Packing for a big move can be one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life. It often involves a great deal of mental and emotional upheaval, not just the heavy lifting involved with moving a person’s possessions. For this reason, taking the time to keep a move organized and deliberate can mean a lot less stress at the end of the move when the unpacking starts.
Below you’ll find a list of some of the best tips for helping you start packing for a move. Keeping these things in mind before you get started can make your move a much more relaxed affair.
Get the Right Packing Supplies
Making sure that you have the right packing supplies can go a long way towards setting up a less stressful move. When you’re trying to pack up your belongings, having to hunt down tape, markers, or other materials can make the entire process a hassle when it doesn’t need to be. Gathering these materials before you start to pack and keeping them all in one place can make everything easy.
Here’s a list of materials that you should gather before you start packing (Source: Livability):
- Markers for labeling (permanent black markers such as Sharpies are a good option, but colored permanent markers can be useful for coding)
- Packing tape
- Padding materials such as bubble wrap, packing peanuts, towels, etc.
- Plastic wrap for protecting items
- Sandwich baggies for storing small items
Getting all of the necessary materials together and keeping them in one place near your packing station allows you to get into the process of packing quicker without having to stop every five minutes to track down markers, labels, or tape.
These are a few other tips to keep in mind when you’re getting packing supplies together:
- Set up a labeling system before you start packing. Figuring out how you’re going to label your boxes and how many categories of items you have can make it easier for you to sift items into different boxes based on what room they belong in. This is especially important if you are trying to label boxes by item or function rather than by room.
- Have an assortment of box sizes available. Having plenty of different box sizes can make it easier to keep loads in the boxes more balanced. Trying to overpack boxes can make them too heavy and unwieldy to comfortably transport. Underpacking large boxes with small items can leave boxes weak to structural collapse when stacked with other boxes.
- Use vivid markers for easy labeling. It’s important to get dark, vivid permanent markers to mark boxes so that labels are easy to read from all sides. Other types of utensils such as pencils or pens don’t show up well on packing boxes, so get a thicker-tipped marker for optimal visibility.
- A dolly helps with heavy loads. While it might be a more expensive tool compared to other materials used in packing, a dolly can make it much easier for people to move around heavy packed boxes without risking injury. Dollies can also fatigue for moves that involve transporting a large number of items.
- Ropes and bungee cords keep loads secure. Ropes and bungee cords aren’t used during the actual packing process, but these supplies are important to have on hand and ready to go when the packed items are packed onto a truck for transport.
Not having the right packing materials can make the packing process more difficult. It can also make unpacking items after the move is complete a lot easier too.
Things to Do Before Packing
Before you start packing for a move, there are a few housekeeping tasks you can perform to make the rest of the move run more smoothly. Being prepared before you start to pack for the rest of the move can leave you less distracted when it comes time to start filling boxes.
Here are a few things you should look into doing before you start packing for your move:
- Arrange for a moving company or truck. If you’re not going to be moving the items in your household yourself, you’ll want to start looking into moving companies before you start packing up things for the move. Arranging for movers or a truck as early as possible allows you to get multiple quotes so you can find the best deal in your area.
- Arrange for the utilities to be swapped. In the chaos of trying to get a household packed for a move, the phone calls necessary to get utility service swapped over from one residence to another can fall to the wayside until it becomes an emergency. Instead, look into getting this swap arranged ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about service interruption.
- Get prepared to track expenses. Moving can be expensive, and this is even more true if you’re moving cross-country versus moving from one home to another within the same city. Tracking expenses can help you keep moving costs reasonable and will let you know when your spending is getting out of control during the moving process.
- Start going through the freezer and pantries. You’ll want to pack and move as few food items as possible during a move to reduce the number of boxes you’ll need to transport. This means you should start clearing out your freezer and pantries by cooking as many homecooked meals with your pantry and freezer stock as possible.
Even though these tasks individually don’t seem like serious things to take care of, addressing all of these small issues well ahead of the move can remove a ton of stress off your shoulders when things come down to the wire and it’s time to start.
Get Organized Before and During Your Packing
Before you get started packing for your move, there are a few things you can do to get organized ahead of time. There are also ways that you can stay organized during the packing process so that things are easier to go through once you’re in your new residence.
Here are some of the best ways to stay organized before you start packing and how to keep everything straight after you start:
Don’t Leave the Kitchen for Last
Many people who have never moved before may be tempted to leave packing the kitchen up as the last room because it is one communal space that sees a lot of use for cooking and dining. Kitchens are one of the most complicated rooms to be packed in most houses due to the number of fragile items and also the large variety of objects.
Even though it’s inconvenient to not be able to cook in your kitchen, packing up the kitchen early in the packing process can give you the time you need to effectively cushion the many breakable items that you’ll be storing from this area of the home such as glasses and dishware.
