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10 Packing Tips To Streamline Your Move (2024 Guide)

Need help packing for your move? Try these tips for a seamless start to your relocation.

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

Packing and unpacking may be the most time-consuming part of a move—especially if you choose to handle them yourself. The idea of sorting through and packing everything you own can feel overwhelming, not to mention the decluttering and disassembling you’ll have to do in the process.

We’ve spent hours researching the best moving companies and writing about moving, and we’ve learned a thing or two about packing. In this article, we rounded up our best packing tips, plus general recommendations to make your move easier.

10 Packing Tips for Moving

The thought and care you put into packing will pay off later in the moving process. Below are 10 packing tips to keep your belongings safe, simplify the move-in process, and save money.

1. Gather Free Packing Supplies

Cut moving costs and ask for free moving boxes and supplies. Large retailers and local businesses often have empty boxes they’re willing to give away. Check stores receiving frequent deliveries and large shipments, such as bookstores, pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants. Then, ask friends, family, and coworkers if they have any boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, mattress bags, or other materials and supplies.

U-Haul’s Customer Connect makes finding people selling or giving away used boxes and moving supplies easy. You can also check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

2. Use What You Already Have

Scour your home for items that can double as packing materials. For instance, you can use your kid’s stuffed animals to fill empty spaces when you pack boxes with fragile items. Utilize blankets, linens, and towels in place of bubble wrap.

You can get even more creative if you rent a moving truck instead of hiring professional movers. To move clothes and other lightweight, nonbreakable items, use hampers, laundry baskets, dresser drawers, duffle bags, and even garbage bags. Hard-shell suitcases provide extra protection for breakable items, while the suitcase wheels make heavy items easier to move.

3. Invest in Specialty Equipment and Services

You typically won’t find specialty boxes for free, but some packing supplies and equipment are worth the investment, especially for mirrors, TVs, glassware, and other fragile items. U-Haul sells boxes designed to preserve these items, including ones with built-in dividers for drink glasses. Alternatively, you can pay movers to pack only your most fragile items for extra assurance.

If you plan to rent a moving truck, consider renting equipment that will make loading, securing, and unloading your belongings easier. Examples include hand trucks, furniture dollies, ratchet straps, furniture pads, and lifting straps. Vacuum-sealed bags will help winter gear and bedding take up less room. You should also keep a box cutter on hand to help you open boxes when it’s time to unpack. 

4. Have a Plan for Hazardous and Perishable Items

Did you know there are some things moving companies won’t move? Common examples include flammable liquids, aerosol cans, and perishable foods. Some companies also refuse to move plants and pets.

Ask for a list of items your moving company won’t move. Either dispose of these items before moving or transport them yourself. Your local government, landfill, or trash company can answer questions about how to dispose of hazardous materials that can’t be tossed out with regular trash.

5. Purge and Pack Storage Areas First

The first items you pack should be the ones you use the least. With that in mind, start by sorting and packing items in storage areas, such as your basement, attic, or garage. The items in your closets and other storage areas may already be boxed up, saving you time and money.

Remember that long-distance moving companies typically factor the size and weight of your belongings into their rates. Because of that, it’s worth taking time to comb through and purge rarely used items instead of packing and moving them.

6. Pack the Kitchen Early

With cabinets full of breakable dishes and glassware, your kitchen will be one of the most difficult rooms to pack. You also likely use many of the items in it every day. Those two facts make it tempting to hold off on packing your kitchen until the last minute. However, it’s best to pack the kitchen several days before your move so that you have plenty of time to pack things properly.

Start with serving dishes and small appliances that don’t see daily use. Then, free up your remaining cookware by committing to takeout or buying simple, microwavable meals. Pack all your dishware and utensils except a single place setting for each family member, or purchase paper plates, disposable cups, and plastic utensils for the last week in your old home.

7. Set Aside Valuables and Essentials

Think about what you’ll need easy access to on moving day. If you are moving cross-country, consider what you’ll need during the trip. Pack these items in a suitcase that will stay with you during the move. For instance, you might pack one or more changes of clothes along with your prescriptions, toiletries, important documents, and any valuable or sentimental items.

You may also want to pack a box of things you’ll need as soon as you move into your new house. You can call this your “open-first box” and fill it with paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper plates, trash bags, and batteries.

8. Inventory and Label as You Pack

Create a moving inventory as you pack. You can do this in a spreadsheet or notebook or simply take pictures of each box as you pack it. This system will make filing an insurance claim with your moving company easier if anything gets lost or broken in transit.
Further, label boxes so you know which room each box belongs in and what it contains. You can use stickers or a color-code system to stay organized or spell everything out on the box. It might also help to number the boxes that belong in each room. For example, if there are five living room boxes, label the first one “Living Room 1/5″ and so on.

9. Keep Furniture Parts and Assembly Tools Together

Some furniture, such as bookshelves and bed frames, might need to be disassembled before moving. Keep track of any hardware and tools you will need to reassemble these items. One option is to put screws and other small pieces into a resealable plastic bag, then attach the bag to a larger piece of furniture with masking tape.
Alternatively, you can label the bag with a permanent marker and pack it into a dedicated box. With this method, you’ll store the hardware and tools for every piece of furniture in the same box.

