Moving, Tips & Tricks

Pro Packing Tips and Tricks from Dolly Helpers

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Moving isn’t something you do everyday – so it stands to reason you’re probably not up to speed on the tips and tricks professional movers use to pack. You have boxes and tape, right? What else do you need?! If you want to learn to pack for moving like a pro, you just need to carve out a little time, pull together a brief plan, and go slow. Chances are, like the rest us the amount of stuff you’ve acquired in your current place is more than you realized. Rather than just stuffing it in bag and boxes last minute, consider a few pro tips from our dedicated Dolly Helpers, and you’ll significantly reduce the amount of move fails you experience.

1. Ditch the clutter

We’ll say this till we go blue in the face, but the first step in packing doesn’t have anything to do with packing at all – it involves unpacking – or decluttering – your existing pad. It sounds simple, but the fewer items you have to move, the fewer items you have to pack, and the easier and more affordable your move will be.

2. Lose the weight

Don’t pack anything heavier than 25 pounds. There’s no good reason to hurt yourself while moving – or to subject those you’ve hired to dangerous weights. If you still have physical books, only use book boxes, and be careful overloading bigger boxes with appliances and audio-visual equipment. Lastly, be sure you can comfortably lift each box before taping it up. Having trouble carrying those awkward handle-less boxes? Consider a cool tool like the BoxBuddy, which cuds a precise handle into any cardboard box.

3. Snap a few photos to create a quick inventory

If you’re not a zealous list-maker, snap photos of the inside of boxes as you go, and then the outside labels and descriptions. This will help you remember what you packed where once the fog of moving fully descends in your new place. Apps like Sortly make the process even easier, allowing you to create quick, detailed photo inventories.  

4. Bag – don’t box – your smaller items

Buy couch and mattress bags. Despite the claim that they come clean, you don’t know where moving blankets have been or how clean they actually get. A new plastic couch and mattress bag, closed up tight with tape, is the surest way to protect fabric. Buy an additional bag to pack couch pillows, and then use some shrink wrap roll to make the package nice and tight.

Buy Ziplock bags. After packing the obvious, larger items, you’ll find the leftover shrapnel hard to fit into a box. Organize small items in individual baggies, and use that helpful little writing area to scribble in some detail. This is especially useful with screws for furniture you take apart. Keep this in a single box, with a prominent label.

5. Spend on moving boxes

Moving is expensive, and you’ll likely try to save some cash here and there to cut costs. But don’t cheap on boxes. You may think of them just as cardboard, but they’re the only thing protecting your valuable stuff from the dangers of moving. Don’t be tempted by used fruit boxes, or re-used and retaped boxes chilling in the garage. Buy sturdy boxes of varying sizes and look for savings elsewhere.

6. Not all packing tape is created equal

Not all tape is created equal. When moving, remember that tape has to bear the weight you’re imposing upon it. Use the wrong tape and you increase the likelihood of box blowouts. Be sure to buy strong plastic tape specific to packing – and do yourself a favor and get a tape gun. It speeds up the process and helps avoid that infuriating search for the tape edge each time you need a new strip.

When taping, be sure to double tape the bottom of the box to bolster its strength.

7. Leave no gap in your moving box unfilled

Gaps increase the likelihood of things moving around while moving and increase the potential for boxes crushing. While you do not want to pack a box too full, or too heavy, if you have space left unfilled, use packing peanuts, plastic bubble wrap or t-shirts, sweatshirts etc. to create a light and secure buffer.

Packing peanuts are incredibly versatile, during and after moves. Sure, they go everywhere but are peerless in filling the dreaded gaps within moving boxes that lead to broken stuff and crushed corners.  And, as you’re moving into your new pad, you can use packing peanuts to hold picture frame nails in place so you don’t bang your finger.

8. Use your (clean) clothes as packing material

Bubble wrap can be great for framed pictures and fragile collectibles, but you already have an abundance of packing material in your closet and dresser drawers: your clothes. While you don’t want to use a designer cocktail dress to pack your plates, t-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts, workout gear and socks make for great packing material for breakables like dishes and stemware. This will help you save on the cost of packing paper and avoid having to wash the dishes after using inky newspaper.

9. Quickly pack your closet

Taking items off hangers, folding them, placing them in bags, then removing them at your destination and re-hanging them always turns out to be one of the worst parts of moving. Save yourself a ton of time by creating small groupings of items and pulling drawstring trash bags over the bottoms and up to the hangar. If you want to splurge, buy a few sturdy wardrobe boxes and just move over the bagged clothes to quickly move through a full closet. Remember, if you’re packing more than a few closets this way, tape or stick a note to the front of each bag indicating the correct room in your new place.

10. Use clear plastic bins for stuff you need the first few days

You’ve created a great inventory in advance, but as the stress of the move descends, it’s important to keep it simple. That means relying on basic visual support to help you find the stuff you need most. Buy a few medium sized plastic bins to pack those essential toiletries, food, and kitchen stuff you might need the first few days of unpacking at your new place. You’ll be able to spot the bin immediately and scan the contents without needing a box cutter to inspect further.

11. Protect your plates with paper…uh, plates

A large pack of paper plates acts as a double-bonus packing material. It’s the perfect-sized divider for your dishes, and also gives you something to eat on for the first few days in your new pad. Paper works well, but there are all sorts of materials you can choose from depending on the protection you need.

12. Taking care with liquids

There are a ton of items – mostly hazardous – which you just shouldn’t move. But chances are you’ll have a sweet bar, a few bottles of wine and nice bottles of oil and vinegar you need to pack. Thanks to physics, when the containers holding fluid move, the contents of those containers tend to slosh around too. Your best bet is to pack in a way that minimizes movement and protects against spills. First, pack your liquids in a divided wine box, and then place that box inside a plastic bin to avoid any damage that may result from mistaken spills.

13. Be ready when your movers arrive and communicate additional items in advance

Simple, right? But how often are you still packing when the team shows up to start loading the truck – or letting them know you forgot to mention a large number of items from a forgotten storage closet? The more time a move takes, and the greater number of items, the increased likelihood of rushing – which can lead to injuries and damage. It’s cool if you’re still taking care of you overnight bag, or cleaning the fridge, but be sure the boxes are ready for the truck when your movers arrive, and that you’ve called or texted them in advance to let them know about additional items.

14. Do your movers a solid – organize boxes by weight

A moving truck is basically a giant box that drives – so the distribution of weight is pretty important to avoid shifting and breakage during frequent stops, or moving up and down hills. So, help your movers help you by organizing heavy, medium, and light items together so they can establish the best balance of the load inside the truck. Also, no matter the weight, be sure to clearly mark which boxes are fragile so movers can give them extra care during the fast pace of a move.

15. Stack boxes like bricks

In the days preceding your move, and when loading your truck, you’ll almost certainly stack boxes to save space. But stacking boxes, especially the heavier ones, directly atop one another increases the chance they’ll crush and bust up your stuff. Instead, take a cue from commercial shipping companies, and stack boxes like bricks to reduce crushing and maintain the integrity of your gear.

16. Give yourself a break

No matter how well you prepare, unforeseen stuff always comes up when you’re moving. It’s just part of the deal. With a little planning, and by using a few hacks, you can cut down on how much moving sucks. But don’t forget, it’s a journey – go easy on yourself and remember to enjoy the fact that you’re starting a new chapter in your sweet new pad.

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