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How to Pack for a Move: A Complete Checklist

One of the most stressful aspects of moving is packing. But there’s a silver lining, packing for a move could present an excellent opportunity to get rid of stuff you no longer need and make your life simpler. And getting rid of the clutter could help create space for new things and memories in your next home.

When considering how to pack for a move, a smart approach is first to gather the moving supplies you’ll need and then systematically go room-by-room until the job is done. Follow MYMOVE’s checklist for moving to make the process more manageable and create less stress.

General packing tips

Packing is one of the most crucial phases of moving. By organizing items based on common functions, room use, or other factors, it makes it easier to keep track of your belongings during transport and unpack at your new place.

Here are some easy packing guidelines: 

  • Always begin by getting rid of items you no longer need so that you won’t have to pack, move, and unpack them. You’d be surprised how much this can lighten your overall moving burden.
  • Pack like items together. Start packing each box with a layer of padding – it can be newspapers, bubble wrap, or household goods, like blankets or towels. Then, put the heaviest items into the box first.
  • We cannot say this enough: Label each box by room and by its contents.
  • Pack a box of essentials – screwdrivers, hammers, snacks, drinks, toothbrushes, a change of clothes, paper plates, plastic utensils and cups, a first-aid kit, medications, etc.
  • Refrain from filling boxes to the brim. This prevents boxes from becoming super heavy and reduces the likelihood that they break or are dropped during transit.

That settled, let’s move from room to room with packing checklists and tips.

Start by gathering your moving supplies

To ensure a successful move, you’ll need the following moving supplies:

  1. Gather cheap or free packing and moving boxes: Use websites like NextDoor Neighbor to search for used boxes or ask your friends and family. Gather a variety of sizes and make sure the packing boxes are in good condition.
  2. Buy bubble wrap (or try to find it for free): Bubble wrap keeps your items protected during the move. And best of all, you can buy it at office supply or department stores inexpensively or find it free on Facebook Marketplace.
  3. Rent a dolly: Carrying boxes between places becomes taxing and could lead to drops. To prevent them from happening, rent a dolly from a home improvement store or moving company as it makes moving much easier.

The above items are the basics, below are other supplies you may want to have, especially if you’re managing the move yourself.

  • Packing tape and dispenser
  • Plastic wrap
  •  Soft wrapping materials
  •  Packing peanuts (loose-fill cushioning material to prevent damage of fragile items)
  • Newsprint (crushed into balls and put between breakable items in a box)
  • 36” wide Carpet protection tape (used to keep dirty shoes off the carpet while moving)
  •  Cushioning materials, like moving blankets and towels
  • Markers
  • Labels for boxes with fragile items
  • Knives for opening the sealed cardboard boxes

Go room-by-room with this moving checklist

Start by making an inventory of the items you plan to take. Do this based on each room — this will help you organize faster and keep track of your valuable possessions. From there, gather moving supplies such as packing and moving boxes, padding, tape, and blankets — everything you’d need to protect your things during transit.

When you go to pack your items, try to combine them based on function — for example, pack kitchen supplies together.

Lastly, don’t forget to mark your moving boxes, so you know exactly where it goes in your new home. On the top and sides of your box, note the room name, the contents of the box, and whether or not items inside of the box are fragile. For example, a box you packed from the kitchen could say: “kitchen/everyday dishes/fragile.”

You can also number each box and keep a list of numbered boxes so that you can immediately establish if anything gets lost or stolen on the way.

Labeled moving boxes stacked in empty room

Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Here are some additional packing checklist items for each room of the house:

The kitchen

  1. Defrost the refrigerator: Do this at least 48 hours prior to moving out.
  2. Organize dishes: Packing dishes for moving isn’t as hard as you might think. Just make sure to pack them carefully by wrapping them in bubble wrap. And refrain from overpacking boxes. Overpacking will make it more difficult to move the boxes, and if a box incurs damage, you could lose a whole grouping of plates.
  3. Use sectioned boxes for your glasses: It’s a simple, secure way to transport them.
  4. Pack small appliances: Start by removing any blades or loose components. Tape the cord around the appliance, tape any additional parts to it, and be sure to include the instructions.
  5. Pack dry goods: Tape paper or bubble wrap around seasonings and pack jars containing spices or food on the bottom, so they don’t move around during transit.
  6. For refrigerated goods: Store them in coolers with ice.

The dining room

  1. Roll up the rug: Secure in plastic or use a rope.
  2. Pack chairs: By removing the legs and placing them in moving boxes with the nails/casters in a labeled plastic bag.
  3. Secure kitchen table: By wrapping it in a blanket and placing it in an area where it doesn’t slide around.
  4. Pack decorations (this includes lamps, pictures, artwork, etc.): By wrapping any items containing glass or ceramics in paper or bubble wrap.

The living room and den

  1. Secure electronics: For TVs and computers, secure the screens using a blanket and unscrew the base (if the device has one). Tape the screws and base to the back of the TV.
  2. Pack furniture: Place furniture into the moving truck before packing moving boxes. Remove the legs off couch and chairs to make them easier to maneuver into your new home.
  3. Keep electronic components organized: Tape the power cables to each electronic component along with the HDMI or audio auxiliary cables and remote control.
  4. Handle artwork and mirrors carefully: Wrap them in blankets or bubble wrap.
  5. Prepare your coffee table for transport: Put furniture sliders under the legs, so you don’t scratch the floors when you move it. Cover the top of the table with a blanket to prevent scratching.
  6. Remove bulbs and lampshades from lamps: Store in boxes, and cushion carefully. Wrap the base of the lamp in bubble wrap if it’s fragile.
  7. Pack your books, CDs, and DVDs in separate boxes: Don’t make boxes too heavy or they’ll break.

