Boost Your Odds of a Smooth Move with These Thirteen Packing Tips

Insights from Jonas Bordo, CEO and cofounder of Dwellsy

You’ve decided to save your money, forgo a moving company, and handle your own relocation. Packing is tedious, sure—but it boils down to something relatively simple: putting your things in boxes, loading them onto a truck or other vehicle, driving to your new place, and then going through the process in reverse. It’ll take some time and sweat, but how hard can it be?

It’s true that packing for a move usually isn’t a complex process, but if you want your move to go as smoothly as possible (and your belongings to survive intact), there’s a little more to packing than simply loading your stuff into boxes and hoping for the best.

Here are some packing best practices that will help you protect your sanity and your stuff come moving day:

First, focus on decluttering. (Do this well before the big day!) Especially if you’ve been living in your current home for a while, who knows what items have accumulated at the back of your closet or under your bed? If you have any belongings you don’t need or want anymore, now’s the time to set them aside, donate them, or dispose of them. This isn’t a task you’ll want to deal with when you’re in the throes of moving.

Assemble your packing materials. You also don’t want to realize you’ve run out of boxes or tape midway through packing up your kitchen. Whether you’re purchasing new moving boxes, reusing an assortment of boxes from deliveries and stores, or relying on plastic totes, have a plentiful supply on hand. Also, make sure you have packing tape, bubble wrap, packing paper, foam peanuts, newspapers, or other materials handy to pad and protect your belongings.

Pack one room at a time. In other words, don’t put all your books in one group of boxes and all your clothes in another, if these items are spread throughout multiple rooms. Instead, pack up one room at a time. Not only is this more time efficient, it will make the process of unpacking much easier.

Allow enough time for disassembly. Remember that you’ll have to unhook electrical appliances, take nails out of the walls, and remove lightbulbs from lamps. You may also need to disassemble large pieces of furniture like your bed frame or bookshelves.

Put the right items in the right boxes… A good rule of thumb is that heavier items go in smaller boxes, while lighter things can fill up larger ones. Put the heaviest items at the bottom of each box. Your boxes will be easier to lift and carry, and they’ll also stay more balanced during transport.

…Then pack them securely. (Empty space is the enemy!) The less empty space in which your stuff can shift around, the less chance it’ll get broken. Your goal is to fill up every square inch of space in each box. Wrap all fragile items in several layers of paper or bubble wrap, and then stuff more padding into all empty nooks and crannies before securely taping your boxes closed.

If you don’t mind hunting through multiple boxes for your sheets, towels, blankets, and pillows after you’ve moved, you can use these items as padding. It’s a useful and thrifty exception to the “pack one room at a time” rule.

Consider leaving clothing in drawers and on hangers. If your dresser drawers are full of non-breakable clothing, why not leave these items where they are? Secure the drawers in place with tape or straps so that they don’t slide open or fall out in transit. You can also leave clothing on hangers. Simply lay these items in a box or to minimize wrinkles, purchase a special “wardrobe box” that includes a hanger bar.

Label everything. Playing the “what’s in which box” game is not how you want to spend your first few days in your new home. Label each box in detail as you pack it. For example, don’t just write “Kitchen.” Write “Kitchen: toaster, tea kettle, spatulas, immersion blender, and oven mitts.”

Save the essentials until last. Especially if there will be a few days or weeks between packing your things up and unpacking them in your new home, you’ll want to set some items aside to be packed last. These are items you’ll want to use while moving out and moving in, as well as belongings you don’t want to take any chances with. A sample list includes:

  • An overnight bag with toiletries, charging cords, and a few changes of clothes
  • A sleeping bag, air mattress, and/or bedding
  • Basic cleaning supplies, a toolkit, and a first aid kit (You never know what you might have to clean, repair, assemble, or disassemble on your way out of your old home—or upon arrival at your new one.)
  • Snacks and water
  • A few plates, cups, and silverware—disposable or otherwise
  • Your most-used cooking tools—think a pot, a pan, a spatula, a chef’s knife, etc.
  • Books, gaming devices, and other entertainment (Be sure to include a speaker if you have one. Music makes unpacking go by faster.)
  • Any valuable items or documents you don’t want to lose sight of (This could be anything from a family heirloom to your passport and social security card to a hard copy of your new lease.)

Make sure to rent the right size truck… It’s very easy to underestimate how much space your belongings will take up, so if you’re renting a truck or trailer, err on the side of “too big.” This is especially important if you’re moving a longer distance and multiple trips won’t be feasible.

…And don’t forget to include appropriate equipment. Simply stacking your boxes and furniture inside a truck can be a recipe for disaster. Plan to use moving blankets or furniture pads to protect non-boxed items and straps to secure large items so they won’t shift in transit. Don’t forget items like hand trucks, dollies, and ramps—they can be a lifesaver when it comes to getting your stuff out of your house and into the truck (and vice versa). If you don’t want to purchase these things yourself, you can rent them at many home improvement stores and truck rental companies.

Line up some help for the heavy lifting. …And do so well in advance. You don’t want to realize the day before your move that you might need a little help, after all. No matter how strong you are, you’re going to have trouble maneuvering your couch though a small doorway—and even one more person means half the trips you’ll have to make in and out with boxes. If you can’t convince any friends, family members, or coworkers to step in, some moving companies allow you to hire workers for loading and unloading only.

Map your moving-day route. Has your vehicle or phone’s GPS ever sent you on an odyssey of side streets and back roads in an attempt to shorten your trip or avoid traffic? That may not be a big deal on a normal day, but on moving day (especially if you’re driving a moving truck!), you’ll want to stick to major roads and minimize detours as much as possible. Save yourself some stress and take a look at the map before hopping in the driver’s seat.


About Jonas Bordo:

Jonas Bordo is the coauthor, along with Hannah Hildebolt, of the upcoming book Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster. He is the CEO and cofounder of Dwellsy, the free residential rental marketplace that makes it easy to find hard-to-find rentals. Prior to cofounding Dwellsy, Jonas was a senior executive at several leading real estate firms including Essex Property Trust and BentallGreenOak, and was with the Boston Consulting Group after graduating with his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

About the Book:

Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster (Matt Holt, August 2023, ISBN: 978-1-6377439-2-8, $21.95) is available for pre-order from major online booksellers.

About Dwellsy:

Dwellsy is the renter’s marketplace: a comprehensive residential home rentals marketplace based on the radical concept that true, organic search in a free ecosystem creates more value than the pay-to-play model embraced by all of the current rental listing services. Dwellsy has more than 13 million residential rental listings—more than any legacy classifieds site—as well as the most diverse set of listings, including single family rentals, condos, and apartments. Dwellsy’s entirely different approach to residential rental listings focuses on presenting houses and apartments based on features renters need and want, not based on how much landlords pay to show their listings. Dwellsy investors include Frontier Ventures, Ulu Ventures, Blackhorn Ventures, Heroic Ventures, and the University of Chicago. For more information, please visit our newsroom or find your next home at


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