June 16, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

How to Pack a Moving Box Like the Pros

5 min read
How to Pack a Moving Box Like the Pros

Packing moving boxes is a little like bagging groceries. We all have some idea about how it should go, but we probably haven’t given it more than a few seconds thought. (Most of us have ended up with some broken stuff on the other end, too.)

To learn more about the art of packing, I spoke with professional movers who offer packing services to their clients. If you’re putting labels on top of the box, packing more than 30 pounds or you can open a packed box and see what’s inside, you’re already doing something wrong.

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Let’s walk through everything you need to know about the best way to pack moving boxes.

Need more moving tips? Check out our picks for the best moving companies, and here are seven apps that make the moving process less stressful.

Before you start packing boxes

Get the right supplies

There are four essentials you’ll need to pack up your home: boxes, tape, markers and cushioning to protect your belongings. You can get new moving boxes for around $1 to $3 per box at The Home Depot, Lowe’s or U-Haul, but free moving boxes are also readily available through sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor and BuyNothing. You can also find free boxes at big box stores like Walmart and Target, recycling centers, liquor stores or grocery stores.

Another good way to save money on your move is to cushion items with towels, pillowcases, clothes and newspaper instead of bubble wrap or packing foam.

You also have the option of renting plastic crates instead of using the standard cardboard boxes. While they’re not necessarily cheaper — about $3 to $6 per box for a week or two — they have the edge in convenience, protection and sustainability.

Decide if you need specialty boxes

Most of your stuff can probably be packed into standard boxes, but you may have some fragile or oddly shaped items that would require boxes made just for them. Consider getting specific boxes for these items before you start packing:

  • Artwork
  • Mirrors
  • Clothes on hangers
  • TV
  • Box dividers for drinking glasses

Set aside extra time to pack the kitchen

The kitchen is the final boss of any packing adventure. Because there are so many breakable items, make sure you dedicate enough time to packing your dishes properly. It’s also a good idea to group your knives by size and wrap them in newspaper or packing paper when packing. This will keep loose knives from chipping or damaging other utensils in your kitchen.

How to properly pack a moving box

Eliminate empty space

The golden rule of packing is to make sure the items in each box don’t have too much room to bounce around. (If you hear jostling, something has gone wrong.)

“Essentially, you want to use all the space in a box and not have a ton of open space for things to rattle around. You can fill voids with packing paper or crumpled up newspaper,” Adrian Hawtree, of Adam’s Moving Service in Seattle, told me. “In a well-packed box, you should be able to open it and only see packing paper — not dishes or other stuff.”

Filling up the empty space helps in two ways: your items will be protected, and the boxes will stay structurally sound when you stack them. A box that’s half empty is much more likely to crumple when you put it under a heavier box on a moving dolly or truck. Properly packing your boxes means you won’t have to worry as much about how you’re stacking on moving day.

Use small boxes for heavy items

While underpacking can result in damaged items, overpacking can make your move more difficult than it needs to be.

“Be cognizant of the weight of the boxes,” Hawtree told me. “You’re probably going to be moving several boxes at a time, probably stacking them up on a hand truck 4 to 5 feet high. You want to make sure the boxes don’t exceed 30 pounds each so that they’re manageable.”

No matter where you get your boxes, they’ll typically fall into the standard a small/medium/large size chart. According to U-Haul, every box size they sell holds up to 65 pounds — more than most people will be comfortable lifting.

“Use small boxes for your books and fragile items and use the larger boxes for the pillows, sheets and clothes,” said Kyle from Easy Company Moving.

Put heavy items on bottom

Just like you’d put cans of food below eggs in your grocery bag, you’ll want your most durable items at the bottom of your moving box. This goes for packing your moving truck too — use your heaviest boxes as a base layer with lighter items on top.

Label the side of the box

The last thing you want to do on moving night is open every box looking for the bottle opener. Making sure every box is properly labeled will save you (and your movers) lots of headaches at your new home. But it’s not as simple as you might think.

“Never label on the top of the box because you’re probably going to stack boxes,” Hawtree told me. “We like labeling on at least two sides of the box so it’s easy to find the label from any position.”

Make sure your label includes the room where the box is heading and possibly a brief description of its contents. Using different colored markers or tape for each room can also make life easier on moving day.

Tape the top and bottom closed

You might be tempted to only tape one end of the box and fold the other end closed, but this time saver could end up coming back to bite you. Tape the bottom three times with heavy-duty packing tape and make sure to tape the top closed as well.

“A lot of times we show up and people won’t have the tops taped or they’ll fold them,” Kyle told us. “That actually makes it easier for the box to crush.”

Taking some extra time to pack your moving boxes properly will go a long way in making sure everything arrives safe, sound and organized in your new home.

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