Moving cross country is a HUGE undertaking (you can learn all about my #ATLtoVanWA move here). I don’t like sugarcoating things, and I’m definitely not going to sugarcoat these packing tips. Because the fact is that moving is hard and time consuming. But after having just finished my move – I packed my whole life and sent it across the country – I’ve realized some things. Some packing tips that can make an already difficult process just a little bit better.
It’s essentially a four step process (I like to distill things down to make them seem easier):
- You need supplies
- You’ll want to pack as quickly as possible
- You’ll want to keep your items safe
- You’ll pack so that you can easily unpack
So if you don’t know where to start, let’s jump in.
Here are a few essential packing tips for moving.
Supplies for Storage and Packing
You’re going to start with supplies, and here’s what I learned!
- The best markers for labeling boxes are huge, fat permanent markers such as Sharpies. You want a dark color, preferably black, and as thick a tip as possible so your labeling efforts will show clearly (they are called chisel tip).
- If you want a more visual labeling system, get the colored labels you see in the image above. I like that the destination for the box is in big, bold letters, and obviously there’s a color indicator.
- Boxes are essential, of course. The typical recommendation is a minimum of 10 large boxes and 10 – 15 smaller boxes per room. Sometimes more boxes are needed for rooms such as the kitchen or office, which contains many small items. We used Duck Tape brand boxes and found those very sturdy and durable (you can get them at WalMart). Some people get free boxes on Freecycle or from liquor stores. You can definitely do that, but we limited our use of those. All the free boxes we got weren’t sturdy or were torn up. I didn’t feel comfortable putting my items in them. I also found we used mostly smaller boxes. I wanted them less heavy.
- Trash bags are great for soft items like stuffed animals, towels, sheets, and pillows. By packing some items within sturdy trash bags, you can fill odd-shaped areas within the moving truck or portable storage unit to help cushion other items that might slide around and get dented.
- Blankets and towels can be used to pad items such as picture frames, hanging artwork, and lampshades. Instead of packing them, use them to protect your fragile items.
- Have various sizes of zipper baggies for storing small things as you disassemble furniture and larger items. Things like screws, knobs, and shower curtain rings can get lost if not kept neatly together within the small baggies. Tape them to the item!
Packing Fast and Easy
- Start early. By planning ahead and beginning to pack way ahead of time, you’ll be less stressed when the actual moving day occurs. Have all the supplies that you’ll need, such as fat markers, boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, and newspaper. I recommend starting to collect these things and begin to put belongings away up to 3-4 weeks in advance of the move.
- Anything you can do to downsize and minimize your belongings ahead of time will make your move simpler. If you have a lot of things stored in your attic or garage that you haven’t used in years, now is the time to sell them or give them away. Many people have moving sales in the weeks before a move, to clear out things that they don’t wish to pack and take with them. You can even schedule a free donation pickup with a local charity in your area.
- Pack small items first. Think books, trinkets and wall decor, dishes and silverware, jewelry, socks, and the items that are in storage boxes already under your bed or in your closet.
- Pack items by room. Start with the smallest things within the room, and pack the largest things last. Don’t forget to label the outside of the boxes with the name of the room the items came from.
- Have everything packed up completely before the truck arrives or before picking up the rental truck. It’s faster and easier to simply move the boxes into the truck rather than wrapping, cushioning, packing and taping at the same time while transferring items from your home to the truck. Organization beforehand will save you time and money (since moving services often charge hourly).
Proper Methods for Safekeeping
- Pack heavy items in smaller boxes, and lighter items in bigger boxes. The reason for this is that heavier items packed densely into large boxes can cause the box to break or be difficult to lift.
- Leave dresser drawers and storage bins as they are. Don’t empty them to pack them. This will help keep your furniture balanced within the moving truck. It is a good idea to seal drawers and lids closed with packing tape or painter’s tape (painter’s tape protects finishes, or doesn’t stick permanently if items are left in storage temporarily). Use moving blankets for wrapping furniture. Don’t skimp on this one just “hoping it arrives okay!”
- If a box contains a fragile item, label it with the word “fragile” on all sides. This will give the movers (and you) a heads up that care needs to be taken when handling them.
- When loading the truck, load heavier and sturdier items first, along the floor and sides of the truck or container. Place lighter and smaller items in between and on top, separated by padding and unbreakable items.
Preparing for an Easy Unpacking
- Designate important boxes that contain items you’ll need first upon arrival. If you label your boxes ahead of time with “Day 1” or with a symbol such as a star, you’ll know those are the first boxes you will need to unpack. Put things you may need for hygiene and cleaning/organization within them, such as towels, hand soap, a change of clothes, toiletries, a broom, measuring tape, and a new box of large trash bags.
- If you labeled your boxes by room, then hopefully the movers placed the boxes in the correct rooms of your new home. If they didn’t, at least you can easily do it yourself.
- Take pictures of anything you have to disassemble and put back together, such as cords to electronics or furniture assembly. This will make it easier for you remember or for your helpers to figure out which cord went into which slot, or which way the bunk beds were facing.
- While unpacking, first place the furniture in the room where you want it positioned. Then continue to move from larger to smaller items while unpacking. As you unpack, throw away the crushed newspaper, bubble wrap, packing tape, and any other trash right away or else you will become overwhelmed with the mess it will all make.
Moving is a big job, but it doesn’t have to be stressful and difficult. By following these essential packing tips, you’ll have a faster and easier move.
What are your essential packing tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments!