Packing Anything

Moving your place of residence from here to there will mean packing many boxes—maybe a hundred or more. The instructions in this section will help you do it efficiently and safely.

In addition, you will need to pack some things around your house differently. So the balance of this section offers specific instructions on packing everything from antiques to tools.


No, don’t pack your mother-in-law in a box marked “Antique”! If you really own valuable antiques (and not just old stuff), before you move, have your antiques appraised by a qualified professional appraiser so that you can adequately insure the items. Your insurance agency may be able to recommend an appraiser.

If your antiques are truly valuable, consider having a professional packer make specially designed cartons to hold your pieces. In most cases, following the rules for safe packing and loading will probably be sufficient. Make sure you adequately mark the boxes so that they get special treatment throughout your move.

Small Appliances

What about moving your cabinets full of small appliances such as coffee makers, toasters, toaster ovens, and dehydrators? The carton or box the appliance came in is the best packing material. If the box does not include molded packing material or if you do not have the original carton, cushion the appliance with packing peanuts or wadded newspaper as described earlier in this section in the section, “The Inside Story: How to Pack a Box.”

Audio Equipment

Packing your stereo, tape player, CD player, or other audio equipment is relatively easy. Because most electronic equipment serves as a dust magnet, clean the equipment before packing it. You can clean the inside of audio cases by using a can of compressed air blown through the ventilation slots in the back of the appliance.

If you are moving an entire stereo system, first draw a diagram of the wiring (or take a digital photo) before disconnecting the components. This drawing will save you hours of time at the other end when you’re ready to set up the equipment.

If you are moving a turntable, first secure the arm with a rubber band or twist-tie. The changer can typically be cinched down by turning two screws on the top of the unit. Then wrap the dust cover in a large towel, small blanket, or soft tissue.

To move a CD player, first remove all CDs from the unit. Remove stacker or multi-play cartridges. If the unit includes a transport screw, tighten the screw before packing.

If you have the original box and packing material, repack the player in it. If not, use a box slightly larger than the unit, so that it can be surrounded by packing material. Pack tightly so that the unit will not shift within the box.

Finally, place the units in one or more boxes marked “Audio” and “Fragile.”


Clean bedding can be packed or used as packing. Soiled bedding from your last night in the old house should be packed separately if you’ve already packed the washer and dryer.

Lighter bedding items such as pillows and blankets can be placed in furniture drawers. Heavier items, such as comforters, should be placed in clean cartons.

Bedding can also be used as packing material to cushion breakable items. Use older bedding as furniture wraps.




At my house, once all the books are packed, the moving job is half done!

Books are heavy. Pack them in small, strong boxes. Book boxes are typically about 1.5 cubic feet in size. Place the books flat in the box, cover to cover, alternating bindings. If you have especially old or valuable books, pack them separately with padding.

Canned Food

Chances are, you’re not going to be able to eat all the canned food in the house before you move. If you’re moving very far, consider donating unopened food containers to a charity rather than pay a buck a pound or more to move things that cost sixty cents a pound.

Like books, canned food is heavy, so it should be packed in small, strong cartons. About 25 food cans (15 juice cans) is the maximum you should pack in a box. If necessary, fill the rest of the box with lighter durable items or packing material.

Carpets and Rugs

The best way to pack loose carpets and rugs is to roll them up for the shortest length and tie them. If you use tape, make sure it is strong enough to keep the carpet from opening. Remember: the tighter the roll, the easier it will be to carry.


Some clocks, especially those with moving parts, such as grandfather or anniversary clocks, need disassembly before moving. Remove the pendulum or secure it to the base of the clock. Attach the clock’s key to the back of the clock with tape. Wrap and place the clock in a cushioned box. Mark “Fragile” on the box.


Moving (if not before) is a good time to clear out your closet of clothing that you haven’t worn in awhile. You can even use discarded clothing as packing material.

Pack hanging clothing in wardrobe boxes, which each hold about 25 garments. Pack other clothing items in the bottom of the wardrobe, under the hanging clothing.

Lightweight clothing can be left in dresser and bureau drawers, packed in suitcases or in clean cartons.


So how are you going to pack your beer can collection? Or your butterfly collection? Very carefully!

Most collectable items should be wrapped separately in clean wrapping paper or bubble wrap and packed into small to medium cartons, depending on the size and weight. Fill any empty space in the carton with peanuts or other cushioning material. And remember to mark the box “Fragile” as well as to identify the box’s contents.




Moving a computer from here to there can be relatively easy if you treat the computer like the expensive piece of electronics that it is. Chances are it’s traveled from Taiwan or Timbuktu to your place, so a thousand more miles won’t hurt it—if you prepare it for the move.

First, back up all the files on your computer’s hard disk. Store this backup disk with your original computer disks.

Finally, turn off the system. Remove all cables from the back of the unit, labeling each cord for position. Mark the cords and wrap them separately. If possible, place the main computer unit in its original box with packing material. If you no longer have the original packing material, use sturdy moving boxes and good packing material, such as bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or a small blanket.

Pack the monitor, keyboard, and printer in the same way. If you didn’t save the original boxes, use sturdy moving boxes and pack securely with bubble wrap and/or packing peanuts. Remove ink cartridges from the printer.

Make sure you mark all computer component boxes so that you can find them when you arrive at your new place.

Curtains, Draperies, and Shades

The last things you’ll pack as you move out are curtains and drapes. If they’re yours, don’t forget them in the rush to move.

Curtains can be folded and placed in drawers or clean cartons. If you have draperies cleaned and your move is within the same town, have them delivered to your new home, or hang them in wardrobe boxes, still in the cleaning bags. Schedule cleaning the drapes one week before the move, otherwise you probably won’t have the cleaning bags to hang them in when the wardrobe boxes arrive.


