How to Pack for Your Move

Packing and moving is a daunting task. To prevent overwhelm, start packing early. To make packing easier, follow these few simple techniques.

Getting Started: Gather Packing Materials

Using proper packing materials pays off in the long run. You can purchase sturdy boxes, specialty boxes and packing materials at local moving or shipping companies. Some wholesale companies and large stores will have free boxes available after a shipment. Wadded up newspaper, old pillows and blankets make inexpensive padding materials.

The following tools and materials will make your packing go more smoothly:

  • utility knife and/or scissors
  • note pad and pen
  • dark, water resistant marker
  • boxes of differing sizes
  • packing tape
  • bubble wrap
  • newspapers

Packing Up

Wrap items individually and always place a layer of crushed paper in the bottom of the carton for cushioning. Fill empty spaces with additional crushed paper.

Make sure cartons are firmly packed with heavier items on the bottom and lighter ones on top.

Put heavy items in small boxes so that they are easier to carry.

Pack one room at a time numbering and labeling each box on the top and side with a description of its contents and which room the box belongs in. Label boxes containing breakable or sentimental items as “Fragile.” Keep a detailed list of what items are packed in each box to make unpacking easier.

Plan ahead for what you'll need the first day after your move. Packing a separate bag with your toiletries, a change of clothes, etc., will avoid unnecessary scrambling or a run to the local store. Also pack a box of necessities such as toilet paper, towel, soap, dish cloth, broom and dust pan, trash bags, telephone, etc.

Breakable Items

Empty all drawers of breakable or spillable items.

Pack all breakable items with lots of padding: line the bottom of the box with crushed newspaper. Mark boxes “Fragile” so they are handled with care.

To prevent unnecessary damage, put all furniture knobs, feet, screws, etc., in a container that you can keep with you so the parts won't get lost.

Flammable and Heat Sensitive Items

Do not pack flammable goods or heat sensitive items like candles, audio and video tapes, computer disks, propane tanks, aerosol cans, oil based paints and certain cleaning fluids.

Items Going into Storage

For boxes going into storage, pack items together according to the seasons in which you will use them. Mark the boxes accordingly.

Packing the Van

When packing the truck, make sure the items you'll need first are loaded in last (e.g., kids toys, kitchen items, bathroom items, telephone and radio) so you can find them easily.

Use common sense when loading your truck by keeping in mind the size, sturdiness and weight of your boxes.

Interviewing a Mover

If you’ve decided to hire a mover, you want to find the right company to trust with moving your valuables. Use this list of questions to help find a reputable mover.

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How long has the salesperson or estimator you’re speaking with been in the industry?
  • Is the mover certified?
  • Have any complaints been filed against the company? If so, what were they and what measures have they taken to rectify the situation? Check with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Does the van line have a formal quality ratings program? If so, what are these scores and can you see them?
  • How experienced is the actual moving crew?
  • Is the moving crew bonded?
  • Is there a third-party service provider that will be involved in moving specialty items like a pool table, piano or grandfather clock? If so, who are they? If not, how will such items be handled?

If the company is local, drive by their establishment to see in what kind of condition the building and trucks are kept.

First impressions really do count. Judge your estimator on their professionalism, attention to detail and responsiveness to your inquiries. Also make sure they give a thorough explanation of their pricing and process, e.g., whether the estimate is binding or nonbinding. These things can be very telling of the company philosophy and how comfortable you'll be working with them.

What to Pack Last

Here's a list of the items you'll be using on moving day - at your old place and your new place. Reserve a couple of cartons for these last-minute items, plus other things you'll need immediately upon arrival at your new home.


Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, etc.
First-aid kit
Aspirin or pain reliever
Medications and eyeglasses


Baby/child needs


Utility knife
Screwdriver and hammer
Tape and dispenser
Work gloves
Extension cords
Basic cleaning supplies and paper towels
Broom, dustpan and small vacuum
Plastic trash bags
Light bulbs


Toilet paper
Shower curtain and rings


Dish soap, dishcloth and dish towel
Kettle or coffee maker
Instant coffee/tea, powdered milk/creamer and sugar
Plastic or disposable plates, cups and eating utensils


Bedding and linens
Alarm clock


Local phone book
Map of the new area


Pet supplies

Keep these items handy and you won’t be stressed out trying to find basics on moving day.

