As someone who grew up moving quite a bit, and has moved several times in adult life, I can understand how much of a pain in the behind moving can be. Over the course of the years, especially with our biggest move (years and years of items, two kids, halfway across the United States for a military DITY move), I have come up with some hacks that making moving and settling into your new home so much easier. Not only will I provide you with The Best Packing Tips for Moving, but I’ll also offer my Moving Checklist for an Easy Move!
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Yes, I know. The last thing you want to do during a hectic move is add more to your to-do list, but these extra tasks will actually help your move go more smoothly and will save you so much of a hassle in your new home.
Below, you will find the best packing tips for moving. At the end, I will offer you my detailed moving checklist (which you can download and edit to your personal needs). There is also a quick summary at the bottom of this post.
The Best Packing Tips for Moving | Moving Checklist for an Easy Move
When we did our first military move with TMO, they did their own sort of “inventory” and packed everything for us. Unfortunately, they did not inventory correctly and we ended up with things lost and broken. Since they didn’t inventory it all, they would not pay to replace anything. The whole situation was frustrating! From then on, we decided we would do a DITY move (for those of you who do not understand military terminology, that just means that we did the entire move ourselves…packing, driving, etc).
If you are a military family and choose to PCS using TMO, some of these tips may not be helpful to you. However, if you are anyone doing a DITY move (DIY move), take note of these moving tips, because they can make your move less stressful.
Save yourself the hassle, and try these helpful moving tips.
Make a Game Plan
You can use our handy dandy moving checklist for this. It will help you identify items you need to skip over while packing, help you figure out the order of packing, and much more.
The idea is to sit down, before you start too much (because the chaos of moving will make actual planning a lot harder), and just figure out what all needs to get completed and what needs to get done when. The more prepared you are, the smoother your move will go, and the less you will forget to finish.
Moving from a house you own versus from a house you are renting will have slightly different things to complete, but they will be similar. Our checklist will help get you started with the basics, and you can edit as needed to fit your situation. Add any extra steps you are required to follow, any extra rooms you have to take care of, and any extra items you need to be concerned about.
Before you really start packing, start sifting through your items. You will likely come across a lot of garbage here and there (old paperwork, broken items, etc) that you can throw away or recycle. You’ll come across items that you didn’t even remember you had, and you probably won’t ever use them again.
Purge it all!
Whenever you find something that you don’t ever use, probably won’t ever use, can do without, or it’s broken, sort it into piles to get rid of. You can use the same purging technique we use for tidying your house; make a pile to toss, a pile to sell, a pile to give away, then start packing or organizing items to keep. Once you’ve tried to sell items (have a yard sale or two before your move), go ahead and donate whatever is left; don’t bring the excess with you. Our biggest mistake last time was bringing items we didn’t need anymore, but weren’t able to sell quickly. (We ended up going way over the weight limit, which cost us extra.)
Tackle Your Paperwork
Paperwork is not fun to sort through, but it can be a pain to move. A lot of paper gets very heavy, so you have to spread it across several boxes to avoid the boxes being too heavy. Don’t bring with unnecessary paper.
Use a sorting system. File folders are helpful. Keep a large trash bag near you for any paperwork you no longer need. You can go through and shred, burn, or recycle this later. Sort the rest into “sentimental” (things like your children’s artwork, award certificates, etc), “instructional” (things like manuals, research paperwork, etc), “important” (things like medical paperwork and bills), “essential” (things like your will, birth certificates, etc), and “time-sensitive” (things like bills that need to be paid or anything else you may need easy access to during the move).
Start Packing ASAP
As soon as you receive news that you will be moving, start packing! We had a good amount of warning last time, but sometimes you do not get a whole lot of time to pack. Even if you are military and haven’t gotten your orders yet, there are plenty of items you can pack (and it will help your house be more enjoyable in the meantime).
If you are like us and have managed to collect a ton of things over the years, you will need all the packing time you can get. The more you have, the harder it will be to follow the rest of the tips, but it is possible, especially if you have a good game plan.
Plan Out Your Packing
While you should start packing ASAP, you also need to make sure you have a plan to go by. Start by writing down all the most important items that you will need to have out until move day, this way none of these items accidentally gets packed.
Then write down what items to start with and what items to wait to pack until closer to your move. Add key times to your calendar to keep you on track. Use our moving checklist as a great starting place!
