tips on packing for a move

by | May 10, 2022 | a slice of life | 40 comments

I know people who have moved a lot more than I have, but I have moved quite a bit in my life.  Until I was almost 30, I had never lived anywhere longer than 4 years!  An 11-year stretch in our PA house is the longest I’ve lived in one place and, even then, we packed and moved a lot of stuff to sell at antique markets or drive pieces to sell at various retail spaces in Maryland and Virginia.  So, I wouldn’t consider myself a moving expert, but I am a very good mover and packer.  I’ve definitely learned what not to do (like overloading large boxes) and what to do (like load books in small boxes that are easily carried or moved on a dolly.)  I even learned new things on our cross-country move out to Minnesota.  For anyone moving and packing themselves, I thought I would share a few tips on packing for a move.

tips on packing for a move | shrinkwrap is your friend

I am a big fan of shrinkwrap.  Huge fan.  Love it.  It is fantastic for keeping things together and keeping things clean.  I use the large rolls for furniture and the smaller rolls for things I’m packing in boxes.  I use it for shipping things as well since it can keep breakables securely wrapped and loose things from jostling around a box.  The one thing I learned from our last move is that wrapping furniture in plastic is great for short trips, but for longer trips, a moving blanket/blanket or cardboard should be added under the shrinkwrap.  Just the slightest bit of rubbing over a cross-country trip can wear through the plastic and damage the furniture underneath if not protected.

tips for packing for a move | miss mustard seed

tips on packing for a move | small boxes are your friend

After one debacle with a large, overloaded box that I had to unpack mid-move, I learned that smaller boxes are the way to go.  If you need to get free boxes, wine & liquor stores are the best place to get sturdy small boxes.  Jeff and I made several tips to the local beverage store for our early moves.  For this move, we’ve been buying small and extra-small boxes from Home Depot, which run about $1/each.  We have several larger boxes given it us by friends that we’re using for linens, pillows, clothes, and things that are bulky, but not heavy.

tips for packing for a move | miss mustard seed

One tip on boxes is I always tape along the seam, but then put two pieces of tape perpendicular along the bottom of the box to add extra support.  If one piece of tape fails, the other two will pick up the slack.

tips for packing for a move | miss mustard seed

tips on packing for a move | a tape gun your friend

A tape gun does take a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, it really helps speed up the process of assembling and taping boxes.  You don’t have to try to rip the tape with your teeth or keep track of a pair of scissors.

tips for packing for a move | miss mustard seed

tips on packing for a move | bubble wrap your friend

I move a lot of breakable items including an extensive ironstone collection.  I have learned over the years, whether I’m packing for a move or packing something to ship, that bubble wrap + shrink wrap + packing peanuts + a good box = very few breakages.

tips for packing for a move | miss mustard seed

I wrap a piece in bubble wrap, either nested with other pieces (like plates and bowls) or on their own (like pitchers) and then I’ll add shrinkwrap to make a little “bubble nest.”  For most pieces, I put them in the box as is and they travel just fine.  For special pieces, such as my ironstone cake stands, I also put them in packing peanuts to provide even more cushion.  I would do the same for shipping since I’m certain all packages get dropped off a two-story building.  You know…just for fun.

The “bubble nest” offers great protection, though, and keeps fragile items snug and safe.  I don’t think we had any ironstone break in our last move.

Bubble wrap can get expensive.  I buy a “haybale-sized” roll in bulk from U-line, but I’ve also been able to acquire or buy packing materials, including clean bubble wrap from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

tips for packing for a move | miss mustard seed

I am also a fan of newsprint.  I know it’s more economical to use actual newspapers, but I hate how the ink rubs off on my hands, and then it can get items dirty when being packed or unpacked.  I buy clean, blank newsprint packing paper to wrap things that need a little protection but not as much as bubble wrap.

I’ll have to share a little video on how I wrap things in newsprint. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but I learned the secrets when I worked at Mikasa right out of college!

you can be your friend

The last thing I would say is that packing for a move and unpacking after a move are both cumbersome processes, but you can do things to make it easier on yourself…

Purge before a move so that you’re not moving things you don’t use, love, or need.

