What's an Essentials Box and How do I Pack One?

Family and Empty Box
Caiaimage/Getty Images.

If you've moved before, you'll know that your first night in your new home is chaotic and requires some careful planning to make sure you have everything you need without having to rip open boxes to find stuff. That's where an essentials box comes in. Before moving or relocating, everyone should prepare an essentials box, a box full of items you'll need for your last few nights before you move and/or the first few nights in your new home.

The essentials box should be the last box you pack before you move out of your old home. But it's a good idea, while you're going through the cupboards, drawers and shelves, to identify what you'll need for the first few hours and days in your new home. This box will be the first box you open and should include items that will enable you to provide small meals, clean your home, deal with small emergencies and possibly entertain your family while you unpack the rest of your home

If you're moving to another state or new city - and you've hired long distance movers, then the essentials box is even more important. Your movers may get delayed and you'll need enough stuff to get you through a week or more at your new place, so make sure you pack your essentials box with everything you'll need.

Some people opt for packing an essentials box for every room in their house. I tend to pack one box with essentials for doing daily tasks then one box per family member which I take with us when we travel to our new home, packing it in the car or flying it with us to our new home.

Stuff to Pack for the Whole Family

  • Toilet Paper (Thanks to reader, Laura, for this essential item!)
  • Dish soap
  • Dishtowel and dishcloth
  • All-purpose cleaner (unopened)
  • Coffee maker and coffee
  • Toaster or small toaster oven
  • Jar of pasta sauce and pasta (or some easy food item for one dinner and lunch)
  • Unopened small jar of jam/peanut butter
  • Snacks
  • Beverages
  • Pet food and dishes
  • Mug, plate, fork, knife, spoon for each member of the family
  • All-purpose cutting knife
  • Scissors or craft knife (to open the rest of your boxes)
  • Small emergency kit
  • Flashlight/candles/matches
  • Shower curtain (nothing worse than forgetting this one!)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, floss, and paste
  • A change of clothing and towel for each member of the family.
  • Garbage bags
  • Portable tool kit
  • Important records such as medical records, passports, leases, financial information, etc

Stuff Everyone Should Pack in their Own Box

  • Clothes
  • Toothbrush
  • Medicines
  • Toiletries
  • Books
  • Electronics (laptop, iPad, eReader, etc..)
  • Phone

You may not be ready to pack your Essentials Box yet, but that doesn't mean you can't start making a list of items to include. The rule of thumb is to include all essentials that you'll need for at least 24 hours. Presumably, there's a grocery or convenience store nearby, but just in case, you should have some food stuff on hand that you can quickly prepare for your family especially for your first night. It might be late by the time you arrive and you'll be tired and ready for a quick dinner then a good night's sleep.