Live Without Decor for a Time
Sure, it’s nice to live with decorations around you. They make your house feel like home; they make things feel pulled together, complete. However, when you are in the middle of the move, decorations are not needed, and these are an easy item to get packed right off the bat. Decorations should be one of the first things you pack.
Pack One Room at a Time
You may be tempted to start out by packing a little bit from each room, but I recommend focusing on one room at a time. You will not be able to pack up one entire room at a time, because you will have many items that cannot be packed yet. However, you can deal with one room at a time while still following your “packing plan.” Deal with the items you won’t use first and work though all the rooms. Then, start back at the first room and follow the next step of your packing plan.
Handle Initial Packing as a Family
Rather than handling everything on your own, or even enlisting the help of friends, involve your family in the packing process. Have your family go through their items to help purge and pack items they need to know the location of. If you do decide to involve friends, you will still need to have your hand in everything, so no items are misplaced. Ultimately, you and your family need to know where everything is, and keep it well-inventoried.
One of the biggest issues when packing is not packing carefully. Items can be easily damaged, whether from dropping, clanking during transportation, or succumbing to humidity or temperatures.
As you pack, try to pack like items together. Pack thoughtfully, not only so that items are easy to find, but so they won’t break.
When I packed up the kitchen, I wrapped breakable items, like bowls and plates, in kitchen towels. All items would end up in the kitchen anyway, it saved me some packing paper, and it kept the breakable items safe.
Pack heavier items on the bottom, so they do not crush items underneath or make the box top-heavy, causing it to fall over. Don’t pack a box completely full of books or paper. Instead, mix in other items that may be stored nearby, like blankets or throw pillows or stuffed animals.
Make sure any breakable items are well-wrapped, inside and out. Make sure they do not get packed with heavy items that may break them. And make sure there is not too much wiggle room, causing them to un-wrap or shift into each other during transit.
Boxes should be tidy, with little shift room, but not over-packed either, as it may cause items to put too much pressure on each other and break nonetheless.
If you are worried about an item breaking and harming other items in the box, wrap it up further in something that can be sealed, like a plastic baggie. When we transport snow globes in our Christmas decorations, I wrap them up for safety, then wrap them further in a bag, just in case they still were to break open and dump water everywhere. This is useful for items such as personal care items and liquid food items.
We also used plastic bins and shoeboxes to store the items that might leak (bath items, etc) upright. We taped the lids down to ensure they would not accidentally pop off. The smaller boxes were placed inside of larger items (like cabinets) so they were easy to identify, easy to sort, used the truck space wisely, and nothing would spill and ruin other items.
Don’t Lose Small Items
As you disassemble furniture and things, you will end up with a lot of small pieces like nuts and bolts and screws. You do not want to lose these or forget what they are for. Place these items, in their proper sets, into plastic baggies. Label the baggies to identify what each set of parts belongs to. You can even include the instruction manuals for when you rebuild the items.
Some Items are Self-Packed; Save Yourself Time
On our last move, for whatever silly reason, I decided that I would empty out our dressers and closets and pack them into labeled boxes. Sure, this made the inventorying easy, and I was able to see all the items we had. Sure, it kept them sealed up. But it also wasted a lot of time…because clothes are already packed inside the furniture you always store them in!
Keep clothing inside your dressers.
Remove the dresser drawers when you load the dresser into the moving truck, then place them back in when it is all on the truck. If you are worried about drawers falling out, tie straps around the dresser to keep everything in place. This may be useful if you are concerned about small gaps in drawers that may allow bugs inside. I will also share a way to pack the moving truck to prevent drawers from falling out below.
Uniform is Best
Sometimes you will have to use a bunch of random boxes, but try to keep them uniform (and in tip-top condition, because dented or punctured boxes can cause big problems), you will have a much easier time packing the moving truck. Uniform is best, so try to keep as many boxes the same size and shape as possible.
Inventory Each Box
This may seem like a difficult task, but inventorying each item, even with a generic list, can be extremely helpful in packing, unpacking, and finding for years to come. We did this with most of our items for our last move, and we are still benefiting from it.
Make a note of each item or group of items, generically or specifically. I wrote down exact brand and model for some items, while writing more generic things like “kid toys” when the items did not need as specific a reference.
What are some of the benefits of inventorying? You know what you have (and, sometimes, the excess of it). You know which boxes are more important. You can quickly find items by locating the specific box number. You can keep like items together.
Use our nifty moving checklist for the most convenient inventory sheet. You can use the search function to type in a specific item you are looking for, and you will find exactly the box number and location of that item.