If you’re storing things for an unknown period of time or long-term, weigh the cost of storing the item vs. selling it.

Pack like things together and label boxes well.  We all throw random things in boxes towards the end of packing, but when you have the time, pack thoughtfully and carefully.

tips for packing for a move | miss mustard seed

Any other tips from frequent movers and self-packers?

40 Comments

  1. VAMama

    We have moved So Many Times — internationally, cross-country, back-of-the-car-with-those-blue-Ikea-bags, seat-of-your-pants, you-name it — with many children and pets and all of the Stuff , and I can absolutely verify that your tips are Gold !!!

    One thing I discovered because Big Family = Many Dishes is that styrofoam disposable plates and bowls are wonderful packing material to put between breakable plates and bowls. We also use clothing and towels and folded sheets as packing materials to reduce the number of boxes. Unless you buy expensive pillows (we typically buy the $3.48 ones from you-know-who), it is much cheaper to simply throw away the old ones and buy new ones at the new destination.

    Reply
  2. Eileen

    My things arrived before me so I bought rolls of cheap tape, different colors from the dollar store and labeled each room with a different color and the matching tape on each box. I made a legend, a map and at least six copies for everyone. The movers Loved it…. no issues as to what room to put things in.

    Reply
    • Colleen

      Yes! The different color tape for each room is huge. I used foam core board and put a piece of each color tape with what room it belonged to. I placed one at the front door and one strategically placed in the house. The movers loved it and took photos to encourage future customers to use the method.

      Reply
    • Peg

      I always pack a “first day” box…tp, kleenex, a pair or scissors, coffee pot/coffee, a lightbulb or two, disposable dishes/cups/silverware, toiletries, a change of clothes, pet food, snacks that can act as a meal etc.

      Do your own packing but pay to have your belongings professionally moved.

      If taking two vehicles, give the extra set of keys to the driver of other vehicle.

      Always label boxes on the top AND the side.

      In our last big move (two one-thousand mile relocations in 10 months), my husband took our two dogs and all their gear, and I took my iMac computer and the first night box.

      A few gallon jugs of the tap water from your soon to be former home can be mixed with tap water at your new home to offset/prevent stomach upset in pets.

      Newsprint/bubble wrap/shrink wrap/ moving blankets/small boxes are your friends, just like Marian says!

      Reply
  3. Cindy

    Great tips Marian! We are currently in the process of packing for a cross country move as well. One tip from my hubs is to code each room (ie kitchen is 100, office is 200), and to keep a running list of items for each room on a pad of paper. So all the kitchen boxes will be 101, 102, etc. It makes it so easy on the other end to unpack the truck quickly and know where each box goes!

    Reply
  4. Lin

    Thank you so much for this post! We are almost sure we will be moving in a few months and your links and suggestions are so needed! I look forward to your video of how to wrap items in newsprint. I hope you realize Marian how much you help your followers in our daily lives in so many many areas! My home has special furniture items that I love all because you, your post, and your book helped give me confidence that I could create them. I go to your blog very often when I need advice about cleaning, painting, etc. You have also given me so many ideas of decorating like style, sewing, etc. and now you are helping me with ideas for moving. You are a very very special person and I am so thankful for you and all the many years you have shared your expertise with us. God Bless always!

