How to Make a Time Capsule Container to Bury: Step-By-Step

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We live in an age of instant gratification. Many people struggle with patience, but maybe that’s because we’re not asked to wait on much. If you’re looking for a way to create something to look forward to, remember a family member, or simply channel some creative energy, learning how to make a time capsule is a great activity.

Curious how to make a time capsule that’ll last? There are a few important things to keep in mind.

Jump ahead to these sections:

We’ll discuss step-by-step instructions for creating a time capsule that will physically last, no matter how much you may want to open it. If you find yourself with more idle time lately and a house full of stuff you may not use, a time capsule is also a hidden source of organization.

What you may view as “clutter” today, may seem like treasure years from now. 

If you're interested in other unique ways to honor a loved one who passed away, you can consider a custom urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond made from ashes with a company like Eterneva.

Steps for Making a Time Capsule at Home

You may enjoy making a time capsule at home as a family activity or a way to bond with new roommates. Though you certainly shouldn’t stress out about something that’s meant to be fun, it helps if you do a bit of planning and get yourself organized. These eight steps (filled with even more tips) should certainly help as well.

Step 1: Identify your reason for beginning a time capsule

Your resolve for any task, project, or to-do is only as strong as your end-goal. What do you hope to accomplish by creating a time capsule? You can take it as lightly or as seriously as you’d like. And, of course, time capsules can be relatively short-lived, or you can set an excavation date for decades from now. 

For example, you may hope to fill your time capsule with baby keepsakes, either from your own childhood to enjoy with your future child, or one of your current children for the two of you to enjoy later. It makes more sense to stow some items more than others, of course. If you don’t have an immediate use for it, such as a sterling silver rattle, go ahead and put it in your time capsule for later.

Step 2: Determine the size of your time capsule

The size of your time capsule can help you determine quite a few things. If you’re unsure what kinds of items to put in your time capsule, or even the number of items, having a size limit is a good way to set some parameters.

Time capsules do not have to be large, but it makes more sense to create one big enough to fit a variety of items. It will make the reveal much more impactful down the road. If you have one or two items in mind, consider multiplying the space these items take up to determine how large your vessel needs to be.

On the other hand, if you have the luxury of having a spare shed, closet, or other safe, dry space on your property, then you can get as elaborate as saving whole pieces of furniture, car parts, or, by all means, an entire car. Of course, be sure that no one in your family will need any of the items that you plan to lock away, or that’ll make it less of a time capsule and more of just a storage unit.

Step 3: Create or decide on the vessel itself

As we mentioned prior, time capsules can range in size. For example, memory jars are similar to time capsules, but serve as a way to revisit keepsakes more often, rather than having one big reveal.

In order to preserve items for years to come, you should choose a vessel or other type of container that is airtight, waterproof, and sturdy. You may also wish to seal certain items in plastic containers or bags to further safeguard against unwanted moisture or elements. 

Sure, there’s a way to create a time capsule out of something a little more humble, such as a wooden box or even a cardboard box. However, if you plan to set your time capsule aside for a long period of time — several years or more, that is — it’s far wiser to choose a more official, durable vessel.

If you plan to store the time capsule in your home away from weather or any sort of moisture, then, of course, your time capsule can be a little less rugged. You may choose to wrap it in some sort of blanket or other material, too, as to limit peeking. 

Step 4: Set a deadline to close it

Now that you have the size and type of your time capsule in mind, setting a “close date” is the next best step. Setting a deadline to close your time capsule will help the following steps go much more smoothly. If you have a deadline in mind, you’ll likely be a lot more realistic about both the exact items you’re choosing to put in your time capsule, as well as the volume of it.

By setting a clear deadline, too, you’ll make the rest of your family or other participants much more aware of your expectations of them. People tend to overthink things if they have all the time in the world. Looking for the “perfect” item to put into a time capsule, while noble, may not occur. However, it’s likely that everyone will decide on an item that’s amazing in its own way.  

Step 5: Gather items or set parameters

You have your time capsule size decided, the type of vessel, as well as a clear deadline. It’s time for the fun part — gathering items.

Keep your original mission and goal in mind. Are you hoping to preserve some family heirlooms for you or your children to enjoy later? Or, perhaps you just want to be able to prove in the future that VHS tapes were a real, working thing. No matter how light-hearted or serious your mission is, each item can serve an important purpose. 

If you’re at a loss for what to save in your time capsule, especially if you want to make the most of a smaller space, consider the following categories or types of items. And, if you come across items that you can part with entirely, here are some tips for donating items to Goodwill

  • Printed materials: This can include a newspaper, a cool advertisement or flyer, as well as product packaging that you enjoy.
  • Toys or trinkets: It’ll probably be pretty easy for you to round up these types of items and not really miss that they’re gone. On the other hand, if you find items that you think a child can benefit from today, here are some creative places to donate old toys
  • Photographs or small pieces of art: You can replace older photographs with new ones of your friends and family for the time being. Or, perhaps it’d be a fun idea to take a photo of your group immediately before you close your capsule.
  • Electronics: If you’re not using your old iPod right now, there’s really no reason for it to clog up space in your drawer. The same goes for DVDs, CDs, or portable gaming consoles. 
  • Clothing or shoes: Again, don’t stow anything away that you want to continue getting regular use out of. However, if you or your child has grown out of some clothing and it’s not the right time to donate it, then go ahead and put it in your capsule. 
  • Accessories: Many people have a habit of stockpiling accessories or jewelry they don’t regularly wear. Consider putting these smaller items in the time capsule. 
  • Other homeware: If you have a particularly unappealing ornament or decorative plate lurking in your home that you can’t get rid of for some reason, feel free to “lose it” in a time capsule. Oops! You and your family can likely laugh about finding it later. 