You can pack dishes in regular boxes or in dish packs: special boxes available through movers.

To safely pack dishes, line a dish pack or a medium-sized carton with crumpled packing paper or newspaper, and then wrap each piece separately. Start with a stack of commercial packing paper or newspaper. Place a plate in the center of the paper. Grasp about two pieces of paper at one corner and pull the paper over the plate. Place a second plate on top of the first one. Take a second corner of the paper and pull over the two stacked plates. Stack a third plate on top of the other two. Grasp the third corner of the paper and pull it over the plates. Repeat with the fourth corner.

Now, turn over the stack of wrapped plates and place the stack in the center of the stack of paper. For added protection, re-wrap the bundle in paper or towels. Grasp one corner of the wrap and pull it over the bundle of plates. Repeat for the second, third, and fourth corners. Seal the bundle with packing tape and place it in a carton with the plates with the narrow edge down.

To pack the box, place larger items on the bottom and smaller items toward the top of the carton, with cushioning between layers and over the top layer. You can avoid getting newsprint on the dishes by either packing with clean packing paper or by slipping each dish into a clean plastic bag before packing with newspaper. Mark the box as “Kitchen: Dishes” and “Fragile.”

Glasses and Cups

You can also pack glasses and cups easily by using smaller boxes or dish packs. First, place crumpled paper inside each glass or cup. Either wrap each piece separately or nest three or four cups or glasses together, depending on the value of the objects versus the cost of your packing material.

Next, place three or four wrapped glasses or cups together and lay them on your stack of paper, diagonally. Grasp a corner of the paper and wrap it around the glasses. Repeat with each corner of the paper. Roll the glasses into a bundle and secure with tape. Place glasses toward the top of the box and above dishes, on their sides. Mark the box as “Kitchen: Glassware” and “Fragile.”


Nest pots, pans, and similar unbreakable items with paper between pieces. Place heavier items at the bottom of a sturdy carton and lighter items, such as the pot lids, on top.




Lamps take a little time to pack, but they can be safely moved with the right packing procedures.

First, remove any shades on the lamp by unscrewing the clips on the wire harp that attaches the shade to the lamp base. Next, remove bulbs for the lamp and wrap them separately. Wrap lamp bases in bubble wrap or with towels and place in boxes. Wrap lamp shades in clean, white tissue paper or bubble wrap in individual cartons. Mark the box: “Lamps” and “Fragile.”

Alternately, you can place wrapped lamps and shades in your disconnected freezer or washing machine with adequate padding.


You’ll probably need lots of sedatives and muscle rub for your move, so remember not to pack them up with the things going in the moving vehicle.

Actually, you or someone in your moving party may need medications nearby either as you move or as soon as you arrive. Pay special attention to packing medicines.

After you’ve determined which medicines get packed in boxes and which in luggage, find a box that will easily hold the packed medications. If you expect that the box will be jostled during the move, stuff cosmetic cotton balls in the containers to keep the pills intact. Then tape the caps of medicine bottles, wrap the bottle, and pack it upright in a small carton. Mark the box: “Medicine.”

Mirrors and Paintings

If you’re moving very far, consider crating valuable mirrors and large paintings. Less valuable mirrors and paintings can be packed in mirror cartons available through your mover or truck rental agency. Alternatively, you can protect mirrors or paintings in the truck or trailer by wrapping them in blankets or rugs and loading them on edge between mattresses. Smaller mirrors and paintings can be packed in heavy cardboard boxes.


Photographs often have value beyond what an insurance company can cover. Your treasured photos will be safest in boxes with soft cloth to reduce movement. If the photos are in frames, pack them as you would mirrors and paintings, as I covered in the preceding section, “Mirrors and Paintings.”


Most professional movers will not move household plants, which are too fragile to be packed and transported in the typical moving van. Even moving plants in your rental trailer or truck can be hazardous to their health.

Your climate-controlled car is a better choice for moving plants. If you are moving to another state, be sure to learn whether there are any restrictions on importing plants. California, Arizona, and Florida are the most finicky states regarding this issue. Check with the Agriculture Department or Department of Natural Resources of your new state for current information about any restrictions. If you cannot move your plants, you may be able to take a cutting. Put the cutting in sterile soil or in a plastic bag with a damp cloth and vent holes. Most plant cuttings packed this way can survive for several days.

On moving day, pack your plants in a box sufficiently large and strong for safe transport. Pack paper around the pots to keep them in place. Use soft paper to cushion branches and leaves. Punch air holes in the sides of the box and fasten the lid loosely.

Records, Tapes, and CDs

Most records, tapes, and CDs are easy to pack into a box. The real issue is climate control. Make sure the items don’t get too cold or hot, because they may crack, melt, or warp. Pack them in small cartons, first placing tapes and CDs in their holders. Bundle records and place them in a box on edge so that they don’t break or warp. Mark the box: “Records, CDs.”


If your silverware is really silver, use cloth or low sulfur-content paper to wrap them and prevent tarnishing. Stainless silverware doesn’t require special care. If the silverware is in a chest, wrap the chest in a blanket or moving pad. Place the wrapped chest in the bottom of a carton of similar items. Mark the box: “Silverware.”


You may have only a few tools or a whole shop full of them. Hand tools can bewrapped individually in paper or packed losse in tool boxes or in small cardboard boxes. Add crumpled paper to make sure that they don’t move around much.

Tools that are dirty or oily should be wiped off and wrapped in plastic before being packed. Then be sure to keep them away from things you’d prefer not to have dirty or oily.

You can pack power tools in the same way you do other household items, wrapping in newspaper and packing tightly in a sturdy box. Make sure the boxes are marked “Garage: Power Tools”, for example.

 Packing a Box