Packing for a Big Move Is Better Than Burning Your House Down

Most days I’d rather throw a lit match into my apartment than deal with carefully packing all of my stuff. While that may be the quickest approach, it isn’t the most productive. So, I’ve resigned myself to the sorting and packing process. With 3,000 miles to travel, I need to find a way to ensure my vintage barware, ceramic poodles, Millie, the buppy (yes, she is half baby/half puppy and no, she is not creepy), and other treasures survive intact.


As I am apt to do, I’ve done some obsessive Google research on packing best practices and present to you some of the fruits of my research.

Moving Boxes & Bins for Packing

Cardboard boxes are great for packing anything not super fragile or sentimental, such a books and DVDs. The absolute best prices are found at Home Depot. You will overspend by copious amounts at U-Haul, Amazon, or basically any other place. Sure, you can get free boxes at the grocery store, but don’t come crying to me when your moving truck opens to reveal a hot mess of collapsed boxes. I’ve read plenty of cautionary tales online! Sturdy boxes in uniform sizes allow for easy stacking and prevent any leaning towers that lead to tradgedy.


For the really special things, like family photos or fragile items, plastic bins are best. They stack better than boxes, while preventing dents and water damage. Better yet, no assembly is required! The only downside to plastic bins is their price. I looked everywhere for an affordable 18-gallon storage bin (a great size, not too big and not too small), but most options were just crazy expensive considering I need about 20! However, Wal-Mart delivers the best price on plastic bins– a pack of eight for $39.76… that’s just $4.97 each! Crazy. I’m not typically a Wal-Mart shopper, but in this instance I made the trek to buy these bins.


Packing Material

Now you are going to need some serious packing material. Not just stuff to wrap your breakables in, but to cushion things that can be damaged. Bubble wrap is great, but it’s expensive if you actually buy enough for a full move. Packing material can be 100% totally FREE!

You can use many of the items you are already planning to pack, including blankets, pillows, clothing and fabric. Basically, anything soft and cushiony makes a great packing material. Don’t waste space packing these items together when they can be used as packing material.

And, if you’re like me and work in an office, you probably have access to a heavy duty shredder. The one in my office would shred your fingers if you stuck them in there. Don’t try that. I collect and hoard every single piece of paper not needed in the office to save for shredding. I now have shreds for days! You can probably accomplish this with a shredder you have at home; it might just take more time. The criss-cross shredders only give you confetti, so they won’t be helpful. You need thick shreds like these that provide lots of cushion.


In addition, save any packing materials that come from online orders. Places like Staples and Amazon include those inflated balloon-like packing materials in most orders. Save your newspapers or ask a friend who subscribes for their old newspapers. Lastly, check the free section on Craigslist, where you can find people giving away bubble wrap and packing paper. You can score free boxes on Craigslist as well, but I prefer to purchase mine so I am in control of the exact sizes and shapes of my boxes to create ideal stacking conditions in the moving truck.

Packing Boxes & Bins

Cardboard boxes should be packed so they are completely and totally filled to prevent the lid from bowing under the weight of items stacked on them. This keeps the leaning tower of boxes from happening in your moving truck. Plus, a properly packed box will prevent your items from shifting around. You might not be worried about your books breaking, but they can be damaged if they are packed too loosely. Say you’ve got a box that isn’t quite full, add shreds or other packing material until all the nooks and crannies are filled. You are now ready to tape up your box.

When packing breakables in your bins, start with something cushy at the bottom. This could be a bunch of shreds, a pillow, some clothes, or a blanket… anything that will prevent your items from touching the hard bottom of the bin. Next, put in a layer of wrapped breakable items making sure they don’t touch each other or the bin itself. You want to put packing material all around the edges and between items. You might be thinking that this is an inefficient use of space by including so much packing material, but now your items are safely nestled and unable to bump into anything that could break them.

Packing Perfection

(Could this photo be any less interesting to look at? It’s just a sea of white, grey and clear!)

Next, place a thick layer of shreds or other soft material on top of your items. Continue layering in this way until you get to the top layer, which should be a thick helping of packing material. Put the lid on and you are now a professional bin packer!

Of course, I haven’t actually moved yet, so these tips are totally untested. Everything might arrive in a heap of broken glass and ceramics. I wouldn’t trust me if I were you.

2 Comments on Packing for a Big Move Is Better Than Burning Your House Down

  1. Susan
    May 7, 2014 at 5:05 pm (8 years ago)

    Great advice! I just went online to Walmart and ordered 2 sets of those containers!

    • Rachel Russell
      May 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks, Susan! So glad you visited my blog!


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