Categorize your belongings. Fragile items, versus heavy items, versus essentials. Having categories will help you with packing. While it's ideal to pack by room, also having categories will help you during the packing and unpacking process. For example, if you are driving a Uhaul or hauling a trailer, heavy items should be packed closest to the front end in the middle of the vehicle to properly distribute weight. Breakables should be put in the "mother's attic" (the little cubby right behind and above your head in the Uhaul). Essential items should be closest to the door. alternatively, essentials can be put in your personal vehicle, if you have a trailer.
Before making a plan, make a list of every single to-do you will have before the big day. Make a list of all the people you need to call. Make a list of all the chores you have to do. Make a list of all the things you need to buy. Make a list of everything you have to bring with you. Make a list of what apartments you'd like to live in. Put it all in one big list or make several separate, smaller lists, whichever makes the most sense. Once you've got it all down, start making a plan on how to tackle it all.
Make a plan and do your best to stick with it. Make a plan of when you'll do what tasks leading up to moving day and a plan of how to best achieve each task. That plan can be flexible, but make sure it's logical and achievable.
How to create a moving plan
- Create a plan of what you will do each day, week, or month leading up to moving day. What will you accomplish at each of these markers? Check off each part of the plan as you go.
- Create a plan for finding a new job or house.
- Create a plan for your road trip if you are making one for a long-distance move.
Pack little by little. Fill up a box each day leading up to moving day. Don't try to tackle everything all at once and overwhelm yourself. Don't try packing the day you plan on moving to your new place. Don't rush yourself unless you have absolutely no choice due to a short-notice move. Give yourself time to pack and move through the rooms in your home, so that you can be efficient and make small, achievable goals on a timeline that works for you.
Don't try to pack your entire house in one day, all at once. It's too much to try to accomplish in a short amount of time, and the whole moving process will end up being stressful. When moving, pack one room at a time. Start in the room you use less and will need access to last after your big move. Take your time moving from one room to another.
There are some things that shouldn't come with you on your move. Maybe it is more expensive for you to bring big furniture items on your cross-country move than to buy a new couch or dresser. When moving long distances, selling some of your belongings might be more economical than trying to cart them thousands of miles.
Items you may not want to bring on big moves
- Big furniture items
- Big breakables
- Big appliances
Some of your belongings either won't be economical to take or are too big or impractical to take. These are the items you should gift, donate, or sell. If you can make some extra cash on an item you aren't taking anyway, consider selling it. If it's an item that isn't worth much, but could be of use to someone else, donate or gift it.
Have a packing supply box or kit handy at all times. Fill it with packing tape, markers, packing paper, rubber bands, bubble wrap, and anything else you think you might need to pack efficiently. Make this box one of the last things you pack, and the first things you unpack, in your car, trailer, or truck. This way, you always have access to any packing or unpacking supplies you need.
Plastic stretch wrap is usually tear-resistant, can be used to protect furniture, keep drawers and doors intact, and prevent scratches on furniture legs and glass. Plastic stretch wrap is ideal for wrapping couches to protect the fabric. The only downside of plastic stretch wrap is that it can damage wood, and sometimes leather, if used in extreme temperatures.
There are some things with moving that you don't want to wait on. Those essential tasks should be high on your priority list so that you are as prepared as you can be for the big move. Here is a list of essential moving tasks you don't want to wait on!
Moving tasks you don't want to wait on
- Finding a new place
- Finding a moving service, truck, or trailer
- Changing your address
- Giving your landlord notice
- Selling your current home
- Calling your car insurance and renter's insurance company
- Changing and canceling your utilities
- Gather important paperwork
- Finding a job
Paper towels can be used between plates, picture frames, wrapped around other breakables, or fragile items. They are much cheaper than most packing paper or bubble wrap, and can be used in a pinch or to make your move more affordable. Paper towels can even be used to line boxes before putting paper, books, pictures, or other damageable items inside them.
