Trying to figure out the best ways to pack ahead for a move can be overwhelming. Depending on how many things you own, you may even feel tempted to procrastinate.
But, packing all your stuff definitely isn’t something you want to do the day before you move—especially if you don’t know what to do!
If you’re wondering where to start, read this guide for advice on right and wrong ways to pack ahead before a move. You can also check out Episode 1 of our YouTube video series, Master Your Move.
In the content below, Norma, one of our longtime Moving Expert staffers, has a unique background in claims. This experience gives her great insight on how to pack for a move early to prevent damage. She’s passionate about helping people simplify their moves and keep them damage-free by knowing what to expect and what to do before a move.
Read on to learn what and how to pack ahead of your movers’ arrival!
Packing Do’s: Best Ways To Pack Ahead of Time for a Move
No matter how you plan on moving, if you’re not hiring packers, it’s a great idea to do some packing yourself.
It’s equally important to pack correctly. This will reduce the chance that any accidents or injuries occur during your move.
Here are the best tips for packing ahead of your move—and how to do it right— so you don’t waste time or damage your stuff.
1. Fold or Vacuum-Seal Your Clothes in a Suitcase
Movers will move practically anything (anything that’s not illegal or a safety liability). Lucky for you, that includes luggage and suitcases!
Instead of worrying about what you’re going to do with your wardrobe, break out your travel luggage and use it to pack clean clothes before your move.
Your suitcase is much safer than a box, so this is a great way to protect any fabric that is thin, beaded, fringed, delicate, or otherwise expensive.
If you have a vacuum-sealer bag system, you can get even more clothing into your suitcase.
Remember to remove any luggage tags or attachments that could get snagged during your move.
2. Use Towels to Perfectly Wrap Dishes for Moving
Contrary to what some YouTubers say, if you’re wondering how to move bowls and dishes, simply stacking them in a box is not a good idea.
Newspapers are often way too thin to keep dishes from rattling around, then chipping or breaking. So, Norma recommends wrapping dishes in bath towels and marking the box FRAGILE as much as possible:
“Definitely mark the box as much as possible. Usually, the top and the side of the box are best to mark… Again, the movers are going to move very quickly. They’re used to [our] packers labeling the box all the way around, right. So they just look at it and see what’s fragile…It’s good to make it very legible: easy to read, quick to read.”
3. Color-Code Boxes & Number New Rooms
Whether it’s a bright permanent marker, colorful tape, or your kid’s school paint, color-coding your boxes can speed up your move. Movers find it helpful to know where boxes go based on their color labels, which helps them move faster (example: red for fragile items, blue for baby toys, etc.)
Take it up a notch and also write numbers on boxes based on the rooms you want them in at your new destination.
Then, use a sticky note or wall-safe tape to mark the rooms with the matching box numbers.
4. How to Pack Plants for Moving
Legally, movers aren’t allowed to move any potted plants in the back of the truck.
“It’s under the Texas Department of Transportation Rules and Regulations,” Norma explains. “We do help customers move them, but we just put them into their vehicles so they can safely get them moved.”
If you have to move a potted plant, invest in a good floor tarp for your backseat because you’ll probably have to move it in your own vehicle.
5. Disassemble & Pack Your Lamps Early
Lamps might not seem like a big deal until you’re paying movers by the hour and they have to stop and take them all apart.
For more complicated items like lamps with removable or small parts, your move will go much faster if you break it down and wrap any pieces long before your movers arrive.
6. Prepare Child and Pet Equipment
Kiddie equipment is simple to move if it’s foldable, and disassembling child furniture before your move will make it easier for movers to stow it on the truck.
But be aware that there are some things no reputable, professional crew will move, (like cribs or playgrounds).
Children's furniture is often too high-risk to disassemble and reassemble, mostly because they vary so widely in their manufacturing and parts. Cribs or play equipment that have been improperly reassembled can seriously injure children, so it’s not a good idea to let just anyone do it. If you can’t do it on your own, we highly suggest getting a representative or contractor from the manufacturing company to reassemble child beds, playgrounds, dressers, and other kid's furniture.
Movers are people too, and lots of people are allergic to pets.
To make your move go faster, make sure pet supplies—like kennels, doghouses, scratch posts, pet beds, or litterboxes—are clean and disassembled/folded if possible.
The cleaning part is especially important. Even so-called hypoallergenic pet breeds carry allergens that can cause an attack in people who are allergic. You don’t want a mover to have an allergic reaction or have to pause your move while you pay by the hour.
7. Clear a Walking Path For Your Movers
So you already packed and have everything ready to go except the larger stuff? Great! The last thing to do before your movers arrive to clear a path so they can get to work. Besides being a safety hazard, having boxes in the way won’t make your move as efficient.
Moving crews tend to load the heaviest items into their trucks first, so it’s essential for them to have access to these and to the exits. Move any packed boxes off to the side or against the walls so they're out of the way when movers are carrying heavy furniture or walking by.
