From New Haven Moving Equipment
The Complete Homeowners Packing & Moving Guide
By James Levine
Planning and Preparation
It is never too early to start preparing for your move but you shouldn’t leave it to the last minute so try to leave at least six weeks clear before moving day.
Choosing a Moving Strategy
There are basically three choices when it comes to moving your home: hiring a truck and doing your own packing and moving; packing yourself and letting a mover move the contents of your home; or hiring a moving company to do everything for you including all of the packing, moving and unpacking.
If you are happy to drive a large vehicle on busy highways and through narrow lanes then hiring and driving your own truck will save you money. However, you will need to factor in the cost of extra insurance cover, gas and any moving equipment you might need.
Order Moving Supplies Early
You should budget around $250 for moving cartons, equipment hire and packing supplies. There are online calculators available for calculating how many cartons you will need but a rule of thumb is around 100 boxes for a three-bedroom home. You will also need around 440 yards of tape and 120 lb packing paper for a home of this size.
Transfer Medical Records and Forward Mail
Provide your new address to important people and institutions such as the Post Office, banks and credit card companies. It is vital that you don’t miss receiving important bills or correspondences.
Other tasks include updating address details on pet collars/records, magazine subscriptions and any other services you want to resume at your new location.
Choose a Packing Strategy
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what order to do your packing in but there are a couple of popular methods which each have their merits.
Some people prefer to sort all of their items out first prior to packing whereas others prefer to move from room to room, packing as they go. This guide is suitable for both of these strategies.
Sorting your Belongings
If you like to sort all of your belongings before doing any packing, you should have some way of collecting together those items that you want to sell, those you want to donate, those that can be recycled and those which will need to be thrown into the trash.
It is useful to have a room set side for storing these items. Some people use a garage due to its accessibility. Others nominate a spare room as this is easy to clear out.
There are various outlets for selling your good quality items:
Online auction sites (eBay, Craigslist, etc.)
A garage sale. This can also be a great way to say goodbye to the neighbors!
A consignment shop. These may pay up front or following a sale and are ideal for vintage clothing
For items you want to donate to charity, consider:
Non-profit stores (Salvation Army, Good Will, etc.)
Second hand book stores
Schools (books, computer equipment, etc.)
Local businesses (for office supplies)
Once you have thinned down what you plan to move, you might want to pack up anything which you definitely won’t be needing before the move (sports equipment, out of season clothes, heavy blankets, etc.)
The Essentials Box
The ‘Essentials Box’ will need to be packed on moving day. You can either pack it first of all or gradually fill it up as you move from room to room. Be sure to label it ‘Load Last, Unload First’.
For the items you should include, see the individual room packing guides.
By ensuring you buy in enough packing equipment up front, you can save time. Be generous since most packing equipment can be used in other household projects. If you skimp on packing materials you will either find yourself wasting time topping up or taking risks with the security of your items by overloading boxes or using unsuitable containers.
Here are some of the supplies you should stock up on:
Moving cartons (see next section)
Plain wrapping paper (white or brown)
Cell kits for packing glasses (see our section on packing fragile items)
Marker pen or labels
Bubble wrap (include some anti-static bubble wrap for electrical items)
Furniture slides (to protect floors)
Cleaning items (buckets, mops, sponges, dusters, vacuum cleaner, cleaning chemicals, etc.)
Thick garbage bags (including clear bags)
Plastic ties (for tying similar items together)
Plastic bags for rugs
Zipped plastic bags (for toiletries, nuts and bolts, etc.)
Linens and rags (great for extra packing)
Shredded paper (can make your own)
Protective covers (for garage equipment)
Plastic wrap (for large furniture items)
Moving straps (for heavy furniture)
Cardboard corner protectors (for tables and pictures)
If you are hiring a moving team, check what equipment they will supply. For example, they will probably have a dolly on board as well as moving straps, furniture pads, plastic shrink wrap and mattress bags.
Moving cartons are such an important consideration that they deserve a section all of their own.
