The Do-It-Yourself Move (Part 2): Packing

Article posted by on October 04, 2013

By Jeff Walker

Packing is a critical aspect to anyone performing a do-it-yourself move.  These are your worldly possessions, after all, and you’ll want to avoid as much damage to those items as possible.  Given the nature to of the DIY move, you’ll have no one but yourself to blame if your favorite china arrives in pieces, so getting good packing materials is essential in keeping your items safe and sound during your journey to your new home.

Good boxes are hard to find.  Professional movers use and promote the use of 3-ply boxes to protect your items in transport.  These boxes have 3 layers of cardboard between the outer and inner edges of the box, making them very heavy, but almost as durable as plywood.  You cancardboard box purchase these boxes from moving or shipping supply companies, but they are very expensive, and movers tend to keep those boxes for their own clients, rather than sell them to the general public.  So what’s the alternative?  In the old days when I was growing up, it was easy to go down to the local grocery store and pick up any boxes they were throwing away.  Recycling was almost unheard of, and they were more than happy to let the boxes go, rather than fill up their dumpster with unnecessary clutter, costing them more money to get rid of those boxes at the local landfill.  These days, with recycling programs in place, many stores are not as willing to let their boxes go that easily, and often times if they do have boxes, they are damaged or not sturdy enough to move your items safely.  Depending on where you’re located, you still may abandoned stufffind a department or grocery store that is willing to part with their boxes, but keep in mind that this will probably only fill part of your need, and you will probably need to look elsewhere.

In my research, has come up repeatedly as a source for boxes as has Craigslist.  People who have already moved, trying to unload their boxes on someone else who needs them frequently will post those boxes at a lower rate, or just trying to give them away in order to get them off their hands.  Keep in mind, you will get what you pay for, and it’s possible that some of those boxes themselves will have damage or in some way be unusable for your move, so be prepared to continue your search once those boxes arrive.  If you don’t mind paying a little for your boxes, you can usually find decent ones at your local office supply store.  These may be expensive, but are generally in great shape. 

Packing Supplies:
In addition to plenty of boxes, you’ll need other supplies such as tape, markers and packing materials.  Tape and tape dispensers can be picked up at any office supply or hardware store.  While you don’t need anything as heavy as duct tape, you’ll want to make sure that the tape you select is sturdy enough that it won’t tear on its own after you’ve closed your boxes.  A standard packing tape 2agrade packing tape will probably do, but purchase a single role and test it yourself before you start closing up all those boxes and find out that you’ll have to do it all over again!  If you can pull it apart with your hands, you will probably need a better grade of tape than what you just tore apart.  You’ll also want a tape dispenser to make your job easier.  Each tape dispenser will hold a single roll of tape, so if you have more than one person in charge of closing your boxes, you may want to pick up another dispenser.  This may depend on how you’re packing.  For example, if you put a few people in charge of placing items in your boxes, you could have one person closing the lids and taping them shut.  Make sure you tape not only the center seams of the boxes, but also the outer edges where seams occur.  That way you have a nicely packed box that will keep anything from sliding in or out.

Markers are essential in helping you label your boxes.  You can put labels on your boxes if you like, however, I simply recommend marking your boxes on all sides with the room in which you would like that item to be unloaded.  For example, any dishes or silverware boxes might be labeled “Kitchen” so anyone unloading will know where that box should go in your new home.  Labeling a box with the item contents is good if you are the only one unloading that item, but labeling your box with “towels” for example, may be confusing, and the person helping you unload may not know 

Sharpie marker

exactly where that item will go, be it a hall closet, or the bathroom.  If you are using boxes that have been “slightly used”, you may want to use labels to cover up the old writing so that your kitchen items don’t end up in your new shed. has a form, with which you can print off your own labels.  You can get the self-adhesive kind at any office supply store, or if you’d rather, you can simply print them out on plain paper, and assuming you have clear packing tape, simply tape the finished (and marked) label to the side of the box.

Packing supplies will be expensive, and bubble wrap is no exception.  Again, this is an item you can find in your local office supply or hardware store.  For the money-wise mover, you may want to limit the number of rolls you buy at a time.  While you may spend a little more on gas getting back and forth to the store, you may well save yourself some money on the purchase of the supplies by not buying more than you need.  At the time of this writing, some types of bubble wrap were as expensive as cheap carpeting when priced per square foot!  So pay attention to what you will need, what type of bubble wrap you’re purchasing, and where you are purchasing it. 

Bubble wrap can be used to pack all sorts of items, but primarily you’ll want to focus on items you feel may be breakable.  Dishes, knick-knacks and glass items that may jostle around during transport.  Avoid wrapping electronic items, as static electricity can build up and discharge, ruining your electronic device.  If you want to save yourself some money, try using towels to supplement your bubble wrap when packing items like dishes or glass items.  Make sure that when you do, that all items are snugly wrapped to avoid knocking into one another during transport.

A less expensive option may be to go with packing paper, also available at your local office supply store, hardware store, UPS and box retailers.  While not as cushiony as bubble wrap, you can still bunch it up and provide a barrier between breakables.  Make sure you have enough layers to keep your breakables from banging together so they arrive in one piece at your destination.

Furniture Pads:
One of the more critical items that you’ll need are furniture pads.  These are quilted blanket-likeLCD TV items you can rent from your truck rental company.  If they don’t have any for rent, move on to someone who does. If you are hiring a full-service mover, make sure they are in the quote, as they are essential for transporting large, bulky items that may be damaged during transport.  Larger, breakable items, such as HDTV’s can be wrapped and taped up in furniture pads, but make sure plenty of padding is used, and that nothing is resting against the face of your TV when loading it on the truck!  Many HDTV’s require they be moved upright, so make sure you have a good spot on the truck where the TV can stand upright and there is nothing resting against the screen.  This is especially true of Plasma screen TV’s, which require them to be in an upright position at all times.  In all reality, the best mode of transport is the original box in which the TV came in, however, if you’re like most of us, that box went into the recycle bin the minute we got our TV home.  So make sure you take great care in transporting your HDTV.

When loading, you’ll want to use the furniture pads to cover your furniture items to prevent scratches and dents from occurring during transport.  You might consider using an old sheet to cover couches and recliners, if you’re sure they won’t cause or incur any damage during transport.  This will keep the dust off those items, but WILL NOT keep them from being damaged, so you’ll need to assess whether a furniture pad (or pads) will be needed for items such as these.

Box Contents:
So how do I pack my boxes?  Try to keep each box under 40 lbs, with heavier items at the bottom, and lighter items on top.  Use your bubble wrap for breakables and make sure each box is snugly full, as you don’t want items shifting around banging into each other as you travel.  Where electronics are concerned, try to use the box the item came in whenever possible.  If you no longer have the original container, make sure you have plenty of padding on all sides of the item, and don’t use packing material that will build up a static discharge, such as bubble wrap.  Try to pack anything flat and breakable (such as dishes) upright, as if you were stacking them in the dishwasher.  Make sure there is plenty of protection around each item.  ABOVE ALL ELSE, do NOT pack your moving documentation in with your items.  You may need these papers to refer back to before your move is over.  If your truck breaks down, or you find yourself in a situation where your rental company may be liable, you will need these papers to refer back to when working with the company to resolve your issue.

Whether you’re making a quick move across town, or a move across country, packing supplies are essential in keeping your items safe from damage.  As you drive your truck to your new home, it’s not unusual for items to shift or move as the truck rolls across potholes, dips and other road hazards that naturally occur on our roads and highways, so you’ll need to keep that in mind when packing your items for your move.

Related Articles: