containers or boxes for storage

The time has come, you’re downsizing from the fifty-five bedroom, twenty-seven full baths, sixteen half baths mansion to that sweet studio apartment by the sea. Or, you’ve decided to quit your job and head off to the amazon to create an actual sized macaroni model of the majestic, namesake river. No matter the reason, you find you’re in need of putting things into storage and that means ….storage boxes & bins.

Storing things requires a certain amount planning and research. One of the things you should put a good amount time, effort and thought into is; the type of vessel in which you will be storing away your precious, semiprecious and basic, I have no idea why but I still own this thing, items. Here’s some thoughts, ideas and hints about what to look for when getting ready to store stuff away.

Paper or plastic?

This isn’t just a question the bag boy at the local Safeway asks you, it’s a question you need to ask yourself when getting ready to store away your things.

There are choices to be made here and the wrong one can bring about the loss of items, the ruination of memories and a whole lot of wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth. Please pronounce the ‘G’ when you’re reading that sentence, because it’s fun.

Cardboard Boxes

Now, it may seem easy to go down to the grocery store or liquor store and grab up a bunch of boxes to pack your stuff into but, I would encourage you to resist this temptation.

Grocery store boxes are often well used, perhaps have food particles in them, no tops and will break down very easily and do very little to hold out the elements. Also, most places break down their boxes almost as soon as they are empty.

Ok Cardboard

The good side of cardboard is they are cheaper than plastic bins, easier to carry and, if you buy more than you actually need, you can use them as sleds in the winter or forts for the kids or a new home for the dog.

Most cardboard boxes you buy in a storage store are pretty durable, have corrugated walls, are easy to label, have cut out handles and you can get them anywhere.

Oh No, Cardboard

The down sides of cardboard however, far outnumber the up sides. If you’re storing the boxes on wood slats, brick flooring or concrete slab, these things will rip the bottoms of your cardboard boxes to shreds. Not good. Also, if the concrete is not sealed, it’s going to seep moisture and that will turn the bottoms of the boxes to mush.

If you’re using a storage facility then you may be in better shape. If the facility is climate controlled, then, you should be fine with cardboard. The elemental decay will be limited with weather damage being close to nothing.

With cardboard you’re also going to have the added expense of tape, good, strong, packing tape. Depending on how much your packing and storing, that is an expense you may not want.

Stacking can be an issue as well. Cardboard may stack neat and easy for a certain amount of time, even in a non- climate controlled storage unit, but, if you’re going in and out of your storage unit, pulling boxes down and stacking them again, cardboard will eventually buckle and crush.

Keep this in mind and I know it may sound pessimistic but, you’ll be glad you did. Something will go wrong. How are you going to feel when the assistant manager of the storage company calls you up and says that a pipe broke or the roof split and your cardboard boxes are now under three feet of water.? The boxes on top of the stacks, maybe, will be okay, but the ones at the bottom are done for. Wet, crushed, tipping over.

If you’re keeping things someplace climate controlled for a temporary amount of time, then you’ll be okay with cardboard. However, long term storage, in an outdoor shed or non climate controlled facility and, frankly, even in a climate controlled space, cardboard is probably not your best bet.

One word for you … Plastic

The truth is, when it comes to long term storage, you’re probably going to want to use plastic bins and containers. They are safer, they stack easier and they will last longer and be reusable in the long run. Plastic can be stored inside, in the basement, under the eaves as well as in climate or non climate controlled storage units. The type of flooring is not going to be an issue because the bottoms of most plastic storage bins are strong and durable.

The plastic bins are going to cost more than cardboard, yes that is true. However, with plastic you’re going to be a lot less concerned if the call comes to inform you that the storage until is underwater. Chances are your things will be safe and dry. I would have to say that plastic is the best bet when you’re going to be long term storing.

Let’s Store!

Before you run out to the shop and buy fifty plastic storage bins, I suggests you put everything you want to store out where you can see it. This is for two reasons; one it lets you know how much you have and two; it let’s you see what you don’t want.

Just as I suggested when moving, look at all you have before you pack it up, I suggest the same for storing. Look at what you have and make an honest assessment. Cull all the stuff that you haven’t used or even seen in about a year and send it off to the trash or a Goodwill. You may have put a down payment on an airplane hanger for storing stuff but, after reducing the amount of stuff you have to store, you could save yourself some serious money.

