Pro Tips for Packing Your Moving Van
Take the hassle out of a DIY move
Published August 11, 2015
No matter the size of your haul—enough to fill half of a dorm room or all of a gracious Queen Anne—packing your moving vehicle the right way will save you time, money, and a few headaches. We tapped John Tarko, a moving industry veteran and owner of Moving Ahead, for advice on making your move easier. "I've made every mistake in the last 32 years," he admits. Read on to reap the benefits of his past blunders before you unroll that bubble wrap.
Packing boxes the right way
Stacking your belongings for an efficient move requires placing items in appropriate boxes. Tarko says to begin with heavy items, like books and canned goods, in small boxes. Medium-size boxes are for incidentals, such as toys. Larger boxes should be reserved for bulkier, lighter items, like pots, pans, and linens.
Packing fragile items
Items that are handled with care during everyday activities deserve special treatment during a move as well. Tarko has found that his team moves mostly flat-screen TVs nowadays. Pro movers have designated TV crates, but the device's original box is always best for a DIY move—if you held on to it. Otherwise, wrap it in bubble wrap, then tape a sized-to-fit piece of cardboard across the front and back for extra protection.
China takes special consideration too. Use a china box (or china barrel, about $4 on uhaul.com) to pack dishes standing up on end. Prime your special box with a piece of bubble wrap on the bottom, then place newsprint in a row across and start stacking dishes. A pro packer—or you, with this expert tip—can pack a service for eight in one box. Expect a full box to weigh in around 40 or 45 pounds.
Mirrors and pieces of art should be wrapped in brown paper and placed in boxes. Tarko says that pros use telescoping mirror carts for these items, but a DIYer can store two or three pieces in one box together. Don't forget to add bubble-wrap cushioning around each piece.
Mattress blankets create a buffer around large pieces of furniture and other items that won't fit in boxes.
Evening out weight distribution
One of the most common mistakes DIY movers make is loading the vehicle without keeping weight distribution in mind. Tarko advises to form a base with large, heavy items like dressers and other pieces of furniture. Then build up with heavier boxes, working your way to the lightest boxes on top. Note that a TV should never be laid flat; instead lay it on its side between mattresses and box springs. Just remember its location when it's time to unload.
Create a buffer between objects by wrapping furniture in mattress pads or blankets (about $13 each on uline.com). Tarko says to make sure that everything in your load is secure for transit. He recommends buying more rope for this than you think you'll need. Also consider rubber straps, which you should ask for if you rent a moving truck.
Unloading with efficiency
Loading up the van is only half the battle. Take certain steps to ease unloading and unpacking, as well. Tarko advises against labeling a box with its contents. Instead, buy a set of color-coded stickers (about $4 for a pack of 1,008 stickers, amazon.com), and reserve a color for each room, like red for the kitchen, green for the basement, etc. Place a sticker on the top and one side of each box and label the doors of the rooms with the appropriate color.
Moving in apartment buildings
Apartment buildings—especially ones with an elevator—may have special considerations for moving. Check your building's requirements. Tarko says that many urban apartments, high-rises, and properties with building managers require a certificate of moving insurance. He also suggests reserving an elevator for your move, as it will save you a considerable amount of time over squeezing your haul in with other residents.
Find more resources for your move at the Long Island Moving & Storage Association website or other regional moving associations.