How to label boxes for storage?

Whether you’ve decided to put some of your items into long-term storage (because you’re moving to a smaller space and can’t fit all your stuff into it or don’t have enough room in your home for all the things you’d like to keep for one reason or another) or only need temporary storage until your new home is ready to move in or until your renovation project is completed, you’ll still have to come up with an efficient way to label the storage boxes, so that you know where to find what you’re looking for when you need a certain stored item.

Labeling boxes for storage is quite a simple and straightforward process – all you need to do is write the contents of the storage container on a piece of paper and tape it to the box. Easy as that. And yet, there are some important specifics that you need to be aware of in order to avoid troubles and headaches when rummaging around your rental storage unit in search of a specific item. Knowing how to label storage bins and boxes the right way will make things much easier and better organized.

What’s the best way to label storage boxes?

When labeling boxes for storage, you want to achieve two important things:

  • Keep your items well organized;
  • Be able to find whatever you may need in a quick and efficient manner.

To do so, you need to label the storage boxes in such a way that one look at the label will be enough to let you know what’s inside the storage container and how careful you should be when handling it (you don’t want to accidentally overturn a box full of breakables while trying to get the article you need, right?). Therefore, your storage box labels should be clearly legible, unlikely to come off when moving the containers around, and easy to edit or replace as necessary (you may add something to a box, take an item away, or change all the contents of a storage bin in the course of time).

How to make labels for storage boxes?

1. Get hold of appropriate labeling materials – permanent color markers, color labels, masking tape, clear packing tape, glue, label tag holders (or name tag holders), etc.;

2. Decide on the labeling system that will work best for you – you can simply write all the necessary information on a piece of white paper and stick it to the storage box, of course, but just like when you’re labeling moving boxes, using a color code or a numeric labeling system is your easier and more efficient option:

  • Color code labeling system – you choose one color for one type of items and mark every storage box that contains items from that category with the chosen color. For example, if you decide to use PURPLE for kids’ items, you should use a purple marker, purple labels, and purple packing tape for all the boxes that contain toys, children’s books, children’s clothes and shoes, and any other kids’ items you’ve decided to put into storage. Likewise, you can select GREEN for gardening items, ORANGE for kitchen items, etc. Just make sure you use the right color every time you pack a new box for storage. The main advantage of the color code labeling method is that it helps you find what you need very quickly and easily (if you’re looking for the garden gnome you stored away last autumn, you will only have to go over the GREEN-labeled boxes – not read all the white labels until you find the right box);
  • Numeric labeling system – you give each box a unique number and create a spreadsheet document with the contents of the boxes (all the items contained in a certain box should be listed against its assigned number). This way you will only need to write a single number on the storage container and refer to the master list for information concerning its contents (one quick look at the checklist will tell you that your ski equipment, for example, is stored in box number 17). The greatest advantage of the numeric labeling system is that it allows for quick and easy updates (it won’t be necessary to write new labels every time you change the contents of a storage bin – just edit the information on your inventory list) and eliminates the risk of mixing up the storage boxes because their labels have come off or become illegible with time.

3. Write down the contents of the box as fully and clearly as possible. Include any relevant information – not only the types of items inside the box, but also their number, mark or model, current condition, intended purpose or any other data that may be useful when you’re looking for a specific object. For example, instead of “Kids’ shoes”, you may want to write something like “Four pairs of boys’ boots, sizes 4 to 6, in excellent condition” on the storage bin label (This way, you’ll know exactly which box to look into when your 10-year-old nephew comes for a visit in mid-winter and finds out that his boots are leaking.)

  • If you have opted for the color code labeling system, make sure you choose labels and markers of the appropriate color when writing the contents of a box;
  • If you are using the numeric labeling system, include all the necessary information in your master list against the box number.

4. Write specific handling instructions. No matter what kind of labeling system you prefer, make sure you write FRAGILE, THIS SIDE UP, or any other necessary handling instructions on storage boxes that contain fragile, delicate, or sensitive items. It’s advisable to write directly on the box with a permanent red or black marker. For plastic storage bins, you can use large stickers with the desired handling instructions pre-written on them.

How to label plastic storage containers?

It is generally recommended to use plastic storage containers when storing items for a longer period of time as they provide better protection against moisture, pests, and dirt than cardboard boxes. If you have purchased quality plastic storage bins for your storage needs, however, you will certainly want to re-use them and not buy new ones every time you decide to put new items into storage and/or remove some of the old ones. Therefore, you are going to need an efficient way to label the storage boxes so that the labels don’t come off easily but can be easily changed when desired.

You have several good options for labeling plastic storage containers:

  • Use blue painter’s tape to write the contents of the bin on, as it is designed to remove cleanly without leaving residue. It provides a perfect solution for combining solid adhesion with easy removal;
  • Use label holders (or name tag holders) that allow you to slide a small card with whatever information you need written on it into the slot. The plastic holder is permanent (it can be easily glued to any storage container), but you can replace the card whenever you need to update the information on it;
  • Use self-adhesive document pockets – peel the pocket from the backing, apply it to the plastic storage bin, and insert the label in it. The document pocket will provide good protection to the label (so that it won’t rub off or fall off) and you will be able to change the label whenever you change the contents of the bin.

Tips for labeling storage boxes

  1. Make sure the labels don’t fall off easily. Use clear packing tape to attach the labels to the storage boxes and make sure all corners and edges are taped on (otherwise the paper may just catch on something and come off when moving the boxes around);
  2. Make sure the labels are large and easy to read, so that the writing is clearly visible even from afar;
  3. Do not use pencils for writing storage box labels or dry erase markers for labeling plastic storage containers, as they rub off very easily;
  4. Label the storage containers on their sides, not on their tops – you need to be able to see the information even when the boxes are stacked one over another.

SEE ALSO: How to pack boxes for storage

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