Make packing, and unpacking, easier by keeping your clothes on their hangers. Collect your clothes into sections that can fit into garbage bags. Slide a garbage bag over your clothes so that the opening of the garbage bag is below the hanger, and use the strings to tie the hangers together at the top.
When you get to your new place, you can rip off the garbage bags and hang up your clothes in the closet, allowing you to organize your new closet quickly and easily. No folding and unfolding needed!
For clothes that don't standardly hang on hangers, like pajamas, some t-shirts, and exercise clothes, rolling clothes is always the best way to go. Though this hack is known for being used for traveling, vacations, etc, it's also super handy for moving. It saves packing space, prevents creasing and wrinkles in your clothing, and makes finding that shirt you really want to wear easier.
We all know that plastic bags end up in our landfills and in oceans. If you have plastic bags, don't throw them away, at least upcycle them. Plastic bags can be used in several ways to protect your belongings, organize them, and upcycle them all at once!
How to use plastic bags when moving
- Put your books in plastic bags before boxing them to protect them from getting wet or damaged.
- Use them to fill in the empty spaces in your boxes (free space inside a box is toom for items to slide around and get damaged).
- Use them to protect photos.
- Use them to organize smaller items inside boxes like utensils or art supplies.
Boxes are a pretty essential packing must, and they can actually be pretty pricey. Avoid spending money on boxes. It's really unnecessary to buy boxes when there are plenty of ways to get them for free and reduce the cost of your move!
Where to find free boxes
- Grocery stores
- Office supply stores
If you've ever moved without labeling your boxes, then you know the struggle of moving and not being able to find something you need after moving. Label all your boxes. Don't skip this step. Consider also color-coding your boxes. For example, all your kitchen boxes are written in green marker, or using colored moving tape. This will really make the unpacking process easier, more organized, and will reduce some of the stress.
To take it one step further, consider writing some of the general items that are inside the box underneath the box's label (forks, oven mitts, etc). Alternatively, you can number each box, take a picture of the inside of each box, and save it to an album on your phone. This way, you know exactly how many boxes you should have, and if you need something specific, you can look in your moving album to find the right box.
Create an essentials box or kit that you can open on moving day. Fill it with all the things you want to unpack first, your must-haves, and daily essentials, It will be the first box you open when moving into your new home, so make sure you pack it last, and that it includes the first things you will need to be comfortable when moving in.
What to include in your essentials kit
- Toothbrush and other toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, toilet tissue, and face wash.
- Towels, shower curtain, and sheets.
- Pet essentials like pet food, bowls, comfort item, and litter.
- Food (just a few food items like granola bars)
- Birth certificate and other important forms
- Cleaning items (or consider having a separate cleaning kit as well)
Did you know certain sized boxes are meant to hold a certain amount of weight? Sounds logical, right?
Have you ever tried to carry a box full of heavy items that was so big and heavy that you couldn't carry it on your own? That's because heavier items should go in smaller boxes, and lighter items should go in bigger boxes. This simple change in your packing technique can make a huge difference when carrying your moving boxes into your new place. For example, it makes carrying a bunch of heavy books much easier, because when the books are packed into several small boxes, instead of one or two big boxes you can barely carry, moving them becomes more manageable.
While I generally think it's best to take as many boxes as you can get, they can all be put to use to make your move organized and keep your things safe, I also know certain sized boxes work better for certain items (this means you may want to consider accepting or buying the right size boxes, versus taking any boxes you can find). Most boxes are small, medium, large, and extra-large. Each is optimal for packing specific items. Knowledge is power, and knowing can make your moving organization better than ever before.
What boxes work for what items
- Small- Small boxes are great for silverware, miscellaneous items, DVD collections, small figurines, and candles.
- Medium- Medium boxes work well for clothes, towels, picture frames, and books.
- Large- Large boxes are ideal for curtains, decorative pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals.
- Extra-Large- Extra large boxes are best for fluffy bedding, big pillows, big stuffed animals, and other light items that were too big or too plentiful for a large boxes.