The first issue to settle is whether to purchase boxes or use recycled ones. We recommend you purchase most of your boxes from a moving supplies company. Used boxes may be free but you can’t tell what may have been carried in them (or spilt in them) before. Purchased boxes should have been tested and have the results marked on them. IT IT IS BEST TO PURCHASE A BOX WITH AN ECT RATING OF 32 OR GREATER. They often have handy ‘This Way Up’ markings on them as well.
If you do want to use recycled boxes (which ARE OFTEN CHEAPER), restrict them to your easy to pack and less valuable items. THEY OFTEN TEND TO CRUSH EASIER THEN NON-RECYCLED BOXES AND WILL OFFER YOU LESS STRENGTH, DURABILITY AND STRENGTH.
Moving boxes are specifically designed to protect your possessions and come in a range of useful types and sizes:
Heavy Duty/Corrugated Cartons
These are double-walled to provide extra protection for delicate items or to handle heavy items. Use them for:
Plates and dishes (especially china)
Stemware and glassware (especially crystal)
Small, sensitive electrical parts and appliances (e.g. speakers)
Cellular dividers can be purchased for packing glasses. See our section on packing fragile items for instructions on how to do this.
Very Small Boxes
Boxes that are less than a cubic foot may be useful for collecting together odds and ends (e.g.toiletries, ‘top of dresser’ items, etc.) that would get lost in a larger box. It is best to pack very small boxes together into one small moving carton.
1.5 Cubic Feet
These versatile boxes are useful for packing:
Books. Paperbacks should be stored flat or with spines down; hardbacks should be stored on their side with a sheet of cardboard between each one. Valuable books should also be wrapped individually in plain packing paper.
Pots and pans
Shoes (boxed where possible)
Contents of drawers
Lamp bases and shades (see our guide to Packing the Living Room)
Small pictures and frames (wrap in bubble wrap)
Small boxes should be securely taped at the base and can be lined with bubble wrap and/or packing paper. Fill gaps with packing material.
3.0 Cubic Feet
These are useful for a variety of items, including:
Larger pots and pans
Non-perishable food (cans, jars, etc.)
Small to medium appliances
4.5 Cubic Feet
These can be useful for awkward or bulky items such as:
Larger lamps and lampshades
Medium to large appliances
Extra Large Carton
6.0 Cubic Feet
These are handy for:
Your moving company may supply these. Most come with a rail so that you can simply transfer clothes from your closet.
These are for mirrors, paintings and frames (see ‘How to Pack Mirrors and Paintings‘). They are telescoping so that you can adjust the boxes to the height of the contents.
Other types of specialty boxes to consider (speak to your moving supplies company):
File boxes (from an office supplies store)
Mattress boxes (recommended if you intend to put into storage)
How to Pack Mirrors and Pictures
Mirrors and pictures can be packed in specialist picture boxes/mirror cartons. These are telescopic to adapt to the size of your item.
Frame protectors are invaluable. These are placed on the corners to prevent damage. Next, lay out enough packing paper so that it extends to twice the size of the picture or mirror. Place the item on to the paper, glass downwards, and wrap as if it were a present. Repeat with bubble wrap and tape all the way around, horizontally and vertically.
Finally, place in a picture box (you can double up if there is space). Mark boxes as fragile and store/load them on their side between heavy objects.
Packing Fragile and Sensitive Items
Some items require special care to avoid mishaps during transit. These include delicate, fragile items such as wine glasses and figurines or large, easily damaged items, for example pianos.
To pack wine glasses and other stemware, you will need:
A reinforced carton
A cell kit
Ideally, carry out this task on the floor to minimize the chances of breakage through dropping. Add a cell kit to a reinforced box; one glass will go in each cell. Gently stuff the bowl of your first glass with tissue paper.
Next, place several sheets of tissue paper on the floor and lay the glass on top on its side. Roll the glass in the paper, gently tucking the paper over the rim of the bowl and around the stem and base.
Repeat the above with a piece of plain packing paper. Wrap around with bubble wrap next before placing the glass, stem first, into the cell.
Repeat with the rest of the glasses. Once full, add a layer of tissue paper and bubble wrap on top, close the lid and give the box a gentle shake. If there is any movement, add extra packing material in the space and test again. When you are satisfied, seal the box with plenty of tape and mark fragile.
