Start packing the right way
Before you decide to do your packing yourself, consider the responsibilities. Sure, it takes time and energy to get the job done right, but doing it yourself can be a real money-saver, even if you’re paying a mover to load the truck. For example, if you’ve hired a professional mover, you can still opt to pack all or some of the goods yourself, thus trimming the price. To find out just how much you can trim, ask your moving coordinator when you get an on-site estimate.
Packing Guidelines for Your Professional Move
If you decide to do some of the packing yourself, you’ll need to have everything properly packed and ready for loading when the van arrives. In other words, all packing must be completed the evening before move day. Only the things you’ll need that last night, the next morning and immediately at your destination should be left for last-minute packing.
As for how you pack—that will be expected to meet specific standards. Moving company representatives will inspect your boxes and if they think items are improperly packed or cartons are susceptible to damage, they may refuse to load the items until they are repacked.
A word to the wise: Generally things from garages, attics and storage spaces, such as holiday decorations and sentimental items are the ones that need to be repacked. Look for cartons that are torn, ripped, soiled, will not close or cannot be sealed. Replace those with fresh boxes. Another repacking giveaway is if you can hear the contents rattle when you shake the box. In that case, add more insulation.
What Should You Pack?
Obviously, not everything will fit in boxes. As a general rule, furniture and major appliances will be wrapped and padded by your moving professional. Items requiring professional disassembly and/or crating (such as slate pool tables, chandeliers or large glass table tops) are best left to the professionals.
Use new, high-quality packing materials specifically designed for moving to better ensure your items will safely arrive. Professional moving cartons come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are specifically suited to fit a variety of household goods. Look into barrels, for example, as they are great ways of loading a lot of odd-shaped items into one large container.
- Bundles of packing paper (clean, unprinted newsprint)
- Bubble wrap, tissue paper or paper towels for delicate items
- Rolls of PVC tape (don’t use masking tape or cellophane tape)
- Tape dispenser
- Broad-tipped markers for labeling
- Scissors or sharp knife for cutting cartons
- Notebook and pen or pencil for listing contents of cartons as they are packed
- Labels or stickers for identifying boxes
Wrapping How Tos
Before packing cartons, you’ll need to wrap most items to protect them from scratching and breakage. There are a variety of materials available, including bubble pack, foam peanuts and tissue. However, most professionals use bundles of clean, unprinted newsprint (available at your moving supply store).
Start by placing a small stack of paper on a flat, uncluttered table or countertop. Round glasses and jars can be rolled up in two or three sheets of paper; always begin from a corner of the sheet and fold the sides in as you roll. Large or odd-shaped items require a similar technique. Place them in the center of the sheet and bring the corners together. (It may be necessary to flip the item over and wrap it again from the other side.) If in doubt, use more paper! When the corners come together, secure them with tape.
Before packing each carton, line the bottom with a few inches of wadded paper for padding. Then place large, heavy items on the bottom and lighter, more fragile items on the top. Plates, books and things of a similar shape, should be loaded vertically to utilize their own maximum structural strength. Don’t overload cartons; keep them to a manageable weight. Fill in any voids and top off loaded cartons with wadded paper. Then tape cartons securely to avoid shifting while en route.
Imagine packing away a truckload of boxes and then having them delivered to your new home. How can you tell what box goes where? Because you’ve labeled them. Follow these tips to thwart confusion.
- Use a broad, felt-tipped marker.
- Clearly mark your name, the room it should go to and contents on each box.
- Indicate “FRAGILE” on delicates; “THIS END UP” where appropriate.
- If available, include your bill of lading (or invoice) number on every box.
Tips From the Pros
Most movers suggest you start with out-of-season items. Next, pack things used infrequently. Leave until the last minute things you’ll need until moving day. Here are some more helpful hints.
- Empty drawers of breakables, spillables, non-transportable items and anything that would puncture or damage other items.
- Pack similar items together. For example, don’t pack a delicate china figurine in the same carton with cast-iron frying pans.
- Keep all parts or pairs of things together. For example, curtain rod hangers, mirror bolts and other small hardware items should be placed in plastic bags and taped or tied securely to the article to which they belong.
- Wind electrical cords, fastening them so they do not dangle.
- Wrap items individually in clean paper; use tissue paper, paper towels or even facial tissue for fine china, crystal and delicate items. Colored wrapping paper draws attention to very small things that might otherwise get lost in a carton. Use a double layer of newsprint for a good outer wrapping.
- Use newspapers for cushioning only. The ink can rub off and embed itself onto fine china.
- Place a two- or three-inch layer of crushed paper in the bottom of cartons for cushioning.
- Build up the layers, with the heaviest things on the bottom, medium weight next and lightest on top.
- As each layer is completed, fill in empty spaces firmly with crushed paper and add more crushed paper to make a level base for the next layer, or use sheets of cardboard cut from cartons as dividers.