10. Think Beyond Packing

You must carry the boxes you pack unless you hire a full-service moving company. That means you should account for the size and weight of each box. Putting heavier items, such as books and dishes, into smaller boxes will help you avoid overfilling them. Even when filled with relatively light items, larger boxes are harder to carry than small boxes with built-in handles.

Also, think ahead to the unpacking process. Transporting your clothes in plastic bags might save you money on the front end, but wardrobe boxes will be more convenient on the back end. These boxes have built-in metal bars that allow you to keep hanging clothes on their hangers, making packing and unpacking much faster.

Of course, packing is only one part of the moving process. If you want to streamline your move, you need a full guide to moving that covers everything from choosing a moving company to changing your address

The dropdown sections below provide a few tips and tricks to get you started:

Use a Moving Binder

The first thing you should do is create a moving binder. You can purchase a dedicated moving planner online or build a binder with page protectors, pocket folders, and dividers. If you prefer digital planning, look for an app or create a new folder in Dropbox or Google Drive to save copies of everything move-related.

The first two items in your binder should be a moving budget and a moving checklist. Research the cost of several moving options and services, from renting a moving truck to hiring a full-service moving company. Use your research to estimate your moving expenses. Be sure to factor in moving insurance, tips, and any travel arrangements you need to make.

Pick Your Move Date Strategically

As you set the date for your move, account for the law of supply and demand. For local and interstate moving companies, summer is the busiest time of year. As a result, many charge higher prices during the summer months. If you have a tight budget, moving during the off-season of late fall to early spring is a better option. You can also save money by moving in the middle of the week rather than on the weekend.

Take a Hybrid Approach

Hiring a full-service mover and paying for white-glove moving services—complete with packing, unpacking, cleaning, and furniture assembly—is the most convenient way to move. However, it’s also the most expensive. Renting a truck and doing everything yourself is much cheaper but takes considerable time and effort.
Instead of choosing either extreme, consider a hybrid approach. Cut costs where you can, but splurge on things that will make your life easier. For instance, you can rent a moving truck and transport everything yourself but hire professional movers to pack for you, or you can hire a full-service company to load and unload but handle your own packing.
Another middle-of-the-road option is renting a portable moving container from a company such as PODS, which saves you the hassle of driving a moving truck.

Keep a Tape Measure Handy

Before moving, take the time to measure everything—especially if you are downsizing to a smaller home. Write down the dimensions of each room in your new house, paying special attention to areas smaller than your current home. Then, measure your furniture, decor, and other large items to ensure everything fits. That way, you won’t waste time and money moving something you won’t be able to keep.

Create an Unpacking Schedule

Without a good plan, you might wake up a year from now with unpacked boxes still shoved in the back of your closet. Develop an unpacking schedule before you carry the first box into your new home. Your priority should be unpacking the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen so you can sleep, shower, and eat comfortably.
If you work from home, focus on your home office. The living room, dining room, guest room, and lesser-used rooms should come last. Set a deadline for when you’d like to be fully unpacked and a few checkpoints. Help yourself stay motivated by celebrating your progress whenever a room is complete.

Our Conclusion

As you begin packing for your move, put some time and thought into your approach. Is cost or convenience your biggest concern? Your answer will determine which packing hacks make the most sense for you. 

Sourcing free boxes and repurposing household linens will help you save money on packing supplies, but paying extra for specialty boxes or fragile-only packing assistance might be worth it to save time and hassle.

Develop a system for labeling boxes and create a moving inventory as you go. Take things one room at a time and recruit the help of family and friends if possible. If not, consider hiring professional help. Several cheap moving companies offer various services to make your move easier, from full-service packing and unpacking to cleaning, auto transport, and even pet relocation.

FAQ About Packing for Moving

How long before moving out should you start packing?

You should start packing at least three weeks before moving out. However, depending on your schedule and the size of your home, you might want to begin six weeks in advance. Plan to spend four to six hours per room on packing. You may need to budget more time if you factor in cleaning, sorting, and purging unwanted items. The earlier you start and the more you prepare, the less stressful your moving process will be.

What is the hardest room to pack when moving?

The kitchen is often the hardest room to pack when moving because it contains many breakable items. It takes time to carefully wrap your plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, knives, and serving dishes. Garages and storage sheds are also hard to pack because they contain many large and oddly shaped items.

What should you pack last when moving?

The last things you should pack are items you use daily or need in the days leading up to your move, which include the following:

  • Basic tools
  • Bedding
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Medications
  • Toiletries

What is the best way to pack fragile items?

The best way to pack fragile items is to wrap them individually with packing paper or bubble wrap. For extra protection, use special boxes, such as dish packs and cell boxes or heavy-duty and double-corrugated cardboard boxes. Fill any space in the box with packing peanuts, crumpled newspaper, air pillows, or other cushioning material, then seal the box tightly with tape along each seam. Be sure to label the box as fragile in bold letters.

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