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How to Pack More into Less Space in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ~ Guest Post

One of my greatest "trials" in packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes is fitting in everything I want to send-lol! So, I'm always trying to figure out how to get one more thing in. I love to hear other's ideas on the subject, and as there doesn't seem to be much out there on fitting more in OCC GO shoeboxes, I decided to start a series of posts on it. The first is a guest post I asked Amy Lukens to write!

How to Pack More into Less
You Really Can Fit a Lot into the Preprinted Boxes.
By Amy Lukens

Just as any of you reading this, packing shoeboxes is my passion. I am an Operation Christmas Child Area Coordinator in the Upper Midwest Region and have been packing shoeboxes for over 15 years. Lots of practice and natural spatial awareness have helped me to figure out ways to pack a lot in a little shoebox.

Before I go any further, I want to point out that this is how I pack my boxes. It is not the “right” way to pack. God has placed certain items on my heart to pack or not pack. He may have placed different items on your heart and that is perfect. The shoeboxes go to a variety of children with different needs and wants. Also I do pack mostly in OCC’s Preprinted boxes, but I will also pack a slightly larger box if needed. Certain items like teenage boy’s tennis shoes will not fit into the Preprinted boxes no matter how much you try. I will pack a little larger box such as a 6qt plastic box if necessary.

Here is how I pack my shoeboxes:

1. Remove packaging!

As soon as I bring my items home from the store, I remove every last bit of unnecessary packaging. My rule of thumb is: if the packaging is not useful after the item is opened, remove it. Items like crayons are in a box that will be used later to store the crayons so they stay. Items like puzzles, I take out of the box, cut out the picture and put in a ziplock bag. Others will open the box and add more items inside. Both save space.

It surprises many to see how much space packaging truly takes up. My awesome video editing brother, Andrew Lukens, and I made this video to help our church understand the importance of removing packaging. We even surprised ourselves!

2. Organize well.

This will look different depending on how many boxes you pack and how much space you have. I pack 30ish boxes and have limited storage, so I organize my items into the following categories:
  • Paper (notebooks, coloring books and loose paper)
  • Stickers (all my boxes get stickers – they take up no space)
  • School Supplies
  • Stuffed Animal (every box gets one)
  • Clothing
  • Hygiene Items
  • Larger Toys
  • Smaller Toys
  • Useful Items
  • Accessories

3. Choose items carefully.

First, I pick out my wow item (for most this is the stuffed animal, but I may add a second as well). Then I fill in with my other categories, starting with items I want in every box such as all the school supplies and the hygiene items before moving on to the other categories. This is when I start having to get choosy. If I chose a large stuffed animal or a soccer ball and pump to pack the rest of the items I choose will need to be smaller. I might need to choose flip flops over tennis shoes, a few small toys over another larger one, or a small flashlight over a hammer.

4. Pack smaller items inside of larger hollow items

Here is my favorite example from the bottom layer of a one of my 10-14-year-old girl boxes this year.

How to pack more into an Operation Christmas Child GO box.

 This is a water bottle full of underwear inside a shoe. The shoe also has some things tucked into the toe and around the water bottle.

5. Stuffed animals are full of air

I don’t even use ziplock bags to press the air out of my stuffed animals I just close the lid. The boxes don’t always stay completely shut with just a rubber band, but they will once taped closed without any budging.

Here are a couple examples of large stuffed animals.

Fitting a lot of gifts into an OCC shoebox.Fitting large stuffed animal into an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

This bear does not look like it will fit, but that lid did shut all the way and there are still a variety of other items.

OCC shoebox for a 2 to 4 year old girl.
Bunny in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

1. Take your time

Try fitting things one way and if it doesn’t work. Try another way or switch items. Packing a shoebox is like a jigsaw puzzle. It takes patience and time.

Since Pictures speak a thousand words, I’m going to close by showing several examples of what can fit if you take your time and treat each box like its own individual puzzle.

Here is an example of a Boy 2-4 box and how each item fit inside:

OCC shoebox for a 2 to 4 year old boy.

Packing items inside a water bottle for an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

How to fit more into an OCC shoebox.
Tucking things inside a pair of shoes for an OCC shoebox gift.

Packing full boxes for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
This box did close without any bulging

Examples of what can fit:

2 to 4 year old boy OCC shoebox.

5 to 5 year old boy Operation Christmas Child shoebox.
10 to 14 year old boy OCC shoebox.

2 to 4 year old girl OCC shoebox

5 to 9 year old girl Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

10 to 14 year old girl shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.
I hope this helps us all be able to pack more into our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  Check out the whole series for more tips on Fitting More into an OCC Shoebox.


Jennie C. said...

This is awesome! We are a lot alike in the way we approach shoebox items and packing. Loved the video too!!!

Ruth said...

Very helpful. Your boxes are really complete. Do you put a note or picture in?

Lin K said...

Buying the stuff doesn't take nearly as much time as packing does. I find that it takes 2 or 3 tries before getting everything to fit inside a box. And that's a lot of time spent since my goal is 35 to 50 boxes.
I had not considered squishing a stuffed animal and forcing the lid to close! Since I pack for the older kids only (age 12-14) a smaller stuffed toy is added to each box. The best idea I gleaned from your super pics is to fill shoes with all sorts of stuff. I already do this with a water bottle and also put toothbrushes into the bottle to keep them clean if they don't have a cap added.
I recall reading from a gal who blogged about her work at the checking place (can't think what that's called). She mentioned that people fill boxes way too full. Instead, she suggested it's better to pack 2 boxes instead of cramming everything into 1 box, thus spreading out the items between 2 kids. Not sure I agree but something to consider.

Amy said...

I definitely don't agree with underfilling boxes at all. I have worked at the PC myself and was always so excited to see full boxes come in. Anyone who finds it inconvenient to inspect a full box, should do a different job (tape boxes, scan labels, sort fillers, etc, etc, etc) and leave the checking to others. Most checkers celebrate when a full box comes through. This is the only gift most of these kids will ever get. Make it the best it can be!

Amy said...

I do add a note and photo in the lid. I ussualy add the note to all my lids after all my packing is done, so they don't show up in my pictures ussualy.

Lin K said...

Amy said: This is the only gift most of these kids will ever get. Make it the best it can be! Amy, I agree with you 100% My boxes are filled and need a rubber band (or 2) to keep the lid down. And I believe in purchasing quality items, not junk. Some people buy cheap stuff for these kids and spend 4 or 5 times as much on similar items for their own kids or grandkids. That doesn't show the love of Christ 'for the least of these'. As you said, these kids have next to nothing and may never receive another gift in their lives. Give them stuff that says 'you are important and God loves you!'

freedomfrench said...

Hi, I have been packing shoeboxes for roughly 3-4 years now.
I have only just begun to earnestly study "The Anatomy of a Shoebox"
and have learned a few things that I would like to share:
based on what others have seen/heard I now include 2 toothbrushes in every box (since they wear out after about 6 months) 2 bars of soap and 2 washcloths (sometimes a family of 5 or a large group of orphan children share 1 bar) 4-5 pencils, pens, and erasers (often children will break a pencil in half to share with a friend) several sheets paper/stickers (never realized that paper could be such a valuable commodity) and things like 6 Q-tips, 4/5 colored bandaids and paperclips. A friend relayed an experience from a shoebox distribution in the Ukraine: one little boy received a shoebox with only 3 small items in it...he closed it dejectedly and sat there very quiet. That has stuck with me!! We are called to give our BEST to The Lord...I believe this is especially true when it comes down to these OCC shoebox gifts. Please, please, please let us be wise and give our BEST when packing these boxes. ~Lisa~

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