Where am I putting all this?

Once you’ve taken a good look at what you have, gotten rid of what you don’t’ want, now you’re ready to start packing.

Measure the place where you’re going to store. If it’s in the attic or the basement, measure the area you’re keeping aside for storage and write it down. Even if you are renting a storage unit or a pod, measure it and write it down. Take those measurements with you when you go to the store to buy your bins. Precision in this area is going to not only save you money, but it will save you time and frustration as well.

Do you have this in a clear?

You have choices when it comes to plastic bins, clear or colorful. This is entirely your choice. Clear bins make it easier to see what’s inside them whereas, with colored bins, you can organize using color themes; red for holiday stuff, green for summer stuff, blue for whales and squid. That’s up to your own storing aesthetic.

If you’re storing things outside, and I’m not sure why you would do that, colored plastic bins will keep the light out and prevent fading of clothes, paintings and nose hair. But, again, I don’t understand why you’d store something outside. If you have an answer to this, please put it in the comments section, I like to learn new things.

You’ve Got a handle on This

Handles, and not the love kind that slosh over the top of my pants, are important. You’ll want to make sure your plastic bins have handles and pick the right ones for you.

Most plastic bins have molded handles on the sides. Easy to grip and durable. Sometimes you’ll find plastic handles that attach to the lids and swing out or lock in. These are okay but, more prone to breaking off if the bins are roughed up. You’ll want handles that fit you hands, feel comfortable and will last. Plastic bins without handles are much harder to carry, pull in and out of stacks and, frankly, they just look odd. I don’t trust them, I tells ya, I don’t.

Keep a lid on it

You’ll definitely want lids on your storage bins, I mean, what’s the point if you’re going to put your stuff in a bin and leave it uncovered. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? You’ve got the removable kinds of lids that are separate from the bin and the kind that are attached and close up up like a little puzzle. Both of them have their merits, it’s just a matter of which ones you like best.

The lids that are separate are usually stronger and more durable. Often these kinds of lids also have grooves to lock onto the bottoms of similar storage bins. This helps in stacking. The connected ones are usually lighter and may crack easier. That is not a hard and fast rules but, usually the case.

No matter which you go with, check them in the store, make sure the bins close and seal tightly under the lids. Look for cracks and defects before you leave the store, not easy to prove the lid was defective after you take it home and start to pack.

Little Help?

Keep in mind the weight of the bin after you’ve packed it. You don’t want to pack a bin so full that you cannot move it into place in your storage unit or up the stairs to the attack.

Use large bins for light stuff; pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, toupees and smaller bins for books and heavier items. Test while you’re packing. Lift the bins now and then to make sure you’re not over packing them. It gets easy when you’ve been packing for a while to just start throwing things into bins to get it all done, but, when it comes time to store the bins, then you’ll be sorry you didn’t take time when packing them.

No One Likes Labels

Except when you’re storing, then we all like them. Nothing is worse than going into your storage until and having to go through hundreds of unlabeled boxes trying to find your old penmanship trophies to impress your date with.

Some plastic bins will come with slots to slip in label cards or have actual labels right on them. These are a plus. Even with a clear storage bin, you’re not going to be able to see everything that’s in there. So much easier when you can look at a label that has all the items in the bin written right on it. When you’re packing to store stuff away, take your time and be very meticulous with your labeling. It’s going to save time and frustration in the long run when you’re looking for that specific item and you don’t run up against labels like; “Stuff”, “things” and “junk”. Taking time while packing, saves you time later.

Here’s Some More Stuff

What you’re storing matters as much as where you’re storing it and in what. This is a great, detailed guide to storing art and historic effects from the Conservation Center. This will give you details about types of plastic that are best for artwork, documents and the like. So, if you rob a museum and need to hide the stuff for a while, this is the article for you.

You want to know the best bin for your storage needs? Here’s the answer. These guys have done extensive research and have taken the guesswork out of bin choice for you. They have prices and sizes and where to buy information in one convenient article. A good resource for bin shopping.

Store This Nugget

Take your time, put the thought and effort into picking the right storage items and place for your things. It just makes sense. If you’re storing something, it means you want it for yourself later or you want to pass it on to someone. Other wise, you’d just throw it away, right?


Have any special storage ideas or techniques you’d like to share, I bet you do. Leave them in comments section and help the rest of us store safe and long.