The clock is ticking! So if movers have to remove obstacles that are in the way of your larger furniture, it will take longer and cost more.
Packing Don’ts: Mistakes May Cost You Time, Money (Or Both)
Packing the wrong way can end up causing your move to move slower than normal.
Poor packing can alsoresult in damages that would be prevented with good planning, materials, or techniques.
1. Having Open Boxes Lying Around
Having open boxes is a big no-no.
Why? Movers are coming into your home to work quickly. If you haven’t reserved packing services—which is best done before movers arrive—it will take longer to seal and stack open boxes.
Professional movers don’t stow open boxes in their trucks where items could fall out and get lost, become damaged, or cause damages to your other items. Additionally, not all professional movers are also trained in proper packing techniques. (At 3 Men Movers, we train all of our crews to pack the right way, but you’ll need to ask your preferred company about their procedures.)
Movers also may think you’re not finished and will be storing these items in your personal vehicle, which can lead to issues or miscommunications with how they load the truck.
Either way, having unsealed or open boxes lying around will only slow down your move.
Whenever possible, try to disassemble any pieces that are oddly shaped and won’t fit in a basic moving box. If you need help disassembling or wrapping an item, ask your movers!
2. Keeping Your Clothes In Dresser Drawers
Despite the fact that this is a huge ‘don’t’, unfortunately, many people do this a lot!
In fact, other less-experienced or less-careful movers may even tell you it’s ok to leave your clothing inside of dresser drawers. But our response will always be the same: avoid leaving clothing or other items in drawers.
This is an accident waiting to happen because anything that most people keep in a dresser (like jewelry, perfume bottles, clothing, etc) can all get ripped, broken, or even fall in the dreaded, hard-to-reach nether-space behind the drawers.
Norma sums up the problem simply:
“When the movers are tilting the dollies back and maneuvering [a dresser]—to where they have to turn it on its side—all the weight falls to the bottom or toward the tilt, and it causes a high risk for damages. Not just to walls and the floors that we’re traveling through, but also to the actual items that are in the drawers. They could fall to the back, and depending on how delicate it is… It could break; jewelry could tangle and bust in the rails of the drawers… Clothing could tangle and get damaged, as well.”
You might think it’s easier than taking all your clothes out and folding them again later, but that’s only true if there are no damages in the moving process!
3. Leaving Jewelry or Fragile Items Loose
At 3 Men Movers, our policy is that movers don’t touch things like jewelry which can easily be moved by a client. It’s very easy for jewelry to shift, tangle, or get damaged when moving, so it doesn’t belong in the back of a truck with other heavier items. So we recommend that you move jewelry on your own and as delicately as possible.
Movers will transport jewelry cabinets, but on certain conditions:
- Empty cabinets and chests so the jewelry inside doesn't get damaged
- Remove jewelry or watches from cabinets and place them in a lined box (anything with a hard exterior is best since it can protect it from heavy pressure or bumps)
- Make sure your jewelry is packed tightly but gently, and that box is sturdy enough to hold up if it gets banged around in your backseat or trunk from driving over a pothole or braking abruptly
4. Using Shrinkwrap or Bubble Wrap For Everything
Shrinkwrap and bubble wrap might be fun to play with, but they’re important supplies for packing your items.
Norma advises that shrinkwrap should be reserved for:
- Movers to tighten their grip on smooth items like furniture and appliances
- Shrinkwrap is also good for keeping items protected from dust that can builds up in storage units
Bubble wrap should be reserved for delicate pieces—like ornaments, figurines, thin glass items, or anything prone to chipping, shattering, or breaking.
5. Using Cheap, Flimsy Boxes & Packing Materials
While it should be everyone’s goal to keep moving expenses down, avoid cheap packing materials at all costs.
Not only are cheap boxes more difficult for movers and packers to work with, but they’ll also slow down your move and can contribute to damages.
If you’re packing by yourself, make sure you have the right type of boxes. Grocery store boxes might be fine for food, but they definitely won’t stand up to the tough job of moving heavier items.
And, flimsy boxes shouldn’t be used for the big (or expensive) stuff! Most of the time, the items will end up falling out of the bottom when the box is lifted or getting crushed from above by something heavy.
Your moving job will also take longer if movers have to wrap weak boxes or boxes without proper lids.
6. Using Bags to Pack Instead of Boxes
Substituting bags for moving boxes definitely won’t protect your items when being transported.
Putting pillows in bags is an exception, but anything that can go in a bag should go in a box.
Bags also can’t be stacked like moving boxes. Stacking boxes properly is a best loading practice for movers, partly because it maximizes space and ensures your items don’t bump or fall around in the truck.
Think your cool compartment bag is an easy fix to transport your wine bottles? Let’s just say, you don’t want to bump over a pothole and find out what happens to that Pinot.
Packing before your move can save tons of time and headache, but only if you do it right. Not to mention your movers will adore you for being so well-prepared and ready to go.
Follow these tips to pack ahead for a move (the right way) and you’ll have the smoothest, easiest experience ever.