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Everything You Need to Know About Packing for a Move

A TV box by Bankers Box, bubble wrap by Duck, and a wardrobe box by Bankers Box.
Bankers Box/Duck

Packing an entire house or apartment worth of stuff is a lot of work, and it can quickly get really stressful. That’s where we come in! We’ll teach you everything we know about packing your belongings, along with a list of everything you’ll need.

Moving is time-consuming and exhausting. Of course, you can lighten the load by hiring a moving company, but the less you rely on one, the cheaper it will be.

Whether you hire help or not, most people choose to pack their belongings on their own. From estimating your packing needs to keeping everything organized, we’ll walk you through the entire process, so everything will be ready to go on moving day.

General Packing Tips

Packing an entire house of belongings is a lot of work, especially if it’s your first time doing so. It’s one of those jobs that takes lots of prep, and careful organization, so that when you unpack (at your new destination), you know where everything is.

Here are some general packing tips to consider:

  • Declutter first: Before moving, it’s a good idea to eliminate as much stuff as possible. In fact, renting a dumpster or setting donation boxes aside to fill up is always a good rule of thumb. You’ll find lots of things you don’t want or need anymore.
  • Get a sitter: Send the kids to a babysitter or on a play date so you can have a quiet home to work, or ask a friend or family member to come help lighten the load.
  • Create checklists: Checklists and timelines are helpful so you can stay on task and get the job done in time for your movers. Be ready on moving day.
  • Pack one room at a time: Keep everything organized by packing one room at a time, and be sure to label every box.
  • Transport valuable items yourself: You, not the movers, should transport valuable items, like jewelry, family heirlooms, or anything extremely fragile. That way, if anything is damaged or lost, it’s on you, not them.
  • Get coolers: Refrigerated foods should be packed last in coolers with plenty of ice.
  • Lock up important files: Keep crucial files and papers in the file cabinet, locked, if possible, to ensure all information remains confidential.
  • Pack heavy items in smaller boxes: If you’ve packed a large box that is extremely heavy, chances are it’s unsafe for movers, too. So, keep books and heavier items in multiple smaller boxes. Lighter items go in larger boxes.
  • Fragile items need extra cushion: Anything fragile should be wrapped in bubble wrap or wrapping paper and packed with extra cushioning from packing peanuts or bunched-up paper. The extra padding should fill all gaps and empty spaces in the box to avoid shifting around during the move.
  • Disassembled items should be packed together: If you take anything apart (like a table or chair), pack all the items together and label everything, so putting it back together is a breeze.

Phew! That’s a lot of stuff to remember, so be sure to click print so you’ll have this list to go by when the big day comes.

Estimating Your Needs

Before going online and buying all the products needed for your upcoming move, do your best to estimate them. For example, knowing how many boxes and which packing supplies to purchase for the move is vital.

The size of the house, number of bedrooms, and essentially the number of items you have will make all the difference. Luckily, you can find plenty of packing calculators online to help you assess your needs and figure out what you need for your move.

To help you get started, though, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common moving supplies. The amount of each you’ll need depends on how much stuff you have. A moving calculator will also provide you with a list of items you’ll likely need and an estimated amount you might have to spend on each.

General Moving Boxes

Two images of boxes being carried, packed and stacked before moving day.
Amazon Basics

Boxes are a must for any move, but deciding which size and how many of each you need is what throws everyone off. There’s no equation to help us determine an exact amount, but assessing will help guide you.

Remember heavier items like books, dishes, and appliances should all be packed in smaller boxes. Overfilling large boxes with heavy items is dangerous. They’ll not only be too heavy to carry, but they can also cause boxes (and the items inside) to break.

A Wardrobe Box

Two images of a woman packing a large wardrobe box with hanging clothes, to avoid wrinkling and folding, with an image of two wardrobe boxes placed by the door, ready for movers to grab and store in the truck.
Bankers Box

These are great for expensive suits or midsized clothing you want to hang rather than fold. It’s great for moving quality clothing without having to worry about ironing later when you still have 1,000 other tasks to tackle.

This box will hold 30-40 shirts with thin hangers and fewer with thicker hangers, like those made of wood. Build your box with ease, then seal it without tape before moving on to the next task.

A TV/Mirror Box

A woman placing a large mirror inside of a Bankers Box mirror box while packing other belongings too.
Bankers Box

Television boxes are another great investment, as they’re specifically designed with corrugated board and structured to hold flat-screen televisions. Movers will tell you the original box with inserts that your TV came in is actually the best option for moving your set, so use that if you have it.

Tape Dispenser and Packing Tape

Two images of someone using the Tape King tape dispenser to seal up a box.
Tape King

Tape dispensers are super convenient and help get the job done in a timely fashion. When you have a bazillion boxes to pack and seal, the last thing you need is to fidget around with finding and stripping clear tape.

This professional-grade packing dispenser features an ergonomic handle and easy threading, so you won’t have to worry about splitting tape.

Foam Sheet Dividers

Two images of boxes being packed and layering items with DAT foam sheets.

These lightweight foam sheets offer protective cushioning for glassware, plates, pictures, and anything fragile. They’re just what you need to wrap items in or between them when stacking in a box.

One box of DAT foam sheets comes in a pack of 100, so you’ll have plenty to work with, and they’re all precut to 12 x 12 inches, which is perfect for small, fragile items.

Plus, they can be reused, so when you’re finished with them, pass them on to a friend. They also work well for storing china and other valuables that need extra protection.

Bubble Wrap

Two images of Duck brand bubble wrap being usedf to wrap dishes that are being packed in boxes.

Bubble wrap is an extremely protective plastic wrap with air-filled bubbles that help absorb any bangs or shocks during your move.