    Reply
  5. Addie

    Hi Marion,
    I agree with what you put out there but have a few tips that worked great for me. I moved 2 states over and was in storage for one year NOT one broken thing….most antiques.
    First off, I NEVER have a box labeled: “linens”…..why? Use those linens to cushion boxes of breakables. Before bubble wrap, wrap in towels or pillowcases. Line boxes with folded sheets and bath towels. I use socks, boys sports socks are the best, for wrapping spouts, handles and pedestals. Breakable candlesticks are great in a mans sock!!! Fine silver severing pieces go great in socks too. Wrap and roll silver in socks so not to scratch, then tape or rubber band around!!! Large platters can be wrapped in quilts and shrink wrapped on top of that. These linens need to be moved so make them work too!!!
    AND MOST important: Have a very clearly marked #1 and #2 box.
    #1 box should have, coffee maker and coffee, tea kettle and tea bags, 2 hand towels, pot holder, pen, paper, scissors, box cutter, flashlight and whatever you feel you NEED to have right away. (M&M’s!!!!!)
    #2 box should have 1 set of sheets for each using bed, bath towel for each person, slippers, clean underwear and deodorant !!!!!
    Be careful not to overdo with your bad foot. Can’t wait to see the adventures in the new home!!!!

    Reply
    • Carol Lupiani

      Lots of great ideas! I have a couple. Use vacuum sealed bags (Space Bags) for bedding to conserve space. Also, we set up a master sheet that described contents with a number assigned and written on each box. So, after arriving at your new home all we had to do to identify what was in the box was to check the master list. It saved time for us not writing contents on each box. One more thing, Lowe’s moving boxes have handles on the sides.

      Reply
      • Brenda C

        Best tip on the page: “Bubble wrap your friend” Of course we don’t want to leave our favorite people behind! ❤

        Reply
      • JC

        Great tips! Even moving across town can be a challenge. In just about every move we’ve done…..11 moves in 35 years of marriage, we pack a “family essentials box” with things we need for the immediate: cleaners, rags, tp, paper towels, plates, utensils, etc. We also pack an “individual essentials box” for each person: pjs, pillow, hygiene supplies, meds etc… Mark and place these boxes together and separately from the rest of the moving boxes.
        Everyone is usually really tired when getting to your new destination and to unpack a few boxes, without hunting for boxes or even unloading any other boxes at all from a POD cuts down on the stress levels. We hope to sell our vacation cabin this summer….the plan….sell it furnished! Hahaaa, we will still have to move a few pieces and smaller personals. Your tip on purging before the move is smart! Thanks for sharing.

        Reply
  6. Teddee Grace

    After wrapping, stand plates, saucers and bowls on their edges in your packing boxes. Placing them flat increases the chance of breaking.

    Reply
    • Nancy Sullivan

      Yes, place plates, saucers and bowls on edge, but make a fairly deep “nest” of crumpled moving paper (non-print newspaper) in the bottom of the box. We like the large kitchen pack boxes which are very, very sturdy, but you will need a dolly to move them. With a dolly they are very easy to work with. We have moved 19 times, 4 international moves.

      Reply
  7. Barbara Ann King

    Such great tips on packing up the house to move all of your worldly possessions to another house! Great comments as well. I’m still in the purge stage. We will eventually move, so I’m trying to make it easier on myself. None of our 4 kids and their families are going to want my beautiful silver tea set, numerous other silver items, bone china, crystal stemware, etc., which makes me sad but I can’t force them to take them. As someone said in earlier comments about the purging faze, is that there are no hearses hooked up to a trailerful of earthly goods!

    Reply
  8. Betsy

    Blankets for big artwork nestled between coats in a wardrobe box. I hired a moving company and they were thrilled not to have an overload of art boxes. Beach towels for smaller art.

    Reply
  9. Kay Grogg

    Don’t let your kids pack their stuff without supervision. I thought I’d put my 9 year old on a project of packing her toys. When we had moved and I was unpacking, there was a box with Lacy’s name on it. It made a thumping noise and I could tell it was unbalanced inside. Upon opening I discovered a very large rock in the medium sized box. 🤦🏼‍♀️ I asked her about it and she said it was her favorite rock from the yard. I saved it and when she moved to Texas as a newlywed, I made sure that her rock got in with her personal items!

    Reply
    • Lee Ann

      Kay, this is hilarious! Thank you for sharing this. I bet your daughter keeps that rock forever!

      Reply
  10. Sandi

    I have also moved a ton of times! I don’t envy you but wish you the best, sounds like you are a veteran mover!