Helping Kids Move - Easing the Transition

Although relocating can be one of life's challenges, it can also be an adventure. By guiding your child through this experience with knowledge and patience, the transition can be greatly eased.

The home you are moving from may be the only one your child has ever known. Moving can be especially troubling for children, because of loss of familiarity, not only of their home, but everything around it: neighborhood, friends, parks and schools. A lot of distress can be avoided if parents understand and address their child's concerns and needs.

Kids Concerns about Moving

What are your kids concerned about?

  • Preschool children tend to worry about being left behind or separated from their parents.
  • Youngsters aged 6 to 12 can be concerned with how their daily routines will be affected.
  • Teenagers are concerned primarily with fitting in and having their social life disrupted.

Most kids will have lots of questions - answer them in a positive way and be understanding of the fears your kids are facing. Focus on things for them to look forward to, like a first snow, their own room, exploring the new area or meeting new friends.

Easing Kids Concerns

Familiarize Your Kids with the New Place

Let your child know what the new house will be like. If possible, take them on a visit of the new home and neighborhood. Or take lots of pictures or videotape to show your child to help them feel more comfortable with their future surroundings.

Contact the local Chamber of Commerce to get pamphlets on the area you are moving to. Then sit down with your family and get a feel for the new area.

Before you move, try to connect your child with a pen pal in the new location so your child will have someone to interact with and learn about the area.

Get information on the schools and childcare in the new area. If you can, visit the school with your child and meet some of the teachers.

Involve Your Child in the Moving Process

Involve your child in the moving process. Have them pack some of their favorite belongings in a special box. Younger children can decorate the box however they like. Be sure to keep this special box close at hand during the move so you child has a comforting sense of the familiar.

Make plans with your child on how to decorate his or her new room. This could also be a great time for change: maybe let your child pick a new paint color or a bed set.

Create Continuity for Your Child

Ask your children what some of the favorite things are in their life are now and make some those things happen at the new place.

Leaving friends behind may be one of the harder things your child has to do. Throw a going-away party with their friends, take lots of pictures and create a scrapbook for your child to look back on.

Help your child make an address book with their friend’s addresses and give them a stationary set or prestamped cards so they can stay in touch.

Just think, when you relieve the stress your children are feeling, you reduce your own stress and are able to focus more on other aspects of your move.

How to Help Your Pet Adjust to a Move

Pets can become disoriented and frightened by the whole experience of moving. To reduce their stress on hectic packing days and especially on moving day, be sure that pets are either securely penned, boarded at a kennel or at a friend’s place. You don't want your pet running away or getting injured underfoot.

Before You Leave

There are a few things to get in order before you leave:

  • Make sure your pet has an ID tag.
  • Check to see whether there are any special requirements, e.g., vaccinations or quarantines, required in the area you are moving to.
  • Visit the veterinarian and make sure your pet has its shots up to date. Get a health certificate, rabies certificate and copy of your pet’s medical records.
  • Have a sturdy, quality pet carrier and get your pet used to being in it before you move.

Staying at Hotels

If you will need to stay at hotels, phone ahead to make sure you have accommodations that will allow your pet.

Traveling by Car

A few simple tips can make smooth the experience of traveling by car with your pet.

  • Do not feed or give water to your pet for several hours before the move. On the road, feed your pet once daily.
  • Make sure there is adequate fresh air in the vehicle.
  • Take rest stops to give water and to exercise your pet.
  • Do not leave a pet alone in a car on hot days.

Traveling by Air

If you're relocating cross-country, you may want to fly your pet to your final destination. Airlines typically transport animals in the cargo hold. However, if you are also flying and your pet carrier fits under your seat, you may be able to take your animal on the plane with you. Check with your veterinarian to be sure your pet can handle the strain and make arrangements with the airline well in advance.

