The how-to guide for packing your home before deployment
Uncle Sam sometimes gives members of the U.S. military very little warning when deployment is on the horizon. You might know a few months in advance or as little as a few days. When you do find out, you have to spring into action, taking care of not only your military business, but personal obligations, as well. Packing your belongings for deployment involves more than a suitcase filled with necessities (and a few of your favorite things). It also means securing the rest of your belongings to protect them when you return home from your time overseas.
Whether you are facing your first deployment or are among the thousands who have seen many, many more, packing up a home for storage before deployment can be incredibly time-consuming. You may have been in your current apartment or house for as little as a few months to as long as a few years. Either way, you’ll have to pack everything up and find a place to keep it secure while you’re deployed.
That’s where storage facilities come in.
Self-storage brought in about $32.7 billion in 2016. For the average American, there are many reasons to use storage units. But for active military there is only one — to keep your valuables safe while you are serving your country. Making sure you store your items correctly in a safe, secure storage facility will give you additional peace of mind during an unpredictable and stressful time.
Picking a Storage Facility
First, you need to know the right storage facility for your belongings. Whether you need to store items from a three-bedroom house or a studio apartment, finding the right facility involves understanding many details.
- Size: What will you be storing? Boxes and bikes, or furniture and appliances? Maybe all of the above? You’ll most likely pay for a storage unit by square feet, so understanding how much space you need requires you to take stock of your belongings. A one-bedroom apartment can often fit in a 5x10 unit, while larger homes might require as much as a 10x20-foot unit. Take into consideration if these items will stay locked away while you’re gone, or if a family member will need to come through occasionally to pull out a few things. You might need to factor walking room into your square footage if a trusted friend or a loved one will be stopping by.
- Climate Controlled: Do you have items like art or papers that might be sensitive to temperature and moisture? If so, a climate-controlled indoor unit would protect your stored valuables best. An outdoor, garage-style unit might expose your valuables to the heat and moisture of your region’s climate. With a climate-controlled unit, you can protect your belongings from the irreparable damage of mother nature, such as books and papers warped from humidity or mold growing in your electronics and fabrics.
- Insurance and Security: If your belongings are valuable, important or sentimentally priceless, pick a storage unit with state-of-the-art security and round-the-clock monitoring. If you are storing firearms, tools or important military memorabilia, be sure to check with your storage facility’s policy. Your renter's or homeowner's insurance policy likely covers items in a storage unit, but double check and let your company know you’re being deployed and moving everything into storage. Be sure to ask questions about items or situations that wouldn’t be covered, and find out why they may not be covered. Give your insurance company details of the unit and facility, as well as any other information that can help you quickly replace your items if they’re damaged or stolen. If you don’t have storage unit insurance coverage, you have two options: ask how much it would cost to add it to your current plan, or see if you can purchase insurance directly from the storage facility.
- Payment & Checking In: When you’re working hard overseas, you won’t have time to stop and think, Did I pay my storage unit bill this month? Making sure your bill is paid on time can be solved in three simple ways:
Don’t hesitate to email the storage facility from time to time to check on your property and payments. Be proactive, and you’ll stay ahead of any potential negative situations.
Once you know where you’ll be storing your belongings, you’ll need to pack them up nicely and securely for their stay in storage. Even if you’re on a tight deployment deadline, try to take the time to do the packing right. It can save you a lot of heartburn and headache when you return. Use our Pack-It-Right Checklist to secure your personal affects efficiently and effectively.
- Avoid storing items in sealed plastic bags, as it invites mildew.
- Pack a good mix of light and heavy, with heavier items on the bottom of the box.
- Try to use similar box sizes for ease of stacking. Only using 2-3 different sizes will help maximize the amount of space you’re purchasing.
- If you have the time, clean items and dismantle items before packing. This will keep your belongings from gathering grime, while also saving space.
- Protect your furniture: use ScotchGuard on fabrics, wax and finishes on wood, and leather conditioner on leather furniture. Dismantle what you can, and be sure to keep the hardware together in one place. Most often, a plastic baggie taped to the back or inside will do the trick. Be sure to cover furniture to prevent dings and dents during moving and storage. Many people wrap their furniture with specialized covers, but blankets and sheets will do in a pinch, especially if the storage is short-term.
- Take extra care with art by adding cardboard corners to frames and securely wrapping them in bubble wrap or individual boxes. If the art is unframed, resist the urge to roll it up and store it. You’ll return only to find permanent creases in your prized possessions. Slide it in between sheets of plywood or cardboard, or, if it’s really valuable or sentimental, try wrapping the piece in glassine, an air and water resistant material. Use the same gentle care for fragile items. Wrap them in bubble wrap, store them securely, and keep them away from items that can fall.
- Label your boxes by room or contents. Try to stay organized so that when you come home and are ready to unpack, you can open the boxes you need or want right away and save the others for later.
- Secure your electronics. Believe it or not, if you have a liquid screen television, the screen can break during extreme climate changes. This may not be as much of an issue in a climate-controlled unit, but regardless, do your due diligence by securing your TV in bubble wrap or even the box it originally came in.
- Leave the doors to appliances slightly ajar to prevent mold and mildew. Wrap the cords and plugs and secure them with tape to the appliance to keep them from getting tangled underfoot.
- Ask a friend (or a few) for help. If you’re under a tight deployment date or have a lot to get into storage, don’t shy away from asking for a hand. If you do get a few volunteers for packing and moving, be sure to share this list with them, or at least let them know what is important to you.
Whether you’ve had one deployment or a dozen, you can easily get distracted by the chaos of the situation and lose sight of important details. Preparing your property for deployment is not just about securing your belongings, it’s about securing your home. Emotions and stress can run high. Reach out to others who have been deployed to ensure you’re adequately prepared — physically and emotionally.