Moving to a new home is often exciting, but the packing process can put a damper on that joy. After all, packing for a move is a big undertaking. From getting moving supplies to figuring out how to pack your home to process the memories that your possession's hold, it is both an emotionally and physically-demanding job. And diving into it without the right equipment and know-how can make it all the more draining. Thankfully, all it takes is some planning and expertise to add ease to boxing up your home.

Whether you want to know what to pack first, when to start packing, or how to pack everything from the kitchen to toiletries, we've got you covered. Our ultimate packing guide below has all the DIY packing tips you need to get your move off to a great start!

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Moving and Packing Tips

Plan to succeed right from the get-go by creating a moving checklist. This will help you see what moving errands need to get done and when—so you aren't scrambling around last second. You will also be able to slot packing tasks into your checklist to ensure you have everything boxed up before the moving truck arrives.

Label boxes clearly

Every box should have a room and its contents written on the outside. Alternatively, you can label boxes with the room and a number, then keep a master packing list that notes the contents. For example, Kitchen Box 1 – Small plates, bowls, tea towels, oven mitts

Layer your boxes

All six sides should have some form of cushioning (packing paper, bubble wrap, newsprint, packing peanuts, linens, towels, blankets etc.). You always want to put heavy items on the bottom and lighter ones on the top. However, there is no need to fill each box to the brim—overloading makes boxes prone to breaking and can cause injury. 

Pack essentials separately

 Put together a box of stuff you will need right before moving and the few days following. This may include everyday toiletries, a few rolls of toilet paper, changes of clothes, a first-aid kit, vitamins, medications, paper plates, utensils, basic tools, etc. You may also want to throw a few snacks and drinks in a separate box or bag. 

Enlist help

The easiest way to ward off the overwhelm of packing is to recruit a few packers. This may include: 

  • Family and Friends. This is best for rooms that you have already decluttered and sorted. Ask your helpers to label any boxes clearly, so you know what is where when unpacking. Additionally, don't forget that thanking them for their efforts by buying dinner or drinks is always a nice gesture.

  • Kids. Older children can pack up their own room, while younger children can pack certain boxes or pass you packing supplies. Want to add some fun to the mix while keeping little ones occupied? Get them to draw pictures of a box's contents on a piece of paper. Once they're done, tape it to the box. It keeps them busy, makes them feel involved, and creates cute keepsakes!

  • Professional Packers. Whether you want your whole home packed or just a room or two, there is more than likely a local packing service that meets your needs. Looking for a local move where you do the bare minimum? A white glove moving service will take care of everything from packing to unpacking. They'll even hang your TV and wall art to get you settled into your new home quicker.

When to Start Packing for A Move

While time isn't always on your side for a move (we see you last-minute movers!), when it is, starting to pack six to eight weeks out can alleviate a lot of stress.

6 - 8 Weeks

Clean and declutter your home. This will help you get organized and have less stuff to pack. Plus, selling items you no longer need is a great way to make a little extra cash for your move.

5 Weeks

Donate or sell any items you decided won't be moving with you. Removing these items from your home will give you an idea of how much stuff you possess to get an accurate moving quote. Plus, it will give you an idea of how many moving boxes you need. You can sell through local online groups like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Alternatively, you can also hold a yardsale if you have enough stuff.

4 Weeks

Decide between your moving options and gather your packing supplies.

3 Weeks

Unless you decided to use a packing service, it's time for the actual packing to begin. You can start packing your less-essential items and rooms, such as décor, seasonal items, sheds, closets, and storage units.

2 Weeks

You should be diligently packing at this point. It is easiest to take it room by room to keep the task organized and prevent it from becoming overwhelming.

For a detailed packing schedule with extra packing and moving tips, see when to start packing for a move.

What to Pack First When Moving

You know you're moving. You know you need to pack. But where do you start? What to pack first when moving?

What you pack first for a move will depend on your home and lifestyle. However, some items seem to be a universally good fit to get boxed first. These include:

  • Christmas decorations and off-season décor

  • Occasional use of kitchen items like serving platters, popcorn makers, fine China, etc.

  • Jewelry and fashion accessories

  • Off season-clothing and shoes

  • Office supplies

  • Items in closets or storage units

  • Home décor, pictures, and artwork

  • Pack electronics that you don't use often

  • Extra toiletries

How to Pack a Dining Room for a Move

A dining room is a great space to tackle when starting to pack. It has many non-essential items like décor and fine china that can get boxed up early in your packing journey. Plus, a dining table protected with a tablecloth is a great surface for packing boxes!

Furniture

  • Wipe clean to remove any dirt.

  • Take a photo of the piece if disassembling to make assembly easier.

  • Tape or bungee cord the drawers and cabinets shut.

