The Only 16 Moving Hacks You Need to Pack Like a Pro

Use these genius packing tips to make your next move a breeze

Stacked moving boxes with shredded paper for packing, roll of tape, garbage bag and toothpicks next to houseplant and books

The Spruce / Valerie de León

You found a new place to dwell. Life is all sunshine and rainbows until you think about packing. It's arguably the worst part about moving. Not many chores are as tedious—not to mention annoying—especially when you struggle to find the sticky end of a roll of shipping tape. But it's possible to pack up even the messiest house when you know the right packing hacks and tips for moving.

We want to make boxing and unboxing your stuff as painless as possible. Read on to find incredibly useful packing and moving hacks that will reduce the stress and expense of relocating.

What Not to Pack in Boxes When Moving

It's tempting to toss anything and everything into boxes when moving. But there are quite a few items that should never go in a moving box, including:

  • Open packages of perishable food (the box will attract pests)
  • Valuables (jewelry, collectibles, coins, cash)
  • Irreplaceable documents (personal identification, medical records, wills, financial documents, etc.)
  • Flammable items (paint, solvents, batteries, any kind of chemicals)
  • Gardening supplies (weed killer and insecticides)
  • 01 of 16

    Start Packing Six Weeks Before Moving

    The sweet spot seems to be six weeks to pack and move. It's easy to break down. Use the first three weeks to declutter, purge, and gather packing materials. Use the second three weeks to pack. If you have a lot less time than that—say you have to move in three days—it can be done. Take one day to purge, the next to gather supplies, and the third day to pack.

  • 02 of 16

    Choose Between Boxes and Totes

    It can be a tough call to choose between moving boxes and plastic totes when it comes to packing. You can use both. For example, if you are packing items that will go into long-term storage, totes are best. If you prefer having an unlimited array of sizes for packing, boxes are best. Here are more pros and cons:

    Boxes:

    • Pros: Cheaper than totes, efficient to flatten and remove, stackable, more readily accessible and available sizes
    • Cons: Fall apart easily (when wet, for example), can get crushed, can't see through, need extra materials such as tape, can't always reuse

    Totes:

    • Pros: Long-lasting, reusable, good for long-term storage, durable, stackable (for the most part), transparent
    • Cons: Expensive, susceptible to cracks, caves under weight, heavy to lift/move when stuffed, depending on the design some may not stack well
  • 03 of 16

    How to Pack Faster: Purge

    As mentioned above, you'll be able to pack fast if you purge fast. Purging before you pack will substantially streamline your packing time. And don't purge while you pack or you'll overthink the process. Where to start? Here are a few types of items (other than what's in your closet) you might want to toss or donate so you can get packing and have a fresh start in your new digs:

    • Throw pillows (they may become misshaped when packed, anyhow)
    • Curtains (ditch the dingy ones for a refresh)
    • Decor that doesn't spark joy
    • Unread, unwanted, and dusty old books
    • Old, stained, and unused rugs
    • Chipped dishes and glasses
    • Broken small appliances you "mean" to fix one day
  • 04 of 16

    Rent Moving Boxes

    Dogs in plastic moving bins
    Plastic moving bins usually come in two different sizes. Deirdre Sullivan

    Not your first time at the rodeo? Then you know boxes, labels, and shipping tape can add up quickly. Sure, scoring free moving boxes is a real money saver, but it's no easy feat in some towns, especially in an urban area where you may not have use of a car. 

    Renting plastic moving boxes is a smart alternative. Companies like Gorilla Bins offer two-week rental packages based on home size. Packages typically include:

    • Moving bins in both medium and large sizes
    • Zip ties (so you don't need packing tape) 
    • Peel and stick labels
    • Free delivery and pick up

    Places that rent plastic boxes usually wash them between rentals. If you're a germaphobe, some companies like Bin It and A Smart Move, sanitize after cleaning.

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  • 05 of 16

    Hack a Vacuum Space Bag

    Space storage bag hack using garbage bag
    Via Apartment Therapy

    Things like pillows, blankets, and your Triple F.A.T. Goose jacket take up lots of space when packing. If you compressed items like these, you'd be able to pack more lightweight stuff into fewer boxes. The problem is vacuum space bags cost money. A set of three large bags runs about $20.

    But you can DIY them in a few seconds. Here are the quick steps to making vacuum space bags:

    1. Place an item in a garbage bag.
    2. Put a vacuum hose into the bag.
    3. Create a seal by holding the bag's opening around the hose so that no air gets in and out.
    4. Turn on the vacuum and watch it suck the air out of the bag.
    5. Once the bag is flat as can be, secure the open end with a rubber band.
  • 06 of 16

    Smarter Ways to Organize Packed Boxes

    Sortly Moving App QR Code
    Sortly

    Packing and labeling your stuff by room sounds like a smart plan. Until you find yourself needing a particular item, like a vegetable peeler that could be in any one of the 10 kitchen boxes you packed. 

    To avoid this problem you can create a detailed spreadsheet that lists each box's contents. Yea, right, like who has the time? 

    The easiest way to pack when moving is to organize by taking a photo of the stuff that goes into a box before packing using your smartphone or tablet. To make this trick work you'll need to give the photo and the box the same name for easy reference, for example, kitchen box #5.

    You can also use an organizing app, like Sortly, which is designed to make moving more orderly. It enables you to create visual inventory lists for each box you pack using photos and printable QR code labels. When you scan the latter using your smartphone or tablet the app will share pictures of the box's contents.

