How Do You Pack Your Important Documents for Storage?

By Vance Stevens
Special to

So, it’s time to pack up your important records and documents: you've purchased boxes, organized the documents and are ready for packing and storage. Before you get too far, read over these tips to help prevent any loss or damage to your important records.

When using a professional storage or self storage facility, the company will complete many of these tasks for you. Often your storage company will provide you with boxes, and will even pick up and organize your boxes in preparation for storage.

Those planning to take care of the task of packing and storing records on their own should start by properly packing all documents.

Packing your Boxes:
Start by packing your documents in filling boxes. Be sure to purchase the same sized boxes (most commonly 15" x 12" x 10") to help with stacking and shelving. Be sure to purchase enough boxes to prevent overfilling and help prevent the boxes from becoming too heavy. Heavy boxes stacked on top of one another can lead to damage to your documents over time. The top lid should close easily and the sides should not bulge. Unfilled boxes should be stuffed with packing material to support the box and prevent the box from collapsing.

Place file folders upright in the box so that their labels can be read, with all labels facing the same direction. Disks, CDs and DVDs should be stored in individual cases. When possible, place such materials vertically in the box with their labels facing up. If you end up with excess room in the box, add packing material such as bubble wrap to assure materials do not shift during the moving process or when you transport your items to storage.

Next, label the boxes on all sides and press the labels down firmly to avoid air bubbles. For security purposes, do not write the exact contents of the box on the label. Instead, use a numbering code that corresponds to a list you can keep with you.

Choosing the Right Storage Space:
If you are planning to store your documents in a space other than your home, you will have to make a few decisions on what type of storage space will work best for you. When choosing a storage space to fit your needs, carefully consider the following:

• Am I planning to store my documents for a short or long term?
• Will I be accessing your unit frequently or only occasionally?
• Do I prefer a locker with interior access or exterior access?
• Should I use freestanding shelving in your unit?
• Am I planning to add additional records to the unit in the coming months?

Take the time to look at several unit options and choose the one that makes the most sense for you. Tip: It always helps to see the space so that you can visualize your items inside.

Organizing your Storage Unit:
Once you have packed your documents and decided on a storage space, it is time to organize your storage unit.

Keep all boxes of the same type together. For example, your accounting records should be kept in one section; legal records should be kept together, and so forth. If is also recommended that you use shelves instead of stacking boxes on the floor. Not only will this help better protect your documents, it will also provide easier access to your records in the future. Tip: If you must stack your boxes on the floor, be sure to place them on plastic sheeting or drop cloths for protection.

Next, store temporary records separately so that you can dispose of them quickly once they become obsolete. This will save you from having to stack and restack boxes in the future. Tip: leave enough room in your unit to access and retrieve your boxes.

Finally, remember to keep a list of the contents of each box so that you can easily locate documents when you visit your unit.