How to Pack a Box

Author: Alecia Pirulis


It may seem like the easiest part of the move. After all, making the decision, finding a new place to live, starting a new job, dealing with utilities and notifications, perhaps closing on a house, and all of the chaos involved in relocating can be overwhelming. Putting things in a box? Piece of cake, right? Well, not so fast.

Open a box that was poorly packed and you could find broken bits, shattered glassware, and spilled or ruined contents. Over-pack a box and it will be nearly impossible to lift. Even if you have movers, you’ll be moving boxes from room to room. If they are too heavy, you could end up with a sore back. Sending boxes off half empty could leave you short boxes and scrambling to find more. Improperly labeled boxes – or not labeling boxes at all – will leave you scratching your head at the new place, searching through endless boxes for your coffee maker or some other absolutely-necessary-to-get-through-move-in-day item. Not packing far enough in advance could leave you scrambling at the last minute, tossing things into half-empty boxes as the moving van is being loaded, leading to missing and left-behind items, a mixed-up box filled with a menagerie of items from every room in the house, and packing box pandemonium.

Avoid the drama and pack your boxes right. Here’s how:

Step one: Prepare a container with supplies. A small, plastic storage box works well. Gather several markers, packing tape, and scissors and put them in the container. You’ll also want to start collecting newspaper and bubble wrap. Even if you plan to purchase most of your boxes, gather extras from supermarkets and discount stores, because you can never, ever have too many boxes.

Step two: Separate large boxes from small ones. The large boxes are best used for lightweight items, such as pillows, lightweight clothing, and linens. Heavy items go into small boxes. This will keep the boxes from getting too heavy. As a rule of thumb, no packed box should weigh more than 50 pounds.

Step three: Start in one room and pack as much as possible in that room. Place heavy items on the bottom of the box. Be sure to wrap delicate items carefully in bubble wrap and/or newspaper. Pack the box tightly – this will prevent items from shifting around and possibly breaking during the moving process. Fill spaces with items such as dishtowels, scarves, and pillowcases. This will help protect delicate items and keep things from knocking around.

Step four: Label the box with the room and the basic contents, such as: Kitchen: Coffee maker, silverware. Don’t just label the top of the box – that won’t help you at all when boxes are stacked on top of each other. Label at least two sides, as well as the top.

Step five: Close up the box. If you have over-packed the box, the box won’t close properly. Take a few items out and try again. Seal the box with packing tape and set the box aside.

Other things to consider:

* Packing will take more time than you realize! Start packing as soon as you find out you will be moving – or at least six weeks before your moving day.

* When packing up the pantry, take special care with liquids such as cooking oils, vinegar, etc. Make sure the lids are secure (tape them down, cover them with plastic wrap, or place them in sealable bags) and mark the box with arrows showing which end is up.

* Certain things shouldn’t be packed, such as refrigerated items, important documents, and valuables. Those items should stay with you (if you will be traveling for more than an hour, put the refrigerated items you must bring with you in a cooler packed with ice).

* Chemicals, pesticides, fertilizer, bleach, lighter fluid, or other dangerous items cannot be packed or moved – instead, properly dispose of those items.

* When taking apart furniture, be sure to tape bolts, washers, screws, etc. to the underside of the furniture so you don’t lose them

* You may want to keep a log of what you packed and where. Label each box with the room and major items and then add a number: Kitchen, coffee maker, silverware, #1. In your notebook, keep track of everything in Box 1: Coffee maker, silverware, measuring spoons, mugs, plastic cups, coffee filters, coffee.

* If you are using professional movers, put your last name on each box so they don’t get confused with other boxes or misplaced. (Just in case a box does disappear, keeping a log of the items in the box will help you know exactly what’s missing).

* Keep items you will need right away (screwdriver for putting bed frames together, cleaning supplies, a roll of paper towels, snacks, plastic cups for drinks, prescription medications, etc.) in a separate box that will ride with you in the car.

* Electronics, such as the television, will need special boxes or crates and extra care – be sure to plan ahead for moving these items.