Keeping an inventory will also help should anything go awry, because you can see what items you actually had. This is great if anything is lost, stolen, or broken.
Enlist help during the inventory process. Have your spouse tell you each item that is going into the box while you type it out. Have your children label the boxes. Make it a team effort, so you each know what is inside each box and things get done faster — assembly-line style.
Another option for quick inventorying would be to use a talk-to-text program or to record yourself as you pack everything, so you can complete the inventory sheet with more detail later.
Don’t Write Contents on the Boxes
Speaking of lost or stolen…one thing that has often bothered me is writing the contents of a box on the outside. Sometimes it is misleading, like when you switch up the items and don’t update the label. Sometimes you have to keep changing it until the cardboard box is entirely scribbled with words. Besides these, it also tells potential thieves what is inside your packages.
Imagine labeling an important box with “Important: fine jewelry, purses, shoes” or another box “Important paperwork, laptop, camera.” Talk about telling thieves exactly what to go for! Yes, some may just steal it anyway. Yes, you could have put that on there to distract (but would you remember what’s inside then?).
If you keep an inventory and write a number and color code on the box instead, no one will know the contents besides you and your family. It will be easy to search through, easy to change out at a later time when you re-pack or shift items around, and will save you a lot of writing time and sore wrists (because you’re only writing a number on the box, not a bunch of words).
Before You Tape It, Take Pictures
One thing to have handy, should anything go bad during your move (items stolen or broken, etc), is a set of pictures. Before you seal each box, snap a photo of the contents. You may not manage to get each item into the photo, but this will give you a great visual idea of items you own—specific brands, amounts, the contents of each box, etc—and can serve as proof for insurance, if needed.
If you have specific items that are more valuable, or sentimental, or that you need specific information on, take some individual photos with the box location noted in the photograph for your easy reference.
This tip is also useful for when you’re going on vacations!
Label Box Weights
As you pack, you will likely lift the boxes to place them all in one area. Something that was helpful to us and those who helped us move was to label the box weights. I decided the weights, since I could lift each, but generally would think something is heavy that my husband may not, that way they were pretty accurate for anyone lifting them.
We labeled them “very light,” “light,” “medium,” “heavy,” and “very heavy.” Rather than writing out the entire word, I simply wrote abbreviations for each.
You can also add labels such as “fragile” and “place on top” to give more instruction for specific boxes.
Label Every Box
Towards the end of packing, you may get lazy and decide not to label some boxes. I recommend you still label and inventory them all, even if you have to do a more generic inventory list. This way, you will not forget any boxes or make any messes when unpacking.
Label cardboard boxes using a permanent marker for the number and weight, and colored label stickers for your color code. For plastic bins, write on a piece of tape (like packaging tape), rather than writing directly on the plastic.
Label each box on the top and the front, then make sure you pack each box so the number and room location can be easily seen when unloading the moving truck.
Use Stickers to Label Easy-Access Items
When you use our moving checklist, you will learn how to color-code your boxes with stickers so movers can easily figure out which box goes in which room.
Eventually, you’ll also get to items that need to be accessible at some point during the move or shortly after. Simply labeling and inventorying these is useful, but you will probably want something to make these items faster to find, and easier to identify when you are packing the moving truck, so they don’t end up stuck all the way in the back.
To label items I would probably need soon, or that were important, should I need them, I used silver sticker labels. To identify boxes of items I would need during the move or shortly after the move (everyday dishes, shower supplies, chocolate…), I placed subtle gold star stickers on the boxes.
Leave Packed Items Packed
As much as you might want to, do not open up packages that have already been packed and sealed. This can cause chaos in your home and with your inventory list, and can set your moving schedule back. This is why having a packing plan is so important. Make sure you only pack up items you definitely will not need, until you are a week or two out from your move. Then start packing items you shouldn’t need or can manage without. Our moving checklist is very helpful with this.
Meal Plan for the Last Week
The last week or so can be challenging. The move is within your grasp. The house is in disorder. Half of your items are no longer easy to get to (unless you’ve planned ahead and kept out needed items for last).
In order to get as much as you can packed up while still managing things like eating (home-cooked meals, too), you need to know which kitchen items are okay to pack and which aren’t. Setting up a meal plan, at least for the final week, can help you achieve your goals and save you money.
When we moved, eating out was so tempting. However, I had a friend who wanted to come to our house and bake with me just days before we moved. I decided that I would keep specific items out (things that I used more often), so that we could still bake some homemade food. I wish we had done even more of this, and not opted for fast food and delivery pizza for our last week. Next time, we will meal plan.
