It is a special privilege to be a record collector with a very stable living situation, not confronted with the daunting task of worrying about moving your collection. Kudos to you, collectors with steady living situations.
For the rest of us—those renting, moving around, or otherwise being faced with this overwhelming chore of moving a record collection—I am here to offer some advice. Moving your records is a drag, but as I have learned through experience, there are ways to make the process less miserable.
As the owner of a record label that manages all its inventory and distribution in-house, as well as being a record collector, I have become somewhat of a self-identified expert in this taxing process. Having moved my collection and inventory between apartments and shared houses in college into a new house, and from there, back in Colorado, to Chicago a few years ago, I have moved thousands of records thousands of miles at this point, and have hardly bent a corner in the process.
Here are some very helpful tips to make the move more affordable, easier, and, most importantly, as safe as possible for your collection.
I cannot emphasize this step enough. Having fresh boxes for your records is a small investment that affords a large peace of mind. You can try and scrap together found boxes, but there is no promise that they will stack well, or that they will keep your records as safe as fresh boxes. Order boxes in bulk with the proper dimension (12.5”x12.5” is your best bet, and 13”x13” boxes are great if you want to really pad your boxes with bubble wrap). You can fit approximately 70 single LP albums in one box this size, and at about $30 for 25 boxes, you can safely package and store your entire collection in fresh boxes for a very reasonable price.
I cannot emphasize enough that lots of small boxes is so much better than a few huge boxes. Moving giant boxes of records is dangerous both for you or your movers and for your records. It is worth it to make more trips moving one box at a time than to try and move your entire collection in one giant crummy box you found behind a bodega. Buy new boxes, and buy lots of them. If you overestimate your collection, you will end up with extra boxes that also perfectly fit CDs, cassettes, DVDs, or other non-music items.
The boxes are just one component. You will want to make sure you have adequate bubble wrap and packing tape as well—enough to pad the insides of your boxes and reinforce their corners. Buy a roll of 12” wide bubble wrap and several rolls of packing tape (plus a packing-tape dispenser). Trust me. This process—taping bubble wrap inside your boxes—is time-consuming, but totally worth it to avoid bending corners in case an accidental drop occurs. Many bubble wrap rolls come pre-perforated at 12” increments, which is handy.
This is by far the most important step in this process. After you have assembled and prepped your boxes with extra padding, carefully pack your records. Be sure to not over-stuff them (too much pressure inside the boxes can lead to warping or damage, or in extreme cases, a box blowing out). Make sure there is a small amount of wiggle room.
"Be sure to label your boxes in a way so as to avoid stacking records horizontally. Keep them in a vertical orientation at all cost, and make sure to emphasize this to movers if they are loading or unloading your records."
Be sure to label your boxes in a way so as to avoid stacking records horizontally (I draw up and down arrows on all sides of the box just to be safe). Keep them in a vertical orientation at all cost, and make sure to emphasize this to movers if they are loading or unloading your records.
You can go the extra mile to label your boxes for organization purposes at this step too. This makes putting them in the right place when you are unpacking much easier. Don’t forget, once you get everything put into the boxes, thoroughly tape the boxes closed and reinforce all the edges you can with packing tape.
Movers, if you hire them, may not understand how fragile and valuable your albums are to you, and given moving is stressful and crazy, walking every box to the truck with the movers to insure they don’t drop anything isn’t usually an option. In fact, it is annoying for you and for your movers. Tell them once, very clearly, what the labels mean, and how to handle the boxes as they move them.
If you are moving the records yourself, that is by no means an excuse to not label your boxes. Label them clearly so that you can be sure to not stack records horizontally once they are in the boxes. (That scene in High Fidelity where Dick lectures Rob about his horizontally stacked records comes to mind.) This is especially true if you are stacking multiple boxes of records on top of each other.
Where you place your records in the truck and how you stack them is crucial and requires planning and care. When moving during hot months or in hot climates, be sure to avoid placing your records directly on the floor of the moving truck or directly against the wall. My trick to this is complicated, but it saves space and insures limited exposure to heat: I have an old set of steel industrial shelves—the kind you see in hardware stores—that very neatly fits 13x13 boxes. I put the shelves into the moving truck first, and use packing straps to secure it to the wall of the truck. From there, I put the boxes of records onto the shelves, and then strap them onto the shelves. This keeps the records off the floor, with an adequate distance from the walls of the truck, and allows for more room in the truck for the rest of your stuff.
"When moving during hot months or in hot climates, be sure to avoid placing your records directly on the floor of the moving truck or directly against the wall."
Be sure to put a towel or blanket between the packing straps and boxes to avoid any bending or damage from the pressure of ratcheting the straps tightly into place. Triple check your straps before you pack your truck the rest of the way to make sure your shelving won’t tip or dump your boxes if or when you check a curb in your moving truck. (Full disclosure: I checked a curb in our moving truck and this method proved hearty enough to withstand a pretty solid impact—nothing spilled and all the straps held tightly).
You can do this same trick with your standard Ikea shelves (Kallax or Expedit) but be careful. When you strap a shelf like that to the truck’s wall, the straps can chew up the edges of your shelving units. Use extra towels, moving blankets, or other padding to avoid this damage.
Though this article will not make the boxes lighter, the stairs shorter, or the process any less time-consuming, it will promise a successful move of your records, whether it is a few blocks or across the country. In the case of long moves, don’t forget to park the truck in shade as much as possible, especially in hot weather. Also, avoid leaving your records in the boxes for too long after the move, as this can increase chances for warping from pressure if they are over-packed.
Moving a sizable record collection is unavoidably a drag, but by using these tips, the process can be easier, and most importantly, can keep your vinyl treasures safe.