For non-fragile items like clothing, I place a sheet of cardboard or other stiffener in back of the neatly folded item (so it doesn't get all scrunched in the journey), then wrap in white tissue if I am using a box, or thin bubble wrap or even plastic wrap if I am using an envelope. Then I place it with my packing invoice into a box or a tyvek, bubble, or waterproof envelope (I never use plain envelopes, because the item could get wet.) Usually I use boxes on clothing, but if an item is small and could easily travel in an envelope, I do so to get a better rate.
For fragile items, the packing is much more complex. However, it doesn't have to take a long time if you gather all your materials first and do all your packages "assembly line" fashion.
For example, if I am packaging a very delicate, 10" high vase:
Gather all materials:
A. 2 boxes, 1 about 2 inches larger than the item on all sides, the second one about 3 inches larger on all sides than the first box.
B. approximately 8 sheets of bubble wrap (for a 10" vase with a 5" diameter....more or less to suit your size)
C. 2 sheets of gift tissue, 20" long, or about 6 square feet. Make certain it is white....you don't want colors to bleed if it gets moist)
D. 4 peices of foam, (small peices will do, for taping to the corners)
E. approximately 3 cubic feet of packing peanuts
F. OPTIONAL IF THE ITEM IS EXPENSIVE (over $50):4 thin dowel rods (I have seen people use plastic coke bottles or sturdy paper towel rolls(empty) and it actually works quite well, but then you'll need a slightly bigger box). This step is completely optional if the item is less expensive.
G. OPTIONAL IF THE ITEM IS EXPENSIVE: extra bubble wrap to cover outside of inner box.
H. 2" packing tape, masking tape and labels.
First, fill the vase with packaging peanuts.
Second, wrap the vase in white tissue (never put bubble wrap directly against glass....some types of glass will get permanent round impressions from the bubbles) If the vase has a lot of decorative elements like handles, etc, make sure to use extra tissue on those parts, very gently, before bubble wrapping.
Third, wrap the vase in the bubble wrap and tape it very gently with masking tape....don't use too much tape or it will be too hard for the buyer to get it open.
Fourth, place the vase in the smaller box that has been filled with 2" of packing peanuts. Insert the foam pieces in each of the four corners to hold the vase directly in the middle of the box. Overfill it with more packing peanuts so that you have to VERY SLIGHTLY crush the packing peanuts to get the box closed.
Fifth, shake the box vigorously. If you hear NO MOVEMENT, go to the next step.....if you hear movement, start over.
6th, tape the inner box shut.
7th, OPTIONAL: This step is only if the vase is very expensive: BUBBLE WRAP THE INNER BOX!
8th, OPTIONAL: This step is only if the vase is very expensive: Place dowel rods in each of the four corners of the outer box. Tape them so they stand straight up and they will prevent the box from getting crushed in any way.
9th, Lay the box on a bed of packing peanuts at least 2" thick. (You might want to layer a sheet of newspaper on the packing peanuts to prevent shifting.)
10th, put your invoice on top of the box, then overfill all the sides and top with enough packing peanuts that you have to SLIGHTLY crush them in order to close the box. (You could also place foam pieces on each corner to be extra careful, but that is optional)
11. Shake the box vigorously to see if you hear movement....if you do, start over. If not, then tape the box shut and reinforce all of the seams of the box with 2" packing tape. Label and you are done! :^)
Now, as to materials.....yes it can be expensive to package properly. I do recycle all the bubble wrap I get, as well as boxes if they are used for non-fragile items. NEVER reuse a box for fragiles unless it looks completely new and has a bursting strength, listed on the box, of 200lbs or more. If it doesn't list the bursting strength, then you should not use it for fragiles because boxes can look new but their strength could still be compromised due to moisture or other factors, such as age.
Believe it or not, I got my packing peanuts in HUGE bags (bigger than me) for $5 from the local power plant. (No, they are NOT radioactive, LOL!) These can each last through approximately 15 packages such as I have described, making the total cost per package for packing peanuts only about 35 cents.
I do buy bubble wrap by the huuuuuge roll. Don't buy from office supplies.....go to gatorpack or some other business and buy in bulk. Store them in a storage room, if you can. Same with boxes. I really don't like recycling boxes simply because it takes more time to break boxes down to store them, then have to turn them around and retape them to use them later, than it is worth. And if you don't break them down, your storage area is very difficult to work in with boxes everywhere. If you wait for the sales at at uline.com (One every January, by the way!) you can buy in bulk, store them easily because they are all broken down, and not waste tape when you use them. And I believe customers like a good, strong, brand new box. Boxes go for as little as 20 cents including ship, depending on size, so it is worth it to me.
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