Decide what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a few snacks for each day. Eating cereal for breakfast? You’ll need cereal, bowls, milk, and spoons. Eating toast? You’ll need bread, something to spread on, a butter knife, a toaster, and probably a plate. Making lasagna for dinner? Keep it simple with oven-ready noodles and store-bought sauce; use a throw-away pan; don’t forget the spatula!
If you plan ahead, you can pack away most of your dishes, cooking supplies, and even food a week or so before you are ready to move. Use disposable plates, bowls, utensils, cups, and baking pans when possible. This will let you pack up more items earlier and will save you time because you won’t have to wash so many dishes each night.
Use Expiring Food First
When creating your meal plan, be considerate of items that are expiring soon. Not only will knowing expiration dates help you shape your meal plan, but they will also help you pack only things you will need (and know which you will need to access more quickly).
Whatever food you will not be able to use can be given away!
Don’t Forget Your Things
In most of the houses we have looked at or lived in, people left their items behind. Some were probably intentional, but I am sure a lot of it was on accident. Make a list of items that are yours that you installed temporarily (shelving, shower heads, light bulbs, towel rings, etc), then make sure you remove those items before you move.
A lot of items that we found were also hidden behind drawers. Pulling drawers out can be a bit scary, but you will probably find a lot of items that you thought had vanished! You will also want to check behind items like the refrigerator and oven, should something have gotten kicked underneath or fallen behind.
Change Your Address
One thing people often forget to do, or do later than they should, is update their address with USPS, UPS, and FedEx. (You can do this online; make sure you are signed up for their free alerts, as this will allow you to make these updates.) Do this as soon as you can. You should be able to set the date for a few days out from when you should arrive at your new address. This way your mail should be held during your move, and you will receive it at the new address once you have definitely arrived and gotten to settle in just a bit.
Schedule a Moving Day Party
A party? On Moving Day? I must be nuts, right?
Moving by yourself, or pretty much by yourself, is hard—especially if you have kids. Trust me, we have done it several times.
Plan a moving day. Seriously. Invite everyone you can (as long as you can trust them to be respectful with your items and good at following instructions). Have everything organized, so you can give them a game plan and everything runs smoothly.
Let everyone know what time they should be there, and have everything you can prepared before they arrive. Offer them a meal for their time (at this point, delivery or take-out pizza is your best bet, because all your dishes should be cleaned and packed).
Clean Your Vehicle
As you clean and pack up the house, don’t forget your vehicle! Most of us parents have pretty messy vehicles. Toys and things are all over, we store things in the back…these can make your move more difficult, because they take up space, and more uncomfortable.
Schedule time to attend to your vehicle. Empty out everything inside, purge like you did in the house, wipe things down, vacuum inside, and take it through the car wash with your kids (this is often a fun break for the kids and is a fun way to keep them happy during the move).
Pack the Moving Truck Like a Pro
I may not be a professional mover, but I have packed a lot of vehicles and other items with great success, and have been supervised by a professional mover that was surprised at everything I managed to fit neatly, without any items broken on the trip.
First, you will want to start by getting the best moving truck size for all of your things. You can find tons of calculators online that will help you figure out what size truck you need. My family, with our excess of things, used a full-size, and our vehicles too.
After that, start packing with the heavier items at the back. Generally, these should be items that you will not need immediate access to, but you may need to put some furniture back there.
Make sure the weight is distributed evenly on both sides, or you will have a leaning moving truck (which is scary!).
Items like dressers or cabinets can be placed in with the drawers or doors to the wall of the truck so the drawers will only fall into the wall, and not fall into other items and make a mess, should they slide out.
Stack items as high as you can, but make sure the heavier items are on top and that nothing will shift. Strap down items as needed to prevent them from sliding around. You can also strap down the front (some moving trucks even have nets) if you don’t fill the full truck, so the items do not shift to the back.
Slide thin, flat items (folding tables, large mirrors, etc) between the wall and another item that will not shift into them. Find the safest place, so they do not get dented or broken.
If you have a lot of things to pack and not a lot of space, use the space as wisely as you can and fill in every gap you can find. Think about how you are packing, to conserve space, but don’t forget to consider which items are breakable, which will be putting pressure on other items, and which may have an issue with sliding. You don’t want items to shift so much that they fall out when you open the back of the moving truck back up.
Pack the boxes with the labels facing outward, so they are easy to see when the truck is emptied at your new location.
