It’s not just a move across town. It’s not even just a move across country. The last time I did that I had things packed, had movers come and put our things in a truck, had them drive it across country, and had them unload it all for me. I was only separated from my things for a matter of weeks. In a few more weeks after that, I had everything unpacked again and life went on in the new home with all our old stuff.

This time is different. This time my things have to go across country again (starting from Las Vegas, NV). In fact, back to where many of them started their life with me (Olympia, WA) and then a bit further (Seattle, WA). There they get loaded on a barge and floated to Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. But that’s not the end of the journey. They get unloaded and trucked across the island and then put on yet another barge to get floated to their new home on Kosciusko Island.

But the new home is not quite the final destination. It is in terms of location, but not in terms of housing. We’re in temporary quarters while building a new home, and it’s difficult to know exactly how long it’s going to be until construction will be complete. Building a home in the wilderness does not progress at the same pace as it does in a more populated area. Our last new home took about four months to build. I think we’ll be lucky if we finish construction within four years.

So that means I need to plan for my things to be in boxes for a long time. Of course, things that I use regularly will not stay in a box, but I have lots of things that I can’t unpack for a long time. So I need a strategy for packing things for long-term storage and for knowing what I have and where they are.

Much to my husband’s chagrin, I am a packrat, especially with books. And those are the items I’m most concerned about storing long-term, especially since I’ll be living in a rainforest. I tried packing books in space bags thinking that a vacuum-pack would protect them from mildew. But for whatever reason, the vacuum didn’t hold in most of the bags (unlike other bags in which I have clothing, so the problem is specific to books. So I researched a bit more and came up with some tips for packing books for long-term storage.

Fortunately all my orders from Amazon over the last year have given me a supply of boxes that are well-suited to packing for boxes. The 1B9 boxes are my favorite. They pack a fair amount of books and keep it from getting too heavy. Alas, I have now run out of those and I assume it’s cheaper for me to go to my local U-Haul center and buy book boxes than it is to buy more stuff from Amazon. They have a lot of other packing materials there that I’m going to need, but that’s a plan and a post for another day.

As I pack, I’m scanning my books with a Mac application called Delicious Library 2 and building up an inventory of books as I go. It’s amazing how vast their database is as I have books that I thought would be obscure but were found. I had a few books that didn’t have bar codes and in most cases a manual search turned up my book in their database so that I could easily add it. There were only a few times that I had to add a new record myself. I’m using the Location field to store the box number for each book. I’ve got dots from the office supply store (technically removable transparent color coding labels), so the color of the dot plus a sequential number that I write on the dot is the entry in the Location field. Then I put the numbered dots on all 4 sides of the box so that it won’t matter how we stack them later.

Yes, this process took me longer than simply packing. However, considering how long everything will be in boxes, I’d like to know where things are. I might want to get access to some of these books and can crack open the right box when the need arises. I just won’t be able to put my books on a bookshelf for a while, but I will have access. I can hear my husband grumbling now about finding a box that I want, but he’ll get over it. After having lived a year apart as we undertook this process to migrate to the wilderness, I’m sure he’ll be happy to have something to grumble about when I’m there in person to be grumbled at!

After a couple of evenings at this task, I’ve got 20 boxes packed thus far, and a handful of personal books remaining to be packed. I still have my office to tackle, but there I have to get ruthless. Many of the books in my obsolete thanks to the transitions in technology over the last decade or so that I’ve collected the books in my office. Only some get to make the journey to Alaska. I’m going to guess that I have another 3-5 boxes to pack in there once I cull through the lot. Meanwhile, I think I’ll tackle the master bedroom next. I need to have this room cleaned out and ready for my dad to sleep in when he comes to help me pack the rest of the house in a few weeks. I better get to work!