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Deciding what to pack first when moving can undoubtedly be stressful. After all, you have a whole home to pack—along with the hundreds of memories attached to your possessions. After three decades in the moving business, we get it—packing up your life isn't just about putting things in boxes. It's emotional, it's complex, and hey, let's be honest, it can be a real headache. But don't worry, we've got a tried-and-true strategy that can turn this mountain into a molehill. Hint: starting with those items you hardly ever touch is a game-changer.

If you are planning to pack boxes yourself instead of hiring a packing service, the good news is you can shift your move into gear by packing certain items first. 

Our guide below outlines everything you need to consider when starting to pack for a move. 

What to Do Before Packing? 

Decluttering your home should be one of the first things you do before you pack for your move. It will save you time when it comes to packing and unpacking. Plus, you won’t waste packing materials or moving truck space.


Go through your home room-by-room and assess the contents. A few key questions to ask yourself when looking at a possession:

  • Is this in working order (not broken or expired)?

  • Have I used this in the past two years?

  • Do I need this?

  • Do I love this?

  • Does this match my current style?

  • Is there room for this in my new home?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you should consider tossing, donating, or selling the item. 

We had a client in Brooklyn who had rooms filled with an eclectic mix of items—from Beanie Babies to outdated computer monitors. We suggested she honestly evaluate each possession, especially the ones stashed in the attic and the back of her closets. She ended up donating the old monitors to a local school and selling the Beanie Babies online.

Lastly, if an item is cheap, bulky, and easily replaceable, you may want to consider selling or donating it before your move (think IKEA furniture or similar). The reality is that cheap furniture can cost more to move than replace once you’re settled into your new home. This is particularly true for long distance moves


What to Pack First (and When to Pack the Rest)

Now that you’ve narrowed down the items you want to keep, it’s time to get a head start on packing!

When it comes to packing, timing is crucial. Always start with the stuff you don't use daily, like your Christmas ornaments, trinkets, and off-season wardrobe. On the flip side, make sure your go-to items like your toothbrush and that frying pan you can't live without stay accessible until the last minute.

To get you started, we’ve highlighted some areas to start your packing journey—along with tips and tricks you can use for a successful pack. 

Decorative and Delicate Items (5+ weeks out)

If you’re packing decorative or delicate items early, ensure that you place packed boxes in an area where they won’t needlessly get jostled or bumped. Other moving tips to consider: 

  • Takedown decor in less frequented areas first, such as guest rooms and bedrooms. From there move on to the main areas such as the living room and dining room. 

  • Opt for packing paper—not newsprint—when packing collectibles or anything valuable. Newspaper always runs the risk of transferring ink to items. 

  • Consider crating when packing valuable or fragile items for maximum protection. 

  • Invest in a mirror box for large mirrors if they have monetary or sentimental value.

  • Box decorative and seasonal items first when packing the garage. 

Pictures and Artwork 

While wall decor goes a long way in making a house feel like a home, it is a good item to pack early. Smaller pictures can be wrapped in bubble wrap and boxed, but larger ones will need to get packed differently. 

A mirror box or TV box is best for a large piece to ensure optimal protection. However, securing it in a moving blanket is another option. While it won’t be quite as protected, the blanket adds extra cushioning and surface protection. If you top the blanket with moving wrap, it will keep the blanket secure and repel light rain or snow. 

Have high-value art? When in doubt about high-value or sentimentally priceless items, consider fine art moving services

Electronic Items 

If you don’t use it daily, it’s time to pack it. A few tips for packing electronics:

  • Remove batteries from items to avoid corrosion. 

  • If you have a lot of cords running to the back of your TV, a stereo system, or other devices, take a photo before unhooking them. It will make setup much easier!

  • Clearly label the cords and/or tape them to the corresponding electronic. 

  • Vacuum out ports and vents before packing.

  • Always wrap and pad items well to avoid damage, and ensure dust and grime don’t get lodged in ports. You will also want to seal boxes completely with packing tape. This is an especially important tip if your electronics are spending any time in a storage unit

  • Place items back in the original box (if you still have it) for maximum protection.

See also: How to pack for a move.

Out of Season Clothing and Shoes (4 weeks out)

Off-season clothing, like footwear, jackets, or swimwear are easiest to pack first. Then, closer to your moving date, the rest can follow.

Cloth Packing

To make packing clothes for a move easy, remember to:

  • Keep a change of clothes (or up to a week’s worth) to help you avoid digging in boxes. 

  • Movers usually require you to empty dresser drawers, for safety reasons. 