    Reply
  11. Kathleen

    If boxes will be stored for a time and you are in temporary quarters, whether an apartment or hotel, number each box (1,2,3, etc.). Keep a separate list on paper of what is in each box (contents of corner cabinet, Dad’s drill bits, etc.). Transcribe the paper list to a spreadsheet that you can access from your phone/computer. Google Sheets works well for this. That way if you need an obscure item, you have a better chance of finding the right box the first time without having to open several in hopes that the label for the room was enough. If you have valuables that sticky fingers might appreciate, use a fake code word (Aunt Betty’s doilies and handmade vases or Uncle Bill’s rock collection) on the box.

    Reply
  12. Fonda

    I would never wrap breakables in towels or linens. If the item you are wrapping does get broken, the tiny shards could permeate the threads and render the towels or linens unusable.

    Reply
    • Addie

      Fonda, I should of added that I wrap in unprinted newsprint or bubble wrap first then add the towel around that. Even if I didn’t and it broke…you could take the towel outside shake it out over a garage can and hit it with a wooden spoon. Then wash the towels and they would be fine.

      Reply
  13. Carolyn

    I agree with all these wonderful tips, I’ve moved several times and had a friend who was an army brat teach me how to move, it was so useful.
    The one additional tip I’ll add, we have a bow front cabinet with glass doors, along with taping the glass, we pack bed pillows inside to help support the glass. Our first movers (east coast to mid-west) suggested building a wood box around the cabinet to protect the glass, it worked so we have done that for long moves, shorter moves we have moved the cabinet ourselves not in the moving van.
    Blessing for a safe move and transition to the east coast!

    Reply
  14. Lynette

    As the veteran of many moves, international and within Australia, these are all fabulous tips! One thing that I would add is to make sure that the special box that you want first up is the last one packed, or you take it with you if you can, You don’t want it at the back of the container when they arrive. I always put some special things in the box for the children. Just something familiar etc as a nice surprise when it is opened up.

    Reply
  15. Daisy

    This is so helpful! My best tip is to buy dollar store Styrofoam plates for padding between plates and bowls and they work great for glasses too. I use plastic grocery bags to fill out odd spaces in boxes. Add a box of trash bags to the first day survival kit as well. Or just use those plastic bags for trash bags and the Styrofoam plates you can eat off of so you don’t have to do dishes when you’re so exhausted lol

    Reply
  16. Kay

    Maybe someone mentioned this and I didn’t notice. It is important to mark contents on the SIDES of boxes, not the top. Maybe more than one side! Boxes will be stacked and anything on top of the boxes cannot be read.

    I have moved probably 50 times and feel that I am an almost-expert on this subject.

    Reply
    • Lee Ann

      Kay, YES! This is so true! And I’d suggest to label 2-3 sides of each box, just to be sure you can read the contents from any angle.

      Reply
  17. Billie

    All of your tips were spot on! I’ve used many of them. An organized and planned out move just goes so much more smoothly and efficiently. I am a big believer in newsprint and shrinkwrap, although I didn’t discover shrinkwrap until my later moves. By the way, I am now in my forever home, so hopefully won’t be moving again EVER!

    Shrinkwrap is great for holding drawers in place when you move the piece of furniture that they’re in, but I also learned to take smaller drawers out, leave the contents in them, shrinkwrap them across the top so the contents don’t fall out, and put them in a box; that makes the furniture piece lighter and easier to lift and tote;then when you reach your destination, just put the drawers back in, rather than looking for the contents that go in the drawers.

    Reply
  18. Marie

    On our last move I learned a lesson. A mover once told me not to empty the drawers. Big mistake! A valuable desk drawer is now permanently impossible to open because something inside was jostled and is blocking it.

    Reply
  19. Kris B

    A few weeks ago, someone commented on your site having a lot of pop-ups & adds. Another person then recommended a different browser called BRAVE. Well, I’ve complained about the same things so I went to check out the BRAVE browser, thought it sounded great and downloaded it and now presently using it. IT IS PRETTY WONDERFUL. There isn’t anything at all popping up, the time to switch screens is faster, the site does not track any of your viewing or keep sites you log into. It is just refreshing to say the least. Thank you to whomever suggested it!