Set Up a Special Area for Packing
It can seem easier to pack items in each room as you go along, but this can soon devolve into the entire room being torn apart and half-finished. The visual clutter of packing a room this way is overwhelming and adds additional stress to the process. Instead, to stay organized, move items into an adjacent packing area separate from the room.
Long fold-out buffet tables or a card table are good options for setting up a staging area to pack individual boxes. Packing this way can also decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of items that you need to get put away.
Try to Purge Extra Possessions
Preparing for a move can be a great time to declutter and get rid of unessential items so that they don’t need to be packed. Plan to take plenty of donations to local charities such as Goodwill and pare back household items to staples only to cut back on the things that need to be transported.
Keep a List of Stuff to Leave Out
Knowing what needs to be packed well ahead of the move is important, but it’s just as important to know which items won’t be packed until the very last minute. This usually includes items such as personal electronics, hygiene products, and cooking supplies. Using paper plates for the last few weeks of meals before moving can allow you to pack up plates and other breakables ahead of time.
Go Room By Room
Rather than packing items by type, packing boxes according to which room the items were pulled from can making unpacking a less complicated process. It’s also a good idea to group boxes with the same room label together while packing for transport to make unpacking easier. Color code systems can ensure that like boxes stay grouped.
Labeling boxes by room rather than by object category makes it easier to distribute these boxes throughout the house when you get to your new residence. This is an especially good tip if your boxes are being unloaded by a moving company and you want them to put all the boxes in the right areas of the house for unpacking.
Label Every Single Box on Every Side
If you have a lot of items to pack, you may start to lose steam towards the end of the packing process and feel tempted to just throw things in boxes and sort them out later. Resist the urge. Making sure that boxes are well-packed and well-labeled makes the unpacking process a hundred times less stressful than if you have to play the “What’s in this box?” game every time you open a box while unpacking.
It might seem like overkill to label moving boxes on every visible side, but you have to keep in mind that during the moving process, the boxes may end up shifted around to the point that you can’t see the label if you only put it on one side. This can cause you to waste a lot of unnecessary energy during the move trying to reposition a heavy box until you can read what’s inside it.
Don’t Overpack or Underpack Boxes
Packing boxes correctly is a bit of an art as well as a science. Loading heavier items towards the bottom of the box and leaving lighter items for the top half can help keep boxes stable during transport. Overpacking boxes should also be avoided since it can increase the risk of heavy load injuries and can also increase the risk of a box breaking under pressure.
When you’re packing boxes for a move, it’s important to think of the boxes and how they will interact with each other during transport, not just about the contents of each box. The smarter you are when you pack the boxes, the easier they’ll be to handle when it’s time to transport them.
Wear Protective Gear for Heavy Loads
If you know you’re going to be packing up furniture or other heavy objects, be sure to get dressed up with extra protective gear such as thick work gloves. If you accidentally get your finger smashed between a furniture edge and the wall while you’re trying to maneuver a piece of furniture down the stairs, you’ll be happy for the extra layers. Long sleeves can also help prevent scratches and bruises.
Keep an Inventory
It may seem fussy, but keeping an inventory of all items packed can help you get a better idea of exactly what stuff you have in your house. It also gives you a chance to reevaluate all that stuff and see what parts you need. People rarely have a chance to look at all of their possessions piled up and outside the context of their home, so you should take advantage of the opportunity to take stock of things.
Packing up for a move can seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you’re trying to pack up a large household full of items. But staying methodical and taking the process step by step in an organized fashion can take a lot of the sting out of moving stress.
Make Sure Items Are Protected While Packing
When you’re moving your household, making sure that your items don’t get damaged during the move should be one of your top priorities. Some items can be permanently destroyed if they aren’t packaged properly, and others such as containers of liquid have the potential to damage other boxes or items if they aren’t kept intact.
To properly protect your items when you start packing for a move, observe the following tips:
- Cushion corners of furniture. Corners of heavy furniture can do serious damage to more fragile packed items if their sharp edges aren’t covered up. These corners can also be smashed up during transport. This diminishes the appearance and value of the furniture. To protect it, cover all corners with taped bubble wrap to provide a protective barrier.
- Use plastic wrap to secure liquids. If you plan on moving any items from the bathroom or kitchen that contain liquids (these items should be reduced to a minimum if possible) add an extra layer of plastic wrap on the container tops. This helps ensure that even if the container is knocked over during transport, there’s less chance of the liquid inside leaking onto other items.
- Carefully wrap and label fragile items. Don’t be afraid to mark boxes FRAGILE in large letters to deter movers from handling them roughly. These boxes should also be padded on the inside with towels or other soft items, and any items inside should be individually bubble-wrapped. The more layers of protection you add, the less chance you risk damage.
- Use soft items as extra padding. Most households have plenty of towels, linens, and other soft items that can be used to help add extra padding to boxes of fragile items such as plates or other breakables. Even if boxes are packed with towels to protect glassware, the individual pieces should also be bubble-wrapped for added protection.
