How to Pack Belongings for a Move


One of the most important parts of a move happens before the truck rolls out of the driveway. Being prepared with the right packing materials can make things a lot easier.

Supplies you will need include boxes, wrapping paper (unused newsprint works well and can be purchased at packing supply shops), twist ties, bubble wrap, tissue paper, 2- to 3-inch-wide plastic tape, a felt-tip marker and a razor-blade knife.

A general guideline in packing is not to overpack or under-pack boxes. If you under-pack the boxes, they can be crushed when they are stacked. If you overpack the boxes, they won’t close properly and this wastes space when stacking. Heavy boxes are more difficult to carry and stack.


Use lots of wrapping paper--a test for a properly packed box is to close the lid and gently rock the box. If it rattles, chances are it’s not properly packed. Fill empty spaces with wrapping paper, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, etc., to prevent items from moving around and causing damage or breakage. The cost of replacing an improperly packed item is much more expensive than the cost of buying proper packing supplies.

Label the sides of boxes with the contents and the room the box should be placed in. If you label the boxes on the top, once they are stacked you won’t be able to read the label. If the contents are fragile, write fragile on all four sides.


Dishes: Wrap each dish individually, and then make a bundle by wrapping four or five similar items together. Pack plates, platters, saucers, on their sides. Before putting the wrapped items in the boxes, cushion the bottom layer with wads of wrapping paper.

Cups and glasses: wrap each item individually. If they are similar in size, nest three or four together and wrap again as a bundle. Cups and glasses should be placed in the dish-pack carton upside down.

Small Appliances: Coil the cord and hold it together with twist ties. Wrap each appliance individually and try to put all small appliances such as the toaster, blender and mixer in the same box. If there are glass trays in your microwave, remove them and pack them separately.

Food: Pack as little food as possible, and if your household goods will be in storage for a length of time, dispose of all food. If you are trying to control the size of your load, it does not make sense to pack canned goods. Tape jar lids and opened box tops down. Wrap jars and bottles individually. Liquids such as cooking oil, syrup, etc. should be placed in individual plastic bags. Transfer spices into bags or plastic containers to eliminate the weight of the jars.


Refrigerator: The refrigerator should be emptied, defrosted and cleaned 48 hours before being loaded. If possible, leave the doors open for 24 hours before moving. To prevent odors and mildew on a long distance move, put either unused coffee grounds or barbecue charcoal in a clean sock and put the sock in the refrigerator. Tie the sock so the contents won’t spill. Remove glass shelves and pack them separately. Tape movable parts. For safety, don’t use major appliances such as a refrigerator for 24 hours after the move. This allows the appliance to adjust to room temperature and helps prevent internal damage.


Remove all linen from the beds. Cover mattress/box spring with plastic covers or mattress boxes purchased in advance. Covering them helps keep them clean and reduces the chance of tearing.

Disassemble bed frames and mark them to facilitate reassembly. Any nuts, bolts or screws removed should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and taped to part of the frame.

Leave articles of clothing in dresser drawers as long as contents of drawers are not too heavy. Too much weight in a drawer could damage the drawer. Fragile items left in drawers should be individually wrapped.

Bed linen such as sheets and pillow cases can be used to cushion other items you are packing and used to fill up blank spaces in other boxes.

If you are moving a trundle bed, tie the bed closed so it will not open while being moved or loaded on the van.


If you are moving a water bed, drain it several days before moving day. If you don’t drain it before moving day, you will have to rent a water pump to drain the bed. When you arrive at your destination, it will take a while for the water bed pump to warm the water to a comfortable temperature.

Pack the clothes hanging in your closets in wardrobe cartons. The clothing remains on hangers and usually arrives at the destination unwrinkled and unsoiled. Shoes can be packed in the bottom of the wardrobe cartons.

Other Living Areas

Remove table legs when possible. Place hardware in a sealed plastic bag and tape the bag to the underside of the table.

Books should be placed in boxes in an upright position to void spine damage. Use small boxes for books because of their weight.

Small framed pictures can be packed together in the same box, but they should be individually wrapped and placed side-by-side into the box, not stacked.

Large framed pictures should be individually wrapped and packed in mirror cartons. Crisscross wide tape over the glass surface to help cut down on breakage due to vibrations in travel.


Lamps should be packed separately from lamp shades. Remove the bulb and wrap each lamp base separately. Shades of similar sizes should be wrapped individually and then can be nested in the same box.

Sofa beds should be tied down to keep them from opening while they are being moved.

Disconnect televisions, stereo components, video recorders, computers and other electronic equipment 24 hours before packing and loading. Don’t use them for 24 hours after delivery. Pack these items in their original cartons. If you no longer have the manufacturer’s cartons and packing materials, similar items can be purchased at a box shop. Consult your owner’s manual before packing any electronic equipment. Turntable, compact disc players and computers require special handling to arrive safely at their destination. Before packing a home computer, the user should back up all the files onto floppy disks and should carry the backup disks separately from the moving van.


Washer: Disconnect and drain all hoses. Place a plastic bag over the end of the hose and secure it with a rubber band to prevent leaks. Motors should be secured with a special tub insert that wedges between the tub and walls.

Never transport flammable or potentially explosive fluids such as propane, gasoline, paint thinner, etc., in an enclosed van. Drain the lawn mower or other power tools of hazardous fluids. Burn out any remaining propane in gas barbecues. Clean the grease off the grill and put the gas “rocks” and any other removable parts in plastic bags inside the unit.

Dispose of other items that cannot be shipped such as pesticides, fertilizers, aerosol cans and caustic cleaners.

How We Moved in 1991 Three quarters of all people who move do it themselves, not only to save money, but also to maintain control of the process and ensure proper handling of their household goods, according to a survey.


Commercial Movers: 20% Rental Trucks: 30% Owned or Borrowed Vehicle: 50%

How We Moved in 1986 Commercial Movers: 22% Rental Trucks: 25% Owned or Borrowed Vehicle: 53%

Source: Ryder Truck Rental 1991 Household Goods Moving Study