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How To Pack Clothes for Moving (2024 Guide)

Default Author Icon Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 04/19/2024

Moving can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful—especially when it comes to packing your clothes. Following the right strategies and using the proper supplies can make the process much easier, regardless of whether you go the DIY route or hire a top-rated moving company.

To help you out, we have rounded up some of the best tips for packing clothes for a move. In this article, we cover every step of the process, from deciding what to pack to gathering the right materials.


Packing Clothes When You’re Moving

Your clothes are one of the most important—and complicated—items to pack for a move. This breakdown will help make it easier.

Decide What To Pack

Before packing a single shirt, you must first decide what to bring and what to leave behind. You can save time, effort, and money by decluttering before packing—and your closet is a good place to start. 

Go through your entire wardrobe and sort your clothes into three piles: keep, toss, and donate. If you have time, you could sell gently used items at a yard sale, take them to a thrift store, or post them on a site like Poshmark or ThredUp.

If you aren’t sure what to keep and what to let go, here are a few tips to help you decide:

  • Set aside the essentials. Identify the items you wear most frequently and put them in the “keep” pile.
  • Consider the destination. If you’re making a long-distance move, consider the climate of your new locale and purge seasonal clothing you’ll no longer need. For instance, if you are moving from Minnesota to Florida, you can donate your heavy winter coats but keep most of your lighter items.
  • Try things on. When you come across an item you haven’t worn recently, take a moment to try it on. Donate pieces that no longer look or feel good so that someone else can enjoy them.
  • Check for duplicates and extras. Sort items into categories—such as jeans, sweaters, and sneakers—and consider how many of each you actually need. The less you pack, the lower your moving costs may be.
  • Rethink sentimental items. If you keep certain items purely for sentimental value, reconsider storing them in the back of your closet. For instance, old T-shirts can be cut and sewn into a quilt. Your grandpa’s favorite flannel shirt can be converted into a throw pillow or teddy bear. Even your wedding dress can be creatively repurposed.

Moving can be a stressful experience, but grouping clothes by category can make the packing and unpacking processes much easier. Here are a few ways you can organize your clothes for packing:

Sort by Type

The most obvious way to sort your clothes is by type of clothing: shoes, tops, bottoms, dresses and skirts, suits, underwear, outerwear, and accessories. This packing method will make it easier to find specific items later.

You can take this a step further by dividing each clothing category into subtypes. For instance, you could separate your tops into T-shirts, sweaters, and blouses. Bottoms could be subdivided into jeans, shorts, slacks, and athletic wear.

Sort by Material

Keep delicate fabrics and hanging clothes separate from other items to avoid snags and wrinkles. Wrap clothing made of silk, lace, or cashmere in tissue paper or place in a garment bag. Keep leather suits and dresses on wooden or padded hangers rather than folding them.

Be careful to separate items with zippers, hook-and-eye fasteners, buttons, and metal details from your more delicate items. Label boxes that contain delicate clothing as fragile.

Sort by Season

If your wardrobe contains warm- and cold-weather clothing, sorting by season could be practical. This will allow you to prioritize between summer and winter clothes when packing and unpacking. You can pack off-season clothes first and pack clothes for the current season last.

Sort by Occasion

To sort your clothes by occasion, consider when and where you wear them. For instance, you might have certain clothes you only wear to work. Those clothes could be grouped together to help you find what you need when unpacking. You might also have separate boxes for everyday clothes, sleepwear, formalwear, workout clothes, etc.

Sort for Efficiency

Certain clothing types require special care when packing. For instance, you should pack hats in sturdy boxes and stuff them with something soft to help them hold their shape. If you are packing for efficiency, you can use socks or underwear instead of tissue paper. You can take the same approach with shoes by stuffing them with smaller clothing items and wrapping them in a T-shirt to prevent scuffs or damage.

Suits, dresses, and leather jackets travel best on padded hangers, so pack them in a garment bag or wardrobe box. If you choose the latter, you may have a little extra space at the bottom of the box. This space can be filled with shoes, purses, scarves, or other accessories. Just be sure to wrap anything that might cause snagging in plastic. Bulky outerwear can be folded and packed together in a vacuum-sealed storage bag to save space.


Gather the Right Supplies

The right packing supplies will keep your clothes safe while moving or in storage, so factor them into your moving budget. Here are some commonly used supplies for packing clothes, plus information on how to use them effectively:

