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How to Pack for a Move: Expert Tips & Tricks

Bring on the boxes.

woman unpacking boxes in new apartment
Photography by: Westend61/Getty

Found a new place? Congrats! There’s nothing more exciting than starting anew and making a space yours.

 

However, before you start picking out furniture and making plans for that sweet new deck, there’s some packing to do. Actually, quite a bit of packing. 

 

You have enough on your plate, so we consulted the experts for some of their best tips and tricks.

 

Purge Before You Pack

Before you even consider packing up your home, see what you can leave behind. 

 

“The great thing about moving is that it forces you to declutter,” says Janet Bernstein, founder of The Organizing Professionals, a Philadelphia-area company that offers moving services. “I have a little mantra: If you don’t love it, need it, or use it, it doesn’t deserve a place in your home. It can be a ruthless approach, but it forces you to make some difficult decisions.”

 

Start with the big-ticket items that will be difficult and expensive to move. “If you know that some furniture items won’t fit in the new place, or that you will want newer items or a different style, then by all means, this is the time to donate and not pay to have it moved,” says Cynthia Kienzle, owner of The Clutter Whisperer of NYC.  Also on Kienzle’s list? Dusty sports equipment, outdated electronics, old luggage, crinkled gift wrap, paperwork, rarely used kitchen items, and anything you might be storing for your children (sorry, kiddos).

 

Even if you’re moving to a larger home, Kienzle cautions that it’s wise to bring less. “Just because you will have more space in the new home doesn’t mean that should take everything with you to fill it up,” she says. “Life will do that for you!”

 

Consider Hiring Professionals

You pay professionals to cut your hair, tailor your clothing, and fix your car. So why not pack your home?

 

“If you can afford it, I highly recommend having your movers pack for you—it really is an art and a science,” says Lisa Zaslow, owner of NYC-based Gotham Organizers. “Obviously it costs a little more money, but if you can factor that into your budget, it’s so worth it.”

 

If professional packing isn’t quite in your moving budget, Zaslow recommends paying for just one room: the notoriously time-consuming kitchen. With so many fragile pieces and irregularly shaped items, you’ll get your money’s worth here.

 

Allow Plenty of Time

Think you can box up your place over a long weekend? Think again.

 

“The most common mistake we see is people not giving themselves enough time to pack—it’s going to take longer than you think,” says Bernstein. “You have to pace yourself and come up with a schedule that takes that into consideration. You’ll never pack up your house in a week—I usually suggest a month.”

 

Living rooms and guest rooms tend to go quickly, says Bernstein, as these spaces mostly contain furniture and a few knick-knacks. But be sure to schedule plenty of time for the kitchen—when done correctly, most kitchens take around 8 hours to box up.

 

[PRINT: Our Handy Moving Timeline]

 

Ready the Essentials

Before you begin, make sure to have your packing essentials close to hand—nothing ruins a good packing flow like an empty tape dispenser.

 

First up? Quality boxes in a variety of sizes. Although boxes are technically free at the liquor store, you’ll pay dearly later when they fall apart mid-move. “We’re very particular with what we use,” says Bernstein. “We love U-Haul boxes—they’re made better than anything else. Don’t try to save money on your boxes.”

 

You’ll also need packing paper, and plenty of it. “Packing paper is really, really useful for wrapping things, stuffing the box, and separating layers of things,” says Zaslow. “It takes up much less room than bubble wrap and is much more versatile.”

 

Next up is packing tape (most professionals recommend Scotch—again, don’t look for a bargain here). Buy a dispenser for every member of the household, as well as refill rolls.

 

Now that you have the building blocks, you’ll also want: a basic tool kit, large trash bags, permanent markers for labeling, scissors, a box cutter, small Ziploc bags for wayward screws and brackets, and stretch wrap for securing drawers on cabinets and bureaus.

 

[STOCK UP: Here's Our List of Essential Packing Supplies]

 

woman taping cardboard box
Photography by: PeopleImages/Getty Images

Box It Up

Ready to pack that first box? There are a few things to keep in mind.

 

First things first: Don’t skimp on the tape. After securing the box’s bottom seam, for added reinforcement, strap the bottom of the box by applying another piece of tape perpendicular to the main seam.

 

If your box contains fragile items, line the bottom with packing paper to form a cushion, then stuff a little extra in the corners.

 

Be careful not to overfill boxes—not only will they be too heavy to lift, but if the tops are bulging, they won’t stack securely in the moving truck. At the same time, an underfilled box can be easily crushed, so you’ll want to fill extra space with packing paper.

 

For easy unpacking, label by room on the side of the box so that the label is easily visible when stacked. It can also be helpful to include a list of what’s inside.

 

Just as you didn’t pack up your house in one day, it will take awhile to unpack your new place. With that in mind, set aside a box or two with your first-night essentials: toiletries, clothes for the next day, coffee, and a flashlight in case of any utility hiccups.

 

“You can do without your serving dishes for a week,” says Zaslow. “But you’ll need that coffee first thing in the morning.”

 

[LEARN: How to Pack a Box The Right Way]