  • 07 of 16

    Make Peeling the Sticky End of Tape Easier

    Rolls of different tape with toothpick marking sticky end

    The Spruce / Valerie de León

    Locating the sticky end of a roll of shipping tape can be challenging. The struggle gets real and oh so annoying when the tape tears off into chunks or stringy shreds instead of neat and tidy pieces.

    Using a toothpick to mark where to peel will make taping boxes less of a chore. To do this, place the toothpick horizontally on the tape's sticky side about 1/2 inch from the end. Afterward, fold the end of the tape under so it covers the toothpick.

  • 08 of 16

    DIY Cheap Packing Material

    Moving box open with shredded and crunched paper to protect coffee cups

    The Spruce / Valerie de León

    Bubble wrap and packing peanuts aren't cheap. Sure you can use stuff like towels, sheets, and clothing to protect your breakables. But unless the things you're boxing are squeaky clean, you're going to have a ton of laundry to do after you unpack.

    What to do instead? 

    If you own a paper shredder, chances are you'll be shredding a ton of paper clutter while you're getting ready to move. Instead of dumping the shredded paper into the recycling bin, you can use it to cushion blows.

    To avoid a big confetti-like mess, stuff the paper shreds into plastic grocery bags before using to pad boxes and fragile items. Just remember to tie a knot at the top of each bag to prevent spilling.

    Another good idea to know: clean plastic bottles in an assortment of sizes can be used to stop odd-shaped items from shifting around the confines of boxes.

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  • 09 of 16

    How to Organize Small Stuff

    Batteries and chargers organized in small plastic bags next to houseplants

    The Spruce / Valerie de León

    Make your move transparent using Ziplock bags. Not only are they ideal for packing and protecting important papers, cords, furniture screws—you name it, but you can reuse them to organize small items after the move. 

    The trick to making this idea work is labeling. For example, you can label things like cords individually and then group them by gadget or device in labeled bags.

  • 10 of 16

    Problem Solving Kits

    Moving kits
    Deirdre Sullivan

    After you move, you're going to need some stuff stat like soap and a clean towel for washing your hands. Creating a few problem-solving kits kept handy in transparent boxes or a large suitcase will keep the bare essentials at your fingertips until the dust settles. Here's a list of suggestions:

    • Weekend kit: Include all the stuff you would need if you left town for a few days including clothing, toiletries, and medications.
    • Bed and bath kit: Think basics like toilet paper, towels, and sheets.
    • First aid kit: When boo-boos happen a small stash of plastic bandages, antiseptic towelettes and absorbent compresses will come in handy.
    • Toolkit: Pack what you'll need to open boxes and assemble furniture like screwdrivers, pliers, hex keys, and scissors. You might want to organize and label the screws and nails used to dismantle furniture and put them into this kit so you have everything ready to quickly rebuild.
    • Munchie kit: Pack snacks, bottled water, and a few pantry items for the next morning like coffee and your coffee machine.
    • Cleaning kit: A few goods to have include garbage bags, paper towels, and multipurpose spray cleaner.
  • 11 of 16

    Prevent Packed Bottles From Leaking

    Three bottles covered with plastic wrap to prevent leaks next to houseplant and candle

    The Spruce / Valerie de León

    A little bit of kitchen plastic wrap will stop liquid toiletries from leaking while in transit. To do this, take the cap off and place a small sheet of plastic wrap over the opening. Next, put the cap back on. FYI, this hack will also prevent packed stuff like your shampoo from leaking on airplanes.

  • 12 of 16

    Bag Your Wardrobe

    Coats hanging in closet next to black garbage bags storing wardrobe on white hangers

    The Spruce / Valerie de León

    Sure, you can use white kitchen trash bags as garment bags during your move. But trust us, they will rip open before you get your clothing onto the truck. A better option is to use heavy-duty outdoor trash bags. They don't tear open as easily so you can reuse them later for garbage.

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  • 13 of 16

    Taping Your Artwork and Frames

    Moving art and picture frames is delicate work, especially with all that glass that risks shattering if it's not packed just right. Of course, bubble wrap is your artwork's best friend, but protect glass even more with masking tape. Use the masking tape to place an X across the glass to stop the glass from shattering from a blow or moving around, dislodging, and damaging the art or photo if it does break.

  • 14 of 16

    Prep Your Mattress the Right Way

    Oh, right, the mattress. It's a bear to pack up and move, but if you do it correctly, it'll end up at your new place in great shape and without a rip. It takes a few supplies to wrangle this piece of furniture, including a mattress bag and rope or ratchet straps. There are other important tips on safely moving a mattress, such as dragging it down the stairs with a blanket underneath it and making sure your memory foam or hybrid mattress is moved flat, not on its side (don't turn a memory foam or hybrid mattress on its side for transit or you can damage its structure).

  • 15 of 16

    Tape Your Drawers Shut

    Taping your dresser drawers shut is such a simple packing hack for moving clothes that will save a lot of time and mess when moving (though it will be heavy). The trick is to use tape that doesn't damage your furniture. Packing tape has too much residue that can affect the finish. Instead, use painter's tape which is designed to sit on finished surfaces.

  • 16 of 16

    Upgrade to a Wardrobe Box

    Sometimes you need more protection for your hanging clothes than bags. That's when a hanging wardrobe moving box comes into play, and the minor expense can be worth it to keep your coats and formal wear clean and safe. These boxes come in various sizes (small, medium, and large) and have a sturdy metal bar to hang your items. Buy this type of box at home improvement stores or from U-Haul.