Packing & Moving Tips and Tricks

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55 ways to make packing and unpacking as painless as possible


See moving as an opportunity to organize and purge. Make “donate,” “pitch,” and “sell” piles in each room for belongings you no longer want or need.
Arrange for a charity to come pick up items you plan to donate at the end of your packing schedule.
Paper is heavy and there is no need to move junk mail or outdated documents. Shred paper with personal information and send it all to the recycling bin.
Packing can become a trip down memory lane. Resist the temptation and get items packed rather than reminiscing. You’ll have plenty of time to go back and leisurely sift through your belongings after the move.
Create a moving binder with plastic sleeves for all your important moving information. It will be your go-to guide on moving day.
There is no need to pack a can of beans that expired two years ago. Throw out expired pantry items that are past their prime.

Packing Up

Begin by packing rooms and items that you use the least. A guest room, out-of-season clothing, or bulk items are safe bets.
Create packing zones in each room. You’ll need a place for empty boxes and supplies, a space for packed boxes, a giveaway pile, a packing area, and enough space to walk between the zones.
Keep supplies close at hand by wearing a tool belt or apron with pockets that hold tape, scissors, markers, labels, and a small notebook for jotting down reminders.
Give items a once-over with a microfiber cloth as you are putting them in boxes. If you dust as you pack, your belongings will be clean when you unpack them.
Don’t use flimsy moving boxes that are likely to break under pressure. Invest in a variety of double-ply cardboard boxes that will protect your belongings and hold up to the moving process.
Use smaller boxes for heavier items and remember to pack each box with the heaviest items at the bottom.
Purchase large stacks of newsprint packing paper for wrapping most of your possessions. It doesn’t leave any black marks like regular newspaper and provides excellent cushioning.
Use colored tissue paper to wrap small items. Brightly colored wrapping helps small items stand out so they don’t get thrown away.
Boxes should be completely filled or they may get crushed or dented during the move. Use packing material to fill corners and empty space.
Remember to purchase mattress bags or ask your movers to provide them on moving day. You don’t want to end up spending your first night on a dirty mattress.
Purchase large furniture bags or plastic wrapping to protect your upholstered pieces if you are doing the move yourself. This might save your sofa if it gets splashed by a muddy puddle on the way to the moving van.
Give your boxes a shake before sealing them. If you feel things sliding around or rattling, add more packing material.
Large frames with glass should be placed in a special frame box that protects the edges as well as the glass. Make an X with masking tape across the glass to hold glass together in case it breaks in transit.
Use wardrobe boxes to keep clothes hanging and wrinkle-free. Many moving companies will let your rent wardrobe boxes as long as you return them in good shape.
Dish barrel boxes are extra-strong cardboard boxes meant to hold the heavy weight of dishes. When you are arranging dishes in these boxes, pack them on their sides, not flat like in a cupboard.
Keep pillows, clothing, or other textiles pristine by putting them in clear garbage bags before placing them in boxes. Don’t use dark garbage bags for moving items as you might accidentally mistake them for garbage.
Use sealable plastic bags for all of your bathroom lotions and potions. Liquid toiletries can leak and the last thing you want is to unpack a soggy cardboard box.
Use a top layer of packing material to protect items in a box from getting sliced when you go to open the box with a utility knife.
Pack a suitcase for you and each family member like you’re going on vacation (even if you are just moving around the block). Your family will be able to live out of suitcases until all of their possessions are unpacked.

Labeling and More

Make labels for your boxes on the computer that are numbered and color coded by room. You’ll find that this will be much speedier than hand-writing the information on each box.
Each numbered label should correspond to a master list you keep in your moving binder. This list makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for by listing the contents of each numbered box.
Label moving boxes on all four sides (not the top and bottom) so you can see what’s in a stack without having to move everything around.
Draw a “this side up” arrow on all four sides of your boxes so you and your movers don’t accidentally place the box upside-down.
Use brightly colored “fragile” stickers or a red marker to indicate all boxes that contain fragile goods.
Label cables, cords, and plugs. When you go to hook up your electronic systems, you’ll be thankful you don’t have to remember exactly how they were originally configured.

Saving Money

To save some cash, look online or post a request on local message boards to see if anyone in your area is giving away gently used moving boxes.
Ask friends and family members if they have sturdy boxes, tape guns, or other moving supplies that they can share with you.
Use an online box estimator to determine how many cardboard boxes you’ll need for your move. Many companies will let you return unused boxes so it’s better to overestimate on your initial order.
Use regular newspaper from your recycling bin as a layer of padding at the bottom of boxes and around items that are already protected by packing paper. Just remember, your fingers may get black from handling newspapers and you risk staining items you are packing or unpacking.
Extremely fragile items may call for bubble wrap. It’s costly so use it sparingly.
Towels and sheets work as extra padding in boxes that hold fragile items. You’re packing and padding all at once!
Plastic shopping bags also work to pad items or provide a layer between two items in your box. Best of all, you can use what you have and they are free.

Moving Out

Make a kit of items that you’ll need to clean your home before you leave. Keep this out until the last possible moment and put it in a box that will be one of the first you unpack in your new space.
Movers generally value your belongings at 60 cents per pound. Check your homeowner’s policy for coverage and inquire about additional moving insurance on high-ticket items.
If you or your movers are disassembling furniture, be sure to keep all screws and hardware in a sealable plastic bag that you take with you. Don’t let these important pieces get lost in the shuffle.
Open every door and drawer in the house as there may be belongings hiding in corners or rarely used cabinets. Check in appliances too; you don’t want to leave dishes in the dishwasher or clothes in the dryer.
Leave a box of information (appliance warranties, a vendor list, favorite local stores and restaurants, etc.) for the new owners. It’s good karma and you would be grateful if someone did the same for you.
Don’t focus only on packing the interior of your home. Be sure to do a quick sweep of your yard, shed, and garage.
Note scratches and dings on furniture before you move it. Digital photos are a great way to document pieces and prove the original condition.
After you pack up table and floor lamps, some rooms will be gloomy with only overhead lighting. Keep a work light or flashlight on hand to move from room to room and to peer into the back of dark closets and cabinets.

Moving In

On move-in day, hang color-coded signs over the doorways of each room that correspond to the colors on the box label. You and your movers will know exactly where to put your color-coded boxes.
Create priority boxes that contain things you’ll need as soon as you unpack like pans, dishes, and cleaning supplies. Color code and label them to make sure they are the first things you unpack.
Empty boxes take up too much room. As you are unpacking, break them down and place in a central pile to store or recycle.
Have a friend or family member check off the box numbers from your master list as they come through the front door of your new home. This is a smart way to double check that you’ve received all of your boxes.
Avoid making miscellaneous boxes by always assigning a room to every box. Movers don’t know what to do with a box that has no room assignment and neither will you.
Don’t start unpacking a new box until you have finished and broken down the last box you were working on. This saves you the frustration of rooms of half unpacked boxes.
As each item is unpacked, decide where it goes. If you don’t know why you have it, you probably don’t need it. It’s a good idea to start a donation and ditch pile during the unpacking process too.
Unpacking the kitchen is often a priority as everyone is likely to get hungry. Have paper plates and plastic cutlery on hand for your first few meals.
After the movers leave, you might want to adjust where you initially had them place your furniture. Furniture slides are a great and inexpensive way to save your back and move heavy pieces to new locations.