After You Arrive

At your new home, keep pets confined for a few days in a limited area like your bedroom, where you can comfort them. Introduce them to the rest of the home gradually, so they don't feel overwhelmed. Do not leave pets unattended outside until they have plenty of time to adjust to their new surroundings, because animals sometimes run away in an attempt to return to their old neighborhood.

Moving? Pack Essentials and Keep Them Handy

Have you ever moved and found yourself sitting among a sea of boxes wondering where to find some basic item like a bath towel or broom or toilet paper? Be prepared for your move by packing essential items in a couple of boxes that can be put in your car or the moving van. Load these boxes last so they can be found easily and brought into your new home right away. Consider the following essentials:

small phone book for new town
local map
important contact names and numbers
first aid kit
light bulbs

dishes & utensils
can opener
tea towels & dish cloth
dish soap
trash bags

toilet paper
shower curtain & loops
hand & bath towels

Cleaning supplies
broom & dustpan
cleaning cloth
dish cloth & dish towel
dish soap
all purpose cleaner
scrub brush
trash bags

change of clothes
personal medications and supplements
valuables & jewelry
important personal papers

diaper supplies
formula or snacks
extra blankets
change of clothes

treats and food
food & water dishes
litter box & litter
pooper scooper

extension cord
hanging nails
tape measure
box cutter
pen, pencil or marker

How Do You Plan a Move?

The time to plan your move begins once you've decided to buy a home. Some of the things you do to prepare your home for sale can actually help with the moving process, e.g., cleaning out closets and the garage, basement and attic.

Your planning will be guided by how far you plan to move:

  • Moving locally: If you move yourself, you'll need to get moving supplies and organize a van rental.
  • Moving a long distance: You'll likely require an interstate mover and the use of a large van.
  • Moving internationally: Contact the embassy of the country you’re moving to for information. Be aware that some items that are entirely common at home can be prohibited in foreign countries. Ask about customs protocols, duties and taxes.

Planning is essential: stock up on boxes, packing materials, tape and markers. Always mark boxes so that movers know where goods should be placed and you know what’s inside the boxes.

Hiring a Mover

If you need to hire a mover, ask for recommendations from your REALTOR® and friends and associates. There are a number of factors to consider. Money is one issue: you'll want to spend as little as possible, but choosing only on the basis of cost can be a mistake. Movers must have the right equipment, training and experience to do a good job. A mover, no matter how large or small, should be able to provide recent references from past clients who had a similar volume of goods to transport.

Get mover estimates in writing. Be aware that it's possible to get discounts through membership organizations and, sometimes, on the basis of your profession.

Always confirm mover credentials. Movers should be licensed and bonded as required in your state, and employees should have workman's compensation insurance. It’s a good idea to check whether a given mover is approved by the Better Business Bureau - many aren’t.

There is also the question of how many movers to use – usually either 2 or 3. Naturally, 3 movers will cost more, but the time saved might mean that using 3 is more cost effective than using 2, who would take longer. Additionally, it’s good to find out what the minimum number of hours you’ll be charged for, given that this could determine how many movers you use.

Moving Preparation Checklist

Moving is a big job and checklists can make it more organized and easier. Here are some of the major items to consider:

  • Yard sale: Get rid of excess furniture and other goods by having a sale before you move.
  • Postal: Get mail forwarded to you, and inform important people and companies (bank, insurance, etc.) of your new address.
  • Utilities: Prearrange to have utilities cut off at your old home and hooked up at your new home. Check whether there are any deposits that should be returned to you. Find out what your hook-up fees will be.
  • Boxes: Number boxes so that all items can be counted on arrival. Make a list of boxes by number and note their contents.
  • Medicine: Keep medicines and related prescriptions in a place where they will be available during the move.
  • Children: If you’re moving with children, make sure that children have some of their favorite things - toys, blankets, games, music, etc., - that will keep them happy.
  • Pets: If you have pets, bring along food, water dish, carrier and other items your pets will need.
  • Money: If you're moving more than a few miles you should have enough cash or credit to cover travel, food, transportation and lodging.
  • Valuables: Make sure historical, antique, breakable or valued items get special handling and packaging.
  • Important papers: Keep important papers with you so they do not get lost in the move.
  • Contact Numbers: Have address books readily available in case you need help.
  • E-mail: If you have a laptop computer with a modem, make it accessible during your trip to pick up business and personal e-mail.

