Step-By-Step Guide to Packing for a Move
If you ask someone which parts of moving they’re most concerned about, packing is probably pretty high on the list. Which makes sense — sorting through everything you own is no small task! The good news is there are some simple ways to make packing for a move a pleasant experience. You just need to make a plan, follow some best practices and take it one step at a time. And while it can be tempting to rush the process, think of how great it’s going to feel when you unpack, and everything is organized, undamaged and ready to put away. It’s easier than you might think!
Use this guide to find:
- Advice for staying on track
- 21 expert tips to make packing easier
- Instructions for packing individual items
- Tips for getting rid of belongings
- Guidelines for unpacking in your new home
Create a Plan
One of the best ways to tackle packing is to divide it into manageable tasks. Start with off-season items like cold weather gear or swimsuits and beach towels, then move to storage areas (closets, attic/basement and back bedrooms). Once those areas are taken care of, work through the rest of the house. Go room by room and continue to go in order of least-used to most-used, saving anything you’ll need up to moving day for last.
Wondering how long it will take? It depends on your goals. Do you want to start early so you don’t have to work every day or would you prefer to get it done as fast as possible? Once you’ve determined how you want to approach it, it’s easy to make a plan. Read this guide on how long it takes to pack, and then work backward from your move day to figure out the best time to start.
Want to know what other tasks you’ll need to take care of before the big day? View our comprehensive moving checklist!
21 Tips to Make Packing Super Simple
Read through these 21 tips to help you stay organized and work efficiently:
- Use quality materials. Professional supplies will provide better protection for your items, but they don’t have to cost a lot of money. Check out this resource to learn where to get cheap moving supplies.
- Prepare boxes. Reinforce the bottom of every box with tape, then line with crushed packing paper for extra cushion.
- Use plastic wrap and trash bags to prevent spills. If you’ll be putting bottles of liquids like cleaning supplies or bath products in a box, line it with a trash bag. Then use a piece of plastic wrap under the cap to seal each bottle before you pack it.
- Learn how to use supplies. Read these posts about packing paper, plastic wrap and paper padding, so you’re prepared to use them.
- Create a packing basket. Put tape, box labels, markers, scissors, and other supplies in a basket so you can easily carry them from room to room. Make a few if multiple people are working at the same time!
- Designate an area for packed items. Clear out space in a non-essential room so you can stack full boxes in there. This will let you get started early without creating a lot of clutter around the house.
- Know what you can’t move. Many companies aren’t able to transport certain items. Get rid of (or make another plan for) items on the Do Not Ship list.
- Decide what to move. Go through your belongings and get rid of anything you won’t need or want in the new home.
- Keep valuables separate. Consider taking important documents, expensive electronics and other valuable items with you instead of putting them in the moving equipment.
- Make an “open first” box. Put together one or two boxes of things you’ll need during your first night/day in the new house. Include basic toiletries, towels, a few kitchen items, blankets, etc.
- Check outdoor items for insects. Some areas of the U.S. and Canada have invasive pest restrictions and require you to inspect outdoor items before moving them. Read these articles to learn how to check for gypsy moths and the spotted lanternfly.
- Put heavy items in small boxes. Overweight boxes can be difficult to move. Using a smaller box will keep you from putting too many heavy pieces inside.
- Use all available space. Take advantage of drawers by filling them with unbreakable items (towels, sheets, etc.), and pack boxes completely, so you aren’t moving empty space.
- Keep similar items together. Take the extra time to sort things by where they’ll be stored in the new home. Doing this now will help you stay organized later!
- Label everything. Label each box with its corresponding room so move-in day goes smoother. Mark it on multiple sides so it can be seen no matter how it’s picked up during the unloading process.
- Consider using a number system. Number each box and make an inventory of what’s inside so you can easily find things when you need them.
- Take pictures. Before unhooking cords or taking furniture apart, take a picture of how it’s set up. This way you’ll be able to put everything back together faster.
- Put hardware in bags. If you remove any screws or other small pieces, put them in a plastic bag, so they don’t get lost. It’s also a good idea to tape the bag to the item to keep it all together.
- Put string under tape when sealing boxes. Cut a piece of wool string that’s a little longer than the box opening, place it on the seam, and tape over it. You’ll be able to pull the string to remove the tape instead of having to cut it open!
- Hire professionals for specialty items. Things like pianos, safes and valuable art require special handling and care. Consider hiring professionals who have experience working with these items.
- Ask for help. The more people who are helping, the easier packing will be! Ask friends and family members to come over and get everything boxed up fast.
Packing Tips by Room
Now that you’ve gotten some general guidelines and a place to start, it’s time to learn how to pack individual items. We’ve broken it down by room so you can see the unique challenges each one presents and learn how to pack the items typically found in them.
One of the biggest challenges with packing up the living room or another communal living space is how many different things can wind up there. Whether out of necessity or routine, the living room can easily become a dumping ground for everyone’s belongings. How do you sort through it all? Organize things by where they should be stored in the new home, and label the boxes with the appropriate room. Once it’s all in order, the trick is to pack so everything stays safe.
Use these articles to learn the best way to pack common living room items:
- Large Screen TVs
- Picture Frames and Mirrors
The kitchen is full of small (sometimes sharp) objects, expensive appliances and fragile dishware, so you’ll want to take extra precautions when boxing up this room. Pack heavy items like canned goods in small boxes to keep the weight down, and take the opportunity to get rid of containers, missing lids, old dishtowels, and other unwanted things.
Be cautious when packing:
- Small Appliances
Because bedrooms hold many personal items and daily necessities, it’s smart to save them for last. This way you’re still able to get a good night’s sleep at the end of a long day. Main items to pack:
- Beds and Mattresses
Some of the biggest issues you’ll find when packing a bathroom is preventing spills and keeping small items like cotton swabs and medicine contained. And because this room is often full of moisture, make sure everything is clean and dry before packing it. The last thing you want to find when unpacking is mold!
Pack these items:
- Medicine and Toiletries
- Towels and Other Linens
Offices are usually home to heavy, fragile and/or important items, so you’ll want to take your time in here. The first order of business is to find critical personal documents and anything else you’ll need to keep with you and keep them separate. After that, you’re ready to start!
Office Items to Pack:
- DVDs, CDs and Video Games
- Computers and Other Electronics
- Office Chairs
Miscellaneous items found throughout the rest of the house may create some packing questions. How do you handle large, heavy stuff? What if there’s water involved? What if it’s stored outside? For the most part, the packing tips above can help you navigate these items.
- Swing Sets and Other Outdoor Items
- Washers and Dryers
Have items you no longer want or need? Now is a good time to get rid of them! It will keep you from spending time packing unnecessary things and will make it easier to get settled in at the new house. Use this guide to downsizing for helpful tips. And check out this resource on hosting a moving sale to learn some best practices.
Unpacking After Move-In
You did it! You got everything boxed up, loaded it all in the moving equipment and made it safely to your new home. And now the fun begins: figuring out where to put all your things. This part of the move may seem just as daunting as the move-out process — what do you do with all those boxes, and how do you make sure the new place stays organized? — but unpacking can be pretty stress-free if you have a plan! Use these tips for unpacking your house to learn the best place to start.
What to do with Used Moving Supplies
Many moving supplies can be recycled or repurposed in your home (think pet bedding, organization in a garage, fun craft supplies, etc.). As you unpack, gather all the supplies and sort them based on the material. Take them to your local recycling center when you’re finished or find an alternate use for them!