    Reply
    • Kim

      Not only that, but you can have an anti-tracker on your own computer that will tell you how many different tracking/ads are on each website you visit. Missmustardseed.com beats all the others hands down with the number of trackers that are being stopped by my security system, weighing in at 39 tracking devices!!

      Reply
  20. Kim

    I don’t envy you the nitty gritty of packing and moving, but am seeing some great tips to ease some of the angst that accompanies it. Have a couple of small suggestions. I would ask stores for the extra shopping bags. You’d be surprised how often they throw out perfectly good bags. I placed small items like silverware or kitchen utensils in a bag, tie it, wrapped in paper and then placed in a box. We moved close to the holidays, so I packed an essential item Christmas box, and labeled it a such so we could have a pared down Christmas if we chose. I also wish in retrospect that I had labeled which lampshades went with which lamps. We had just finishing remodeling a house and had everything staged to perfection, only to accept a job offer in another state. Small detail, but would have streamlined the process of restoring order. Even a photo of the combinations would have been helpful as most of our belongings were in storage for months. Wishing you an uneventful move and looking forward to hearing about your new adventures.

    Reply
  21. Betty Bashaw

    These are great tips, Marian. Tell me more about shrink wrap. Where do you buy, how to use, etc.

    Reply
  22. Irene Kelly

    Marian, Yes I so agree with Lin you are a real treasure ! So helpful to all of us ! Thank you for sharing your wisdom !

    Reply
    • Maureen

      A couple things;. Boxes from the liquor store with inserts are great for packing stemware. Just slip them into the bottle spaces. No need to wrap. Also, take a plastic bag from the grocery/drug store and wrap your item before wrapping in newsprint. No print on anything as the plastic bag protects them. Safe travel.

      Reply
  23. Cakknap

    I like your packing tips. I have move 3 times in the last 12 years—2 of those moves cross country. I use lots of bubble wrap and shrink wrap and blankets but no peanuts. I use packing paper to cushion boxes filled with breakables. I have moved twice with lots of antique pieces…never had any breakage.
    One tip: I asked the lamp store owner where I have bought most of my lamps if they had extra shipping boxes (that their lamps for store inventory had come in. They gave me the most amazing boxes and used bubble wrap…the quality was amazing and I used every bit.

    Reply
  24. Hélène

    Love these tips! The comments are great, too. Please don’t forget the video about wrapping with newsprint!

    Reply
  25. Leslie

    I can’t seem to find post on where you are moving and why???
    I followed you on your last move. Not sure how you can spend so much time redoing a home, painting, etc. and leave! But that’s me. Of course you are more used to it.
    Also, I’d be worried that of the things I sold at a yard sale would now be so much more expensive to replace (with current inflation, etc.). But good luck.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      We are moving to be closer to our parents. A two-day drive is just too far. We want to be able help them if and when they need it and we want the boys to get to know them better as they get older. It’s bitter sweet, but our house is going to a wonderful couple who love it and I am excited to work on our next house.

      As far as selling things, we’ll replace some things, but a lot of them are things that won’t need to be replaced. Most things will also be purchased second-hand.

      Reply
  26. Anna

    One thing that helped immensely in our last move was bike boxes. We had a bike store in town and they let us have the boxes they unpacked their bikes from. Everything that was flat got put in a bike box, from pictures, and the T.V. to platters and baking sheets.

    Reply
  27. Rita

    There are some great suggestions in this post as well as comments. Thankfully I’m not moving anytime soon. I am getting ready for a yard sale in a couple weeks. I’m looking forward to lightening the load.

    Reply
  28. Sharon Rexroad

    It’s worth checking with your local newspaper to see if they have “end rolls” – the leftover blank newsprint from each day’s newspaper run. I used to get these dirt cheap. It’s great for craft projects as well!

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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