Your great uncle Hubert just bequeathed a long-lost Picasso masterpiece to you. Sure, you’d love to hang it on the wall of your bachelor apartment–it goes so well with the IKEA sofabed, after all–but Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and private collectors from Shanghai have been calling you non-stop since the reading of the will. It was the text message from the Russian Mafia, however, that really got you worried. You know this painting isn’t the sort of thing you can just stash in the hall closet behind the snowboard, but hiding it in an ordinary self storage unit seems so inadequate. So how do you store your valuables safely?
What options do I have for storing my valuables?
It depends on what your valuables are. For example, some antiques and works of art not only require security, but stringent climate and contamination controls as well, or you may suddenly find yourself with a big pile of abstract art. So no, you shouldn’t throw them into your garage or even in a regular self storage unit. Not only are these locations subject to wide-ranging temperature and humidity fluctuations (not to mention rodents that treat your Ming Dynasty vase like their own private Porta-Potty), but if word got out that you put anything valuable in a standard storage facility, the Mafia would be there faster than you could say “Buongiorno.” This leaves you with four options:
- A high-security, climate-controlled storage facility
- A fire- and water-proof safe in climate-controlled location in your home
- A safe-deposit box (for small items only)
- Other sneaky hiding spots and containers that thieves would never suspect (and no, not your sock drawer)
So where should I store valuable art, photography, books, china, etc.?
An art vault or high-security, strictly climate-controlled storage facility is probably your best bet. The National Archives outlines some very specific guidelines for storing these kinds of items to prevent them from deteriorating:
- 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit (or a bit cooler)
- Humidity should hover between 35-50%
- Acid- and lignin-free paper enclosures, book covers, polyester film encasement or a Solander or other kind of archival box
- Glass, china and breakables should be wrapped carefully in paper, cushioned with bubble wrap, and stored in boxes
Rather than setting these items directly on the floor, lay them on top of pallets to enable air circulation and prevent moisture from getting trapped.
If you’d prefer to store your original Shakespeare manuscripts at home because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to hear you read aloud at your so-called parties, then at least avoid stashing them in the basement. Not only do basements tend to be damp, but one hard rainstorm or an overtaxed plumbing system and you can flush your valuables down the toilet. Opt for an upstairs room with a water- and fireproof safe that stays at the same cool temperature all year long.
Where should I store important documents that I might need in case of a zombie apocalypse?
Documents are probably the last thing you’re going to be worried about when the undead are screaming “Braaaaaaaains!!!!” at your front door. But since you asked, Ray Martin of CBS MoneyWatch recommends that you not store important documents that you need fast access to in a bank safe deposit box. These boxes are not insured by the FDIC, can be vulnerable to “inside jobs,” might be subject to government confiscation, and you can only get to them during banking hours. (And everyone knows that zombie apocalypses never happen during banking hours.) Martin recommends getting a water- and fireproof safe to keep things like passports, deeds, insurance policies, titles, legal documents, birth certificates, hard drives with family photos, emergency cash, valuable jewelry, etc. safe and handy in an emergency.
What kind of safe should I get for my stuff?
You have several options, and again, it depends on what you want to store and where you think you can viably hide the safe. Home Depot has a collection of safe options, some of which can be bolted to the floor or installed in a wall. Others look like everyday objects, such as dictionaries, wall lights or—and we’re not even making this up—an incredibly realistic-looking head of lettuce.
But where should I store my safe? Isn’t that burglar bait?
It can be. But according to the folks at Apartment Therapy, thieves only spend an average of 8-12 minutes ransacking your pad. Ah, so many houses to burgle, so little time…. So if you can hide the safe or receptacle containing your valuables in an unlikely spot, you can force them to waste enough time searching that they’ll leave empty-handed. The master bedroom, living room and home office are going to be the first places they look, so cross those off the list as suitable hiding spots. Hallways, the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry rooms are better. Fake air vents, safes hidden behind bathroom mirrors, and even stashing cash and small items in used food tins or dental floss boxes are just a few of the clever ideas you’ll find on Pinterest.
Let’s face it. Your great grandmother’s black pearl necklace deserves a little more security than a shoebox under the bed, and your photos are worthy of more than an envelope in an unlocked drawer (except maybe your awkward Sears Family Portraits–those you can “accidentally” leave out). And let’s just hope the Russian Mafia never finds out where you stashed the Picasso….
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