If you are packing yourself, you will need to gather the following materials. Your mover should be able to supply you with the special packaging and even drop it off to you for a small fee. Store the packaging in a dry area because corrugated packaging absorbs moisture quickly. Once it has gone “soft” it is hard to tape up and offers far less protection
- Two markers – 1 black marker for general labeling (your last name, contents of box and room box goes into) and 1 bold red marker for special alert words like “Fragile,” “This End Up,” “Liquids,” “Open ASAP,” etc.
- 2” wide tape, 4-6 rolls – use three pieces of tape on the tops and bottoms of all boxes, pressing the tape down over its length for ultimate adhesion
- 1.5 cubic ft. boxes (small) – for books, bathroom medicines, and toiletries, canned food, CDs, small tools and kitchen utensils, desk drawer and file contents
- 3.0 cubic ft. boxes (medium) – are wonderful for drawer contents, purses and shoes, pots and pans, computer components, dry food items, silverware and lampshades
- 4.5 cubic ft. boxes (large) – are perfect for bedding, toys, linen closets, large appliances, large lampshades, computer components and clothes
- 5.0 cubic ft. boxes, also called “dish packs” (large, double walled boxes) – are what you want to use for any good china or glassware, lamps, small, framed photos and art, sculpture, clocks or any other collectibles.
- Wardrobe boxes with metal bars – for hanging clothes, shoes go in the bottom
- Paper reams (unprinted newsprint) – used to wrap dishes, food in glass jars, fragile knickknacks, small framed art and photos, and other breakables
- Tissue paper (toilet paper or paper towels can be substituted) – for super fragile items that need special cushioning before wrapping in the stiffer newsprint
- Bubble wrap – great for large framed art and mirrors, breakable lamps, vases, large china or glass pieces that are hard to get enough paper around
- Mirror packs – flat pieces of cardboard that wrap around art, mirrors, glass tops and shelves. Pack the “channels” of mirror packs with paper cannonballs.
Do not be tempted to use boxes without tops, unless you are going to carry those boxes in your car. Lids are important because they provide real protection for whatever is inside, especially when boxes are stacked on a dolly or in a truck. Lidded boxes dramatically increase the efficiency of the moving team, thus saving money. Items aren’t spilling out of the boxes while being carried and the movers can carry more than one box at a time if the lids are taped shut. Don’t be tempted to use string instead of tape to close your boxes. Any kind of tape – clear, brown, duct or masking tape – is better than string because you get a complete seal. Not only can items not fall out, but foreign objects, like a chair leg, are less apt to penetrate a tightly sealed box during the process of loading a truck.
Labeling is so important and is rarely overdone. The 4 or 5 most important items in a box ought to be written out, i.e “coffee maker, toaster, can opener, tea kettle.” Unpacking at the destination is often drawn out over several weeks, or sometimes months, if you are unpacking yourself. From the moment you begin unpacking, you will be prioritizing which boxes need to be opened first. You will cue off of the box “labels.” A box that just says “books” or worse, “misc.,” does not say enough. Are they cookbooks, which might be important around holiday time, or are they the books from the guest bedroom that you’ve already read and nobody really cares about?
Always label the room things came from because that is another memory stimulator. For instance, you might have two desks, but only one where you do your major bill paying, etc. Be sure to indicate the box holding the important desk contents with info about what room the desk was in – for instance: “Kitchen desk, important papers, Open ASAP”. The words Open ASAP should be written in red. Remind the movers to leave all of your Open ASAP boxes in full view so they are easy to get at quickly.
Labeling a box “Fragile” does not guarantee that items will not get broken and if you packed it, it will not be the fault of the movers if there is breakage. The word “Fragile” by itself does not shield from harm. The only real insurance is the use of adequate paper used to wrap up the contents inside the box. You should never hear breakable things clinking together in any box, even if you are going to move the box yourself. Like a canary in the mine, clinking is a sure signal of risk and trouble ahead.
Packing liquids poses another challenge. Always pack them standing up, even if they are new or unopened. The tightest lids occasionally leak and create big messes. Pay particular attention to cleaning liquids and supplies, like bleach, etc. Most movers will take liquor, and any non-flammable liquids that are not under pressure. But you don’t want a bottle of hair color to tilt inside a box and leak all over a piece of furniture, so follow this advice: place a plastic bag into the box before you fill it with bottles of liquid, so the plastic bag will capture and hold any potential mess. Then make sure you wrap any glass bottles, especially pantry items like vinegar, gravy, etc. in paper, keeping them right side up when placed in the box. Make sure the glass bottles do not knock together and that you have used a deep enough box, padding both under and on top of the glass bottles with paper cannonballs. Finally use your red marker to label the top of the box “This End Up” and put an arrow on each side of the box pointing to the top. That way the box should not get turned on its side while the moving truck is being loaded. Disaster is thus averted.
What about silk flower arrangements, baskets, and other items that will not support any weight? Again, labeling is the answer. Secure the flower arrangement by using lots of paper to secure the base, padding it carefully if it is breakable and making sure it won’t slide from side to side. Pack lots of baskets together in a big box to keep them from knocking around too much. You don’t need to put paper on the top of these lightweight boxes because nothing is going to go on top of them. But, you need to grab your red marker and write “Top Load Only” on the top of the box and on all 4 sides. Then you have done your best to signal the movers. Set the top load boxes aside so family and friends don’t crush them while they are packing and stacking boxes for you.
Lamps can be expensive to replace and require special attention. Disassemble them first, removing the shade which will be packed separately. Never put anything, not even pillows, into a box with lampshades. (The harps, finials, and light bulbs get packed with the lamps). You may nest several shades together inside a big box, separating them with crumpled paper. Strategically placed paper can keep lampshades from rolling around inside a box. Stabilization is paramount to protecting them from tearing. And labeling each box “Top Load” in red will keep them from being crushed.
The lamp body itself should be wrapped first in paper, and then bubbled, especially if there is a glass or ceramic component to the body of the lamp. Even brass or other metal lamps will dent during shipping if not handled properly. In general, the protection afforded by 5/16 or 1⁄2 bubble wrap is deceptive. Between each little pillow of air are flat interstices of plastic that afford no protection at all. This equates to many cubic inches of virtually no protection, particularly if you are trying to conserve bubble wrap. Wrapping something first in paper adds an important barrier of protection between your treasured item and the security you are assuming the bubble wrap will afford. Use the large dish packs and pack all large lamps standing up, sometimes 4 to a box. Small lamps, once well wrapped, can be used to fill in the remaining spaces. Write “Top Load” on these boxes as well to avoid harm. You don’t want movers to put a chair on top of a lamp box.