How to Move Your Valuables: 6 Tips for Protecting Your Most Precious Stuff

Cinnamon Janzer

Nothing can take away the thrill of finally moving into a new home quite as quickly as discovering that something you love was damaged in the process. What's even worse? If it's something you love that's also very expensive to repair or replace.

Accidents happen, and you can't control everything that occurs after you put your precious belongings on the moving truck. But you can take some safeguards to protect your stuff before the big day—and make sure that the watercolor painting you bought in Italy or your grandmother’s vintage vanity isn't irreparably damaged in the process.

To keep the good vibes rolling from the moment you set foot into your new place until every last knickknack is unpacked, follow this valuable advice from pros on protecting your valuables. You'll be glad you did.

1. Determine what's valuable to you

Sure, when you think of valuable items, you probably think of the fanciest things you own. But Christine Daves, a certified professional organizer and owner of the Twin Cities–based Think Organized, wants you to expand your definition of "valuable."

She considers items such as little ones’ favorite stuffed animals as precious when she’s organizing a client’s move.

“Kids are already going through such a big change," Daves says. "If they have a specific teddy bear or something, it’s a valuable item if they need it to sleep."

You should also pay special attention to necessities like prescription medications and important documents while relocating, she says. Replacing them can be a costly and stressful process—an emergency doctor’s appointment in a new city in order to refill a lost prescription won’t be cheap or easy.

2. Take an inventory—with photos

Once you've determined what's valuable, make sure you write it all down and take photos of each item—even the paperwork and the pills. It's tedious, we know, but you'll be grateful for the visual proof in case something goes wrong (we'll get to that in a bit).

3. Pack conspicuously

The No. 1 rule of packing is to label your boxes clearly. But when it comes to packing valuable items, Daves cautions against marking them in an obvious way.

“Don’t label a box 'My Gold Jewelry,'" she says. "You want to think that everyone is honest and all of that, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Another pro tip: Pack valuables in small boxes, advises Jon Daly, a mover with Matt's Moving in Minneapolis.

“Big boxes are meant to be filled with a lot of goods," he explains. "Keep valuables by themselves in smaller boxes so they can go on the top of the load.”

And, of course, you should hit up a moving supply store to buy packing materials, Daly says. They’ll have everything you’ll need—from bubble wrap to specialized boxes—to keep your precious items safe.

4. Keep your small valuables with you

That said, your best bet for protecting your valuables is to keep them off the moving truck entirely. That means transporting them to your new home in your car, or shoving them into your carry-on luggage if you’re flying. (Try to avoid checking these items, as they could disappear somewhere between Point A and Point B.)

In fact, Daves recommends keeping valuables on your person as much as you can while en route to your new digs—even if you’re just stopping in a restaurant for a bite to eat. Toss your precious jewelry and your expensive compact camera into a backpack that you can grab and take with you as you stop, instead of leaving it in the car, no matter how concealed it seems.

5. Leave the big or extra-special items to the pros

What about those bigger valuables that you can’t transport yourself? (For example, that dining table that’s been passed down in your family for generations or the organic mattress your splurged on last year.)

If it fits in a box, go ahead and mark on all sides of the package that the contents need special care. Make sure to note any breakable items on the inventory, too, and tell the movers when they show up, Daly recommends. And don't forget about moving insurance.

That said, your highly valuable and precious items should be packed by professional packing or crating companies—which you might need to hire in addition to your moving company.

Daves recalls a client who once had to move a Steinway grand piano. “For things like that, there is absolutely no reason to go cheap," she says. "Hire the professionals.”

Whom do you call? Start by contacting the store where the item was purchased. It can recommend a company that specializes in crating such pieces.

“If it’s something like a statue, I might look up a museum services company," she says. "They’ll build beautiful crates that are specific to what you have.”

Yes, it'll cost some bucks. But dishing out the cash for packing professionals also takes the responsibility off of you.

“That’s one of the bonuses of having a moving company or [professional] third party pack your items—they’re liable for anything that gets damaged inside,” Daly says.

6. Check your stuff before you let the movers go

Unfortunately, all the planning in the world can’t stop accidents from happening—furniture gets scraped, boxes get dropped, antique crystal gets shattered. The key is to arm yourself against those scenarios with diligence and protections at every step of the moving process.

Once your belongings have been delivered to the final destination, make sure to do a final walk-through before the movers close up the truck and drive off into the sunset.

We know: Moving is utterly exhausting, and you might be tempted to just skip it, sign on the dotted line, and be done. But if you find damage in the unpacking process that you didn’t note on your final walk-through, Daly says, you’ll be hard-pressed to get your moving company to take responsibility for it.

Take thorough notes and photos of any damage you discover. Don’t stop with just photographing the damage—make sure you snap a few pictures of the packaging and boxes, too.

“The idea is that someone can look at your documents and get an idea of what happened or what went wrong” when it comes to filing an insurance claim, Daves says.

Remember those notes and photos you took before the move? They'll come in handy now. Use them to bolster your claim that something went wrong—and that it wasn't your fault.

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