What to Pack First and Last When Moving: The Ultimate Guide

Andreea Draguleasa
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The time has finally come.

Moving day is a few weeks away, and it is time to start packing. But what should you pack first?

Moving between homes is like a 3D puzzle. It’s all about figuring out which piece goes where and in what order. This isn’t merely about stuffing your belongings into boxes; it’s about strategizing, prioritizing, and most importantly, timing.

So, what is the right packing order for moving? This isn’t just a conundrum for the inexperienced; seasoned movers often find themselves pondering how to start packing because no two situations are identical.

Good news is, with the right guidance, the packing process can transform from a potential headache into a smooth, organized progression. The following practical packing tips will help you decide what to start packing first when moving and what to hold back until the final moments. By the end, you will have the know-how to tackle any move efficiently, confidently and without the last-minute rush (unless you feed off that, of course).

Table of Contents

What to Pack First When Moving

Determining what to start packing first when moving is not a one-size-fits-all situation. However, a general rule of thumb is to start with items you use least.

Seasonal Items and Out-of-Season Clothing

With your move a few weeks away, now is the time to go through your clothing and pack seasonal clothes you aren’t wearing now. If your move is in the summer, start packing coats and jackets. If your move is in the winter, go ahead and pack your shorts and tank tops.

Once you are done, you should be left with your current wardrobe. Pare that down to the items you plan to wear over the next couple weeks and pack away any additional clothes you won’t need until after your move. If you plan it right, you should have a few outfits left to wear after moving day that you can pack at the last minute in a suitcase or a duffel bag.

This goes for packing your shoe collection as well. Pick a couple of pairs, including some comfortable shoes for moving day, and pack the rest up now.

Non-Essential Items and Memorabilia

Next, turn your attention to the less frequently used items and memorabilia, such as:

Pack them in small sturdy boxes because of their weight and be mindful about packing and storing comic books.

One of the reasons books and similar items are a particularly good place to start is the fact that their uniform shape makes them easy to pack. You will be able to make a lot of progress and feel like you accomplished a lot once you are done packing up your media collection.

Extra Kitchen Supplies and Appliances

Finally, focus on your kitchen, specifically those rarely used utensils, special occasion cookware and the once-in-a-blue-moon appliances. Keep your daily essentials handy until the very end and start packing up the rest. 

What to Pack Last When Moving

In the final stage of packing, your attention should focus on the items you use daily. These are the essentials that you will need up until the very last moment and almost immediately upon arrival at your new place.

Everyday Use Items

While packing, consider setting aside a small luggage or bag for your daily use items. This could include clothes and shoes for the last few days, personal care items and toiletries, essential survival items, medications and a first aid kit. Keep important documents and records within reach as well.

Bedding and Bathroom Essentials

Ensure you have your bedding — sheets, blankets and pillows — as well as bathroom essentials such as towels, shower curtains and toiletries handy until the very last day. These are items you will want to have available for immediate use in your new home.

Cleaning Supplies

As for the cleaning supplies, it is best to pack up all but the most essential products and tools. You will need these to clean up your old place after all your belongings have been moved out and perhaps for some final touch-ups in your new place.

Electronics and Valuables

Last but not least, it’s time to pack your expensive electronics and valuables. Be sure to handle these items carefully during the packing process and clearly label the boxes to ensure their proper treatment. 

Remember: Items such as jewelry, cash and important documents should be kept close to you throughout the move.

By prioritizing your packing in this way, you will not only ease your moving process but also your transition into your new home.

Additional Tips on Packing For Moving

To round off your packing experience, here are a few additional tips that can further streamline your move and set you up for success in your new home:

  • Gather packing supplies. Packing supplies are the unsung heroes of every successful move. Having all the necessary supplies readily available saves valuable time and prevents unnecessary delays during the packing process.
  • Label and categorize your boxes. One of the best packing tips to move is that clear, accurate labeling is your best friend. Label boxes with what is inside as well as the room it belongs in. This will speed up the unloading process and help ensure that each box ends up in the correct room at your new place.
  • Create a moving day essentials box. Also known as an “open me first box”, this can very well be a piece of luggage. Include all the items you could possibly need during the first night in your new place. For instance, a change of clothes, extra towels, medication, favorite electronic devices, important documents, toilet paper, snacks and hand soap.
  • Take photos for easier reassembly. Before you disassemble large furniture or complex electronics, take a few quick photos that show how everything fits together. This can make reassembly much easier once you arrive at your new home.
  • Notify important parties about your move. Make a list of all the businesses, institutions and individuals who should be notified of your move. This includes utilities, your bank, your employer, your child’s school and others. By updating your address promptly, you can avoid any unnecessary confusion or delays in correspondence.

Pro tip: Are you ready for a packing marathon? Check our guide on how to pack all in one day.

Final Thoughts on Packing

The packing process for a move, when done thoughtfully, can turn from overwhelming to manageable. Start by prioritizing out-of-season clothes and non-essential items, then slowly work towards the things you use daily. Use a comprehensive checklist, declutter strategically and sort items effectively to simplify this task.

In the end, the aim is to transition smoothly to your new home and these tips for packing for moving can help you start fresh with organized belongings. Follow these guidelines on what to pack first and last and discover the easiest way to pack and move, successfully and stress-free.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 21, 2023 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Andreea Draguleasa

Andreea Draguleasa showed an affinity for foreign languages and literature at an early age and started writing when she was 6. She studied journalism, advertising, and public relations at the University of Bucharest and worked as a content writer for a tourism agency and as a journalist for a magazine in the hospitality industry until 2010. After seven years as marketing manager for a Home & Deco online shop, she realized that learning something new every day brings her the most joy, so she went back to researching and writing informative articles. Through her experience traveling the world, she's picked up tips and resources she now shares on self storage solutions. When not writing about home organizing and storage, Andreea spends most of her time reading, playing video games, and spoiling her cat.
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About the SpareFoot Blog

The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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