A Mover's Guide: Practical Packing

4 years ago

Before I moved to New York, I moved to a new apartment every year. I’ve settled down since—just eight apartments in the last twenty years. I have learned a thing or two about packing along the way.

Follow my hard-earned practical packing tips to minimize the inevitable stress when you move:

Purge and Purge

Before a single cardboard moving box enters your home, purge your unused or unwanted possessions. Better to toss on the packing end than on the unpacking end. As you unpack, you will look at old, chipped stuff in your clean, new home and wonder— why on Earth? You’ll toss Grandma’s vase without a second thought, I promise you.

Start with clothes. If you live in New York, call the Salvation Army. They will pick up your outdated or outgrown clothes if you have at least three full bags. Trust me, you have that much. The Salvation Army gives a pick-up date about two weeks out, so make an appointment early.

Next, purge books, CDs, DVDs and, if you have any, VHS tapes. If you have vinyl, okay, I won’t go there. If you have a vinyl collector in the house, you know that's sacred ground.

Finally, tackle the hardest place to purge: under the bed and on top of the closet. Here’s where I find broken cameras, outdated electronics, Christmas cards and letters. Rule of thumb: if you don’t recognize the kid in the photo, throw it out.

Be tough on yourself, but don't adopt a take-no-prisoners attitude. Grab that unread Kennedy biography and put it in the “Toss” pile. If it doesn’t feel right, retrieve it. As you get bored and exhausted with the purging, you will find tossing feels more and more right.

Order Boxes

Collecting discarded boxes from behind the grocery store is free, but if you are older than 25, please don’t. If you own quality stuff, you need quality boxes. Abandoned fruit boxes are rickety and hard to stack in a moving van.

You can order boxes from UlineU-Haul or Uboxes, among other places. All three sell kits designed for different-sized dwellings which will help you estimate how many boxes you’ll need. U-Haul makes the comforting promise to repurchase any unused boxes. Despite the promise, I recommend ordering a minimum number to start. Once those boxes are packed, you can better assess what you still need. Then order more.

Boxes are expensive. Suck it up. Resolve to give the boxes to someone to reuse.

Other Tips

Make sure to reinforce the boxes with plenty of tape. Tape is the cheapest thing you'll have to buy, so don’t chintz here.

Whatever amount of bubble wrap you think you need, quadruple it.

Pack the right-sized item in the right-sized box. Books go in small boxes. Period. If you pack boxes too heavy, your movers will get stubborn fast and may make you re-pack some things. Large boxes are for fluffy, light stuff like comforters and pillows.

Resist the urge to throw unrelated items in the same box for as long as possible. You will appreciate this rule as you unpack. In the final stages, you might have to stuff a teddy bear in with the dishes to top off the final box. Unpacking is done in stages too. If you did too much cross-pollinating, you may have to open ten boxes to find your alarm clock and a pillow. If you packed well, you separated the stuff you will need the first night.

Photograph your furniture. If any piece arrives damaged, you’ll have proof of its original condition. Make an inventory list. A list of the boxes and their contents may be invaluable during the chaos of unpacking. You will also know if a box goes missing.

As you build towers of boxes, create paths and don’t block stuff you’ll need. Consider how many days until moving day and keep your place livable as you go. It’s hard to stay organized in a half-packed house, but it is worth the extra effort.

G. (the vinyl collector) and I are moving again in 16 days—halfway across the country this time. Keep your fingers crossed.


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