A similar wrapping technique can be used for figurines, vases and other fragile items. These should be placed into a suitably sized carton with plenty of packing material.
Pianos are very heavy yet delicate. If you have to move one, consider hiring a specialist mover. If this is not possible, enlist at least three friends to help you. Lock the lid down to protect the keys and lock casters. Wrap with furniture pads and blankets and use furniture straps to lift and move the piano (the legs are too delicate for this purpose).
With one friend on each corner, lift the piano onto a dolly. Pianos should be stored upright in the moving truck and will need re-tuning at its destination.
When thinking about fragile and sensitive items, don’t forget your valuable documents. Keep check books, passports, credit cards and other critical documents in a valuables box which you take with you on your person. Other documents should be sorted out and stored in a secure file box. You might want to take the opportunity to photocopy them as a backup.
For particularly valuable items, you should think about extra insurance. Your movers’ insurance will be based on weight and won’t cover the value of expensive losses.
If you decide to pack room-by-room, where should you start? How about the garage. The garage tends to contain a lot of items so the sooner you start packing it the better. You will also end up with a nice big space which can be used for storing bags and boxes of items to be sold, donated, recycled or thrown out.
Packing the Garage
Begin with gas-powered equipment like lawnmowers and chain saws. If using a moving company you will need to drain these of oil and gas first. This can then be given to a neighbor or disposed of responsibly. Remove accessories and components and pack in a reinforced box along with a bag of any screws, nuts and bolts. Buy some large protective covers for the rest of the equipment.
Tools of a similar size (brooms, shovels, rakes, hoes, etc.) can be secured together using ties. Hoses should be purged of water and coiled. Small tools should be stored in a toolbox while larger ones can be wrapped in rags, linens and/or bubble wrap and packed into a reinforced box. Any blades should be wrapped in bubble wrap and the box marked ‘Caution: Sharp Item’ or similar.
Next, clean and dismantle any lawn furniture. Remove and wash down umbrellas, leaving them to dry before storing in a mattress bag. Seat cushions can be packed separately in clear garbage bags. These can be useful for extra padding in the removal truck.
Children’s apparatus (slides, swings, climbing frames, etc.) should be dismantled with any screws, nuts, bolts and other fastenings stored in a clear bag. Tape this bag to the item in question. For complex equipment, make notes of how you dismantle it as this will help you to re-assemble it at the other end.
You should check with your moving company about how they like to transport plants (some will not take them). If moving inter-state you will need to check the local rules on importing plants too. Clean heavy planters before packing them and mark the cartons to warn the movers of their weight.
If you are not taking your cars or other vehicles with you, you will need to prepare them for sale or shipping. Bicycles can be packed in specialist boxes. Ask your moving supplies company for advice.
Packing the Kitchen
The kitchen can be daunting to pack due to the sheer number of items, especially awkward and fragile things like china dishes and wine glasses.
If you haven’t already, begin by sorting items into those you want to keep, sell, donate, recycle or throw out. To help you to decide, balance weight with effort and value. For example, spices are light and require effort to collect so you should probably keep them. Bottles of lemonade are heavy, easy to buy and inexpensive so it would be best to consume or donate these.
By starting in the kitchen, you can also make a plan to use up your perishable foods before the moving date. Unless you are moving a very short distance, perishables and frozen foods will have to be left (some moving companies won’t take perishables). All open items should be used up or donated as preferred.
If you have not already created one, you can begin your ‘Essentials Box’ (see the ‘Planning and Preparation’ section). Things you should consider are:
Dish soap, dishcloths and dishtowels
Coffee and equipment
Easy to prepare meal (e.g. pasta and sauce, packet soup, etc.)
Mug, plate and cutlery for each family member
All-purpose cutting knife
Scissors/box cutter for other cartons
Small emergency kit
Candles and matches
Anything else you might need for your first 24 hours in your new home
Next, pack those items not frequently used into the relevant sized moving carton. For example:
Less used cookbooks
Cream and sugar pots
Dishcloths and dishtowels
Pictures (see ‘How to Pack Mirrors and Pictures’)
Next, set aside any unopened bottles you intend to consume before you leave and pack the rest. Again, balance weight with value to decide whether it is worth moving a bottle.
