Tutorials: Pack Like a Pro
This tutorial is designed to help you start packing the right way.
Should you pack yourself? | Packing guidelines for your professional move | What needs to be packed? | Boxes - What do I need? | Other supplies | Getting started | Labeling hints | Tips from the pros

Should You Pack Yourself?
If you decide to do your packing yourself, consider your responsibilities. It takes time and energy to get the job done right, but doing it yourself can be a real money-saver.

If your household goods are to be moved by a professional moving company, you have the option of doing some or all of the packing yourself, or you can leave it to the experts. Discuss your options with your moving professional.


Packing Guidelines for Your Professional Move
If you decide to do at least some of the packing yourself, then you will need to have everything properly packed and ready for loading when the van arrives. All packing must be completed by the evening before moving day. Only the things you'll need that night, the next morning and immediately at your destination should be left for last-minute packing. See our List of Last-minute Items.

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Also, your packing will be expected to meet specific standards. Your moving company representatives will inspect the cartons you have packed. If it is their opinion that items are improperly packed or cartons are susceptible to damage, they may refuse to load the items until they are repacked.

Items that need to be re-packed are typically found in garages, attics and storage spaces, such as holiday decorations and sentimental items. To identify boxes that may need to be repacked, make a visual inspection of these areas on your own beforehand. Look for cartons that are torn, ripped, soiled, will not close or cannot be sealed. Another giveaway is if you can hear the contents rattle when you shake the box.

What Needs to be Packed?
Obviously, not everything will fit in a box. As a general rule, furniture and major appliances will be wrapped and padded by your moving professional. Items requiring professional disassembly and/or crating - such as slate pool tables, chandeliers, or large glass table tops - are best left to the professionals. For more information on specific items, the Packing Guide provides tips and hints for packing every room in the house.

Boxes - What Do I Need?
Using new, quality packing materials specifically designed for moving can really make the difference in ensuring that your items arrive at their destination safely. Professional moving cartons come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are specifically suited to fit a variety of household goods.

Dish Pack (or China Barrel)
Extra sturdy corrugated carton of double-wall construction for all breakables such as china and dishes, crystal and glassware. You may also want to use cellular dividers inside the carton as an extra measure of protection.
Small (Book Carton) - 1.5 cu. ft. carton
A small, easy to handle carton designed for heavy items such as books and records.
Medium - 3 cu. ft. carton
Medium utility box often used for pots and pans, toys, non-perishable food and small appliances.
Large (Square/ Lamp) - 4.5 cu. ft. carton
For bulky items such as linens, towels, toys or lampshades.
Large (Rectangular/ Lamp) - 6.0 cu. ft. carton
For lightweight bulky articles such as pillows, blankets and large lampshades.
Wardrobe Carton
This large carton has a hangar bar to accommodate clothes from your closet or draperies.
Mirror Carton
Telescoping cartons fit almost any picture, mirror or glass.
Mattress Carton
Available in king, queen, double, single (twin) and crib sizes; you'll need one for every box spring and every mattress.

Other supplies:

  • bundles of packing paper (clean, unprinted newsprint)
  • bubble wrap, tissue paper, or paper towels for delicate items
  • rolls of PVC tape
  • tape dispenser
  • broad-tipped markers for labeling
  • scissors or sharp knife for cutting cartons
  • notebook and pen or pencil for listing contents of cartons as they are packed.
  • labels or stickers for identifying boxes

Getting Started
Before packing cartons, you'll need to wrap most items to protect them from scratching and breakage. There are a variety of materials available, including bubble pack, foam peanuts and tissue. However, most professionals use bundles of clean, unprinted newsprint (available at your moving supply store).

Start by placing a small stack of paper on a flat, uncluttered table or countertop. Round glasses and jars can be rolled up in two or three sheets of paper; always begin from a corner of the sheet and fold the sides in as you roll.

Large or odd-shaped items require a similar technique. Place them in the center of the sheet and bring the corners together. It may be necessary to flip the item over and wrap it again from the other side. If in doubt, use more paper! When the corners are brought together, secure them with tape.


Before packing each carton, line the bottom with a few inches of wadded paper for padding. Then place large, heavy items on the bottom and lighter, more fragile items on the top.

Plates, books and things of a similar shape, should be loaded vertically to utilize their own maximum structural strength. Don't overload cartons; keep them to a manageable weight. Fill in any voids and top off loaded cartons with wadded paper. Then tape cartons securely to avoid shifting while en route.


Labeling Hints
Each and every carton must be labeled.

  • Use a broad, felt-tipped marker.
  • Clearly mark room and contents.
  • Indicate "FRAGILE" on delicates; "THIS END UP" where appropriate.
  • If available, include your bill of lading number on every box.

Tips From the Pros
Start with out-of-season items. Next, pack things used infrequently. Leave until the last minute things you'll need until moving day.

  • Empty drawers of breakables, spillables, non-transportable items and anything that would puncture or damage other items.
  • Pack similar items together. Do not pack a delicate china figurine in the same carton with cast-iron frying pans, for example.
  • Keep all parts or pairs of things together. For example, curtain rod hangers, mirror bolts and other small hardware items should be placed in plastic bags and taped or tied securely to the article to which they belong.
  • Wind electrical cords, fastening them so they do not dangle.
  • Wrap items individually in clean paper; use tissue paper, paper towels or even facial tissue for fine china, crystal and delicate items. Colored wrapping paper draws attention to very small things that might otherwise get lost in a carton. Use a double layer of newsprint for a good outer wrapping.
  • Place a two- or three-inch layer of crushed paper in the bottom of cartons for cushioning.
  • Build up the layers, with the heaviest things on the bottom, medium weight next and lightest on top.
  • As each layer is completed, fill in empty spaces firmly with crushed paper and add more crushed paper to make a level base for the next layer, or use sheets of cardboard cut from cartons as dividers.
  • Cushion well with crushed paper; towels and lightweight blankets may also be used for padding and cushioning. The more fragile the item, the more cushioning needed. Be sure no sharp points, edges or rims are left uncovered.
  • Pack small, fragile, individually-wrapped items separately or a few together in small boxes, cushioning with crushed or shredded paper. Place small boxes in a single large box, filling in spaces with crushed paper.
  • Avoid overloading cartons, but strive for a firm pack that will prevent items from shifting; the cover should close easily without force, but should not bend inward.
  • Seal cartons tightly with tape except for those containing items that must be left open for the van operator's inspection.
  • As you finish with each carton, list the contents on the side of the carton (for easy viewing while stacked) and in a special notebook. You might want to number and/or code the cartons as well.
  • Indicate your name and the room to which each carton should be delivered at destination. Tape a sign on the door of each room at destination corresponding to the carton labels so movers can get the cartons into the proper rooms quickly.
  • Put a special mark (the number 1, or the letter A) on cartons you want to unpack first at destination.

Pack Like a Pro | Packing Calculator | Packing Room by Room | Kitchen/Laundry Room | Dining Room | Living/Family/Great Room | Home Office/Den | Bedroom/Nursery/Bathroom | Garage/Hobby Room/Storage | Moving Appliances | Non-transportable Items