- Cushion well with crushed paper; towels and lightweight blankets may also be used for padding and cushioning. The more fragile the item, the more cushioning needed. Be sure no sharp points, edges or rims are left uncovered.
- Pack small, fragile, individually wrapped items separately or a few together in small boxes, cushioning with crushed or shredded paper. Place small boxes in a single large box, filling in spaces with crushed paper.
- Limit carton weight to about 50 pounds. Avoid overloading cartons but strive for a firm pack that will prevent items from shifting; the cover should close easily without force, but should not bend inward.
- Seal cartons tightly with tape except for those containing items that must be left open for the van operator’s inspection.
- As you finish with each carton, list the contents on the side of the carton (for easy viewing while stacked) and in a special notebook. You might want to number and/or code the cartons as well.
Indicate your name and the room to which each carton should be delivered at destination. Tape a sign on the door of each room at destination corresponding to the carton labels so movers can get the cartons into the proper rooms quickly.
- Put a special mark (the number 1, or the letter A) on cartons you want to unpack first at destination.
1. Purging ahead of time is essential.
Try to get rid of the most expensive unneeded items first. You’ll have more time and energy to deal with selling or finding good homes for them.
2. Organize your things according to your new house.
Movers will just throw stuff in boxes and mark it with the name of the room (if you’re lucky, they’ll also scribble one word about contents). So if you have fall clothes in the basement, the attic, and your child’s room, that’s where they will end up in your new house and you might not find what you need for months. Group like items together in your current house to increase the likelihood you’ll find them sooner in your new house.
3. Agree on a no-pack zone.
Designate a spot — like the bathtub — where you put anything you want with you, not on the moving truck. This could include suitcases packed with your overnight essentials, diversions for the car trip, your first-out-last-in box, pet supplies, and your move folder.
4. Create a “moving file” with important paperwork you will need throughout your move. Include in it your moving truck reservation, moving helper payment codes (if applicable), pet veterinarian records (again, if applicable), cash for movers tips, your hotel reservation, contact information for important people (realtor or property owner), and any important documents you could need before you have the chance to unpack.
Keep this file in a safe place, such as in your purse or personal bag, where you will not accidentally pack it in a box. It should also be in a place where it won’t get buried in a mess that may develop.
5. Pack a suitcase or box for each member of the family several days in advance. Include a personal-sized bar of soap, new toothbrush and toothpaste, towel and washcloth, disposable razor if needed, some “relaxing” clothes (sweats or something similar) and two complete changes of clothes, and anything else you know each person will need during the first few days (while everything else is in boxes). This way everything they’ll need is easily attainable.
Keep these boxes or suitcases in a safe place where they will not be mixed in with everything else, perhaps in the car or even farther away (work or a neighbor’s house). Bring them with you in the car or however you are traveling.
6. Take photos of complicated set ups, like the back of your TV. Is there anything you have set up that took you forever to get just right and you’re totally loathing the moment you have to disassemble it? Then snap a photo of it for quick reference later.
You may also want to snap a photo for frame arrangements and decorative set-ups, too. Not to mention the nostalgia and memories, of course.
7. Start packing – and don’t pack air. Wrap each individual item properly with enough layers of wrapping sheets, bubble wrap, or clothes. Place items inside a box with extreme care in the best position possible to avoid damages. Heavier items should be placed on the bottom and lighter items should be placed on the top inside the boxes. Get as many items as possible in each box to cut down on the number of boxes you’ll need.
Pack heavy items such as books, toys, etc. in small boxes. However, be conscious of not over packing boxes until they are bulky and may break.
Pack fragile or breakable items with extra care and attention. If required, use more layers of wrapping sheets or bubble wraps to wrap such items. Place saran wrap between bottles and caps to prevent leaking. Consider putting cotton between fragile cosmetics, too.
Use wadded newspapers or crushed papers to fill empty spaces of boxes or cartons.
8. Make sure to pack everything that belongs in a particular room together in a room-labeled box. This makes unpacking easier once you get where you are going. Start packing one room at a time, packing smaller items first to get them out of the way. Carefully mark and tape each box so you can find everything when you unpack.
This makes it easier for the movers, too. If they’re courteous and not on a time crunch, they’ll likely take each labeled box and put it in its corresponding room.
9. Begin taking apart any large items. Place all hardware in double-thick Ziploc bags, according to contents and room. Keep all bags in one box with the proper tools – allen wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, etc. This will make it easier to put everything back together when you have moved in.
Make sure you keep the box of hardware and tools in a central place where everyone can find it. This will make re-assembling much easier. Place in it the small things like video ear plugs, remote controls, boxes of nails and things you will need immediately after moving in.