Step 6: Decide on a date to open it

The date that you choose to open your time capsule is significant. You want it to be far enough in the future so that the excavation, reveal — whatever you want to call it — is powerful and surprising. However, you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself and set the open date 200 years in the future.

Of course, you’re welcome to participate in a more intense time capsule effort like this through some sort of local organization, if you so choose. However, this isn’t really a deadline that can be met reasonably among your family. But feel free to prove us wrong. 

Perhaps the date you decide to open it is on the angelversary or death anniversary of a loved one. Or, perhaps you’re choosing to open it on their birthday instead and treat it as a celebration.

No matter the date you decide upon, be sure to make it known to all of your participants. If possible, make some sort of sign or draw the official open date on the outside of the capsule. You may also choose to write a letter to yourself to read during the opening ceremony. 

Step 7: Seal it up 

With everything coming together and your deadline approaching, it’s time to begin the official “sealing” or closing process. Grab some wrapping materials, duct tape, a lock, or whatever you need to make your vessel safe, secure, and not too tempting to open early.

If you do choose to close your time capsule with some sort of lock or key mechanism, it may be wise to make a duplicate or two of the key and put these in a safe place. 

You can put the key with other important documents, such as your birth certificate, or you can even put it in a safe deposit box in a bank. Here are more tips for storing important documents both online and at home.

Step 8: Put it in a safe location

Now that your time capsule is locked and loaded, it’s time to put it in a safe location. Hopefully, you already have the perfect spot in mind, and, hopefully, you won’t have to move your capsule around too much. The less you look at it, the more likely you are to keep your resolve and not open early or remember what’s in it. The whole point of time capsules, of course, is to preserve memories to safely revisit another time. 

In the event that your time capsule — or, in some cases, the key to open it — becomes lost somewhere in translation, or you forget about it, all hope isn’t lost. In fact, it will make the eventual discovery or excavation that much more special.

Though it’s likely you want to be the one to open it in the future, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if it were someone else entirely. He or she will likely appreciate the window into your life and the past just as much as you would, if not more.

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Where Can You Purchase a Premade Time Capsule or Box Online?

You might want to use a premade container specifically for time capsules. You can even find fairly affordable premade time capsules, depending on your budget and how protected you want to keep it. You can also purchase a time capsule journal separately or include it with your time capsule. 

Amazon

As you might expect, Amazon has everything you need, including time capsules of various shapes, sizes, and levels of durability and functionality. You can buy stainless steel options as well as some that are more kid-friendly and affordable but still waterproof. You can get or give a few smaller, keychain-sized options.  

Deal Society

For the more serious time capsule creators, Deal Society offers a few humidity-proof options. Some people use these to store flowers or herbs and spices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use one as your time capsule. If you choose a round container such as this one, however, you might be slightly limited as to what you can include.  

MindWare

A kid-friendly option from MindWare, though not as waterproof, can help guide kids in the time capsule creation process.  

Etsy

For those who’d prefer a more decorative, rustic look for their time capsule, Etsy has some great options that you can lock. You can keep your box on display or in a safe place in your home. However, you shouldn’t bury this type or leave it in a hot or humid place. Wood can certainly last for ages, you wouldn’t want your box to get damaged or warp or put the contents in danger. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Making a Time Capsule

When creating a time capsule on your own, you may have a few key questions, such as how long to bury it, what sort of container to use, and how to best involve kids. Check out these FAQs for some additional guidance. 

How long should you bury a time capsule?

Since you’re creating this time capsule on your own, you can truly make your own rules. There’s not any set timeframe that makes one time capsule more legitimate than another. You want to open your time capsule after enough time that things inside will feel like a surprise. 

If you’re in a stage of life where you’re moving every few years, you can create a time capsule when you move in and open it when you move out. On the other hand, you can create a time capsule during you or your child’s first year at a new school or stage of education. 

You don’t have to bury your time capsule for a decade or more to enjoy opening it when it’s time. But if you decide to bury your time capsule for this long, this would be the appropriate situation to shell out for a stainless steel version. 

What’s the best container for a time capsule?

A quick search will tell you (according to the time capsule experts of the interweb) that the best container for a time capsule is something waterproof and airtight. The preferred material? Stainless steel. You can review premade time capsules available for purchase in the previous section. Some of which even have humidity-controlling mechanisms and other bells and whistles.  

However, if you’re not prepared to commit to a stainless steel container and plan to keep your capsule in a dry, safe place for a shorter amount of time, you can choose from other alternatives, such as a tightly sealed plastic tote or another locking box. Of course, you can’t choose something clear to peek into!  

What are some things kids could put in a time capsule for a school project?

If there’s anything we have a hard time grasping as children, it’s how different our lives will be going forward. That being said, it isn’t all bad, as reminding ourselves of the way things used to be — like our passions and interests — can only help. 

A few things that would be great for kids to include in a time capsule for a school project might include: 

  • A letter to their future self or short story about what they think the future will be like
  • Small art projects, such as paintings or bits of pottery
  • Toys or a stuffed animal they no longer play with
  • Glasses or accessories they no longer wear 
  • A photograph of family or friends 

Remember Where You Came From

There are a lot of ways to reflect on your life. Some of them, like memory boxes and tokens of accomplishment, are positive. Reeling at 3 AM about what you should have said in that argument on the basketball court in 5th grade, is not as positive, however. 

Do what you can to take your time capsule creation seriously, but also have fun with it. The more care and energy you put into it now, the more you and your family will get out of it later. For tips about getting rid of stuff you don’t need and more, check out the rest of Cake’s resources

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