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How to Pack for Your Move

There's something refreshing and exciting about the prospect of a new home, but first you must pack and move your belongings. The process can be lengthy and tiresome, but careful planning will help. The better prepared you are for packing, the less stressful it will be, and the more time you will have to focus on the new adventure that lies ahead. Here are some general packing tips that will ease your mover's mind.

What You Need: Boxes

Boxes are essential to your move. Damaged boxes, or boxes in random sizes can really limit what and how you will pack. They can also be hazardous to your belongings, especially during a long-distance move. Start thinking about boxes at least six weeks prior to your move date, so you have enough time to collect and assemble all the boxes you need, even before packing begins.
Cardboard boxes
Common and versatile, available in many styles and sizes, cardboard boxes are also your least expensive option. If broken down and stored properly, boxes can be used for consecutive moves, saving time and money in the future.
Use the right size and style of box
As the size of the container increases, the weight of the individual items going into the container should decrease.
  • Pack your smallest, yet heaviest items, like books, in boxes that are about 1.5 cubic feet.
  • Electronic gadgets and small kitchen appliances are best in medium sized boxes, about 3.0 cubic feet.
  • Large boxes (6.0 or 6.5 cubic feet) should be reserved for lightest and bulkiest items, such as stuffed toys, blankets, pillows, and winter coats.
  • For dishes, use a dishpack box to form individual cells on the interior of the box.
  • Wardrobe boxes (either standup or lay-down) are available for hanging clothes, although most clothes can fit in a medium to medium-large (4.5 cubic feet) box.
Check into free and affordable boxes
Before spending money on new boxes, consider all the free options for obtaining them. Most retail stores (especially food, pharmacy, liquor, and book stores) have heavy-duty, fully-assembled boxes up for grabs on a weekly and even daily basis.
Plastic storage containers
These boxes are great for long-term storage and can be used for many consecutive moves. Though less versatile in shape and size, plastic containers tend to be more sturdy, more stackable, and more eco-friendly as they are reusable. You can find plastic storage bins at many home goods or office supply stores.
Plastic rental boxes
If you don't have your own plastic storage bins, box rental services offer durable plastic bins for a reasonable fee per week or month. Boxes are delivered to your home and picked up at your new location once your move is complete. Prices vary depending on amount of boxes and duration of rental.

What You Need: Protective Packaging

Boxes alone will not guarantee your belongings will be safe and secure during a move. Whether you'll be transporting the boxes yourself or using professional movers, boxes are bound to get a little banged up during the process. It's a good idea to plan for plenty of padding in your boxes. Here are some recommended materials:
  • Newspaper or packing paper – Protects fragile items. Can also be crumpled up and made into bumpers for cushioning your goods. Newspaper can leave stains on items, so packing paper is the cleaner option.
  • Air bubble packaging – Instead of or in addition to newspaper. Protects very fragile items. Can also be used to prevent scratches or dents on furniture or other larger pieces.
  • Moving pads and blankets – Protects furniture from scratches. Can also be used to wrap electronics before putting them into boxes.
  • Plastic stretch wrap – Protects furniture, mirrors, artwork, etc. Can also be used to wrap your cardboard boxes that contain electronic items to keep moisture out.
  • Packing peanuts – Can be used to fill in gaps, create bumpers, or make level bases for each layer in your box.

