Pack Like a Pro: 23 Moving Tips to Keep Your Sanity (And Stuff) Intact

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moving boxes stacked

Isn’t moving a hassle?

This can be one of the most stressful times in life, and I know because I’ve moved so many times myself! I’ve compiled my best packing and moving tips and strategies to save time and money when moving, especially with a family.

Keep in mind that during coronavirus precautions, some of these tips may need to be exercised with more care and creativity to abide by any stay-at-home orders in your area. Always make sure to keep the safety of you, your family, and those around you in mind.

host a yard sale before moving

1. Have a yard sale or garage sale prior to moving to get rid of unused or unwanted items.

This is my favorite way to purge items I no longer need. At the end, I donate the things that don’t sell. The fewer items you have to move, the easier and less expensive the move will be! I have to keep telling myself this as I tend to hold onto my kids’ stuff.

moving day circled on a calendar

2. Make a plan and a moving timeline.

This seems like common sense, but the farther ahead you start purging unwanted items and packing, the easier things will be on moving day. Instead of leaving all the packing for the last minute, set a goal of x amount of moving boxes packed per day before moving. Make checklists for all the small details like setting up new utilities and change of address forms.

Use this basic free printable checklist from Martha Stewart!

use a different colored tape to assign moving boxes to each room

3. When packing up moving boxes, assign a different color duct tape to each room so boxes are easier to identify.

Throughout this last move, I really focused on being more organized – this colored duct tape is a great time saver during the unloading process as you can quickly identify where each box should be placed.

a clear box labeled 1st day essentials

4. Pack a clear “First Day Essentials” bin filled with the things you’ll need most as soon as you arrive at your new home.

As an example, I filled a clear bin with trash bags, box cutters, scissors, disinfectant wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates, paper cups, disposable silverware, hand soap, and dish soap. I also fit my Keurig and K cups in here for coffee the first morning, as coffee is essential to me. ☕️ I made sure to place this bin in my car so there was no chance of it getting lost among the boxes.

silverware packaged in trays

5. Use plastic wrap or paper and tape to wrap silverware trays.

This keeps all your flatware together and makes unpacking a breeze!

use ziploc bags for moving small items

6. Use large Ziploc bags to keep kitchen and bathroom drawer things together.

It’s so much easier to unpack when all the small drawer items are together – plus using clear bags allows you to see everything inside immediately.

spices stored in slow cooker for moving

7. Pack spices in a large slow cooker or pot to save space in the moving vehicle.

This tip can really be applied toward any large item like baskets, trash cans, etc. Fill up their empty space with smaller items.

wrap glasses in paper

8. Use cardboard dish pack partitions to pack breakables.

They are perfect to insert inside moving boxes and protect glass cups and dishes from breaking. Find these at your local U-Haul, Staples, or even sometimes on Craigslist.

Plastic Wrap Toy Bins for Packing

9. Wrap organizing bins before packing.

If you already have items organized in bins like these toys, just use plastic wrap to secure them before packing. Then you don’t have to re-organize when you unpack.

tape lids shut of all household cleaners before moving
10. Tape off all items that can spill like shampoo, cleaners, cooking oils, etc. to avoid a mess while moving.

There’s nothing worse than a random household item spilling or leaking. Taking the time to tape everything shut is so worth it! This strategy works well for packing pantry food items and bathroom toiletries to avoid spills inside moving boxes.*

*If using a professional moving company, make sure to check which liquids you can actually take on the truck.

grouped clothes on hangers then wrapped in garbage bags

11. Use a trash bag to quickly pack hanging clothing.

I used this method to pack my kids’ clothes, and they were a breeze to unpack.

stretch wrap used around brooms and other long-handled tools

12. Get to know stretch wrap – it’s, by far, one of my favorite packing tools!

Stretch Wrap is a giant plastic wrap that allows you to group things together like garden tools, or a stack of smaller boxes. Of course, you can also use it to wrap blankets over your furniture, too. We find it extremely helpful.

moving boxes broken down flat

13. Buy and resell boxes and packing material on Craigslist.

There are many places to buy new boxes like U-Haul and Home Depot. Before you purchase new boxes, I encourage you to try collecting as many boxes as you can by asking friends to save boxes and asking stores if they have excess boxes that they need to dispose of.