  • Wrap in a moving blanket and secure with tape (or for quick local moves, you can also use stretch wrap).

Paintings Antiques

Paintings and low-value artwork can be transported using a moving blanket. However, for sentimental or high-value art, we recommend a mirror box/telescopic box to protect it. Want to go a step further? Hiring fine art movers is also an option—it is your best bet for keeping your valuable antiques and art safe.

How to Pack Dining Room Chairs & Table for a Move

Your dining room chairs and table are the star of your dining room. They anchor your décor and deserve the best care when moving. But, how to pack dining room chairs and tables for a move?

Wipe

Take a damp, soft cloth and wipe all the surfaces. Vacuum or wash any upholstery and ensure all the pieces are thoroughly dry before proceeding. Keep in mind even small granules of dirt can scratch softer surfaces like wood when a piece gets packed. Therefore, it is worth taking the time to do this step right in order to avoid damage.

Disassemble

Lay down a clean moving blanket and flip over your dining room table and chairs to disassemble. Take out any screws and hardware to remove the legs. Place all the screws, bolts, and nuts in a resealable plastic bag—ideally using one bag for each piece of furniture.

Wrap

Table legs and chair legs can get wrapped in packing paper and then bubble wrap. From there, bundle table legs in a moving blanket and place chair legs in a box. Next, wrap each chair in a moving blanket or bubble wrap and secure it with tape. How you wrap and pack your tabletop will depend on what material it is made from.

For detailed packing instructions for the items above, plus stemware, rugs, curtains, lamps, chandeliers, and more, see our guide on how to pack a dining room for a move.

How to Pack a Living Room for Moving

Chances are your living room has a lot of décor, so it is one of the rooms that you can start packing right away.

Decor & Knick-Knacks

Gather your knick-knacks and other decorative items and wrap them in packing paper or bubble wrap. Place them in a box and fill the any empty spaces with extra packing paper. Always put heavier pieces in first and lighter items toward the top.

Packing books? Consider grabbing book boxes or double-walled boxes. These have the strength to carry books without breaking. Alternatively, luggage is also a great place to pack books since it is strong, sturdy, and often on wheels meaning you don't need to lift it as much.

Wall Hangings

This includes artwork, mirrors, photographs, paintings, etc. Smaller pieces can be grouped into boxes, while large items should get protected with a blanket or box.

Televisions

  • Take a photo of the cords running to the back of your TV if you feel you won't remember where they all go.

  • Remove the cords and pack them with their corresponding devices (video game systems, cable boxes, etc.).

If you have a wall-mounted TV, we suggest leaving it on the wall until closer to moving day. Flat screens are fragile and run less risk of getting bumped into the wall than intermingling with a pile of boxes. Have a freestanding TV? Remove the base and tape the screw to the back of the TV. Then, use a clean moving blanket to protect it for the moving day.

Plants

It is up to you to move live plants since moving companies will not take them. Additionally, you will need to contact the USDA office if moving plants across state lines since some states like Florida and California have strict rules on the matter. To prep your plant:

  • Stop watering a few days before your moving date.

  • Wrap the pots in plastic bags to contain any water and soil spills.

  • Place on the floor where they can't move or on and around the passenger seat.

  • Once in the vehicle, ensure you don't freeze or fry them with the car's temperature controls.

  • Bring them inside ASAP once you reach your destination.

Furniture

Lastly, pack your furniture. Chances are much of your living room furniture can be moved as-is—with the addition of a moving blanket to large breakable or fragile items.

Have a sofa with legs? Unscrewing them is best to protect them from bumps and make the piece easier to maneuver. If that option isn't available, wrap the legs with a layer of packing paper followed by bubble wrap and tape.

How to Pack a Bedroom for Moving

Before you dive into packing your bedroom, remember to keep a change of clothes (or two) and your bedding separate.

Casual Clothes

For clothing in drawers, remove the drawer from the dresser and place a couple layers of stretch wrap to secure the clothing.

You can then carry the drawer like a box. As a bonus, all you have to do to unpack is remove the wrap and re-insert the drawer! Use medium boxes or suitcases to pack all other folded and casual clothes.

Hanging Clothes

Using wardrobe boxes allows you to leave your clothes on the hangers. In addition, there is room at the bottom of the box for shoes and accessories. Placing hanging clothes in a few trash bags is another option that is frugal and accessible to most. To do so:

  • Make a tennis ball-sized hole in the center bottom of the bag.

  • Flip the bag upside down and thread about ten hanger hooks through the hole.

  • Pull the bag down, completely covering the group of hanging clothes.

  • Tie the bottom of the bag for extra protection.

