Packing 101

Author: Alecia Pirulis

hand in box

Getting ready to move? Don’t know where to start?

First things first – start collecting boxes – lots of boxes. More boxes than you think you will need. Some choose to purchase boxes from their moving company. It might be a good idea to purchase a wardrobe box and perhaps a special box for your flat-screen, but if you are on a budget, call your favorite local grocery store or super-center and ask them to set boxes aside for you. Most stores are happy to do so. This is not only cheaper (free), but reusing boxes is also eco-friendly.

Gather supplies and put them in a container. You need several black markers, packing tape, and scissors. Find a spot for this container and make sure all supplies find their way back to the container. (I have rummaged through a room full of boxes, tossing papers in the air, searching for my last permanent marker that I just-had-a-second-ago – avoid all that and keep your supplies in a designated location.)

Pack non-essentials early. If you are moving in a month, start getting mementos, knick-knacks, and unused appliances (juicer, pasta machine, blender) packed up. Know this: You have more than you realize. You may think you don’t have that much, but once you start packing, you’ll be amazed. Give yourself lots of time.

LABEL EVERY BOX. Once during a move I had the garage filled with unlabeled boxes. I got carried away and packed one of my toddler’s favorite stuffed animals by accident. I had to find it – I opened at least a dozen boxes before I did. Then I had to re-pack a dozen boxes.

During her move to Atlanta, my sister-in-law thought she would remember what was in the boxes so she just labeled them with the room – “Kitchen.” Once you move in and you have several boxes stacked in the kitchen, finding the one with that much-needed coffee mug can be quite a challenge. Label your boxes with the room and the contents (Kitchen – Mugs, silverware). Some prefer to number the box and write down on a sheet of paper what the box contains (Box 1 – Kitchen — mugs and silverware). That’s great, but if you lose the list (and moving is nothing but organized chaos where black holes seem to open up and swallow your stuff), you’ll never remember what’s in box 1.

Also, label at least two sides. If a heavy box is turned wrong and two boxes are stacked on top of it, you won’t have a clue what’s inside.

Packing a box is kind of like putting one of those three-dimensional puzzles together – you’ll have to try different ways to get the pieces to fit. Pack tight – there’s less chance of things rattling around and getting broken that way. This will make sense when you start packing and you need something “just this big and shaped like this” to fill the space between your DVD collection and your grandma’s vase. Speaking of things that break – wrap everything. Bubble wrap is essential, and so is plain wrapping paper. If you use newspaper, just be aware that your hands will be covered with ink, everything you touch will be smudged with ink (the walls, your child’s cheek, your nose) and the stuff you wrapped will have to be washed before you can put it away.

Keep your important items. Don’t pack birth certificates, important documents, and paperwork. Put these in a large tote bag or small container and keep them with you. You’ll also want to keep a box of cleaning supplies, the coffee pot, and anything else you cannot live without if it happens to go missing in one of the above-mentioned black holes. Take these with you in the car – don’t put them on a moving truck. Be sure to keep several boxes handy for last-minute items – a closet you didn’t remember to look in, the umbrella you found when they carried out the couch, blankets, etc. Right before you leave, take one last look through every room and in every corner and throw everything you find into those last boxes. Be sure you have enough room in the car for the stuff that doesn’t get put on the truck – whether you hire movers or are borrowing a friend’s pickup. This is especially important if you are making a long trip and can’t drive back for anything left behind.

Once everything is out, go back in use those cleaning supplies. Chances are, the moving process made a mess – scraps of paper, spots on the carpet, smudges of newspaper ink on the countertops and walls – give your old place a quick going-over. If your old place is an apartment, take special care in the cleaning so you can get your security deposit back without any issues. Some places will charge a cleaning fee if they don’t think the apartment was left in satisfactory condition.

Now, put your cleaning supplies back in the box and load it into your car. Give a mental check before you leave – did you lock the door? Make all the necessary phone calls to shut off power, water, etc.? Fill out a change-of-address card If you’ve done it all, head for your new place and get ready to do it all again, only backwards!