Moving Tips: Packing Your Delicate Items

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I am ever-so-slowly building a wall of boxes in our living room.  In fact, I’d say that would be the most important moving tip I have for you, my dear readers, and that is to start early.  You may think you can pack up your entire house in the course of the week right before you move, and maybe you can, but you won’t be happy while you do it, and you’re probably going to make mistakes.  If you take your time and approach packing systematically, then you are less likely to end up with broken or lost items when you reach your final destination.

Careful planning comes into play especially when packing your more fragile items.  I recommend that you get your fragile items squared away at the beginning of your packing endeavour.  When you start packing, you’ll want to work on all the stuff you use less often, and I can guarantee that I will not be using my crystal stemware or vase collection at any time in the next eight weeks.  Getting the really delicate stuff out of the way first is also a good way to protect these items while you rummage through and shift around your other possessions in preparation for moving. Also, if you can dedicate a wall or a low-traffic corner of a room to initial box storage, you won’t find yourself dodging the things while packing other stuff away.

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So.  Get on with it, Ali.  For my credentials here, I’ll have you know I used to work for a domestic and international shipping company (which no longer exists but you’ve probably heard of it), and I have never had anything break that I have packed myself.  Like, never.  I was really good at my job.

First of all, give all your stuff a wash or a wipe. I’m always amazed at how dusty something can get when it’s been shut away in a cupboard for a while.

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I think that’s a plaster chunk in the closest glass. Don’t want to imagine what it is if it isn’t.

I find the best way to shine up glass and crystal is to pour a cup of white vinegar into your soapy water. Works brilliantly.

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Newsprint here is your best friend.  I’m not a huge fan of purchasing brand new packing materials, but in this case, your best bet is to get a giant bundle of blank newsprint in which to pack your glassware and ceramics.  Using old newspapers is all well and good, and you can do that if you wish, but I find that the biodegradable inks they use on newspapers in Canada tend to come off on pretty much everything, and the last thing I want to be doing when I move into my new place is scrub black smudges off all my crystal.  So blank it is.  And these bundles are super cheap.  Definitely worth getting one or two.

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You’ll want to make sure that the boxes you use for your breakables are among your sturdiest.  If you can squish the box with your hand, imagine what that will be like when it’s on the bottom with a bunch of other heavy boxes of books on top.  Bad idea.  If you can find a double-walled box, then all the better.  Boxes from liquor stores are also handy in these situations, because they have those handy cardboard separators inside to keep things from banging into each other.

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When wrapping up your items, remember, this ain’t no Christmas gift.  Be messy with your wrapping job.  The more wrinkles in the paper, the more space between this item and something else.  Feel free to wrap something up and then wrap it all over again, just to give it an extra cushion.

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When wrapping plates, you’ll probably end up with one side of the plate being cushioned with a lot of extra paper, and the other side having relatively little (for me that’s generally the bottom of the plate).  That’s fine — just make sure that you then put the more vulnerable side of the plate up against the more cushioned side of another plate.

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The vulnerable side.

Another important note about packing plates: pack the plates in the box on their sides, not stacked one on top of the other.  Why?  Because if there is a shock to the box (say, someone drops it a little more roughly than intended), then there will be less pressure to the edge of a plate with only its own weight to bear than one on the bottom of a box with fourteen others nestled on top of it.  IF you get a breakage with plates on their sides, then it will be restricted likely to chips one or two plates, and not smashes to the whole box, which is more likely if you stack them on top of each other.

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For stemware, you have to be really careful.  If you have those cardboard separators or a special stemware box, that’s fantastic.  All our stemware is different sizes and shapes so I prefer to pack them each individually.  And if I can, I like to ease them snugly into my vases, for added protection.

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When wrapping stemware, concentrate a goodly amount of your paper at the stem, which is the most fragile part.

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You can see the little extra ring of stiffer paper around the bottom of this glass.

Once you’ve got it wrapped, slide it into another container — vase, jar, doesn’t matter.  You want a snug fit, but don’t force it: remember that if you have trouble getting it into wherever you’re stuffing it, it will be even more difficult to get it out, and you don’t want to break it after having already safely moved it.

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Padding is extra important, obviously.  I have used a fleece blanket in the bottom of my box.  When putting your vases and larger/heavy fragile items into your boxes, think a little about the physics of the things first.  Is your vase heavier on the top than on the bottom?  Maybe you should put it in the box upside down, then.  With fragile stuff, it’s also a good idea to put them in the box as they would be stored in your house, on the pressure points upon which they were constructed to sit.  This means that your vases should be put in the box either upright or upside-down (in the case of those gravity-defying ones), and not sideways or on an angle.

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Don’t be afraid to use crumpled newsprint or other padding between your items so they don’t clink into each other.  Remember these lovely coffee-filter peonies?  Turns out they crush up nicely into little buffers between my big-ticket items.  That was Mrs. Nice’s idea.

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With breakables, you don’t want them butting right against the lid of the box.  This is not to say you’re not packing your box to the fullest, but you’re using padding instead.  So leave a bit of space between the tops of your items and the lid of the box, and fill that instead with lots of crumpled newsprint (packed tight) or another blanket.  Once the box is sealed, you can do the same “shake test” you did with your non-fragile items, and you should be good to go.  Remember, if you hear things moving around in the box, you’ll need to add some extra stuffing.  You don’t want those precious breakables shaking, rattling, and rolling around all the way down the highway, do you?

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Leave an inch or two of space at the top.
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Fill that space with something soft and solid.

One of the most important things to remember here, in the end, is that the stuff you’re packing is just stuff, after all.  Sure, it may have sentimental value, but it’s just a thing.  If it breaks, it’s not the end of the world.  If it’s worth fixing, it can be fixed.  If it’s not, then that’s one less item cluttering up your life.  If you’re really worried about your great-grandmother’s wedding crystal and you don’t trust yourself to do it right, then pay the extra bucks to get a professional to do it for you, and make sure it’s insured.  Just keep in mind when I say extra bucks I mean EXTRA.  When I was doing this for a living about a dozen years ago, packing a china service for four would run you about $300.  Is it worth it?  That’s up to you!

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