Bubble wrap is great for irregularly shaped objects, electronics, and anything fragile. Because of its flexible material, you can wrap just about anything with it. Plus, it’s super lightweight.

Packing Paper

Two iamges featuring Bryco packing paper.

Packing paper has its advantages, too, as it takes up less room than bubble wrap but still provides protection, especially for delicate, lightweight items.

You can wrap packing paper around dishes, collectible figurines, pictures, artwork, and anything else that needs an extra layer of protection. Before filling your box, crumple up some of this paper and line the bottom with it. Then, after you pack the box, use more to fill in any empty spaces.

Stretch Wrap

Two images showing how to use Duck stretch wrap when packing for an upcoming move, including wrapping silverware trays and bins of clothes.

This clingy plastic wrap is just like the kind you use to seal and store foods, but it’s also super helpful when packing your home. It’s perfect for wrapping furniture with drawers and doors, like dressers and desks.

Many also use it to wrap pieces of dismantled furniture together during a move. This makes it easier to find and assemble things when you unpack. It’s also great for keeping boxes closed.

Permanent Markers

Two images featuring chisel tipped sharpies.

Finally, if you don’t have any permanent markers lying around, you’ll definitely want to pick up a pack to help you keep things organized.

A multicolored pack will really help you get and keep things organized. For example, you could use black for general information, red to write the word fragile, and a different color for every room.

Where to Get Deals on Packing Supplies

Moving companies understand it’s almost impossible to predict how many boxes you plan to use, so they’ll offer to repurchase them. For example, U-Haul will refund you for any unused boxes as long as you have the receipt.

Lowe’sHome Depot, Walmart, and other stores will usually refund unused boxes as well. Just be sure to investigate the return policy before you buy, so you’ll be able to do it within the allotted return time limit.

There are also tons of places where you can get free boxes. If you plan to go this route, always select solid boxes that don’t have any damage. Boxes that have gotten wet or have stains from oils or other liquids shouldn’t be reused. You’ll also want to avoid any that are too flimsy.

Check the following places for free boxes:

  • Restaurants: They usually have a separate dumpster only for cardboard. We aren’t suggesting you jump in and start digging, but if you know anyone who works at one, or if you’re a regular somewhere, inquire about boxes.
  • Office buildings: Similar to restaurants, office buildings have loads of boxes from paper and other goods delivered each week. If you know anyone who works in an office complex, reach out and see if they have any to spare.
  • Neighbors and friends: Don’t be shy! Ask friends, family, and neighbors if they have any boxes to spare. Post a quick note on social media, as well.
  • Community-based sites: Websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are great for finding free items. Many towns and cities also have free groups you can join in which community members regularly offer free stuff, or you can just ask for whatever you need.
  • Local transfer station: Your local dump is likely to have an entire section dedicated to recycling which means boxes galore. Call beforehand and ask if you can come to pick some up.
  • U-Haul box exchange: This program allows customers to connect and sell or give away boxes and moving supplies. Every company-owned location offers bins where you can take a box or leave a box, so feel free to stop in any U-Haul location and ask if any free boxes are available. Give back by dropping some off after your move.

How to Keep Items Organized

A woman labeling a moving box with a Sharpie.

There are a few ways you can keep your packed belongings organized. First, start by color coding boxes. You can do this with labels, taping colored paper on the side, or using colored permanent markers.

Clearly label each box, then organize them by room and color so you know exactly where to take the box when you arrive. After each room is finished, pick a new color and move on to the next.

Packing is one big job, but so is unpacking. It’s not a bad idea to tape a list of everything inside each box. This way, when you get wherever you’re going, you’ll know exactly what’s inside and be able to find whatever you’re looking for without having to open every box and rummage for it.

Finally, be sure to pack a suitcase or bag filled with moving day essentials, like toiletries, meds, clothes, and everything you’ll need to get you through the next few days or longer.

Packing Fragile Items

Fragile items need a little extra TLC. While china and glassware are fragile, most people don’t think about other breakable items. Collectibles, glass bottles, art, mirrors, picture frames are all items that need some extra padding.

Here are some of our most practical tips for packing fragile items:

  • Fill empty spaces: Be sure to fill in all the empty spaces of the boxes with balled-up packing paper to avoid shifting.
  • Line boxes: Line the bottom and top of the box with soft packing material, like packing paper, foam, or even thin pillows or towels to allow plenty of cushioning.
  • Stuff hollow items: Fill hollow items with packing paper for extra cushioning.
  • Bag up liquid containers: Liquid containers like liquor bottles should get wrapped and placed in individual bags. That way, if it breaks, the liquid will be contained. These types of items should get packed together in a plastic bin to avoid leaky wet boxes in case anything happens.
  • Wrap individual items: Each fragile item should get wrapped to ensure no items touch one another without proper cushioning or protection in between. Bubble wrap offers lots of thick protection.
  • Wrap Cords: Use plastic wrap for power cords to avoid the prongs from scratching television screens and other expensive electrical items.
  • Tape is your friend: Use plenty of tape to secure boxes, so they don’t break or open up. Also, use tape to secure each individually wrapped item.
  • Mark fragile boxes: Using a bright marker (red is best), clearly mark “Fragile” so you and the movers know that it is. Also, mark the box with an arrow to ensure the box is always handled right side up.
  • Transport important items yourself: These include things like family heirlooms, china, glassware, and precious knickknacks or collectibles.

If you aren’t entirely sure how to pack something special, like an antique jewelry box or crystal wine glass from your great-grandmother, look up a video on YouTube. There are helpful tutorials there on packing pretty much anything!

Now, that you know (and have) everything you need to pack all your belongings, it should help that part of your move go far more smoothly. Loading and unloading, however, is a whole other ball of wax, and sometimes, hiring some extra muscle is essential.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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