Then try looking on websites like Craigslist for free or inexpensive moving boxes and material. Don’t forget to break down and possibly resell boxes and packing materials after your move.

bottles separated in an open cardboard box

14. Check out liquor/wine stores for free boxes!

Oftentimes, these boxes are very sturdy and have separators already, which are great for packing glassware.

open refrigerator with condiments in the door

15. Defrost, clean, and dry your fridge/freezer at least a day before you move.

Placing towels on the floor around the bottom will help soak up any dripping water. To help minimize food waste, start using the odds and ends of your fridge in your meal planning a couple of weeks before moving.

vacuum storage bags

16. Use vacuum storage bags to maximize your storage space.

You can use these Space Saver Storage Bags with your vacuum hose and it will suck all the air out. They are super handy to have around for both moving and also for storing bulky or seasonal items such as bedding.

bedding on a made bed

17. Set up your bed first upon arrival at a new location.

You don’t want to be searching for sheets after moving all day! Also, a shower curtain, shower curtain rings, and towels would be a priority as well. Trust me, this will be a lifesaver! 

keep a toolbox handy during moving

18. Make sure you keep a toolbox handy in your car/truck to assemble any furniture.

Or make it the last item to be packed so it’s the first off the truck.

furniture hardware in a ziplock bag

19. Keep furniture hardware together.

Use plastic food storage bags to keep small pieces of hardware. Then make sure to tape the bag to the piece of furniture or item it corresponds to.

use an empty suitcase for moving heavy items

20. Use any extra rolling suitcases to pack heavy items such as books.

Boxes tend to tear when too heavy, and suitcases work well for bulky or heavy things.

photograph the back of electronics when moving

21. Take a picture of the back of your electronics before packing them up.

This will make it easier to put it together when you arrive at your new location.

leave clothes in the dresser for moving

22. Keep clothes inside the dresser during moving.

If you have to take out drawers to get it in the moving truck, do that, and then put the drawers back inside the dresser once on the truck. A good way to keep the doors closed and protected is to wrap the entire dresser in Stretch Moving & Packing Wrap.

keep receipts for moving expenses

23. Keep track of your moving expenses.

Some of your expenses may be tax-deductible, which can is a huge benefit when completing taxes!

Need furnishings? Check out all the best home deals!

Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 10 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.

Join The Discussion

Comments 67

  1. Tracy

    This may be the most practical moving advice I’ve found!! Thank you!!! I love the idea of wrapping the kids’ toy bins instead of packing then unpacking them into the same bins! Brilliant!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks Tracy! I’m glad you found this post helpful ❤️

    • Kelley

      I would add one more thing- put thumbtacks and an extra sheet in the box in case you realize you don’t have curtains in a room. Also, add a nightlight. Nothing like waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and forgetting there are boxes in the room.

  2. Debbie

    Yes love all your ideas specially First day essentials!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks Debbie!

  3. Greta James

    Thank you so much for your tip to get familiar with garbage bags and plastic wrap as ways to contain weird shaped items and make unpacking easy! My brother is moving to be closer to family in about a month. I wonder if he has started collecting things for the move. He should get everything ready and then look for moving trucks he could rent to move everything!

  4. Shelly

    Love the color coded duct tape/tape idea for each room….. we r deployed over seas & moved 7 months ago, it would have helped a lot with this article 😅 Oh well, saving it for the next time 😍

    • KC

      Thank you for your family’s service.

  5. Shelly

    Thank U H2S 🥰

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      You are so welcome, Shelly!

  6. A

    Most of the boxes are still in good condition from my last move, is there a place to drop off or donate ? What do you guys do with them?

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      I have a few suggestions. We have a recycling center near us and can drop them off. You could talk to your local Waste Management (or trash) company to ask if they have a drop off.

      You can also use them for gardening. Use cardboard to line the bottom of your garden beds!

    • Shelly

      U can post them in the Free section on Facebook, Craigslist or Nextdoor, ppl r always looking for those instead of buying them from stores I have got many like this & donated those online after we were done

    • Laura

      Ask your real estate agent if she/he knows someone who could use them. They work with people moving all the time and likely will have a client who would be grateful to have them.

    • maggie

      We moved 10 years ago but have kept a bunch of the good ones flat on a shelf of our garage — every time our friends move locally, they come and grab them, then return them flat. They’re the “loner” boxes for our friends and family — it’s saved them all a lot of money!

  7. megmosley

    UHaul has a Take and Share program where you can take used packing supplies and others can come take whatever they need for free. I’ve used it both ways. Take flattened boxes in to any UHaul and they will show you where to put them.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh nice! That’s a great tip 👍

    • LisaK

      Check with local moving companies too because ours allowed us to grab used boxes at the warehouse before they disposed of them … it saved us tons of money! We got garment boxes, chandelier boxes, tv boxes, padded dish boxes, etc. I saved all our boxes in the attic for our next move (at some point we will downsize).

  8. oreostevens

    What a fantastic post! Thanks for all of the helpful tips.

  9. Nrivera

    Thanks for this post. We are planning to move to Texas soon from Illinois and could use all the helpful tips!!!

  10. Susan

    If you move a lawnmower, I always run it until the gas is dry. In my experience movers won’t take the propane from grills and plants.

