Making the Move: Packing Tips, Part One

Young man and woman carrying a green rolled up rug on their shoulder are smiling.

Moving into your new home should be an enjoyable experience — so don’t let the packing process get in the way. With a few simple tips, your move can be stress free.

Learn how to make your move a smooth process.

With an impending move on the horizon, it’s easy to push off packing.

You have so many other things on your mind, like saying goodbye to your neighborhood and anticipating the new one where you’ll be settling.

If you’re moving to a new city or state, there are the farewell parties, tying up loose ends at your job and making camp and school plans for your kids. No matter how long you avoid it, the packing has to get done or there will be no move.

“The longer you wait to begin unpacking, the less motivation and energy you’ll have, so don’t put it off,” advises Carolyn McKibbon of “Your mood will improve if you keep telling yourself that each empty box brings you closer to making your new house a home.”

Making a Plan and Getting Started

This may seem obvious, but don’t assume you have a true move date before you have booked a moving company. Many clients wait until the week of their desired move date to sign a contract with a mover, which can increase moving costs, corner you into hiring packers or even force you to push back your move date. Once you have a definite date for your move, make a packing plan that will allow you to create an inventory of what you own, determine which items you want to move and which you want to sell or give away and alleviate some of the packing pressure by spreading it out over many weeks.

As You Sort and Pack, Take Inventory

Depending on the coverage plan you purchase with your movers, you will be required to present an inventory list in the event of damage or theft. Without an actual inventory, it's also unlikely you’ll remember everything you own.

Also, knowing what you own is beneficial if you ever need to make good on homeowners insurance. Another perk: with a clear idea of what you have, you can best decide how to organize your new home.

Several apps, such as MyStuff2 and Delicious Library, can make the process simple. If you aren’t a techie, pen and paper will do just fine (when you’re done, put it in a fireproof box where you keep important papers).

Assess All Your Stored Items

About six weeks before your move, there is some prep work that will make your final week before moving much easier.

Do you keep storage stowed away in your garage or a shed in the backyard, in bins under the bed, stacked in boxes in the basement or attic, even putting your overage in a paid storage unit? Six weeks before you move, review every single item that is stored and decide what to keep, sell, give away and throw away.

“Only pack what you really want to take with you,” says certified professional organizer Amy Trager. “It wastes time and energy to pack and unpack something that you won’t even continue to use or enjoy in your new space. Moving is a great time to weed out items you don’t want or need anymore and moving also unearths treasured items that you’ll want to bring out in your new home.”

Moving is a great time to weed out items you don’t want or need anymore and also unearths treasured items that you’ll want to bring out in your new home. “See how many items you can cull from storage to sell in a garage sale or on Craigslist or Amazon,” advises professional organizer Allison Flinn.

The earlier you get started editing these unwanted items out of your life — from clothing and furniture to the remains of your expired hobbies (read: water ski circa 1982, archery equipment, loom) — the more you’ll actually be able to sell. Dedicate yourself to marketing your garage sale and diligently post and mail out Internet sales and you could finance much of your move. You’ll be surprised how much that box of books from grad school is worth to Amazon shoppers.

Shop for Moving Boxes

Instead of splurging on new boxes, rustle up used ones. They are friendlier to the environment and significantly less expensive, sometimes even free. Call your local liquor store to ask if they’ll save boxes the day of their next shipment or shop at stores like Eco Box in Texas or Georgia Green Box, where you’ll discover a huge supply of used boxes in every size, as well as packing materials.

Another option is reusable moving boxes, such as Recopacks from, which are delivered to your door.

Need a special, hard-to-find box? “A good mover will be able to provide you with specific boxes if needed as well,” says Al Ponchack, director of operations at Holman Moving Systems.

Pack Decorative Items First

When you’re done sifting through storage, next on your packing list is artworks, framed photos, paintings and other decorative items that exist mainly to be looked at rather than used (as opposed to functional art). Wrap all frames and delicate items in bubble wrap as these are easy to break or scratch. (Note: If you save every piece of bubble wrap that comes into your house, you seriously cut down on the amount you’ll need to buy.)

Place decorative pieces in medium-sized boxes so they aren’t too heavy and so the weight of too many top pieces doesn’t crush the bottom ones. “Be conscious of the cost of packing materials — you could easily spend $14.50 on packing a $3 vase,” warns lifestyle expert Denise Baron.

Clothes, Toys and Sporting Equipment

Clothes that are out of season can be packed six weeks ahead. Wardrobe boxes are easiest to pack because all you have to do is places clothes on hangers on the inside bar, just like a closet. If you hold on to wire hangers from the dry cleaners, you can put most of your shirts, pants and dresses in wardrobe boxes. Any folded clothes should be placed in a plastic trash bag before they are boxed up, in case the boxes get wet in transit.

Usually kids go through phases with toys. They get into something for a while and then it shifts to the back burner while another toy gets a lot of play.

“Children often have a hard time accepting a move, especially if they are leaving the house they lived in since birth or one that’s in a neighborhood where their close friends live,” says Anna Van de Pol, who has made more than five moves with kids. “Involving them in the packing process can help them understand and accept the reality of the move, and, in the process, they’ll rediscover toys they’ve forgotten about. They’ll be eager to take these out again in their new home. Any toys that aren’t in heavy rotation can be packed a month (or more) ahead and so can sports equipment that’s out of season.”

Have a Packing Party

Closer to your move date, the packing gets much more intense. Most of your free time is dedicated to packing. Since so many personal items are involved, you’ll do much of it yourself. But packing parties can be fun too, especially in the kitchen where you’re unlikely to come across lace panties or a private letter. Check with your friends to see when they are available for an afternoon or evening a week or two before your move and invite them over to help, even if it's for an hour or two.

Buy a few bottles of wine and cue your favorite tunes. When half the kitchen is packed, order delivery of the best pizza in town and share memories of moments you’ve had together in the house. If your packing party can double as a cathartic experience for you and the ones you love, it helps ease the stress of your move. Packing is practical, but moving is emotional and is listed among the top stressors a person can go through in life. Most of us don’t have time to skip a beat before, during or after a move, so it’s smart to build stress relief into the moving process wherever you can.

In Part Two of this article, we’ll take you through each room of the house and offer packing tips specific to the items in those spaces.

Sarah Kinbar is a freelance writer and editor for leading print and online publications. Formerly editor in chief of Garden Design, she has also written and edited for Cottage Living, Modern magazine and Orlando Arts. You can find her on Google+.

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