How to Pack for a Move: Tips from a Pro Organizer


Before the packers arrive, prepare an “open me first” box (or suitcase) that contains items you’ll need immediately after moving, such as toiletries, medications, chargers, a few changes of clothes and important documents.
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Make a List

Before you even begin packing, make a list. It will be the best thing you can do to help ensure a smooth, efficient move. Certified professional organizer Ellen Delap advises you to eliminate things you haven’t used or needed in three months (or more). The more unused and unnecessary stuff you remove from your home before moving, the less you will have to pack, haul across town, unload, and organize.

An excellent way to start is by sorting your goods into categories, such as clothing, kitchen items, and furniture. Then, look closely at each item and ask yourself if you need it. If the answer is no, donate it or sell it.

Keep a separate bag or suitcase for items you will need right away on moving day, such as important documents, medication, chargers, basic toiletries, and a change of clothes. Also, be sure to use food from the refrigerator and freezer before moving and order speciality supplies like boxes, packing materials, tape, labellers, and box cutters.

Start Early

Start packing up your non-essentials weeks or even months before the move. This will save you time and stress on moving days. The night before the move, tuck essential items like a change of clothes, toothbrushes, first-night toiletries, medications, and a few snacks in a bag or box. This will be your “survival kit” if something goes wrong during the move or if you stay in a hotel for a few days while waiting to get into your new home.

As you pack, give each box and prepped item a number. Write the corresponding number on your inventory list and use a thick piece of tape to mark it — this way, if an item goes missing during the move or unpacking, you can reference your checklist and find the box containing it. Also, don’t forget to label your electrical cords and take photos of how your electronics are wired together for easier reassembly once you move in. Make sure the movers know of any fragile boxes and furniture pieces that need to be disassembled ahead of time, too.

Pack a Box for Everyday Essentials

As you’re packing, keeping a box or suitcase filled with everyday items you’ll need the first day and night in your new home is a good idea. This includes toilet paper, tissues, phone chargers, a few changes of clothes and other necessities. Tuck this box away in a closet or dresser drawer for easy access during the move, and don’t pack any of your most valuable possessions (like firearms or expensive clothing) in it for transport.

Make sure to label each box on the sides and top using a broad felt-tipped marker or stickers. This makes it easier for movers to read and will make the unpacking process much smoother once you’re in your new home. Some people even like color-coding labels, such as pink tape for the bathroom and purple for the bedroom.

Pack an Overnight Bag

Depending on how long your move will take, you may need to pack some items for an overnight stay. Keep a bag of essentials packed with enough clothing and toiletries to get you through the first day in your new home until your boxes arrive. This includes laundry detergent, toilet paper, hand soap, and extra towels. Be sure to label this box to be noticed among the rest of your moving supplies.

If you have kids, pack a bag with their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. This will help them feel at ease in the transition and prevent their favorites from ending up in one of the many boxes that will be moved.

As you begin packing, work on a room at a time. This will help you avoid getting overwhelmed by the enormous task and allow you to feel accomplished as each room is finished. Most people recommend starting with the kitchen since it’s the most crucial space to unpack immediately.

Make a Schedule

If you still need to do it, start packing suitcases for everyone in the family with enough clothes to get through the first few days of your move. You can also pack essential items in a bag or suitcase you’ll keep with you on a moving day. This way, you’ll have everything you need if something needs to be found or lost in the move.

If your home has more than one floor, it’s a good idea to tackle the rooms on the higher floors first. This will save you time and effort in the long run. Seasonal items, like out-of-season clothes and holiday decorations, are perfect examples of things that can be boxed up before tackling the rest of your belongings.

On the night before your move, tuck everyday essentials (like a change of clothes, toothbrushes, must-have stuffed animals or toys for kids, medications and important paperwork) into a suitcase or bag you’ll keep on a moving day. This will help you avoid the stress of frantically searching for those things on a moving day. Also, clean your old home and unplug and defrost your refrigerator a few days before the move.