Preparing your Belongings for Storage

With your emergency plan in place, you may have time to ship your most treasured belongings out of the path of natural disaster. Keep reading for our tips on preparing furniture, antiques, and artwork for storage.

Your own safety and the safety of your loved ones and pets should always be your first priority when a natural disaster is approaching, but if you’re well-prepared and have an emergency plan in place, you may have time to safeguard your most cherished belongings as well. Keep reading to learn how to protect and store furniture and other belongings in a hurricane or other natural disaster.

There are two main dangers to prepare for when it comes to protecting your belongings during a natural disaster: wind and flooding. Moving sentimental or valuable furniture, artwork, and other belongings to the upper floors in your home is the simplest way to protect them from flood damage. The most effective safeguard, however, is to move your belongings out of the path of danger entirely. Unless you have family or friends in safe locations who are willing to store your belongings for you, this means you’ll be shipping your valuables into a storage unit.

Not everyone needs to consider shipping their belongings into storage to wait out hurricane season or weather an oncoming storm. There are a few circumstances when you might want to include shipping your belongings to safe storage in your emergency preparedness plan, such as:

  • If you live in an area commonly impacted by storms and natural disasters, such as coastal areas or areas of low elevation
  • If you know a hurricane or other natural disaster such as a wildfire is approaching, or the likelihood of one developing is high, and you have a lot of high value, highly sentimental, or truly irreplaceable items you wish to protect
  • If you live in a high rise—you may not be as susceptible to flood damage as a ground-level unit or detached home, but high winds are common at higher altitudes and can break glass, which can damage your belongings and allow other harmful elements indoors. If you have belongings stored in ground-level storage lockers, you may also want to consider shipping these items out of the path of danger.

Focus on only the most valuable, sentimental, or otherwise irreplaceable items, such as:

If you’re considering shipping your valuable and most-cherished belongings into storage, there are a few things to keep in mind and steps you’ll need to take to make sure your items stay safe on their journey and while they are in storage.

1. Be aware of storage restrictions.

Storage facilities aren’t equipped to store everything. Before you choose a facility, find out what can and can’t be stored in the unit. Every storage facility you speak to should be able to provide a list of restricted items. If you’re shipping your belongings into a storage unit, your shipping provider will also have restrictions on what can and can’t be shipped.

Restricted items typically include:

  • Gasoline
  • Fertilizers
  • Paint
  • Fireworks
  • Explosives
  • Full propane tanks
  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Plants

2. Create an inventory of all the items you’re sending to safety.

In the midst of a natural disaster, it’s very easy to forget what you sent away, especially if you’re shipping and storing smaller items. While you pack your valuables, create a detailed inventory of each item you’re shipping into storage, including its approximate weight, current retail value, and photos so you can document its current condition. In addition to keeping yourself organized, you’ll need photos if your belongings are damaged and you want to make an insurance claim.

Keep a copy of your inventory with you in your emergency kit, store it in the cloud, and if possible, keep one with any belongings you ship into storage.

3. Store smaller items in an airtight, clear plastic bin

Plastic bins are stronger, more likely to withstand damage, and more effective at keeping out moisture than cardboard boxes. Label each bin so shippers and storage facility employees know what needs to be handled with care.

SHIPPING TIP: Plastic bins can’t be shipped unless they are packed into cardboard boxes. If you’re shipping smaller valuables out of state, slide your plastic bins into a cardboard box and fill any empty spaces with bubble wrap or packing paper to prevent shifting.

3. Clean and protect everything you intend to store

Wiping down all surfaces with cleaning spray and vacuuming any upholstered items helps to prevent mold or mildew from developing while your belongings are in transit or in storage. Applying a protective spray to upholstered furniture and covering it with a cotton sheet also helps keep pests away and prevent tearing.

STORAGE TIP: Make sure everything is completely dry before you store it.