Taking along “dangerous” items like aerosols or chocolate? Pack these items tightly in a temperature-controlled area, like the vehicle you are driving in, or somewhere you can remove them more easily and quickly when you make stops. I took a lot with us that I was not recommended to, but all of it held up okay because we kept it in the van with me, or we put it in the vehicle we were towing, where we could access it easily for our overnight stays.
Familiarize Yourself with Your New Location
Before you even move, get to know your new location. See if there are any Facebook groups to join for selling items, asking information, or discovering local news. Sometimes this isn’t a great idea, but use them mostly as a resource for the move.
Park the Moving Truck Thoughtfully
Moving trucks have a tendency to be stolen or broken into. Be considerate when parking the moving truck overnight. Make sure valuable items are out of sight or stored inside with you. Keep any extra locks on that you can. Park the vehicles backed up to walls or things so the back doors are not easily accessed. Keep the truck in sight, whether you are in a hotel room or a gas station making a stop, where possible. If you notice security cameras, you may be wise to park where they will get a good view of the truck, should someone try to break in or steal it. It is always best to be prepared, just in case.
Don’t Forget Pets and Kids
It is easy to get caught up in moving and put your children and pets on the back-burner. Don’t do that! Involve your children, and even pets, where you can. Make sure they have things accessible to keep them busy, take time out to spend even a little time with them (schedule it in!), give them an extra treat or small gift (this book is cute) and thank them for dealing with the move like champs, and keep them as safe and comfortable in the moving vehicles as possible.
Donate Anything Leftover
If you have any items you found during packing or that you never managed to sell, donate them! You can even donate your food. We brought our best items (frozen meats, canned foods, etc) to the local soup kitchen, then gave away the rest locally in the subdivision, so nothing would go unused and unappreciated. Check out our list of places to donate gently-used, well-used, and unused items.
Return the House to Stock
A lot of houses, whether you are buying or renting, are left trashed by previous owners. Don’t be that person! Yes, you will probably run out of time to get it all done. No, not everything will be completely perfect when you leave. But yes, you can do a lot to make it easier for the next family to move in. Wipe down the counters, drawers, and walls where you may have made a mess. Sweep. Vacuum. Mop. Dust the fans and the blinds. Fill any holes you may have left in the walls. Paint the walls if needed or required (this was required of us when we moved out of our last rental). Clean the toilets and showers. Replace burnt-out lightbulbs. Make sure everything is at least decent when you leave.
Don’t forget to leave items that stay with the house (manuals for the appliances, fire escape plans you might have, the keys, the garage remote, etc).
Make Moving Into Your New Home Easy
Remember those labels I told you to put on the boxes? Those will make it so much easier for anyone helping you unload the moving truck into your new home. Print out our box color key for reference, then add the coordinating stickers to the walls or door frames of each room the boxes belong in. Your helpers will only need to look at the box they pick up, then find the matching set of stickers. Eventually, they will know quickly where each box goes!
Don’t forget to download our comprehensive moving checklist for the most helpful moving resources and a perfect starting point. Edit the checklist as needed to fit your specific situation. This set includes: a “Move-out Checklist”, an “Order of Packing” recommendation page, a “Most Important Items to Keep Out” list, an “Inventory Packing List,” a “Color Key,” and a “Ready to Move Meal Plan.”
- Make a Game Plan
- Purge First
- Tackle Your Paperwork
- Start Packing ASAP
- Plan Out Your Packing
- Live Without Decor for a Time
- Pack One Room at a Time
- Handle Initial Packing as a Family
- Pack Carefully
- Don’t Lose Small Items
- Some Items are Self-Packed; Save Yourself Time
- Uniform is Best
- Inventory Each Box
- Don’t Write Contents on the Boxes
- Before You Tape It, Take Pictures
- Label Box Weights
- Label Every Box
- Use Stickers to Label Easy-Access Items
- Leave Packed Items Packed
- Meal Plan for the Last Week
- Use Expiring Food First
- Don’t Forget Your Things
- Change Your Address
- Schedule a Moving Day Party
- Clean Your Vehicle
- Pack the Moving Truck Like a Pro
- Familiarize Yourself with Your New Location
- Park the Moving Truck Thoughtfully
- Don’t Forget Pets and Kids
- Donate Anything Leftover
- Return the House to Stock
- Make Moving Into Your New Home Easy
Are you a pro at moving? Have you learned any tips beyond those shared above? Tell us in the comments! Have questions? Ask below!