How to Pack for Your Move

Breaking a household down into boxes is nobody’s idea of a dinner party, but if you apply common sense and the right materials to the job, it’ll make moving seem that much closer to being a piece of cake. The keys are to get started early and use common sense — plus plenty of masking tape.

Gather Your Gear

With a task like packing for a move, earlier is better. From the time you know you’re going to be changing addresses, you should be planning the actual move itself. This is a great time to get rid of things you haven’t used since the days of Barney Rubble, or the things you won’t be using again before the next Ice Age.

When you’ve sorted out the things you know you won’t be taking — like that velvet painting of Elvis — get a garage sale together. You can do this on your own or as a collaboration with neighbors, and it’s a way of making money to finance your move while shedding things you don’t want to bother dragging with you. If you can’t sell something, consider donating it. And if your best friend’s been eyeing that parka you never wear and you happen to be moving to Hawaii, now may be the perfect time to give her an early birthday present.

Boxes and Bubble Wrap

Now that you’ve figured out what you’re going to keep, start making a plan for packing. Begin collecting a wide array of cardboard boxes, making sure to get a good variety of sizes for your various items. Before buying boxes — which can be an expensive endeavor — try seeing if you can get them for free. Ask friends or relatives if they have any moving boxes to spare, and visit some local stores to pick up their extras. Liquor-store boxes are excellent for this purpose — they’re sturdy and come with dividers that are perfect for storing glassware or vases. Bookshops and grocery stores are also good scrounging grounds for boxes — ask the store manager and he or she will point you in the right direction.
Even if you get your other boxes for free, you should consider buying special wardrobe boxes for your dressier clothing. These can be bought from any moving company and will save you the wear and tear of dry-cleaning wrinkled items post-move.

To cushion breakable items and keep them in one piece, use bubble wrap or some other sturdy, clean and soft material. Many people use newspaper, but if you’re considering this, keep in mind that the ink they contain never fully dries. If you want to run the risk of comic strips rubbing off on Aunt Jacqueline’s antique Tiffany lamp, go for it, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Make sure all boxes have secure bottoms and tops that close. This is particularly important when packing more fragile items. If a box’s flaps are frayed, reinforce them with masking tape before packing. Place small, heavy items in small boxes — few things are less fun than carrying a huge box full of heavy books. Lighter, bulkier items such as quilts or shoes can be carried in larger boxes.

Pack heavier items toward the bottom of the box, followed by lighter ones closer to the top. Use masking tape to seal boxes and make sure not to stack heavier boxes atop more delicate ones. As with many things, it’s best to let common sense be your guide.

The Tao of Packing

So maybe putting things in a box isn’t your idea of meditation, but there are logical ways to go about it that may put you more at ease. Pack in as orderly a manner as possible, going room by room. Start by packing the things you don’t immediately need, and as you get closer to moving day, box up the rest. Make sure to leave yourself a bag for immediate needs — toiletries, a change of clothes, perhaps a book and even a picnic meal for when you get to your new home — so that you won’t be digging through boxes to find your pajamas after a full day of transporting your things.

When packing flatware, bundle plates together with packing paper separating each individual one. Wrap the entire bundle, then reinforce it with masking tape before placing it in a box. Cups and glasses may be tucked one inside the other, but also be sure to separate them with paper to avoid breakages. Pack goblets and stemware separately, as they are more fragile.

Boxed foods that have been opened can be re-sealed with tape.

Tall items such as lamps may require special boxes or cartons. When packing these items, make sure to mark them as fragile. And while you’ve got that magic marker out, be sure to label each box so that unpacking on the other end will be a much easier job.

If you’re loading your own truck, remember the importance of common sense. Use space wisely — for example, putting a mattress in the middle of a U-Haul truck bed is not nearly as practical as standing it on its side. Tie down large, heavy or awkward items. If you’re hiring professional movers, make sure drawers are empty. Items in drawers increase the chance of your furniture getting damaged in a jouncing truck.

Do not pack aerosols, flammables or explosives. These include aerosol spray cans, gasoline and paint thinner.

Making the Next Time Easier

Moving’s no picnic, but it’s a good chance to learn from previous mistakes. You can make the job easier for your next move by saving boxes, bubble wrap and masking tape. Boxes can be broken down and flattened for easy storage under beds or in closets. If you have a good experience with your movers, save their contact information if you think you’ll need it again.

And if you’ve brought that velvet Elvis painting — well, find a good place for it and display it proudly. It probably won’t get snapped up at your next yard sale, either.

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