The bedrooms

  1. Pack casual clothing: Fold them and place them in moving boxes. For formal wear, consider buying wardrobe boxes that allow you to keep the clothing on hangers during transport.
  2. Organize jewelry: Put all valuables in a container you keep on you at all times during the move.
  3. Pack mattresses: Put them in bed bags that will keep the mattress protected from the elements during the move.
  4. Keep all bedding and pillows clean: Put them in trash bags to keep out dust and place them in labeled moving boxes.
  5. Pack your home office: For crucial files, keep them in a safe or locked file box.

The bathroom

  1. Pack toiletries together: Make sure to have easy access to them for your new home. The bathroom will likely be the first room you unpack.
  2. Organize towels: Pack towels, toilet paper, soap, and more in one box for each bathroom your new home has.

The laundry room

  1. Move appliances: First, unplug the washer and dryer. Next, disconnect all components, including the dryer vent and washer hose, and tape the power cords to each appliance.
  2. Throw away detergents and fabric softener: They’re dangerous to transport.
  3. Use laundry hampers/baskets as moving boxes: Pack hampers with socks, T-shirts, and more for an easy move.

The garage/storage shed

  1. Pack lawn furniture cushions: Put them in boxes or trash bags.
  2. Dispose of hazardous materials: Get rid of any paint, fertilizer, or weed killer — these are hazardous to move.
  3. Pack tools: Put them in a tool chest. For items like a saw or hammer, wrap them in towels then pack them in boxes.
  4. Drain the items requiring gas: For your grill or mower, drain the gas before transporting the item. Remove the gas tank from the grill (if applicable) and turn it in before moving.
  5. Deflate pool toys: This will make it easier to pack them in boxes. s.
  6. Take your bike with you: Use a bike rack on your car or SUV for safe transport.

Create a separate packing checklist for your valuables

Only you can properly understand the real value of your items. Make a list of all your valuables, where they’re located, and if they require any specialized packing. Valuables can be anything from jewelry, paintings, and ornaments, to financial documents, passports, professional files, titles, car keys, and prescriptions.

You should pack valuables like jewelry and special ornaments in their original packaging. However, you can still find the appropriate packaging from specialty stores.

Carry important documents with you to avoid the headache of having to look for them later when you’re unpacking.

Make a special pack for all your medications, which you will always carry with you. Plan the necessary preparations if they require controlled temperatures or any other special conditions.

Other items to include in your packing checklist:

  1. Disassemble furniture and other large items: Some things — such as large furniture pieces — may not fit through the door, and they will require either partial or complete disassembly before packing. You can save time by doing this well in advance.
  2. Take measurements: Some furniture pieces can be incredibly challenging to disassemble or even downright impossible. Others may not even fit in your new home. You may want to save yourself the trouble of packing such items in the first place and consider selling or donating them.
  3. Extra cardboard boxes: Once you have identified how many cardboard boxes you need, you’ll want to keep a few extra ones to cover any eventualities.
  4. Dispose or recycle corrosive, toxic, or flammable substances before packing: This includes soaps, detergents, and the gas on your mower and other engine-driven tools. Find out how to dispose of toxic items if you’re unsure.
  5. Care for pets during packing: They’re still members of the family, and the chances are that there’s someone close who wouldn’t mind watching them while you pack.
  6. Pack water bottles where you can access them: The whole packing and moving exercise can be incredibly dehydrating. You’ll want to have a bottle of water or other refreshments at hand when you need to rehydrate.
  7. Pack your “essentials box” separately: On the eve of your move, tuck all your everyday essentials like medications, toothpaste, toys for your kids, paperwork, etc. into a suitcase or a separate box. If anything happens along the way and there’s a delay, you’ll have some essentials to sustain you.
  8. Take photos of all your electronics and cabling before packing them: This will come in handy when reassembling them so that you don’t need technical help while setting up in your new home.
Wall chargers plugged into power strip

Luluart / Shutterstock

Checklist options

MYMOVE has also created a downloadable, printable packing checklist. This checklist comprises a list of packing actions you can execute in the weeks leading to your move and the few weeks following your successful move.

You can also download our pre-move checklist, packing the truck checklist, and questions to ask the movers checklist.

Alternatively, if your situation is highly specialized, you can create a list on Google Drive and store everything there related to your move.

Frequently Asked Questions

What packing supplies do I need for moving?

When considering how to pack for a move, you’ll need to buy or find items such as boxes, tape, blankets, a moving truck or trailer, and rope for securing loose items.

Where can I get free packing and moving boxes and supplies?

Moving is a common reality for many of us, which means once someone completes their move, they won’t need their supplies any longer. Websites such as Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle are filled with people giving away free moving supplies. Make sure to check these out a few weeks before Moving Day.

How do you pack dishes for a move?

Layer the bottom of the boxes with packing peanuts or paper. From there, wrap each plate in a layer of bubble wrap then stand the dishes up in the box. This is the best way to keep them secure. And once tightly packed, don’t forget to write “FRAGILE” on the box.

How do I organize items before moving?

A great tip is to go room by room and organize items in each into three categories: Items you plan to keep, items you plan to donate, and stuff that goes into the garbage. Organizing before a move makes it much more manageable, as you only take the items you need.

How should I pack a moving truck?

You’ll want to pack the heaviest items, such as furniture and appliances, into the truck first. Secure them with fasteners, so they don’t slide around. Next, add in the bulkiest remaining items before filling the truck with boxes. Pack your valuable/fragile items or electronics into your car, where they remain more secure.


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