equivlant of a 1 bedroom suite. In packing your container here are some important tips:
  • Use regular sized boxes. It would be perfect if you could use nothing but the same sized boxes. If you cannot do that, you can aim for either two or three sizes that hook together. Or, aim to get a least 20 boxes of the same shape. The goal is to get enough boxes of the same shape to do one entire layer of boxes. Our favorite: paper boxes like those you find at print shops. They hold a handy weight, they are strong and they are usually free (or they should be).
  • Pack heavy on the bottom, light on the top. Books at the bottom; teddy bears on top. U-Paks will get moved and stored for a week to a month. It's important to remember that gravity is working all the time. If your stuff will survive a day before getting crushed, how will it fare after two months of weight?
  • Layering is okay (Shelves are your Friend, Episode I). When you have table tops and removable shelves, you can use these over top of a layer of boxes. They will distribute the load and prevent crushing. You can also use these vertically to prevent avalanches (what I have dubbed 'crudalanches') of stuff.
  • Fill the voids (Shelves are your Friend, Episode II). When you pack a layer of boxes, but in a layer of furniture. Then, pack items in another around the furniture. This is important for two reasons: 1) it uses the maximum amount of space; 2) if you don't fill the spaces, stuff could shift and end up in these holes but end on their sides or busted open; 3) if the furniture is heavier, it is less likely to move. When you move in a bookshelf, make a point of filling the shelves.
  • Clothes are good (so are cushions and blankets). When you pack clothing, try to pack them in sturdy garbage bags. Don't overstuff the bags, you want them to have about the area of a shirt and about 4"-8" thick. Use these soft flat bags to fill in the gaps. This will limit motion, settling and breakage.
  • Don't be afraid to repack. This is tetris. If you have a big gap of space, pull out several boxes and leave them near the door. Try to pack them again and do a better job. Don't go nuts, but be willing to back up and and re-try.
  • Go for a consistent height. My goal is always to pack to the ceiling. If you cannot get to the ceiling, make sure everything is consistently packed to about the same height.
  • Lock off the last layers. Save some large items (shelves, couches, etc.) When you get to the end of the U-Pak (the door), put in these large items so that they in the doorway and in the corner so that should you have a crudalanche the items will not spill out the door. In one of these, I was lucky: I had broken down some industrial shelves and had these sturdy 6'6"" bars available. I hooked them into a shelf at the door so that if anything travelled, it would hit the bars and the bars would hit the side of the doors.

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