How to pack for an easier move.

Updated

Moving will never be less annoying. But you can be less bad at it. Here are the most helpful tips from top professional movers on Thumbtack



The best packing tips from top-rated moving pros. 

Tip #1: Purge first, pack later. 

Don’t find yourself in your new place unpacking stuff you don’t even want. You’ll waste money buying more boxes, getting a bigger moving truck or paying the movers for longer hours.

Some professional organizers say you should start sorting through your stuff up to two months before your move. So get rid of things you never wear. Say goodbye to furniture that doesn’t suit your new place. Give things away (or get your junk hauled for you) and start fresh. Those dresser drawers need to be emptied before the move.

Tip #2: Pack it yourself (unless it’s fragile). 

If you’re hiring movers, you can ask them to pack everything as an add-on service. But most things are easier and cheaper to pack yourself. This way, you’ll know where everything is and you can make extra sure you’re only bringing things you want. Plus, some movers charge by the hour, so your overall tab will be lower if everything’s packed and ready to go when they get there.

Here’s the exception: if it’s likely to break (fragile items like glassware and dishes), let a pro pack it. Professional movers say even the slightest extra space in the box can lead to broken dishes if the truck hits a bump in the road.

That said, it’s a good idea to pack these items yourself if you want to keep track of valuables like family china. If you don’t have packing paper or bubble wrap, paper towels make good wrapping material in a pinch.

Tip #3: Put heavy items in small boxes. 

Yeah, you can use a dolly, but when you’re packing, imagine that you actually have to carry each individual box. You would be surprised how many people think, “Oh, I’ll just dump everything from this bookcase into this huge box. It’s so convenient.” Then the mover gets there and wonders exactly how you thought that 70-pound box was going to get off the floor and onto the truck.

Don’t be that person. Put your books in small boxes and your lightweight stuff like clothes and linens in large boxes. 

Tip #4: Label your boxes by room.

labeled moving boxes

A lot of people will label their boxes by what’s in them, not where they belong. But that won’t make the unpacking process easier, whether or not you’re hiring a moving company.

Instead, plan to organize boxes room by room. “Don’t label the box ‘clothing,’" says Jack Bornstein, owner of Texas Move It in Houston, Texas. “Label it ‘master bedroom closet.’ It makes it much easier for the movers when they get to the new place because they know exactly where it should go.”

You can even number the rooms in your new home to make it easier for the movers to know where to put things. 

Tip #5: Keep your cables straight.  

You disconnected all the entertainment cables — the TV, the stereo receiver, the gaming PC. But don’t confuse those cables with the charger for your handheld vacuum or the connector cable for your external hard drive.

Take this simple advice from Tyler Ancheta of Goal Line Moving in Minnesota: “Label the cords and where they go to before the movers take it apart, or take a picture.”

Ancheta adds that movers can take your TV off the wall, but they likely won’t remove the mount from the wall itself for liability reasons. So, you’ll need a handyman to help with that.

Search local movers and check prices.

Most common packing mistakes.

Mistake #1: Underestimating how much stuff you have.

Almost everyone does this. It wastes time and costs extra money, whether you’re renting a truck or having a professional move you.

Multiple trips to the store for boxes. Paying the movers to wait for you to finish packing, because you’re not done when they get there. Finding out at the worst possible time that your stuff doesn’t fit in the size truck you reserved. Avoid this by packing early — including sorting through donations and junk — and asking your moving company to come do a site inspection. 

Mistake #2: Not packing an overnight bag with essentials.

Oops. You packed stuff you need right away like towels, pet food, toothbrushes, meds, important documents — even toilet paper — in all different places. Now you have to dig through all the boxes in every room to figure out where they even are.

Too bad you didn’t pack an overnight (or weekend) bag with your must-haves. Ancheta says this is especially important for an out-of-town move where movers might not unload you till the next day — but it’s a good idea for any move, even a few miles away.

Mistake #3: Hiring a generalist to move specialty items. 

Your piano is very nice. It would be a shame if it got damaged. Ditto those expensive or oversized art pieces. You’ll have to get those crated up. And your pool table. You can’t play pool on a crooked table.

Just make sure whoever moves your specialty items has the right expertise, equipment and experience to do it properly. It may or may not be your general moving company. Do your research.

Mistake #4: Skimping on cardboard boxes (and packing tape). 

Remember: you have to pack absolutely everything in boxes. Which means you need to get enough packing materials. Some moving supply stores will even buy back extra boxes that you don’t end up using (make sure to check). If that’s the case, there’s no downside to stocking up. Take an inventory at home of roughly how many boxes you need and what sizes. It can’t hurt to have a range of packing supplies. Expect to put lighter items like linens and clothes in big boxes and heavier things like dishes and books in smaller ones.

packed moving boxes and wrapped furniture

How much does moving cost? 

A lot of movers charge per hour per crew member. You might pay more depending on how much stuff you need to move, how far the movers need to drive and whether or not you want help with extras. 

In general, the bigger the place and the heavier the items you need moved, the higher the moving cost. Extras like packing, furniture disassembly and supplies — like bubble wrap, packing paper and boxes — can add to the tab. You’ll also have to factor in complications like flights of stairs, which mean harder work and extra care not to damage anything. But some moving companies only charge on the way up, not the way down. 

Even if you’ll be using an elevator, not stairs, your moving company might add an elevator fee since it can slow things down. Tricky parking can also cost extra. Any parking scenario that isn’t right at your front door could mean a long-carry fee.

The best way to get started — and avoid surprises — is to get an in-home estimate.

For more on costs, see “How much does a moving company cost?

Get free estimates from top-rated movers.

Who to hire to help with moving. 

Moving is about more than getting from point A to point B. Here’s who to hire to help before, during and after you move:

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