  • If you’re moving by yourself, you can choose to leave clothing and other items in the drawers. Remove the drawers, wrap them individually in stretch wrap, and carry them like boxes. 

  • Use a wardrobe box, also known as a garment box. This tall box allows you to keep hanging clothes on their hangers, which makes them quick and easy to transfer to and from closets. 

  • Move valuable items such as suits and wedding dresses in garment bags to protect them from dust and moisture. 

  • Consider using soft, casual clothes (pajamas, workout clothes, sweaters) to pad other moving boxes. It can help cut down on packing materials. Plus, they have to be packed anyway! A quick wash once in your new house should make them good as new if they get dirty. 

Office Supplies (2 weeks out)

Packing office supplies may not make for the most exciting day in the home office, but it is a day that can be done pretty early on in your move. Things to keep in mind while packing office supplies:

  • Never hand off important documents like birth certificates or passports to movers. Instead, slip these documents along with any sensitive banking info in a file folder and keep them in a designated box or backpack.

  • Put all pens and markers in a sealable bag to avoid messes from unexpected leaks. 

  • Cushion your office electronics with bubble wrap or moving blankets. You can also use sweaters, towels, or other linens to fill any gaps in boxes.

  • Group similar items and label your boxes meticulously. Try writing at least three key items in the box to jog your memory instead of writing something vague like “office stuff”. 

  • Backup your computer data before packing it away. Although, it will probably be one of the last things you pack in the office. 

Jewelry and Current Wardrobe (1 week out)

Your jewelry box is a great place to start packing. However, note that if your jewelry is valuable, it will be an item you have to move on your own (many professional movers won’t take it). So pack it in a way that is safe, secure, and can easily be slid into your vehicle or carried on your person. A few jewelry packing tips:

  • Thread a bracelet or necklace chain through a straw to avoid tangling (use paper straws for an eco-friendly approach).

  • Use cloth pouches, organza bags, paper bags, or plastic sealing bags to separate pieces.

  • Try a pill organizer to organize earrings and keep them paired. Alternatively, you can pierce studs through a piece of cardboard or foam and then stick the backing back on. 

  • Wrap rings and brooches individually in paper and then place them in a small Tupperware or an egg carton (one ring per spot). Once the egg carton is full, tape it or wrap it in stretch wrap to seal it. 

Kitchen Items (2 to 3 days out)

When you pack your kitchen, you will want to start with non-essential items such as: 

  • Dishware for special occasions (seasonal dishes, crystalware, serving platters, etc.)

  • Occasional cookware such as roasting pans and pizza pans

  • Kitchen decor, including wall hangings and cookbooks

  • Bakeware such as mixing bowls, pie plates, and muffin tins

  • Non-essential appliances such as mixers, mandolins, and popcorn makers

  • The majority of your Tupperware and food storage containers

  • Extra kitchen linens such as tea towels, napkins, and tablecloths

Kitchen Items


Toiletries (1 day out)

When it comes to packing toiletries, the process can get a little overwhelming. After all, these items run a high risk of leaks and spills. Plus, you will still need some of these products right up until moving day. Thankfully, that can be easily solved by packing an essentials bag. 

Packing an essentials bag: This toiletry bag will contain everything that you need on a daily basis. It may include your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, facial care products, razer, prescription medications, supplements, a comb, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and makeup. 

Once you’ve packed your essentials, you can move on to the rest of your bathroom items. 

  • Secure plastic wrap under lids or place liquids in sealable bags to avoid spills.

  • Throw out any products that are almost done or transfer them to a smaller container. 

  • Prepare to move aerosols, cleaning supplies, nail polish, or any other flammable items on your own, as movers won’t take them. 

  • Opt for small and medium boxes. Large boxes fit more but are often too heavy when packed with toiletries.

  • Don’t pack liquids with toilet paper or any other paper goods. 

  • Use extra towels at the bottom of boxes with liquid products to boost padding and leak protection. 

Essential Packing Supplies to Keep Handy 

Nothing is worse than summoning the energy to start packing only to find you don’t have the right boxes or moving supplies. Therefore, the first task on your moving checklist should be to stock up on packing supplies. 

This may include moving boxes of various sizes (cardboard boxes or reusable totes), moving blankets, and box cushioning such as bubble wrap, newspaper, or packing paper. Additionally, you don’t want to forget the small items like markers to label boxes and packing tape. You can either buy these items individually or grab a moving kit that includes everything you need.

Whether your move is months away or a last minute move, there is always stuff around your home ready to be boxed! And the sooner you start the packing process the more stress-free your moving experience will be. 


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