The Ultimate Guide to Packing the Right Way
Written by: StorageUnits.com Editorial Team - Updated: May 24, 2022
There are so many different things to think about when you prepare for a move. Getting all of your things from Point A to Point B is always a challenge, and you want to complete the job as smoothly--and cheaply--as possible. If you’re thinking about packing up everything yourself, it’s important to consider how much time-consuming work it is, and come up with a plan to handle it efficiently. Did you know that even if you pay a mover to load the truck, or hire professional movers, you can still do the packing yourself? This will save you some money. Ask your moving coordinator about this when you get an on-site estimate.
- 1 Ensure your possessions are transported as safely as possibly, you should use new, high-quality packing materials.
- 2 To protect items from breakage and scratching, you will need to wrap them before placing them in your boxes. Depending on what items you have, you can use bubble wrap, foam peanuts, and/or tissues. Many moving professionals use clean, unprinted newsprint, which you can find at your local moving supply store.
- 3 Avoid confusion and save time, clearly label each box. Use the tips listed below to make the process easier.
- 4 Most professional movers recommend starting your packing with out-of-season items, and then moving on to items you do not use very often. The closer to moving day that you will need to use something, the longer you should leave it out.
Packing Guidelines for Your Professional Move
If you opt to do all of your own packing yourself, make sure you can complete it and have it ready for loading into the truck by the time the truck arrives. It’s best to complete it the evening before moving day. Leave out only things you’ll need that night, the next morning, and when you arrive at your new home – you can pack and unpack those at the last minute.
It may be tempting to make packing go faster by going quickly and not paying too much attention to taping boxes, etc. However, keep in mind that your moving company will only move items that meet their packing standards. A reputable company will inspect your boxes, and if they think items may be improperly packed, or could be susceptible to damage, they may refuse to load the items until they are repacked.
Don’t use cartons or boxes that are torn, ripped, soiled, or will not close or seal. Most commonly, items from garages, attics and storage spaces, such as holiday decorations and sentimental items, will need to be repacked. These tend to have sat for long periods of time without being disturbed, and their cartons may be in disrepair. Repack those with fresh boxes ahead of time, using plenty of insulation to avoid items rattling or shaking around in transit. This will save you time and hassle down the road.
What Should You Pack?
Of course, you can’t fit everything into boxes. Typically, furniture and major appliances will be professionally wrapped and padded by your moving company. They can also disassemble and/or crate items such as slate pool tables, chandeliers or large glass table tops.
In order to ensure your possessions are transported as safely as possibly, you should use new, high-quality packing materials. There are professional moving cartons available that come in sizes and shapes specifically for household items. For example, you can get barrels, which are great for fitting in an assortment of items that may not fit well into regular boxes.
- Bundles of packing paper (you can use clean, unprinted newsprint)
- Bubble wrap, tissue paper, or paper towels to wrap delicate items
- Several rolls of PVC tape (stronger and easier to use than masking tape or cellophane tape)
- Tape dispenser
- Broad-tipped markers for labeling
- Box cutter or scissors for cutting cartons
- Notebook for listing contents of cartons as they are packed
- Labels or stickers for identifying boxes
Wrapping How To’s
To protect items from breakage and scratching, you will need to wrap them before placing them in your boxes. Depending on what items you have, you can use bubble wrap, foam peanuts, and/or tissues. Many moving professionals use clean, unprinted newsprint, which you can find at your local moving supply store.
When wrapping smaller items, such as glasses and jars, place the paper on a flat surface. Use two or three sheets of paper per item. Begin from one corner of the sheet, and fold the sides as you roll. Place the item in the center of the sheet and bring the corners together, flipping the item open and wrapping from the other side if needed. Use more paper if needed – the more, the better! When the corners come together, secure them with tape. You can also use this technique on larger or oddly-shaped items.
Before placing items in your box, pad the bottom with a few inches of wadded paper. For the most stability, place larger and heavier items on the bottom first, and lighter or more fragile items on top. Items such as books or plates, which are the same shape, can be loaded vertically. Always keep cartons to a manageable weight and avoid overloading them – you can use wadded paper to top them off. Lastly, tape the carton securely to avoid items shifting around inside the box while in transit.
After doing all the work of packing your items safely and securely, you will want to make sure you know what each box contains without having to open it up and search around. To avoid confusion and save time, clearly label each box. Use the tips listed below to make the process easier:
- Use a broad, felt-tipped marker.
- Label each box with your name, the room it belongs in, and the contents.
- Include details such as “FRAGILE” or “THIS END UP” where appropriate.
If available, include your bill of lading (or invoice) number on each box.
Tips From the Pros
Most professional movers recommend starting your packing with out-of-season items, and then moving on to items you do not use very often. In general, the closer to moving day that you will need to use something, the longer you should leave it out. Here are some more helpful hints from the pros:
- Empty your drawers of any breakables, spillables, and anything that has the potential to puncture or damage other items.
- Pack similar items together, grouping them by room and use as well as shape and fragility. It doesn’t make sense to pack a 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 labeled plastic bags and taped or tied securely to the article to which they belong. This will save you a lot of time and effort when unpacking and setting up in your new home.
- Wind up electrical cords, fastening them so they do not dangle.
- Wrap items individually in clean paper. If you do not want to buy clean newsprint, you can use tissue paper, paper towels, or even facial tissue for fine china, crystal, and other delicate items. If you have very small items, you can use colored wrapping paper, which draws attention. For extra security, use a double layer of newsprint for the outer layer. (Important: use newspapers for cushioning only. The ink can rub off and stain delicate items such as fine china.)
- Place a two- or three-inch layer of wadded paper in the bottom of cartons for cushioning.
- Build up the layers. Place the heaviest items on the bottom, then medium weight, and finally the lightest on top.
- As you complete each layer, use crushed paper to firmly fill in any empty spaces, and add more crushed paper to make a level base for the next layer. You can also make dividers from sheets of cardboard.
- You can also use towels and lightweight blankets for padding and cushioning. Generally speaking, the more fragile the item, the more cushioning should be used. Make sure no sharp points or edges are left uncovered.
- Pack small, fragile, individually wrapped items separately if you can, or pack a few together in small boxes. Use crushed or shredded paper to cushion. You can place the small boxes into a single large box (again, use cushioning around the smaller boxes).
- To avoid back strain and distribute items evenly, limit carton weight to about 50 pounds. The cover of each box should close easily without force and without the flaps bending or falling inward. Make sure your cushioning packs the items firmly and prevents them from shifting.
- Seal all cartons tightly with tape (except for those containing items the van operator will need to inspect).
- After finishing each carton, list the contents on the side of the carton, using the tips covered in the preceding section. This will allow you to easily find what is located in each box. Also, list the items in your notebook for reference. You can use numbers or codes to track items if you prefer.
- To help your movers understand where each box needs to go, tape a sign on the door of each room. Write your name and the room on each sign.
- To help you remember what you want to unpack first when you reach your destination, you can use the number 1 or the letter A, or the characters of your choice.