Avoiding Back Injury During a Move

You find yourself in a rush to get those last two boxes taped and on the truck. In a moment of impatience, you reach down to lift the box and pull a muscle instead. Injury can happen at any time, especially when there's so much to do. But being prepared by knowing how to lift heavy objects will help in these situations.

Tips for Lifting Heavy Objects

During your move you may experience a few typical injuries like a stubbed toe or paper cut. The chance of back injury, however, can be minimized by lifting things properly. Here are a few tips:

  • Position legs apart.
  • Make sure your footing is secure.
  • Get a good grip.
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist.
  • Lift with the legs, not the back.
  • Keep the object you're lifting close to your body.
  • Lift smoothly and slowly.
  • Don't twist your body.
  • Avoid lifting things over your head.
  • When moving something, push rather than pull.
  • If possible, use a dolly.

Unpack with a Plan

You’ve packed up and moved your things to your new home - your move is now almost two-thirds complete. The last part is unpacking and getting settled into your new home. This can be the phase that takes the longest, but that can also be the most fun. Unpacking gives you a chance to get the house organized - you know, the way you'd like to keep it all year.

When you start wading through the sea of boxes, there should be a method to your madness. The following are a few simple steps to make unpacking easier. And remember, you don't have to unpack everything right away.

1. Unpack One Room at a Time

Kitchen: Begin here so that you can have a snack to fuel your fire. Items that you won't need right away can be set aside to unpack at a later time when you can better figure out where you want things set up. This is also a good time to line your cabinets and drawers.

Bathroom: This room should be next. Get your toiletries out and make sure the toilet, faucets, etc., are operational. A few things you should definitely have are a shower curtain, toilet paper, towel and soap.

Bedrooms: If they aren't set up the first night, don't sweat it. Have a family camp out instead. Then putting things away will be easy. The person whose room it will be should make the area feel comfortable and personal to them. Setting up an organized closet is another great thing to do when moving in.

Living Room: Unpacking this room should be a combined effort of everyone in the household. There will be a lot of items to be placed and electronics to hook up. For safety, use a surge protector for computer and electronics equipment. This is a good time to consider the practicality in your home's wiring. For example, the entertainment center should be close to the cable outlet.

Garage: Having an organized garage is a daunting task for most people. Start by setting up shelves and hooks where you can put tools, yard supplies, etc., and you’ll curb the tendency to pile things up.

Don't forget to collapse boxes for storage or recycling.

2. Take Note

Take inventory of everything you have to make sure nothing has been lost. If you have any broken or damaged items, keep them as evidence. You must file all insurance claims within a limited number of days after the move, depending on your moving company's regulations.

Start a log of home repairs and maintenance that need to be done.

Create a shopping list to make sure you have everything you need.

3. Play Interior Designer

When preparing to shift heavy furniture around in the living room and bedrooms, it's a good idea to make a pencil sketch of the room with squares representing where you would like certain items placed. Erasing an armoire, rather than lifting it, could save you a trip to the chiropractor.

Placing furniture so a room feels open and functional will help you feel settled in your new home. Your house probably won't look like what you'd envisioned for a few more months, but start at the beginning and let your decorating be an artwork in progress.

4. Add style

Here are a few simple ways to add style to your home.

  • Use a different color paint on a couple of walls of a room.
  • Paint rooms different colors
  • Stencil around an archway.
  • Brighten up a room with self-adhesive wallpaper borders.
  • Refinish old cabinets or add new knobs.
  • Add new drawer and cabinet pulls.
  • Add potted plants for extra life and color, and to fill empty corners.
  • Get new towels, bathmat and shower curtain.
  • Try a new look with different covers for your throw cushions.

