7 Tips on How to Pack for a DIY Move

Guest Contributor
August 8, 2013
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If you’re planning a do-it-yourself move, you’re probably overwhelmed by the thought of packing a houseful of stuff into a rental truck. In the end, though, the savings can make that labor worthwhile.

Do-it-yourself movers save between 50 percent and 75 percent compared with folks who hire full-service movers, according to Dave Baptisti, director of national consumer sales and programs at Penske Truck Rental. You don’t have to be a professional packer to get it right, either.

Here are seven packing tips that should ease your stress and lighten your (truck) load.

1. Start Early.

Packing in a rush is a huge mistake, said Becky Harris, a moving specialist with ABF U-Pack Moving. She recommends starting to pack at least four to six weeks ahead. Sloppy packing because you waited until the last week can result in lots of items being damaged during a bouncy truck ride.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Moving boxes.
  • Packing paper.
  • Packing tape made for moving (never Scotch or masking tape).
  • Packing tape dispenser like the ones sold at office supply stores.
  • Black marker.
  • Sandwich bags to hold hardware for appliances and furniture.

Do-it-yourself move

2. Purge.

“Donate, throw away, have a garage sale,” Harris said.

Moving more items requires a bigger truck, extra gas and additional packing supplies. If you’re moving from Boston to Los Angeles, it may be less expensive to sell a few large items before you move and buy new furnishings once you get settled.

3. Consider the Boxes.

Skip grocery boxes, which crush easily, as well as plastic totes, which don’t hold up to stacking. Use boxes designed for moving, Baptisti said. He recommends boxes rated 32 ECT and up; they’re sold by storage facilities, truck rental companies, moving companies and hardware stores. It may seem faster to pack your belongings into big boxes, but small to midsize boxes are much easier to hoist onto trucks. Consult a chart like the one on Penske’s website to estimate how many boxes you’ll need.

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4. Don’t Tackle Everything at Once.

Pack non-essential items early, Baptisti said. These could include off-season clothing, books, artwork or anything you won’t miss if it’s in a box. Penske advises beginning at least two weeks before moving day. Harris likes a “room to room” approach, starting with the room you use least. Pack things you don’t use, and pack similar items together. For example, put everything from one kitchen cabinet into one box.

Pack a couple boxes of essentials for your arrival. Mark them “open first” and place them near the rear of your truck. Suggested items include cleaning supplies, paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper, some clothing, eating utensils, a coffeemaker, toiletries and cosmetics.

5. Don’t Skimp.

Movers who use the wrong packing materials risk damaging or breaking items, Baptisti said. Newspaper ink can bleed and stain your things, so use newsprint-white paper that’s thicker than newspaper-for packing. Tape all seams on boxes, Harris said, and be sure to use packing tape to keep dust out and boxes from being crushed.

Tip: Search for unused or barely used, moving boxes and supplies on Craigslist for a fraction of the retail cost. Just make sure the boxes being sold are actual moving boxes.

6. Track What You Pack.

Color-code boxes by room and label with general contents. For example, you can stick a yellow label on kitchen boxes and then list on each box what it contains: can opener, coffee bean grinder, skillets and so on. Use a notebook to list the contents of each box.

You’ll also need to keep track of what’s in all those boxes if you’ll be using a self-storage facility during your move. Download the Moving Van app on iTunes to list the contents of every box and search for certain items on your iPhone or iPad when you arrive.

7. Load Like a Pro.

Bumping along a highway can be bad news for belongings if you don’t load them correctly. Use rope and straps to tie down items as you load, and pack “high and tight,” placing heavy things and large boxes on the bottom, Harris said. Baptisti recommends putting heavy items at the front of the truck to avoid load shifts during transit.

Why All the Work Is Worth It

Paying a full-service mover to pack up your home is one of the most expensive parts of moving. Pack yourself and-even after paying for moving boxes, tape and other supplies-you’ll still save thousand of dollars, according to Harris. Besides, she said, “people just like to pack their own stuff.”


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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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