Packing Tips

Over the years as both an amateur and professional mover, I’ve learned dozens of useful techniques for smart packing. Here’s my top five.

Smart Packing Tip #1: Plan Your Move Before You Start

Yes, PLANNING. Planning each stage and task of the moving process really will make the ordeal easier. Here are some plan-ahead questions to ask yourself before the move. Jot the answers in your Smart Moving Notebook for future reference:

  • How many boxes will you need?
  • What size?
  • How many special boxes will you need for lamps, dishes, and your wardrobe?
  • How much tape will be necessary to seal the boxes?
  • What kind of marking pens?
  • What cushioning materials will you use?
  • How much cushioning material will you need?

Smart Packing Tip #2: Get the Best Packing Materials You Can Afford

If your moving project is on a tight budget, you can make the rounds of grocery and liquor stores several times to acquire usable packing boxes, but they will be of varying sizes, shapes, and durability. If you can, purchase new packing boxes from a moving company or truck rental company. Also consider purchasing used moving boxes and material. You can cut costs somewhat by packing your “stuff” in grocery boxes (with tops on them) and your valuables in purchased boxes.

For example, if you pack your hanging clothing carefully in professional mover’s wardrobe boxes, they will arrive at your new home still clean, pressed, and ready to wear. And you can pack other items at the bottom of the wardrobe box, underneath your hanging clothing.

Using professional mover’s dish packs will ensure that your best dinnerware will arrive without chipping or breakage (or at least with less damage, depending on how you load and drive).

What about packing materials for a computer, stereo, VCR, or other delicate items? If possible, re-pack them in their original cartons with the original packing material. If you’ve long since thrown away the original boxes, ask your favorite computer or electronics store for discarded boxes and packing materials.

Moving Tips

You can sometimes purchase used moving boxes from a moving company. If your budget just won’t stretch at all, you can visit local grocery and liquor stores and fast food restaurants for sturdy cartons with lids. Or check with local offices for photocopy paper boxes.


Smart Packing Tip #3: Start Packing Early


Starting the packing process early will reduce the stress of moving day! When to start? You can start packing as soon as you know you will be moving. Start by packing seldom-used items from storage areas such as the attic, basement, or garage. Move on to closets, cupboards, and pantries. Next, pack up decorative items, such as collections, figurines, framed photographs, paintings, and other items that aren’t essential for daily living.

Smart Packing Tip #4: Label Everything!

“Hey, what’s in this box?”

“Where’s my raincoat?”

“Who packed the boa constrictor?”

All good questions! If you’ve marked everything well, you’ll have good answers.

Mark what? Use a wide-tip, bright-colored, waterproof pen for marking boxes. Professional mover’s boxes include spaces for noting the box’s contents and the room to which those items belong. Mark each box in the same place on two sides with the same information.

Mark how? Label more than one side. Indicate which room the box should be unloaded into: kitchen, nursery, the boys’ bedroom, garage, attic, basement, storage. (Use different colored markers for different rooms—yellow/kitchen, green/bathroom, and so forth.)

In addition, list the contents: computer, books, games, dishes, coffee maker, toaster, household tools—whatever’s in there. Be specific. You don’t necessarily need to list every item in the box (“pile of pennies from bottom drawer, Pez dispenser, broken sunglasses”), but if the box contains small appliances, do list each of these; you’ll want to organize your kitchen as quickly as possible.

Smart Packing Tip #5: Set Up a Staging Area

You’ll need a place to put all of those boxes you’re packing. Choose a seldom-used room or a portion of the garage as the storage area. If possible, select a room that is near where your moving truck or trailer will be loaded so that on moving day you will easily be able to bring in a utility dolly and load stacks of boxes onto the moving vehicle.

In addition, by keeping a dedicated moving area, you will more easily be able to find a packed item if you determine you need it before the move—especially if you mark boxes with the room and contents, as suggested in Smart Packing Tip #4.

Now that you’ve been tipped off about smart moving, let’s get specific on how to pack a box safely and efficiently.

Packing a Box