Jewelry

Plan to keep your valuable jewelry on you when you move, as moving companies won't take it (see the FAQs at the end of the guide for more items moving companies won't take). You can take your jewelry box as-is, securing it shut with non-marking tape or stretch wrap. Or you can also pack items separately in egg cartons taped shut with packing tape.

Mattresses & Bedding

Use a mattress bag to keep your bed clean and safe during transportation. If you are putting your mattress in storage, a temperature-controlled storage unit is highly recommended to prevent mold. For bedding, throw whatever you are currently using into a garbage bag on moving day and place it in the moving truck last. This makes it easy to make your bed right away in your home—so when you are ready to sleep after a long moving day, your bed is ready too!

How to Pack Toiletries for Moving

Essentials Bag: This toiletry bag is the first thing you should pack in your bathroom. It is a bag or small box with everything you use daily for hygiene and health—similar to what you would pack to go on vacation for a week. Items to consider packing in your moving essentials bag include:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Shampoo and conditioner

  • Soap

  • Deodorant

  • Razor and shaving cream

  • Makeup

  • Medication and vitamins

Hair Appliances

You can pack curling irons, hair blower, and hair straighteners together. Wrap them individually with bubble wrap and pad the spaces with box cushioning or bathroom linens like towels and shower curtains—keeping them separate from liquids. Have hair appliances that no longer work? Drop them off at an electronic recycling facility or send them to the InStyler Recyling Program.

How to Pack Liquids

  • Unscrew the lid and place a piece of plastic wrap over the opening.

  • Screw the lid securely on top of the plastic wrap.

  • Place in a Ziploc bag or similar bag for extra protection.

  • Put the product upright in the packing box.

  • Repeat with other liquid products to fill the box.

  • Fill any space between products with paper or bubble wrap to prevent items from moving.

  • Clearly label the contents AND which side is up on the box.

Moving in the winter? If temperatures will dip below freezing on moving day, hire a moving company with temperature-controlled trucks. The last thing you want is your belongings to get damaged or ruined due to products freezing and bursting! This is less of an issue for quick local moves but can be a problem for long distance moves.

For a detailed toiletry bag packing list and more toiletry packing tips, visit our guide: How to Pack Toiletries for Moving

How to Pack a Laundry Room for Moving

Packing a laundry room is pretty straightforward as it generally consists of packing up décor and a few other odds and ends. Your laundry baskets can even double as carriers for light items like linens, clothing, cushions, and stuffed animals! However, if you're taking your washer and dryer, you will need to do a little extra prep and packing.

Washer

  • Run a cleaning cycle or a soap-free wash, then let the washer dry for 24 - 48 hours.

  • Flip the breaker off in your electrical panel, then unhook the power, water hoses, and drain hose. Tape the power cord to the back of the machine.

  • Consult your appliance manual to see if there are specific instructions for moving your model, such as tightening shipping bolts to keep the washing tub from moving.

  • Use moving blankets and plastic wrap to protect and a dolly to move

Dryer

  • Unhook the power and dryer vent. Tape the cord to the back of the machine. If you have a gas dryer, schedule a professional to unhook the gas and cap the line.

  • Vacuum the rotation drum, dryer lint trap, and ventilation hose to remove lint and debris.

  • Place the ventilation hose in a bag and then place it inside the dryer.

  • Check the appliance manual for any specific instructions for moving your model.

  • Use moving blankets and plastic wrap to protect and a dolly to move.

How to Pack a Garage for a Move

The large amount of stuff and the odd mish-mash of items—power tools, seasonal decor, long-forgotten hobbies—often make packing a garage time-consuming. Therefore, you should start earlier than you think you need to.

Tools

Small tools like screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, and the like should go into toolboxes whenever possible. Otherwise, place them in a sturdy box and pad them between them with packing paper or old towels. Wrap any tools you're worried about damaging in bubble wrap.

Have power tools? Remove any blades and loose pieces, then place them back in their original boxes, if possible. Look for a box similar to the size of the original if the original isn't available.

Lawn Mower & Snowblowers

These items are too large to box and will be one of the last things you load onto the truck on moving day. Drain the gas, and wheel to the moving truck, and use straps to tie them down. The last step is crucial since their heavy weight and rolling ability are a recipe for disaster if left unsecured.

Paints & Varnishes

Professional movers won't take these items due to their flammability. Therefore, if you plan on taking them, you need to plan to move them on your own. Often it is best to donate these items to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or find a hazardous material recycling center instead of packing them. However, if you are adamant about taking them, ensure all paint cans are shut tight and wrap them in movers wrap. Spray paint cans and similar items can go together in a box—just ensure they have a barrier between them or are packed tight so they don't rattle around.

Read our Guide to Packing a Garage for step-by-step instructions for packing power tools, garage appliances, garden tools, and more.

