If you’re like me, you leave the actual moving of boxes to the professionals, but you’d rather pack the boxes yourself. I’m not saying that I can do a better job than a professional packer, but I think packing my own boxes does have some advantages. For one, I can mull over whether I really want to keep and move an item, or toss it in the pile to donate.

Yes, you might argue I can do the mulling before professional packers arrive, but I’d rather take my time deciding if I want to keep those satellite jumping shoes passed down from great aunt Martha. Another advantage of packing myself is that I can group and label things exactly as I want.

“Proper packing can be the difference between a messy moving process and a seamless home move, so it’s important to take the necessary steps and do it right,” said TWO MEN AND A TRUCK. “One of the most important steps is to give yourself time and start packing well in advance to your move so that you don’t forget anything. Also, remember to pack heavier items in smaller boxes and lighter items in larger boxes to ensure the boxes hold up.”


Forgive me for stating what may be obvious, but you’ll need some sturdy moving boxes, plenty of packaging tape with a dispenser, markers, unprinted newsprint or tissue paper, and bubble wrap or foam peanuts. Moving.com has a packing calculator to help you figure out how many boxes you’ll need. Do think twice about using old newspapers for packing material. I know it seems economical and eco-friendly, but the ink may transfer onto dishes or other innocent, impressionable items like lampshades.

Fragile Items

Label boxes containing fragile items with, of course, “Fragile.” For the lightest and most fragile boxes, write “Top Load” to let movers know that the box should go on top.

In general, when packing dishes and other breakable treasures, wrap each item separately and add newsprint or bubble wrap between layers. Plates should stand on their sides, not flat, but glasses should stand upright. Fill empty space in the box with packing material.

Heavy Items

Now you’re probably wondering why you have so many cast iron skillets, right? For heavy items, select smaller boxes. Heavier items should be placed in the bottom of the box. Add a layer of padding, then a lighter item. But, please don’t put even remotely fragile items in with cast iron skillets! Believe it or not, a certain online retailer once shipped me DVDs in the same box as cast iron cookware. Yep, the DVDs were crushed.

When you’re stacking boxes before the move, be sure to protect lighter boxes. Place the heavy boxes on the bottom of the stack. After all, you don’t want any destructive avalanches, particularly if you have roving housecats – creatures that think cardboard boxes were created just for them!

Dangerous Items

I know you’ll label that box of knives, but stay safe by using a knife roll (canvas sheet with placeholders for knives) or knife guards to cover the blades. If you’d rather not buy a knife roll or knife guards, use an old towel to securely wrap knives.

While you can pack knives, you can’t pack flammable, hazardous or corrosive items like paint, nail polish remover, batteries, charcoal, paint thinner, pesticides, etc. Movers won’t take these items, so you should make other arrangements to transport them.

Pack by Room

A good game plan is to pack one room at a time, but some items are trickier to pack than others. We’ll talk tricky.

In the office, your most complicated packing task is probably the computer. Your owner’s guide may contain tips for safely moving your particular computer. Even if you decide to move your computer yourself, don’t forget that you’ll need to spend some quality time with it before moving day. To be safe, back up all files using an external hard drive, disc or the fancy new cloud concept. Carry your backup with you.

When you’re finished backing up, shut down and disconnect from the power source.  Disconnect the cables, and place them inside a storage bag. If you’re not so computer savvy, you may want to take notes on which cables go where. Be sure to place the cables in the box with the computer. Cable searching is no fun! If possible, pack your computer and monitor in their original boxes, and protect them with bubble wrap or foam, especially along the top and around corners.

In the kitchen, wine glasses are perhaps the most fragile items you’ll pack. Stuff some crumpled newsprint into the globe, but don’t pack it in too tightly. Next, wrap the wine glass in layers of tissue paper or a sheet of bubble wrap, and secure it with tape. Place the wine glass upright in a celled cardboard box, and loosely fill in empty space with packing paper or peanuts. Add a layer of bubble wrap on top of your perfectly prepared box.

In the living room, be extra careful when packing lampshades. Those delicate beauties are so crushable, and should be handled by the wire frame. If possible, nest lampshades together inside a large box, adding a sheet of plain newsprint between shades. Place some packing paper in the box, but don’t include other items in the box with the shades.

Most likely, your living room also contains your favorite electronic items. About.com has a good guide on how to pack electronics, but you should also check with your moving company for their recommendations on larger items.

Label and List

Using a marker, label your wonderfully packed boxes on a couple of sides. (Of course, you’ll label and seal as you pack, not at the end!) List which room the box should be placed in after the move, and include a general contents list, such as “utensils” or “yoga gear.” While it’s easy to write “master bedroom” on a box, you may need to assign numbers to additional bedrooms to ensure your boxes are placed in the proper location the first time. And, finally, be sure to seal your boxes on bottom and top.

If you’ve had something break during a move, what was it?

One thought on “How to Pack Boxes for a Move

  1. Great packing tip! Also, this can save you money. The more you pack, the lesser will be the moving costs.

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