  11. QueenLeeLee

    These are the tips I have been searching for forever! Learned great new ideas!

  12. Susan

    1. If you are moving a clothes washer during freezing weather or the moving company is holding your clothes washer in storage during freezing weather, the water left in the washer may freeze and damage the inside of the washer so we add a little antifreeze in the drum. This is for upright clothes washer. 2. Save the boxes that a flat screen tv comes in to repack it for the move. 3. Make sure you know which boxes the bedding are in so you can make the beds right away because moving is hard work.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Great tips! Thanks so much.

    • Katie

      We don’t have room to save any boxes to move a TV, but I wish we did, that makes sense!

  13. Susan

    If your kids are in school try to get the school supply list from the new school before you move because if you can’t find your school supply stash you’ll have to buy all new supplies at full price. It’s so painful to pay full price for school supplies.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I love this tip! Thanks for sharing Susan.

  14. patricialavenz-goff

    Growing up in the military and being a military wife (so many moves) I have learned the hard way……… I have also put small knick knacks wrapped in my clothing in my dresser drawers along with any other non breakables that are on my dresser or desk. LOL

  15. Tiggertoon

    Another great source of free boxes : the boxes that egg cartons come in. They are strong and clean and almost all have built in handles.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks for sharing! Great tip ✅

  16. LisaK

    While we used lots of bubble wrap and brown paper. We did use dish towels, bath towels, beach towels to wrap or separate breakables. Namely kitchen appliances to give them a bit of extra padding and some other larger items we were concerned with.

  17. meliza818

    You Ladies are The Best! May I share this post on my social media post? Real Estate Agent here always looking to help Clients out 😉

    • meliza818

      Correction, social media *page

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Sure and thank you for sharing!

  18. NikkiLLM5

    The times we’ve moved we would use our towels & bath cloths to wrap all breakable dishes and kitchen items. No need for a lot of wrapping paper or bubble wrap. Less to put in the garbage and less waste. We also would put kitchen items in a clean garbage can & bathroom items in the bathroom can. We filled everything we could to keep from wasting space.

  19. brianneb

    How did you know we were planning on moving 🤔😂

  20. L

    We used the colored duct tape the last time we moved! My husband and his family made fun of me (lovingly), but I was the one laughing while unpacking with ease! Also, we used storage for a bit (tried for a short sale, didn’t work out)- I recommend taking pictures of your boxes before
    closing them (insurance) and making a general list of the contents of each box. Much easier (after the move) than writing items on the outside of the box.

  21. Susan

    Make note of the clothes dryer plug outlet at your new house. There are 2 different types of electrical dryer outlets and the one on your dryer may need to be changed.

    • TWood

      This is a great one. Bc, of course mine had to be changed.. After putting it in the tiny laundry closet.. Smh..

  22. Nikki

    Our local newspaper offers the ends of paper rolls for a minimal cost. It is plain, unbleached paper and it makes the perfect packing paper for breakables. Because there is no printing on it, it will not rub off on items like regular printed newspaper can.

    • Irene (Hip Sidekick)

      What a great tip to know, Nikki! Thanks for sharing that with us. I wonder if that paper would also be good for kids to draw on and make banners.

  23. Sylvia

    Thank you hip team for sharing this and all the other posts!
    We just moved from east coast to west coast and it sure was difficult during this disastrous time. I am waiting on fabric bin sale to fill up those storage cubes bought from Ikea. Please do share if you see any!

  24. JD827

    If you leave items in dresser drawers make sure the load is light. Furniture can break under the stress. If you leave the dresser drawers in tape the drawers shut so they don’t slide out and break. This I know from a sad experience.

    • pjane

      Agreed. It is better emptied and drawers taped closed. Safer, practical.

    • muddymelissa

      Agreed also. On top of having to worry about the weight, I can guarantee that it’s a lost cause in saving time. Whatever is in there is just going to shift during the move and end up a balled up mess anyway. Small items like socks and underwear can also slip back behind the drawers and create a headache to retrieve.

  25. SJ

    Thank you for such great moving tips!! Please since I am loving that white blanket/comforter in the picture, what brand is that? ❤️

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi, SJ! That is a down comforter and duvet from HomeGoods!

      • SJ

        Thank you so much❤️

  26. pjane

    Most important….furniture in the west does not always appeal in the east. It costs to move sofas and tables and putting items in storage is wasteful unless totally necessary. So for long distance moves…really consider what is replaceable. We spent thousands on moving and storage that we wish we could of had a ‘do-over’ 🔍 Same for clothes. I say this having two yard sales and lots of donating and selling on ebay and craigslist. Do not forget to take pics/get receipts of items donated. It can add up to a valuable deduction ( if uncle sam still allow) ✏️

    • Jana

      Yep! When I moved from Texas to Tennessee I bought all new Ashley furniture. It was cheaper than having my old furniture moved. Even using the pods you load yourself it was more expensive. Plus they deliver and assemble it all.

