If you’re like most people, you’ll probably start packing a few weeks before your big move. But before you fill that first box, consider these packing tips to help you protect your items, keep things organized, and make your unpacking a little easier.
Start with the Right Tools
Boxes, newspaper/packing paper, packing tape, and a Sharpie — these are the obvious tools to have on hand. But there are a few other supplies to add to your toolkit:
- Box opener (in case you need to pop open a box you’ve sealed because you need an item you already packed)
- Bubble wrap (to protect artwork and delicate breakables)
- Dust rag (to get rid of dust on your books or knick-knacks before you box them)
- Zipper storage bags (for miscellaneous “junk drawer” things like pens and buttons)
If you keep all of these items together in a shopping bag with your packing tape and marker, you and your family can move it room to room as you work together to pack, and they won’t get lost in the chaos.
Choosing Your Boxes
Moving can come with all sorts of hidden costs, but you can take steps to make sure boxes aren’t one of them. If you don’t have any boxes from your last move (or they’re old and starting to get wimpy), look around for free boxes. If you have to go with used boxes, visiting local businesses that stay far away from food and beverages will be your best bet. Grocery stores, restaurants, and liquor stores, on the other hand, can attract insects like cockroaches and mites inside their boxes. Check out neighborhood sites like Nextdoor or Craigslist for folks trying to unload their recently used moving boxes and packing materials. Just be sure to inspect them carefully, as you don’t want to bring any bugs from these either.
If you have the budget, purchase moving boxes from a local moving company or hardware store. They can help you identify the size and quantity of boxes you’ll need. If you purchase the right number of small, medium, and wardrobe boxes, you’ll have more of a plan and less of a puzzle trying to make your belongings fit in random boxes. Don’t forget to dig out any appliance or electronic boxes you’ve saved. There’s nothing better than custom-built original packaging!
Prepping the Box
Build a strong foundation for your stuff by padding the bottom of each box. You can use bubble wrap, crumpled paper, or a bath towel. This strengthens the box and adds an extra layer of protection if the bottom of the box gets wet or dirty during the move. Save more of that packing material to put on top of your stuff when you’ve filled the box. The box should feel firm when you push down on the top of it. If it feels squishy, reopen it and add some more packing material to fill it to capacity.
Small and Heavy
Heavy items like books, CDs, and canned goods are best for small boxes. Books should be packed flat, with the largest and heaviest books at the bottom. Once you’ve filled the box with books, use plenty of packing paper to fill the gaps. You could also use clothing or stuffed animals to fill the box — they’re lightweight and they need to be packed too!
Also consider using small boxes for easily grouped items like small picture frames, the miscellaneous stuff in your office desk drawers, or your silverware. For kitchen knives, use the knife guards, if available. Wrap fragile items like picture frames and knick-knacks in packing paper before putting them in the box. Got something extra fragile? Consider triple-wrapping it in bubble-wrap, taping down each layer. It may be a pain to unwrap, but you’ll appreciate it arriving in one piece!
Medium Boxes as a Catch-All
Now it’s time to dig into some of the bigger items, like electronics, toys, pots and pans, and linens. Medium boxes can handle all of these — just make sure you get a good balance of weight in the box so that box contents don’t shift during the move.
When you’re packing your home entertainment electronics, wrap each component in packing paper and put cords, remotes, and game controllers in zipper storage bags. Since pots and pans are durable, you can skip the step of wrapping them. Just set them into the box and surround them with crumpled paper or kitchen towels to keep them from shifting in the box during the move.
The Art of Packing Dishes
Packing your plates and bowls doesn’t have to be the hardest task. You can get a special box for dishes (called a dish box) that has an extra layer of cardboard protection. You can also pick up small and large dish sleeves, made from a thin, foam-like material. Put one plate in each, stack them vertically, add crumpled-up packing paper to fill the gaps in the corners, and you’ve got yourself a nice, snug dish box.
If you’re using a standard moving box, add some extra padding on the bottom and sides, and individually wrap each plate and bowl with packing paper, making sure there’s enough padding between them as you stack them vertically in the box. (Pro Tip: There’s no such thing as too much packing paper!) For items like teapots and vases, it’s important to put crumpled-up paper inside the item before you wrap it. It will help fortify these more delicate items during the move. Need more packing tips? Here’s a bit more on the art of packing.
Wardrobe boxes come with a hanging bar and are a perfect choice for coats, suits, dresses, and formal wear. It’s an easy move from old closet to wardrobe box to new closet. It hardly feels like unpacking. You can also add small items on the bottom of the wardrobe box, like pillows, bathrobes, and slippers. Wardrobe boxes are also sometimes used for big, awkward items, like garden tools, the kids’ sports equipment, and tall artificial plants (or even some real plants if you’re moving your plants), so don’t be afraid to get creative with it.
Undoubtedly, you’ll have some open containers in the bathroom and/or kitchen that you’ll need to move. Make sure each one is in its own zipper storage bag. That way if something pops open during the move, you’ll have a small, contained mess instead of a big, goopy box. Take the extra step to write “This end up” and put arrows pointing upward on these boxes. That’ll increase the chances that your liquids will be handled with a bit more care.
Last but Not Least: Label Your Boxes
Whether you’re the type who keeps a full inventory of each box, or you’re more the “Hey, hand me the toaster, it’ll fit perfectly in this box of board games” kind of packer, do yourself a favor and label as you go. At a minimum, put the name of the room the contents of the box will live, and if there’s something extra important inside, don’t be shy to write it on the box. When you’re at your new home walking through a sea of boxes, you’ll be glad you did.