How You Pack Can Make Or Break Your Next Move

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

March 21, 2008 6 min read


How you pack can make or break your next move

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

Copley News Service

It's not what you pack. It's how you pack that can save you time, money and stress whether you move across town, to another state, or even another country, experts say.

If you're like most of the estimated 40 million Americans who will move this year, you'll be leaving the big items like sofas and large appliances to the pros and will pack almost everything else yourself.

Since the cost of moving is usually steeper than people think, it's a smart step to take, especially if you're keeping an eye on the bottom line. Having a professional pack as well as move everything in your home can cost you upward of $400 more per room, estimates John Bisney, spokesman for the American Moving and Storage Association, which represents most of the nation's major movers. "The great majority of people do try to do some of their own packing to reduce their costs," he says.

But not everyone does it well.

Bisney says the three most common mistakes that do-it-yourself packers make are:

- Not using enough packing material.

- Not using durable-enough boxes.

- Not properly labeling contents.

There are easy ways to avoid those errors, experts say. Start with a floor plan of your new home and a room-by-room inventory of your possessions. Combined, they will help you make some initial decisions about what you really need to move or store and what you can sell or give away. That should allow you to draw up a realistic packing timetable.

Some items can be boxed quickly, like children's toys, kitchen pans or plastic ware. Delicate items like china and crystal take more time and care. Be sure to allow extra time for this so that you finish packing before the moving van rumbles up to your door.

Assembling the right materials to do the job is a must. In addition to a variety of specialized and general cartons, your packing kit should contain:

- White and colored tissue paper (the latter used to distinguish small or fragile items).

- Bubble wrap, cardboard and similar material.

- Heavy-duty packaging tape.

- Markers.

- Timesaving peel-off "fragile" stickers.

- Scissors and a box cutter.

- Gloves to lift cartons and heavy items.

- A sturdy notebook to record your inventory, carton-by-carton.

- A folding table and chair so you can move packing activities from one room to another.

When you begin the packing process, work room-by-room, starting with items that are used infrequently or are out-of-season. Make sure you identify each box, assigning it to a room in your new home. Mark all sides of the box. And be sure to paste "fragile" labels on each side, where appropriate.

Here are some other key packing suggestions from the pros:

- Books and heavy items belong in strong cartons and should not exceed the weight rating stamped on the box. Keep book boxes to no more than 30 pounds.

- Wardrobe boxes will make it easier to transfer clothes - which remain on hangers - to your new closet.

- Wrap china and glassware in tissue, bubble wrapping each piece and separate with cardboard. Use moving cartons made for this purpose, filling the base and any empty spaces with plastic "peanuts." Avoid using empty wine or liquor boxes. Their compartments may be too flimsy to protect your breakables.

- Carefully bubble-wrap and double-pack paintings in boxes made for this purpose.

- No matter what the age, pack up a child's room last. It helps allay some of the insecurities they may be feeling amid the hubbub of a move. If they're old enough, let them help you pack, using the time to talk about what they'd like in their new room. Let them decorate their moving cartons with stickers.

- Take personal papers, irreplaceable family photos and valuables like furs and jewelry with you. If you can't, ship them separately.

If you have a dog, cat or other pet, your best option may be to take them to their new home in the family car. By law, pets cannot be transported in a moving van nor are they allowed on most rail or bus lines. There are also limits on how they can be shipped by air. It's best to check first with your vet.

Except in extreme temperatures, houseplants can survive a van move, provided your new home is within a day's travel. A gardening book or garden center can tell you how to prepare your plants. Another option is to just take cuttings.


Moving? You're not alone

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

Copley News Service

The American Moving and Storage Association estimates that 13 percent of Americans move each year, based on 2005 U.S. census figures. That translates into 40 million people, or 17 million households.


57 percent: the same county

20 percent: the same state

19 percent: another state

4 percent another country


Individuals: 48.9 percent

Corporations: 33.4 percent

Military: 16.2 percent

Other government: 1.5 percent


1. California

2. Florida

3. Texas

4. New York

5. Arizona

6. North Carolina

7. Illinois

8. Georgia

9. District of Columbia

10. Pennsylvania


1. Washington

2. Phoenix

3. Atlanta

4. Chicago

5. Los Angeles

6. Seattle

7. San Diego

8. Dallas

9. New York

10. Boston

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