  • Garment bags: Garment bags are made of various materials, each with pros and cons. Their main function is to protect clothes from light, humidity, and dust. You can use garment bags to hang suits, dresses, jackets, and other clothing that requires special care.
  • Wardrobe boxes: Wardrobe boxes are typically made of sturdy cardboard and feature a built-in metal hanging bar. They work well for transporting clothes you would rather hang than fold. You can easily transfer clothing items from your closet to a wardrobe box without taking them off their hangers.
  • Packing paper: Packing paper provides a layer of padding and protection for delicate clothes, such as items made from silk, lace, or wool. You can also use packing paper to fill in the empty spaces of shoes, purses, and hats.
  • Hat boxes: As the name suggests, hat boxes are designed to store and transport hats. Hat boxes come in various sizes and materials. However, they are generally designed to resist crushing and often feature a built-in carrying handle.
  • Plastic bins: Plastic bins can be a cost-effective upgrade from traditional cardboard moving boxes. They offer more protection from moisture, mold, and pests, making them ideal for long-term storage. You can also stack them more safely and easily than cardboard boxes.
  • Shoe boxes: Most shoes come in a perfectly sized box that protects them from scuffs and other damage. If you no longer have the original shoe box, you can purchase cardboard or plastic shoe boxes from major retailers or shipping supply stores.
  • Plastic bags: Plastic bags are an inexpensive way to pack certain clothes. Garbage bags are particularly handy. You can use them as low-cost garment bags or to keep dirty or delicate clothes separate from other items.
  • Duffel bags and suitcases: Many clothes can be folded using the military rolling method and packed into regular duffel bags or suitcases. Rolling instead of flat-folding your clothes can help prevent wrinkles and save space.

Not all clothes require wrapping and padding—but some do. For instance, you should use packing or tissue paper to wrap delicate clothes. Wrap each item individually, using additional layers of paper for extra protection. If you are worried about certain items shifting during transport, use crumpled paper, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or pre-filled air pillows to fill any empty spaces.

QUICK Tip

Of course, you can always hire professional movers to handle your packing for you. Though there are some things moving companies won’t move, they have the supplies and experience to pack even your most delicate clothing safely.


Label and Organize

Labeling boxes will help you keep track of your belongings and make unpacking easier. With clearly labeled boxes, you can find what you need without opening and unpacking every box.

Here are a few tips for labeling and organizing boxes as you pack your clothes:

Develop a system: Identify a labeling system that works for you and stick to it. Note which room or family member the box belongs to and the general clothing category inside. 
Use a marker: Buy a thick, dark marker for labeling cardboard boxes. If you use plastic bins, you can write on masking tape or a piece of paper taped to the side.
Number boxes: Group boxes by room or category and number them as a set. For instance, if you have two boxes of shirts, you could label them “Shirts 1/2″ and “Shirts 2/2.” That way, you will be sure to notice if a box goes missing.
Pack similar items together: Use one or two of the methods suggested in this article to sort and organize your clothes. This will make it easier to label boxes and find what you need when you arrive at your new address.
Keep essentials separate: Set aside a few outfits and pack them in a box or suitcase with other essentials, such as toiletries and important documents.
Label multiple sides: Be sure to label each box on at least two sides so that you can easily identify the contents no matter how they are stacked. Ideally, label them on each side. However, you may not need to list the full contents on each side. You could write a detailed label on one side and list the room or general category on the other three.

Conclusion

Packing clothes for a move can seem daunting, but with the right strategies and supplies, it can be a breeze. Start by sorting your clothes into different groups based on type, material, season, or occasion, purging unwanted items as you go. Then, find the right supplies for each group, such as garment bags, plastic bins, wardrobe boxes, and packing paper.

Give yourself ample time to sort through your clothes, pack them carefully, and label each box clearly. With these packing tips in mind, you can enjoy a smooth and stress-free moving experience. However, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance—if you feel overwhelmed, consider hiring a professional moving company to help.


FAQ About Packing Clothes for Moving

How do I pack shoes for moving?

The best way to pack shoes for moving is in shoe boxes. If you pack shoes with other items, wrap the shoes in packing paper or plastic wrap to prevent scuffs. You should also stuff paper or socks inside the shoes to help them hold their shape. Be sure to pack your shoes in pairs and clean them beforehand—especially if you plan to pack them alongside other clean clothes.

Should I pack clothes on hangers or fold them?

When deciding whether to pack clothes on hangers or fold them, consider how you typically store them. You can use garment bags to transport clothes on their hangers and plastic bins for folded clothes. Clothes that belong in your dresser can even be kept inside the dresser drawers during transport. Wardrobe boxes let you quickly pack clothes from your closet without removing their hangers.

How do I keep delicate fabrics from getting damaged during transport?

Here are a few tips to keep delicate fabrics from getting damaged during transport:

  • Hand-wash or dry-clean delicate items before packing.
  • Wrap delicate items in acid-free tissue paper.
  • Flat-pack delicate pieces to prevent crushing or wrinkling.
  • Label boxes with delicate fabrics as “fragile.”
  • Use breathable fabric garment bags rather than plastic bags.
  • Store delicate items in a climate-controlled area to avoid damage.

What should I do with clothes that need to be dry-cleaned?

Clothes that need to be dry-cleaned should be cleaned before packing. This will prevent dirt and stains from setting in during transport and ensure they are ready to wear when you arrive at your new home.

Once the clothes have been dry-cleaned, you can hang them in garment bags or wardrobe boxes, or you can pack them in a laydown wardrobe box. Keep them separate from other clothes and label them “delicate” or “fragile.”


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