Next, empty drawers and clear shelves, starting with the messiest. Pack away your cutlery, popular cookbooks, dishes, glassware, stemware, plates, bowls, pots and pans, cups, lids and spices.
Finally, prepare your large appliances 24 hours before the move. Remove and pack all accessories. When disconnecting from the gas, be sure to read the manual and involve a professional if needed.
Packing the Bedroom
Packing the bedroom means tackling the closet. This needs to be done at some point, so the earlier you blitz this room the better. Start with the least used room first (e.g. spare bedroom). This can often then be used for storing boxes.
If you haven’t already, start by moving absolutely everything out of the closets and sorting items into those you want to keep, sell, donate, recycle or throw out. To make life easier, get every family member to do their own room.
All family members should have some nightwear and one change of clothes for your ‘Essentials Box.’
Consider the following when packing the bedroom:
Pack shoes into a small carton either in their boxes or wrapped in packing paper. Top with light clothes or pillows.
Pack clothes in a wardrobe box if you have one. If not, fold carefully into cartons (not too many items per carton)
Items from the top of dressers can be stored in very small boxes or plastic bags. Bottles, lotions and potions can be brought into the bathroom for packing at the same time.
If two people can comfortably carry them, drawers can be sealed shut (use tape that won’t damage the surface).
Jewelry should be added to a valuables box which you will take with you.
You can use a clear garbage bag for bedding and linens. These make good packing materials in the moving truck.
Put mattresses in a mattress bag or box and store against the wall.
Next, take down pictures and mirrors, packing them according to our ‘How to Pack Mirrors and Pictures’ guide.
Window treatments (drapes, curtains, blinds, etc.) can be hung over the rail in a wardrobe box or placed on packing paper and folded gently into a small box.
Finally, prepare your large appliances 24 hours before the move. Remove and pack all accessories. When disconnecting from the gas, be sure to read the manual and involve a professional if needed.
Packing the Living Room
Packing the living room, while not as difficult as the kitchen and bedroom, is complicated by the presence of electrical items, small keepsakes and sofas.
As with the other rooms, start by sorting items into those you want to keep and those you don’t if you haven’t already.
Next, take down draperies, window decorations, pictures and mirrors. Draperies, sheers, curtains and blinds can go in a wardrobe box or, if you don’t have one, can be carefully folded and placed inside a bureau draw. See our separate guide for packing mirrors and pictures.
You can now pack your lamps, bases, knick-knacks and books into the relevant-sized carton (see the previous section on cartons). Use lots of packing material for fragile items.
If you are organized enough to have kept all of the boxes and manuals, electrical items are best packed in the containers in which they were bought. Failing that, consider contacting the manufacturer for a returns box. Otherwise, use a reinforced moving carton and wrap with anti-static bubble wrap. Ask the moving company to secure with padding on top.
TVs and computers require special attention. Modern flat screen TVs are heavy and fragile so you should enlist the help of at least one friend. Keep TVs upright to avoid damaging the electronics. Place it on a furniture pad and wrap snugly in pads before taping. Keep the tape away from the screen. When loading, use a dolly and furniture straps. Place next to the back or side wall of the truck next to heavy furniture, making sure the screen is protected from sharp corners.
Before packing a computer it is a good idea to back up sensitive files either onto a CD, flash drive or even a cloud-based backup service. Computers should then be separated into their different parts (monitor, printer, tower, cables, accessories). Consider asking the supplier of your computer to provide a box with styrofoam inserts. Otherwise, pack into the appropriate sized carton wrapped in anti-static bubble wrap. Cables should be placed together in a zipped plastic bag and stored with the computer. Consider using stickers or tape to identify cables and their ports if you are unfamiliar with how the computer is connected.
For furniture such as cabinets, remove or secure doors shut (especially glass ones). Remove cushions and pillows from sofas and chairs and pack separately.
