Moving and Storage: Packing Your Home for Moving Day

how to pack for a move
When Keats Myer made the decision to move her family from Maplewood, N.J., to an old farmhouse in New Hampshire, she gave herself plenty of time to pack.

"I knew we were moving eight or nine months before the actual move," she says. "So I looked around and thought, how can I disassemble this house and make the least impact on our lives?"

Myer came up with a strategy that helped her to sort through 18 years of accumulated household items, while allowing her husband and three children to continue living around the move. Every weekend she chose one space --- a bureau drawer, a closet, a bookshelf -- and tossed things in one of three piles: one to keep, one to donate, and one to throw away. Then, as she packed boxes, she looked at items again and made another attempt to toss what she didn't need.

Even with her well-thought-out, plenty-of-time strategy, Myer says, "It was a much bigger task than I thought it would be."

Eric Fierst, director of operations for Fry-Wagner Moving and Storage in St. Louis, Mo., says that Myer's attempt to clear the decks of as much stuff as possible is the best way to save the moving company time and space on the truck, both of which will ultimately save the homeowner money.

He offers these additional pain-free packing tips for those getting ready to move.

1. Pack items from the same room together

Packing room by room, as Myer did, is the best way to make it easier to find things on the other end, explains Fierst. "Always try to keep items from one room together," he says. You might be tempted to combine items from your kitchen and dining room if they are adjacent in your current home. But don't do it. You want to be able to empty those boxes as quickly as possible in your new home, not have half-full boxes among the clutter.

Fierst also offers this advice for saving time and injury when packing: "Get the boxes off the ground," he says. "The biggest injury within the moving industry isn't from moving furniture; it's back strain from bending over and putting items in boxes on the floor."

2. Pack fragile Items tightly

The trick to making sure that items don't break is to limit the amount of "dead space" inside a box. "Dead space is any empty area inside the box that would allow items to crash into one another," Fierst says. "It's the dead space that transfers the energy of a bump in the road to an item in the box; that's what causes breakage."
The best way to eliminate dead space, he suggests, is to use the professional mover's packing material of choice: paper. Newsprint and tissue paper can be wrapped around each item and more crumpled into the spaces in between.

3. Plan ahead for packing the big stuff

If you have furniture that comes apart, such as the legs from a dining room table or a couch, decide whether you want to leave it for the movers or do it yourself. "If the movers take something apart, most likely they will put it together again," says Fierst. "But if the customer takes it apart, it will take the movers less time to complete the move." And that, again, translates into saving money.

Some appliances and home gym equipment, on the other hand, will require extra attention from a specialist. Your front-loading washing machine, for example, requires a special shipping bolt that can only be installed by a technician.

As for that playground equipment in the backyard? "Ask the new owners if they want a swing set," Fierst suggests. The cost to take it down, pack it and set it up again may be prohibitive.

4. Label your moving boxes

Labeling your boxes is one of the most important things that you can do to help ensure that the move goes smoothly. If you know what room a box is destined for in your new home, write it on the box. If not, a rough list of the contents will be enough to help you find what you need at the other end.

But don't label the top of the carton. "It's easiest to write there, which is why so many people make that mistake," Fierst says. "But once you stack a couple of boxes, you won't be able to read what you wrote. Upper left or upper right side of the box works best."

One of the last boxes that you pack up should have the necessities to start off in your new home, such as a screwdriver, utility knife, toilet paper, soap, paper towels, dish towel, coffee maker and telephone. Label that one "Open First."

5. What not to pack

Finally, there are some things that you should never pack. A complete list includes such items as bleach, ammonia, aerosol containers and gasoline. Food items also might not travel well. If it's winter, glass bottles could freeze and break. If it's summer, your candle collection will be a pool of wax after a couple of hours in a hot van. Fierst also recommends that you pack personal care items in the trunk of your car. "If you don't want it all over your sofa, I tell people to leave it behind," he says.

Keats Myer offers one more piece of advice. "Get rid of as much as you can," she says. "I thought I gave away so many things. But I'm still unpacking, and it's been a month. I have so much extra stuff that I'm planning on having a yard sale."


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