How to protect your belongings in a hurricane or other natural disaster

If your emergency plan is in place and you have time to ship your most treasured furniture, antiques, and artwork to a storage facility out of the path of the storm, the key to keeping these items safe is to pack them properly. Here's how:

Packing furniture for storage

Packing your furniture for storage is similar to packing it for a move. Follow these steps:

  1. Empty any drawers or compartments, and vacuum to remove any excess dirt and dust.
  2. Disassemble what you can. Removing legs, drawer handles, and other detachable bits saves space, makes it easier to move each component, and reduces the likelihood that your valuable or sentimental items will sustain damage. Wrap each piece individually and secure them together using rope, bungee cords, or zip ties. Place any small pieces in a resealable bag and attach the bag to the furniture you’re storing. Make sure each item is labeled in case they get separated.
  3. Protect your furniture. Apply a conditioning spray, vacuum upholstered pieces, wax wood furniture to reduce the risk of mold and pests, wipe down any metal elements with oil to prevent tarnishing and rust, and wrap any non-removable protrusions in bubble wrap or rags.
  4. Pack your furniture following the same procedure you would use if you were packing your stuff for a move. After you’ve cleaned each piece, protect corners, wrap it completely in moving blankets, and secure the blankets in place using shrink wrap. Do not apply plastic wrap directly to furniture—it can trap heat and moisture, which can cause wood to warp and mold to develop on upholstered items.

When you ship your furniture into storage, a reputable shipping provider will ensure that your furniture is properly packed and prepared for the trip.

Packing artwork for storage

If you’re shipping artwork into storage, be sure to look for a temperature-controlled storage facility. Use boxes designed specifically for storing artwork, and follow our packing tips.

Packing antiques for storage

Like artwork, you should only store antiques in a temperature-controlled storage facility. When you’re packing your antiques, follow these steps:

  1. Spray wood with furniture polish to ensure it comes home looking as good as possible, as well as to prevent unnecessary damage.
  2. Disassemble what you can and wrap each part individually in bubble wrap or moving blankets secured in place with tape or shrink-wrap.
  3. Wrap furniture with extra care, paying special attention to protrusions, corners, or bits you know are especially fragile.

As you pack, take pictures of your items from multiple angles. Pictures will help you keep a detailed inventory, and you’ll also need photos in case you need to make an insurance claim.

Packing fragile items for storage

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when packing fragile items for storage:

  1. Wrap each item individually with bubble wrap or packing paper.
  2. If you’re packing smaller items into plastic bins or boxes, line the bottom of the bin or box with crumpled packing paper, bubble wrap, or soft fabric items to add a protective layer of cushioning.
  3. Use only high-quality packing materials. This is not the time to re-use those battered boxes you still have laying around from your last move.
  4. Take care not to overpack your containers. Extra weight can make your belongings more susceptible to damage. If you have to leave empty space, fill it with bubble wrap or crumpled packing paper.
  5. Clearly label the box as “FRAGILE”.

Packing dishware

Shipping dishware into storage is ideal for heirloom, wedding, or other valuable fine china. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Wrap each piece of dishware individually in bubble wrap and packing paper.
  • Store plates and bowls vertically—they are less likely to break than if you stack them upright like you would in your cupboards.
  • Store glasses with the rims down.
  • Only nest smaller items into larger ones if they are both sufficiently well-protected.

For added safety and peace of mind, you could also look for special dish pack boxes designed specifically for moving and storing dishware.

Protecting items you already have in storage

If you already have items in storage and you live in an area commonly affected by a natural disaster, find out how your storage unit handles these situations. If your storage facility doesn’t have a plan in place, you might want to consider moving your belongings to a new storage unit.

When you first put your belongings into storage, it can help to place boxes and containers on tarps, then wrap the tarp up around your boxes to create a protective layer. This may not be a 100% effective method for keeping moisture away, but it can help delay and mitigate the damage and should do a good job of protecting your belongings (especially if they’re in plastic bins) if flooding is minimal.

Shipping your stuff into storage

When you ship your valuables long distances into storage to weather a natural disaster, it’s important to work with an experienced shipping company that you can trust to keep your belongings safe in transit, as well as during the unloading process.

TSI specializes in creating a customized shipping plan that fits your timeframe, budget, and unique circumstances. Whether you’re pre-emptively moving your cherished belongings out of the path of a potential disaster or a storm is on the way and you need expedited services, we can help with:

  • Shipping items into storage units.
  • Shipping items out of storage to family members out of the danger zone.
  • Shipping items out of storage into a storage facility in a safe location.

More Emergency Preparedness Resources

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