Consider getting rugs professionally cleaned before rolling them, securing them with tags and then bagging them in a plastic bag.
Packing the Bathroom
The good thing about packing the bathroom is its small size. However, there can be a lot of individual items collected in drawers, bins and shower caddies so patience is required. Bathroom items are mainly divided into medicines and toiletries. These should be packed separately from each other.
Before packing, check if there is anything your moving company won’t accept.
Decide which medicines need to be disposed of, which need to travel on your person and which can be safely packed.
Medicines you should dispose of include those past their expiry date, any that are unlabeled (or can’t be read), those that look different to how they used to and unfinished courses (e.g. antibiotics).
Contact your pharmacist, FDA contact or local waste disposal team for advice on getting rid of medicines as these can cause damage to the environment.
You will already know which medicines you will need to take with you to keep you and your family well. However, you should also take heat sensitive medicines along with your valuables.
Pack anything that is expensive (conditioner, shampoo, perfume, etc.) into zippered plastic blags, making sure the lids are tightly secured. Glass bottles and jars should be wrapped in linens or bubble wrap.
For inexpensive or opened toiletries, you may find that a women’s shelter will take them off your hands.
Packing the Dining Room
The worst of the packing is now over. The dining room is one of the more straightforward rooms to pack. However, any chandeliers, crystal glassware and fine china need to be handled carefully.
After going through all drawers and cubby holes, sorting and selecting those items you want to bring with you, pack away any breakables (glassware, stemware). See the previous section on packing fragile and sensitive items.
When packing plates, use a reinforced box and pack them vertically with bubble wrap between each one. Place a layer of soft material (e.g. linen or bubble wrap) on top and then add other items (bowls, small plates, saucers, etc.)
Wrap silverware in its box if possible, covering with a layer of bubble wrap. If not, wrap in plain paper, linen or plastic wrap to protect from tarnishing.
For lamps, first separate bases from shades and remove bulbs. Wrap the cord around the base and tuck the plug in to secure. Choose a suitably sized box and roll the bases up in one or two layers of bubble wrap. Secure with tape. Two lamp bases can go in together if you have matching lamps (base to base). Use plenty of packing material as protection before taping the box shut. Remember to mark as fragile and indicate which way up.
Wrap shades gently in plain paper being careful not to crush them. Shades can be stacked if they fit comfortably. Treat bulbs in the same way as fragile items. Chandeliers can sometimes be hung in a wardrobe box. If this isn’t an option you might want to ask the movers to handle the packing of this item.
Next, pack any rugs (following the same method as described when packing the living room).
Finally, prepare furniture by securing doors and drawers, wrapping table leaves in linens, removing legs and storing nuts and bolts in a zipped plastic bag which you secure to the item of furniture. Consider corner protectors for square or rectangle tables. Finish off by shrink wrapping large pieces (the removal company will often do this for you).
If you are driving yourself, use a dolly and furniture slides where possible. If you don’t have these, get a friend or family member to help lift the furniture, especially if it doesn’t have wheels.
What Movers Won’t Move
If you are hiring a team to move your belongings, be aware that there are some items that they will not agree to carry with them. The items below are commonly refused but individual companies vary so check with them first to avoid disappointment:
The following items and substances are generally considered too dangerous to carry on a moving truck:
Nail polish and remover
Paint and thinner
The following items may or may not be allowed:
Perishable food (note that some states will refuse to allow you to bring in certain foodstuffs)
These items are best kept with you to avoid expensive, upsetting and/or inconvenient losses:
Computer software/backup disks
Settling in Children and Pets
Moving is as much about the people (and pets) as it is about the items you are moving. Here are some tips to welcome children and pets into your new home.
Children have less control over moving than their parents and can be more worried than they appear. Here are some ways to help settle their nerves:
Get them involved in the move. Get them to pack up their toys and choose what they want to donate.
Double check they packed their favorite toys and comforters.
Take them on a tour of the new home, making sure they are happy with how everything works and where to find things such as cups, cookies and the TV remote.
Do a safety sweep, removing any clear sources of danger and making sure your children are aware of any dangers you can’t immediately deal with.