Go step by step and everything will get done. Remember that little touches can make a big difference. Take time to relax, put up your feet, have a cup of tea and enjoy the new home you are creating.

Getting Settled and Connected in Your New Neighborhood

You've arrived, unpacked and begun to settle into your new home. Perhaps many of your arrangements have been made - schools have been selected for your kids, your new house or apartment is set up - but that doesn't quite make it home…yet.

How long it takes to feel at “home” depends a lot on your circumstances. If you have relatives in the area, a company " work family," or memories of time spent nearby as a child, you’ll probably have a comforting sense of familiarity, even if you've just arrived. Or perhaps you feel a bit lost – knowing few, if any, people in your new town.

Relocating is stressful, and part of that has less to do with the boxes and arrangements than with the new relationships you'll need to make, and, well, that feeling of " home" that only time can deliver. So be patient, but be active in getting yourself out there and connected with others.

Is there a way to “fertilize the soil” a bit and get those “taproots” growing? Consider these tips:

  • Regularly do something new: Push yourself slightly beyond your basic comfort level. Coach yourself each week to do something you wouldn't naturally do. This may be as simple as deciding to walk your dog every morning in a park crowded with pet owners instead of along lonely streets.
  • Volunteer: Community service and volunteerism may be one of the best ways to create meaningful new ties. Find opportunities through local volunteer organizations, community centers, work, churches, schools and nonprofit organizations, to name a few.
  • Join a club: Salsa dancing, rock climbing, chess? You name it. Join a club you are interested in. Immediately resume one or two activities you did before moving. You'll immediately meet people with common interests.
  • Find a common-interest support network: If you have kids, look for a " young families" group. A health condition? Try a local hospital for weekly support groups. Religious or faith traditions? Start looking for a new church or spiritual center.
  • Call someone new: If you have a friend who knows someone in your new town, call and connect with the friend of your friend and make a date to go for coffee. Invite someone over for tea.
  • Explore: Buy a map and start exploring. Or just get on a bus and let yourself be driven around. Exploring a new place is fun and you'll start developing your favorite haunts - a true sign of home.
  • Start a new hobby: This is a great time to start something totally new. Always wanted to take a cooking class? Go for it. Take advantage of the new adventures and possibilities. You'll meet friends with common interests along the way.

And a final note on relocating: the psychological aspects of moving to a new place are often underestimated. Allow yourself the slack to acknowledge and deal with your emotions. Give yourself time to adapt to your new community and to make and build connections and friendships.

Helping Kids Settle into a New Neighborhood

With the right mindset, moving isn't a challenge, it's an adventure. When your kids move somewhere new, there are some major unknowns confronting them: a new home, new friends and a new school. Here are some tips to help you guide your children through this period of change.

  • Get settled at home: Make it a priority to get your child settled into their room so they can feel more comfortable with their surroundings and begin to adapt to the new place.
  • Establish routines: Routine is a very important part of children's lives. Immediately reestablish familiar family rituals, like having homemade pancakes on Saturday morning or whatever you enjoy doing together.
  • Join activities: Get your child involved with sports teams, clubs and school activities as soon as you can.
  • Make friends: Encourage your child to make new friends and invite them over. The neighborhood is a very good place to start. You might even consider throwing a housewarming party to meet other families in the neighborhood.
  • Keep in touch with old friends: Help the kids stay in touch with old friends by phone or email. You may want to get them their own stationery set and stamps so they can write letters.
  • Explore the new area: Becoming acquainted with the new area should be something you do with the entire family shortly after moving in. Finding a local pizza parlor will not only be a nice break from unpacking, but you also get to meet people in the community. Explore local sights, museums and recreation areas. Check the local paper for community activities.

Adjusting to a new environment brings a lot of unknowns into a child's life. Helping your kids settle into their new environment will be a blessing for everyone. And it only takes a little planning and guidance from you.