How to Pack: General Tips

Declutter your home
There's no use in spending time and energy packing items you no longer want or need. What better time to declutter than moving time? Before you start to pack, bring items you no longer need to donation and recycling centers in your local area. Best Buy accepts nearly all electronics and large appliances for recycling. Or, you can also trade in your used electronics for a Best Buy gift card.
Assemble cardboard boxes
Fold the boxes into place and secure with packing or sealing tape along the bottom seam. Packing tape is designed specifically to secure your boxes, but be sure to use plenty of layers at the seam. Avoid using duct tape, which will not stick to the cardboard boxes.
Separate and categorize belongings
Great organization makes packing easier and helps with unpacking. Within each room, group items of similar size and weight. Try to avoid mixing items from different rooms while anticipating placement of items in rooms in your new home. If there are any items that you will not be packing because of their size, shape, or fragility, set those aside so you can focus on what needs to go in boxes.
Pack non-essentials first
Start with items you're not currently using, like clothes from last season, extra linens and blankets, holiday decorations, and entertainment goods or kitchen supplies you don't use on a regular basis. By getting these out of the way first, the bulk of your packing will be less overwhelming.
General packing tips
Once you're well into packing, keep these general tips in mind to make packing a more organized and efficient process that is safe for both you and your belongings.
  • Limit boxes, when possible, to a maximum weight of 50 pounds to make handling and stacking easier and safer.
  • Refrain from closing and sealing your boxes until all boxes are packed/all items to be packed are organized.
  • Make sure boxes are firmly packed and do not rattle, bulge outward, or bend inward.
  • Provide plenty of padding to absorb shock by filling in gaps with crushed paper, towels, packing peanuts, or lightweight blankets. Make sure no sharp points, edges, or rims are left uncovered. Use padding to make level bases for each layer in your box.
  • Empty all drawers, cabinets and shelves.
  • Keep parts and pairs of things together. Keep an item's hardware in labeled plastic bags, and tape or tie securely to the article to which they belong.
  • Wrap delicate items individually and use a double layer if using newspaper. Tape protective wrap in place if necessary.
  • Small boxes (shoeboxes, for example) with small, delicate items should be packed in a single large box, spaces filled with padding.
  • When packing glassware, always wrap individually and place upside down on their rims, even if using a dishpack box.
  • Remove lamp shades and light bulbs, and wrap and pack lamp bases separately.
  • Pack small electronics in their original boxes if you still have them, and then place the boxes in a larger box with padding. Wind and fasten electrical cords so they don't dangle.
  • Remove all batteries from small appliances before packing.
Label each box with room name and contents
List the contents of each box, or at a minimum, a summary with the room name or product category. Buy easy-to read labeling stickers or use permanent markers on cardboard boxes.

Put a special mark on cartons you want or need to unpack first. After a long day of moving, you'll appreciate easy access to some uplifting music and real silverware for that first night in the new home.
Pack an overnight bag with valuables and essentials
Not everything should go in a box on a moving truck. Some items are just too valuable or too essential to your daily lifestyle. Pack an overnight bag for those few days where you might not have easy access to everything packed away in your boxes. Keep these key items with you:
  • Extra clothing and basic toiletries
  • Extra rolls of toilet paper and basic cleaning supplies
  • Valuable electronics that you use on a daily basis: phone, tablet, laptop, music player, camera.
  • Anything valuable or fragile, such as jewelry, antiques, artwork, or special sentimental items.

Mobile Storage Units

Mobile storage units provide large, secure storage for an entire household. They're great for not only transporting your boxes to their new location, but also holding them during the packing process. You can move each box to the unit as soon as it's packed, getting the boxes out of the way and saving you time on your moving day. The mobile storage units, often all-steel and wind and water tight, are delivered to your home, and can either be transported to your new destination or stored at the facility's secure warehouse when you're done packing. These units can store items you've removed when staging a house for sale, plus they can extend your moving window, perfect if you don't have a lot of extra help on moving day.

Professional Packers

Sometimes you just can't do everything yourself. Just as you might hire movers to transport your boxes and furniture to their new location, you can also hire packers to expertly pack up all of your belongings. Perhaps you don't have the energy to do the packing yourself, or you're simply lacking the time it takes to sort and box everything in your home. Most movers offer hourly professional packing services that include boxes and packing supplies. You can usually choose from full pack, partial pack, and unpacking assistance. You will certainly walk away with more time on your hands, and, likely, a better back. If you want to lower your stress, avoid injury, and focus your time on other moving tasks, an investment in professional packers may be worth your while.

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