- Use plenty of protective materials. This is especially important if you aren’t packing boxes very tightly. With plenty of room to move around, items that are packed in lightly packed boxes can get busted up by banging against each other inside the box. Make sure items inside are secured and can’t move if you are planning to underpack a box with breakables.
Packing items properly for a move involves some pretty meticulous work if you want to do it efficiently, which is why it’s smart to get a good head start on packing weeks ahead of the actual moving date. This will allow you to take your time while packing and will make it a less frantic experience.
Take Care with Special Items While Packing
Many of the items in a household for packing may be fairly low value or practical items, but there are always some items that need to be packed and moved that hold special value. When packing, these items must be labeled carefully and preferably kept separate from other general goods in the move so that they don’t get damaged or lost.
Here are a few more tips for taking care of special items while you pack for a move:
- Make sure medication, jewelry, and weapons are secured. If you have guns, prescription drugs, or expensive jewelry in the house, make sure that all of these items are secured well before you have a moving company come in. This is especially true if you’re having a company pack up your items rather than doing it yourself.
- Let fragile items ride upfront. If any of your keepsakes are especially valuable, it’s usually a good idea to pull them out of the general packing paraphernalia and give them a ride in the floorboard upfront with a person to watch over them. This can keep special items from getting lost or broken in the mix.
- Make preparations for pets. While your pets may not have many possessions you need to pack up for them, it’s important to make moving arrangements for your pets such as acquiring a pet carrier if you don’t have one and making sure that you have all of your pet’s records intact if you have to move veterinarians too.
- Make sure family relics are secured. Have heirloom Christmas ornaments or a two hundred-year-old antique book in your household collection? Don’t pack these items along with the other items in the house. It’s too easy for special items to go missing in a move once things really start to get moved around for transport.
Even though most of the items in your house can safely ride in the back of a moving truck with no repercussions as long as they’re packed well, there will always be a few special things that you need to take extra caution with. Identify and pull these items early so they don’t get misplaced in the move.
General Tips to Pack for an Easier Move
Most of the challenges involved with moving have to do with the physical exertions involved (if you’re moving stuff yourself) and making sure that the whole process stays organized. These are just a few general tips that you can use to start packing to make things go a whole lot easier:
- Go to the middle for discounts. Moving truck rentals are more expensive at the beginning and end of the month, and also on the weekends. To save some money in reserving a moving truck, While you’re packing aim for a truck reservation in the middle of the week and the middle of the month. This gives you the best deal to move your stuff once you have it packed up.
- Take a look at your furniture and take some measurements. Some furniture that fits fine in your current house layout may not have a good spot in your new house. If it doesn’t, now is the time to figure it out. The time is not after you’ve gone through the trouble (and used up space) to try and move it to your new place.
- Don’t forget your safety deposit if you have one. If you’re moving from a rented space like an apartment or condo, you’ll need to go through the space and clean it thoroughly after packing up for your security deposit. A security deposit can help offset some of the costs of moving too.
- Set aside a travel bag full of essentials. Making sure that you have easy access to things like toothpaste, a change of clothes, and valuables such as electronics in a duffel bag separate from other moving boxes means that you’ll have quick access to these items once you’re in your new space even if you don’t have the energy left to start unpacking things yet.
- Keep an eye on your chargers. It’s easy for phone chargers and other chargers for electronics to get lost in the bustle of trying to get everything packed away. Not being able to charge your smartphone on moving day because you accidentally packed your charger is just one more hassle you don’t need. Keep these objects well away from packing activities.
- Try using clear plastic. For items that can be packed away in a less sturdy container and contain items that will be needed immediately when you reach your new residence, plastic totes can make finding necessary things like cooking utensils and bedding easier to find.
When most people think of moving as being a nightmare, they’re usually thinking of the results of a poorly planned move. As long as you take some time ahead of the move to think things through and gather the materials you need, there’s no reason why the process has to be painful or stressful. On the contrary, it can be a great time to declutter your belongings and re-organize your household.
Start Packing Early to Make the Moving Process Easier
Of all the tips you can use to start packing for your move, the biggest one that will help you is getting started on the packing process as early as you can. Start by packing items that see the least daily use in the household and move towards more everyday use items so that you aren’t hampered by having some of your possessions packed up early.
A major advantage of moving households is that in many cases, you know well in advance that you’re going to be moving. This gives you plenty of time to get everything you need done and organized ahead of schedule. The closer you wait to moving day to get packing, the more hectic your packing process is likely to become.
Packing for a move is not a task that comes easily to everyone, and many people are put off by the sheer amount of work and forethought that has to go into such a major operation. The largest the residence is, the biggest the prospect of packing becomes.
The tips above will help to take most of the hassle out of packing for your move. With a little planning, even someone who has never moved can end up with a painless unpacking at their new home!