  27. Elizabeth

    Empty your clothes dressers. Dressers are heavy empty…more so full. However, put sheets and bathroom towels/shower curtain/rings into those drawers. Not as heavy and you’ll know where these are to make your bed and shower. Pack a suitcase as you would for a trip. Carry it with you, not on the truck. You’ll have what you need for the night and fresh clothing in the morning.

  28. Michele of DE

    Dollar Tree is a great place to get divided boxes to pack your glasses/mugs/vases etc. My local stores always have inventory in the isles waiting to be put on the shelf so I help them out by stocking the shelf and take the boxes so they don’t have to dismantle/crush them…. win win.

  29. Bjørg Rønning

    Thank you Dina. This was very useful. Relief!

  30. KC

    Great packing tips! Thank you.

  31. Aiman

    Does anyone have any coupons for truck rentals for Penske? I would appreciate

    • Barbara

      AAA members get 10 or 12% discount and no mileage on one way truck rentals.
      AARP members can get up to 20% truck rental.
      Also moving during week, Tues/Wed, not on weekends and not at beginning or
      end of the month saves money. Summer moves are most expensive, prices drop
      around Oct.

  32. Lisa A

    We are retired military, moved 13 times in 24 years. Rent a uhaul to take old bulky furniture to disposal center you are not bringing with you, buy when you get there. When using wardrobe boxes pack bottom with bags and shoes. Store christmas ornaments/decor in totes, stronger and easier to move. Bring enough meds for 2 months for family so you have time to settle and find a new Dr. Knowing your moving, buy materials each time you shop. Walmart, Target, Lowes, Home Depot have packing boxes, tape and materials. Use sharpies for kids names on boxes for assigned bedrooms. Get kids involved in packing thier own stuff. Packing companies wont pack hazardous materials. If going overseas with pets make sure pets have shots 6 months before travel and chipped for quarentine

  33. Kate

    And here’s another tip for your sanity when it comes to moving….do NOT hire US standard moving company or LA transfer and storage (we booked with US standard and they brokered the job out to LA transfer and storage). Worst moving companies ever! And worst moving experience of my whole life! Very long story short…our move was 3 times the estimate and on top of that they did thousands of dollars worth of damage to our stuff. Save yourself the headache! And thousands of dollars!!!

  34. Tania Sabatino

    I have a bed hack for you… On the morning of your move, make your bed and then from the pillows end untuck the fitted sheet and hook them over the pillows then roll everything down to the foot of the bed, using the other end of the fitted sheet secure the “bed roll” in place and then put it in your car. At the other end (once your bed it put back together) lay the bedroll on the bottom of the bed and unroll it, tuck in the fitted sheet corners and your bed is made.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Nice! I like that idea- thanks!

  35. Katie

    I put color coded tape on boxes 7 years ago when I had to move at 40 weeks pregnant (first baby) it was SO helpful

  36. Jenuinely

    We moved a couple months ago and it was super stressful because it was just my fiance and I. He did all the heavy furniture moves. He did not hesitate to use the dolly that was an extra charge with the UHAUL truck. It was a life saver for us! We also purchased these big blue packing bags from Amazon for our clothes that you can carry on your back.

  37. Jenny

    So in that essentials box, you should probally toss in a can opener too. I also reccomend a set a sheets. Its so nice after you spent a day moving to have fresh clean sheets. also a towel per person and a shower curtain. trust me on that!
    And use LOTS of duct tape if you decide to tape baggies of parts to the items they go with. Last move I lost all my very hard to find screws for my 1940s kitchen table.

  38. Beverly

    One thing not to do: use colored sticker “dots” to show which boxes go in which room. We did that for our move a few months ago, and most the stickers fell off in transport (we’re guessing due at least in part to the cold weather). Lesson learned!

  39. Debra Drover

    In my “first day” box I include shhets for the bed(s), a shower liner with hooks from the dollar store, shampoo, conditioner and a couple of bath towels with clean clothes.

  40. Jen

    I’m moving from Ny to California-I was going to use the Amtrak to ship my boxes since they will hold them in storage for a month, however they’re not doing that anymore. I really don’t have that much stuff, I’m not taking furniture or any big items.Does anybody have any suggestions on how I can get my boxes there to a storage unit, since I have no one there to collect the boxes?

  41. katelyn

    There are also shoulder/back straps that you put under a piece of furniture for moving it, they allow your body to hold most of the weight and your hands to just kind of guide it, they make it so much easier!

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