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Do’s and Don’ts When Packing for a Move

Published by Chris Townsend

Do’s and Don’ts When Packing for a Move

If you are planning for a move, one of the big decisions is whether you will do the packing yourself or hire the movers to do the packing for you. There are good arguments on both sides. Let’s consider some:

Have the movers do it:

  • Saves time
  • Less stress
  • More organized
  • Less Damage
  • I just can’t face it!

Do it myself:

  • Saves money
  • I can get rid of stuff
  • I can put things in the right boxes
  • I can start sooner
  • I will know where everything is

If you have decided to do the packing, start early. Here are some helpful hints to make the whole job more manageable and, hopefully, less stressful.

When you know you are moving, even before you know when or where that's the time to start the sorting process. The longer you have lived in your current home, the more stuff you have squirreled away "just in case." If you are one of those minimalist Marie Kondo followers, who gets rid of everything that doesn't spark joy, good for you. Moving is going to be a breeze. For the rest of us, there is some hard work ahead.

Where should I start?

Good question! Start in the places with the least used stuff and the most likely candidates for discards. For most of us, it's the garage if we have one. We put things in the garage (or the guest room, the attic, the hall linen closet, or wherever we can) that we don't often use but don't want to get rid of. Moving is the right time to take a good hard look at those things and think about whether you really want to move them. If you are moving into a smaller home, these decisions take on greater urgency. Even if you are moving to a place with more space, don't just fill it up without considering whether you need to bring each thing with you. Here are some good candidates for donating, gifting, selling, or discarding:

Clothes. Many people save clothing that they have stopped wearing. Depending on the item's quality and age, these pieces may bring in some extra cash, a tax deduction, or just provide joy to a new owner if you share your unwanted vintage items with someone else.

Books. You can share books that you have already read or can finally admit you aren't going to read. Either give them to someone who will read them, sell them online, or donate them to your favorite charity.

Outdoor furniture: Consider whether your yard furniture is appropriate for the new place and whether it is worth moving. It is likely bulky and might be best left behind or discarded. The same may be true of children's play equipment if the children are all grown up.

Seasonal décor. While you probably want to retain your favorites, you may not need to relocate all 50,000 holiday lights, the full complement of blow-up Santas, and a chorus of dancing ghosts. This impending move might be the right time to pass these on to a child or other family member.

Kitchen. Why do we all have so many pans? Why do we keep the old mixing bowls when we get new ones? I don't have the answers to these questions. Still, moving is the perfect time to cut back to a reasonable number of each necessary kitchen implement and share the extras with someone who needs them, sell the ones you can't give away, or donate the whole bunch and start over in the new place. One extra kitchen tip is not to underestimate the time it will take to pack the kitchen. There is so much stuff in the kitchen, and we leave it till last because we use it every day, and then moving day sneaks up, and the kitchen didn't get packed.

How can I stay organized through the packing?

Going through this process will not only reduce the amount of packing that you have to do; it will also help you get in the right frame of mind. Now you can start the packing. Start with the things you won’t need before you go—again, the garage, the guest room, or the closets. You can expect that from now until you get fully settled in, the house will be somewhat disrupted, which may cause you to feel uneasy. Try to focus on the sense of accomplishment you get from each box you pack and each room you conquer.

You can collect used boxes for some of the things you will be packing, but you will need good sturdy moving boxes for other items. How you pack things makes a difference.

Boxes should be full but not heavy. Movers recommend a mixture of weights, with heavier items on the bottom. For example, a box could start with a cushion of packing peanuts or bubble wrap, then a layer of books, followed by board games, then some well-wrapped framed pictures, topped off by more bubble wrap or crushed packing paper. The box should be securely taped and labeled on at least two sides. Movers recommend that each container be numbered, with a written inventory kept of the numbers, and have a destination room listed on the box. Hence, movers know to carry Box 1 to the master bedroom, Box 2 to the living room, etc. The package should also have a brief description of the contents (books, movies, clothing, dishes) as a guide.

Rather than spend money on packing paper and bubble wrap (although you will need some bubble wrap), you can start saving the newspaper when you know you are going to move. Linens and clothing also make excellent protection for your dishes and other articles like picture frames. Use towels in between plates and use t-shirts to wrap glassware. This substitute saves space and offers protection at the same time.

Ask your mover if you can borrow those clever wardrobe boxes that allow you to lift the hangers directly onto the rod in the box and go. If you can't negotiate that privilege, some experts say the best way to pack hanging clothes is to put a trash bag over about 20 items (so the hangers poke out through a hole in the top) then gently fold the clothing filled bag into a large box. Repeat until the bin is full. This way, you avoid unhanging and rehanging or making a mess with things sliding all over.

While you are working your way through the house, set aside anything you are not packing for the movers. This category has two subtypes. First are the critical items that you won't be putting on the truck—essential financial or health records, jewelry, and other valuable and sentimental possessions. The second type are the things that you need up till the last minute. This list includes any medications, identification, airplane tickets, keys, cash, your child’s favorite toys, etc.

Finally, there are some things you may not put in the moving truck. These you should either dispose of or make arrangements to take with you. The list of excluded items includes:

  • Propane and scuba tanks
  • Gasoline and other flammable liquids
  • Car and household batteries
  • Solvents and any household chemicals
  • Matches and lighters
  • Oils, paints, paint thinners, and aerosol cans
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Perishable Food
  • Pets
  • Plants

Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving. Chris has a keen eye for detail and brings intelligence and passion to every project he’s involved with.

While getting his degree in communications from Santa Clara University, Chris started out with the company working in the field as part of our team of professional moving associates. Following graduation, he was promoted to our main office, where he has thrived in a role that involves increasing responsibility and requires him to wear many different hats. Some days, you may find him answering the phone and providing moving estimates, others he may be writing for our moving blog, and another day he may be coordinating a large corporate moving job or helping us with our marketing efforts. Chris has authored many of our in-depth moving guides, as well as provided our clients with information and advice to handle the complexities of their upcoming moving plans. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

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