Boxes can be expensive. It always seems like there's too much stuff and not enough boxes. So, it's okay to get creative with what you use for "boxes" when packing up your home. Anything that can safely hold your belongings and get them from one place to another, can be used when moving.
Items you can use as boxes when moving
- Storage bins
- Tubs or totes
Trying to do a lot all at once can be overwhelming. That is part of why moving is intimating in the first place. There is so much to do and so little time to accomplish it all. Simplify the process by focusing on one room at a time. Pack that room (cleaning items, like coffee pots, along the way), move your boxes to the designated room or space for packed boxes, and give the room you just packed a good clean. Then, you can check that room off your list and move to the next.
The same idea goes with moving into your space. Try cleaning as you go, versus cleaning the whole space all at once before moving anything in. Clean a room (try starting with the kitchen) and then move in your kitchen boxes and furniture. Then, you can check each room off your list as you unpack.
If you have it, don't waste space. Items like pots, pans, slow cookers, shoes, luggage, and bowls, take up tons of space. However, you can always fill them up to avoid wasting space and make moving smaller items less cumbersome.
How to make use of space
- Before packing your pots, pans, and slow cookers, fill them with spices and shakers. If your spices spill, they spill into the pan, and you didn't waste any packing space.
- Put small miscellaneous items in shoes and coat pockets (be mindful about what you pack where so you don't lose those smaller items).
- Use your luggage to pack your books. Books are heavy. If you have luggage with wheels, you can wheel your books inside instead of carrying them.
Carrying a lot of cardboard boxes can get tiring, especially when you can't get a good grip. Consider making your own handles in cardboard boxes that don't have them to make carrying boxes from place to place easier.
If you want to know how to cut a handle in the side of your cardboard boxes, try this simple method below:
Watch the video:
If you have pets, it's important to make the move as easy as it can be for them. Moving can be extremely stressful and scary for animals. Take away as much of their stress by preparing the best you can and making sure their needs are met.
How to prepare your pets for moving
- Make sure they have a crate, kennel, or carrier that is comfortable for them. If the crate is new, leave it in the house for a day or two before the move so that it is more familiar to them during the move.
- Make sure they have the necessary shots or medical care they need.
- Provide them with comfort items like their favorite toy or bed.
- Make sure you have portable ways to feed and water them.
- Make sure they have a litter box or that you take breaks so they can relieve themselves.
- If you are road tripping, avoid loud music and shoot for something more calming.
- There are many calming collars, treats, and other products on the market. Check with your vet to see if any of them might help your pet in the moving process.
- Make sure to include your pet's essentials in your essentials kit (or have one essentials box for them and one for you).
Rubberbands can be used as handy moving supplies in many ways. If you have some rubberbands stuffed in a drawer somewhere, don't discount them. They are the perfect addition to your moving supplies kit.
How to use rubber bands when moving
- To keep your door open during moving- Crisscross a rubber band so it looks like an infinity symbol and wrap one side of the rubber band around each side of the handle on the door like it's pictured above. This will stop your door from locking each time you leave to grab another box.
- To stop hammers from scuffing your walls- Crosscross another rubber band so that one side of the band has wrapped around the front (hammering part of the hammer) and another is around the back (nail removing part of the hammer. A rubber band "x" will be at the top of your hammer if you've done it correctly.
- To gather pens and markers- If you have a lot of pens, markers, pencils, or other artsy supplies, wrap them up with rubber bands to avoid losing any of them.
If you are going to be moving with fragile items like glasses, mirrors, or picture frames, make sure you pack them in a way that is protective so you can avoid hurting yourself and breaking your treasured belongings. There are tips and tricks to keeping your breakables safe and sound no matter how far your moving. Give a few of them a try!
How to pack fragile items
- Pack plates vertically (like records), to avoid breaking.
- Alternatively, pack them horizontally, while placing disposable plates between each breakable plate.