How to Pack a Kitchen for Moving

Packing the kitchen for moving will be one of the last to-dos on your packing checklist.

Kitchen Essentials Box

This box contains the items you're using until moving day and will need immediately when you move into your new house. What you have in this box will depend on your lifestyle, but it may contain:

  • Frying pan, mixing spoon, and spatula

  • Knife and cutting board

  • A plate, cup, bowl, and silverware for each person

  • Coffee maker or kettle

  • Oven gloves

  • Can opener

  • Dish towels, dish soap, and a sponge

  • A couple of food storage containers

  • Any food you plan on using

Kitchen Appliances

Wipe and clean the appliances, draining water and clearing any crumbs. Smaller appliances can get wrapped in bubble wrap and packed in small boxes or their original box. For larger appliances like refrigerators and freezers, you will need to defrost these 48 hours before your move and cover them with a moving blanket. Always check your appliance manuals to see if there is any additional prep you need to do for moving, as every model is unique.

China and Dishware

  • Grab a stack of packing paper and a medium moving box. Double-walled moving boxes or dish boxes are best to pack dishes. Additionally, if you can find a box with cardboard dividers, these make packing drinking glasses a cinch.

  • Wrap 3 - 4 sheets around each piece and stack it in the box—placing heavier items on the bottom.

  • Pad any gaps with packing paper or dishtowels and seal.

FAQ’s

What Should You Not Pack When Moving?

For safety and liability, moving companies have a list of items they will not move (Non-Allowables). In short, this includes anything living, irreplaceable, corrosive, explosive, or hazardous.

You will need to pack and move the following items on your own—or you can skip them altogether in some cases:

  • Pets

  • Money

  • Food and perishables

  • Family heirlooms and other irreplaceable items

  • Valuable jewelry

  • Cellphones, tablets, laptops

  • Medicine

  • Financial statements and important documents

  • Scuba Tanks

  • Aerosol cans

  • Paint thinners and varnishes

  • Car batteries

  • Ammunition and fireworks

  • Propane tanks, kerosene, gasoline, and charcoal

  • Power tools and yard equipment with fuel in the tank

  • Plants, soil, pesticides, and fertilizers

  • Hazardous cleaning supplies

How to Organize Items Before Moving?

Declutter to pare down your belongings. The last thing you want to do is take the time, energy, and packing materials to pack items you no longer need! Instead, go through your home room by room and sort through the contents. While deciding whether to keep something, ask yourself these 5 Decluttering Questions:

  • 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 the above, consider tossing, donating, or selling the item. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a great option for donating furniture and building supplies. In many locations, they even offer to pick up.

Group similar items so you can bundle and box them. This will streamline the unpacking process and allow you to organize your new home more efficiently. For those that are doing a rush packing job, at the very least, try not to mix multiple rooms into one box.

What Packing Supplies Do I Need for Moving?

Below is a list of the main packing supplies we consider essential for moving:

  • Boxes

  • Box Padding

  • Moving Blankets

  • Plastic Wrap

  • Dolly

  • Moving Straps or Rope

Boxes

You will need moving boxes of various sizes. You can purchase these or score them secondhand through local online marketplaces like Facebook, Freecycle, and Craigslist. Other places where you can find free boxes include retail stores, liquor stores, and friends and family. You may also want to opt to buy or rent a few plastic storage containers—these large boxes are strong, easy to carry, and infinitely reusable.

Box Padding

This includes packing paper and bubble wrap, as well as things you may already have, such as towels, clothes, and linens. Newspaper is a great free option, but it can mark items with ink—avoid using it on valuables or porous material.

Moving Blankets

Moving blankets or moving pads are needed to move furniture, bundle long-handled garden tools, and protect surfaces.

Plastic Wrap

Also known as moving wrap or movers wrap, this super-sized roll of saran is excellent for securing moving pads, bundling items, and packing liquids.

Dolly

A furniture cart or dolly isn't 100% necessary, but it will make moving bulky furniture and appliances much easier.

Moving Straps or Rope

These needed to secure moving blankets, keep furniture and appliance doors shut, and tie down items in the moving truck.

Other Items

Felt pads to slide furniture, packing tape, painter's tape, tape gun, scissors, box cutter, marker, pencil, screwdriver, hammer, paper towels, cleaning cloths, glass cleaner, broom, dustpan.

Final packing Tip

Breathe. Anything can happen—from broken dishes to running out of packing materials—but that doesn't mean you should panic. Instead, stay calm and tackle the hurdles as they come to make your move as stress-free as possible.

The reality is a fully stress-free move isn’t always plausible, but moving doesn’t last forever. Remember that before you know it, the moving process will be behind you, and you'll be enjoying the adventures that your new home holds!

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