Take them out to the local parks. Visit as many as you can and don’t immediately abandon them. Keep a close eye on how they settle in.
Ask them to design a ‘new home’ collage for the hallway or decorate room signs for their new bedrooms. Fixing a special ‘new home’ meal or baking cookies is a great way to bond while getting children used to where everything in the kitchen is.
Keep to former routines where possible.
Enroll them in similar clubs to those they are used to – at least at first, while they are settling in.
Throw a child-friendly welcome party for your new neighbors.
Pets can also be unsettled by a house move. If you have one or more dogs:
Decide whether to use kennels. Depending on the distance of your move, you may be able to benefit from a pick up and return policy with your dog dropped off at your new address after their stay. You will need to ensure your dog is up to date with vaccinations and worming prior to kennelling.
Nominate a responsible person to be in charge of preparing your dog for the journey, looking after them while travelling and the initial settling in to the new home.
Ensure your new contact details are updated with your dog’s microchip registration and that they are wearing a collar containing both address details/telephone numbers.
Pack dry foods, favorite toys and comforters.
Reserve a suitable room for your dog on the day of the move. Everything should be moved out except their basket, toys, feeding bowls, etc.). Close the doors and windows and make sure everybody else, including the moving team, are aware to avoid that room.
Adjust their feeding time to a ‘little and often’ schedule to increase one-to-one contact.
Avoid feeding them too soon before traveling.
Confine them to a single room during the first night. Stick to the same feeding routine for the first few hours.
Secure your dog on a lead in a dog cage when travelling. For long trips, schedule in frequent stops. Never leave your pet unattended in the car on a hot day.
Make time for exercise and bonding over the first few days with plenty of walks.
Follow the same steps for settling in a cat with the following extra steps:
Keep them inside for around two weeks. Cats tend to be more cautious and take longer to adapt to new surroundings.
After this time, give your cat time to explore outside. Most cats will stay close to the house at first.
If you haven’t moved far, there is a high likelihood that your cat will return to its former territory. Instruct the new owners of the home to shoo the cat away. You may need to keep your cat inside again for a while and give it plenty of treats and attention. It will soon associate pleasure with its new surroundings and stop returning to your old home.
Welcoming Other Pets
Here are some additional tips for helping other pets to settle in:
As long as you take precautions while travelling, smaller rodents (rats, hamsters and gerbils, etc.) adapt pretty well to moving home.
Rabbits and, to a lesser extent, guinea pigs, require a bit more preparation. Try to keep their familiar toys and accessories with them until the last moment and then recreate their environment as soon as possible after the move. Talk to your vet if you have any concerns about their behavior.
For short journeys, transporting tropical fish should be fairly straightforward. Buy some plastic bags from your pet store or aquarium and fill them with tank water, leaving a space at the top. Secure with two rubber bands and transport the fish in polystyrene containers. For longer journeys you may need to use an air pump to keep the temperature stable.
Bonus: Moving Hacks
Congratulations! You, your family and your pets are almost ready for the big day.
Here are some final moving tips to help the day go as smoothly as possible.
Leave a key with a neighbor you trust, along with a pre-paid envelope addressed to your new home. If you forget something (e.g. to turn the boiler off, retrieve a toy from under the bed, etc.) your neighbor could pop over and sort it out for you. After a week or so, they should post the key back to you.
Don’t forget items on loan or undergoing repair or cleaning. Retrieve suits from the dry cleaners, dresses from the seamstress and DVDs from neighbors. Return library books.
Cancel or transfer any memberships (clubs, gyms, etc.)
When labeling boxes, mark each of the four sides near the top. That way, it doesn’t matter which way around they are packed and you will always know which way is up.
Use colors or numbers to create a room key. Colored sticky labels can be stuck to boxes (and even to walls at your destination) as a visual cue.
Consider creating an item inventory. This is useful for insurance claims. Some people choose to write the individual items packed, as well as the rooms they come from, on their cartons.
Remember to leave the garage opener behind (a common omission).
Make use of all opportunities to save space. For example, fill the drums of washers and dryers with clothes.