- Put socks over your glasses and jars to protect them from breaking.
- Wrap your glasses with newspaper, paper towels, or bubble wrap.
- Wrap your breakables in clothing if you run out of other supplies or want to reduce the cost of your move.
- Cut out sheets of cardboard to go between picture frames and stack them vertically (also like records).
Vacuum storage bags are a huge lifesaver. They save space, help protect your belongings (particularly clothes or blankets), and make moving easier. You can find affordable vacuum storage bags, or make your own imitation vacuum storage bags if you are looking for an even more affordable option. While they won't condense your packing as much as a real vacuum storage bag, they still save space and make packing easier.
How to make vacuum storage bags
- Nicely fold your blankets or clothing.
- Neatly put them into a garbage bag with strings (do not overpack).
- Sinch the strings of the garbage bag closer, only leaving enough room for a vacuum hose.
- Turn on your vacuum hose and insert it in the hole at the top of the garbage bag.
- When it has removed most of the air, seal the bag tightly (leave no holes).
While it might be tempting to put your furniture into the truck, trailer, or van and move it as is, you should really think about preventing damages during the moving process. There's nothing worse than spending the money on a trailer, only to get to your new place and notice a rip in your couch or a scratch on your table.
Protecting your furniture with sheets, towels, plastic stretch wrap, blankets, and other protective supplies and equipment is essential to simplifying your move. If you can prevent a moving disaster, do it.
How to protect furniture when moving
- Use plastic stretch wrap (wrap it several times in case there is a rip in the wrapping and avoid using wrapping on wooden furniture in hot or humid weather).
- If you have a professional service, or furniture pads you can buy or borrow, use them!
- Use blankets, towels, or quilts.
- Make sure drawers or doors cannot pull or swing open and are secure (this avoids damage too).
Before you leave your old place, and before you unpack all your belongings into your new place, take a few pictures of the space whiles it's empty. This quick moving tip can protect you from unforeseen charges.
By taking pictures of your old place after leaving, you have proof of what condition it was in (especially if it was a rental) when you left. The new renter can't blame any damages made after you leave on you, and your landlord can't charge you for damages that weren't there. By taking pictures before moving into your new place, you have proof of what damages were there before you moved in, so that you don't end up paying for that stain or nail hole you didn't cause.
Packing backward may sound like an odd concept, but it really goes hand-in-hand with the idea of unpacking essentials first. Pack the things you need least first, because everything else will be packed in front of those items, they will be hard to get to, and you will have to unpack other items first.
Try packing in order of importance:
- Least important
- Somewhat important
- Very important
In your essentials box, bag, or kit, include your sheets and pillow. If you have a particular favorite comforter or pillow, bring that one. The goal is to make your home as comfortable and accommodating as you can during your first hours, and night, there. So, don't be afraid to bypass your normal comforter and go for the blanket you've had since you were a kid or the silk pillowcases you bought and swear by. As you unpack your essentials, also bring in your bed and bed frame.
During your initial unpacking phase, set up your bed and get it made with your favorite comfort items. This way, if you've had a very long move, you can always rest after unpacking your essentials. If not, you know that when you are done unpacking, your bed is ready and waiting for you to get some much-deserved rest.
By unpacking your kitchen boxes and main essentials first, you are taking a step toward getting yourself comfortable and making sure you have the basics in place in your new home before you unpack anything else. Starting with unpacking the basics gives you a strong foundation and takes into consideration potential time crunches. If you get to your new place late in the day, you can put off unpacking everything else because your essentials are unpacked and good to go.
You have your main toiletry items if you want to take your first bath or shower in the new place after a big move. You have the main necessities to get cozy and acquainted with the space you've moved into. You can eat. You can even cook, though I would recommend not giving yourself the job of having to make a meal after all the work you've done and have let to do. Your pets have their food and water and comfort items. You can even take a break or nap or trip to the store for groceries. All the rest can come after and is not as high a priority.