10. Clean out each room one by one, starting with the kitchen. Toss away junk and only box things that you use. Use your kitchen food storage containers for all loose things you find as you empty drawers from the kitchen, desks, or table drawers throughout the house. Label boxes according to contents and rooms they belong in then securely close or tape them. Use various sized bags for the same purpose. Add a sticky note inside each bag noting the contents like “stereo cables” and “pens and pencils.” Place all containers and bags inside a larger box labeled appropriately with room and content.
Plates should be stacked vertically, like records. Don’t forget to look in the dishwasher!
Do you need anything to stay intact, like necklaces (so they don’t get tangled)? Try saran wrap or stretch wrap over them as is and then pack them.
11. Pack an “open first” box last. This most probably will include the items which you have been using until the date of the move. Think about small handy items you might want access to before you unpack all boxes. It may also be useful to add items such as dish soap, a sponge, a roll of paper towels, Kleenex, a couple pens, scissors, plastic/paper plates/forks, a bottle opener, bath towels for each family member, one pot, one pan, one plastic stirring utensil, an extra box cutter, etc.
Keep in mind that people will need to wash their hands, eat, and shower long before you are done unpacking on the other end of the move. Having this box will make that simple.
Also, toss in a sugary treat such as Lifesavers or hard candies in case anyone gets hungry or low blood sugar on move-in day. This is a good way to keep the bad moods at bay.
12. Stack the boxes as you are finished filling, taping, and labeling them. Try to keep them stacked in the rooms that you have finished packing. Keep all power strips and extension cords and grounded adapters in one specific box; they will be much easier to find later.
Clearly label the hardware box and the extension cord box. Consider spray-painting both boxes bright yellow or red.
Place all the screws or bolts back into an item after it has been taken apart. This way, you can connect the bed or put the lampshade back on immediately instead of searching for them
13. If you’ve kept track of how many boxes you have, count them up. Do you know where each one is? Are any in need of any extra tape job? Do you have more than you thought you might and need to inform the movers that you’ll need a bigger truck?
Which ones are fragile and which ones are sturdy? Are there any that you want to handle yourself, just in case? You may wish to set a few aside so you know where they’re at at all times.
14. Look in each room, and make sure that everything has been removed. Place any last minute items together in one room. Remember: when the truck has been filled, and the movers tell you that they have everything, checking out each room to make sure that nothing has been left behind is your responsibility. When you are certain that each room is clean, then it is time to shut the door and leave!
- Avoid mixing items from different rooms in the same box.
- Use wardrobe boxes to make closets easier to pack. Clothes in drawers can be placed in suitcases.
- Use only small boxes for books. They get very heavy, very fast.
- Never use printed newsprint to wrap fine china.
- Always stack dishes upwards when packing.
- Pack important and sentimental documents separately to be easily accessible including: children’s health records, passports, family records, insurance information and photo albums.
- Remember: the heavier the item, the smaller the box.
- Don’t pack with food or supermarket boxes. You never know what little critter is hiding – or if the box will be strong enough to support your possessions.
- Don’t use used boxes. You don’t know if the box will be strong enough to support your possessions.
- Never use duct tape – use packing tape.
- Clearly label all boxes on top and side.
- As you take apart furniture and other items make sure to tape all parts to the main base.
- Try to pack all electronic equipment, like stereos in their original boxes. Otherwise use bubble wrap when packing these items.
- Start packing items you will not need ahead of time.
- Always pack and unpack breakables over a padded surface.
- Always tape boxes. Don’t interlock the tops.
- Don’t use boxes without tops. No tops make it impossible to stack properly in the truck.
- Use custom-designed boxes when packing fine china and clothing.
Things Never To Pack To Keep You and Your Mover Safe
1. Hazardous materials
By law, the following hazardous materials can’t be taken by a mover. Check your local government for hazardous waste events where disposal is usually convenient and may be free of charge.
- Aerosol cans
- Ammunition or loaded guns
- Any flammable liquid in any container
- Car batteries
- Charged scuba tanks
- Chemistry sets
- Darkroom chemicals
- Fire extinguishers
- Household batteries
- Matches or candles
- Mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol
- Nail polish or polish remover
- Pesticides or weed killers
- Pool chemicals
- Road flares
- Starter infused briquettes
- Varnishes or paint thinners
2. Poisonous materials
Poison cannot be transported by your mover. This includes windshield washer fluids for your car, rodent poisons, bleach and hydrogen peroxide, as well as most home cleaning products. If you are using local movers, you may elect to transport these items yourself. For long-distance moving, it may be wise to give these products to friends or neighbors.
Most perishables won’t be transported, even by local movers, and include all food (frozen, fresh and refrigerated) and beverages, open or not. Canned and unopened containers of stored food can usually be taken, but it’s a good idea to limit them. Stop grocery shopping no less than a week before the move. Plants are also perishable and are bound by agricultural rules which may or may not allow your plant to be brought into your destination state or country.