Follow This Packing System for the Most Efficient Way to Pack

woman labeling boxes

Our simple, step-by-step approach will help you make the best use of your time, let you focus on what matters, and make the process of packing much easier.

Let’s get into it.

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Step 1 - Purge your belongings

The more unwanted items you get rid of now, the less you have to move. Go through your belongings with your family and sell, donate, or recycle anything you don’t need. Craigslist and community Facebook pages are good places to sell, and Goodwill will come to your house to pick up items.

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Step 2 - Find packing supplies

Go through your house and estimate the boxes, tape, plastic wrap, and packing materials you’ll need. Add 25% to that number, as it’s better to have slightly too much than slightly too little. Borrow or buy your packing supplies. Don’t forget tools to help you take apart furniture and other large items.

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Step 3 - Involve friends and family

There’s a sweet spot between having enough people to pack and overcrowding your house. Add up the number of rooms in your house and deduct two or three—that’s the ideal number of people to involve in packing. Invite some friends to assist you and reward them for their help. The earlier you start involving others, the better.

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Step 4 - Plan your packing

Efficient packing is smart packing. That means planning your packing out before you start taping boxes and gathering belongings.

  • Go to each of your rooms and put the right amount of packing supplies in each one. Number the boxes according to the inventory system below.
  • Put newspapers, old clothes, and packing materials in each room to protect fragile objects.
  • Print out our handy list of packing guidelines and leave it with the supplies.
  • Work out the order you’d like the rooms packed in.
  • Review and let everyone know about the inventory system (see below).
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Step 5 - Manage yours and other's time

Procrastination and duplicating effort are the enemies of the efficient mover. Here are some tips to keep your focus:

  • Set yourself, and everyone else, a deadline to pack—This doesn’t have to be a hard deadline, but it will help everyone focus on the task.
  • Make sure people aren’t duplicating effort—Let everyone know what you need them to do. You only need one person in each room to pack.
  • Check on your people—Visit each person every hour or two, bring them refreshments, and make sure they have everything they need. Make yourself available to answer questions.
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Step 6 - Start packing

Packing doesn’t need to be complicated.

  • Stay safe—Be careful when using knives, scissors, and tools.
  • Pack room by room—Don’t move onto another room until you’ve finished the one you’re in.
  • Group together similar items—Gather books, toys, clothes, electronics, etc. into separate piles. Pack each pile into different boxes.
  • Protect fragile items—Wrap fragile items in old clothes, towels, newspaper, or cardboard.
  • Fill in the gaps between items in the box—Use packing chips, newspaper, or clothes to fill in empty space in the box.
  • Inventory what’s going into each box—See the inventory system below.
  • Make sure boxes aren’t overpacked—Keep each box to 30 pounds or less in weight. Any more than that and the box could burst or at the very least it won’t be easy to lift and carry.
  • Leave essential, last-minute items in a place they’ll be easily seen—There are some essential items you’ll need right up until you leave. Separate these out and leave them somewhere clearly visible. This might include medications, a toolset, clothes for the last day, etc.
  • Use trash bags for soft items—Bin bags are ideal for packing your clothes and soft furnishings.
  • Seal liquids properly—Put liquids into sealable bags after taping the lids shut.
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Step 7 - Use the inventory system

The inventory system is a simple way to manage what’s been packed in each box, where the box needs to go in the new house, and whether items are fragile. You can also use it to privately track valuable items, and clearly label your boxes so they get where they need to go.

We covered the inventory system in more depth in another post, but here’s a quick summary:

  1. Download and print out our inventory sheet.
  2. Number your boxes.
  3. On the inventory sheet, note the rooms the boxes are coming from, the rooms they’re going to, the contents of each box, whether the items are fragile, and whether the items are valuable.
  4. Clearly label the sides and top of the boxes with the name of the room they’re going to, the contents of the box, and whether they are fragile.
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Step 8 - Disassemble and protect your large items

Disassemble large items, take wheels off sofas, and take apart bedframes to make it easier to move everything. Wrap your soft furnishings in plastic wrap to stop them from getting dirty or damaged. Photograph each step when taking furniture apart so you know how to put them back together.

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Step 9 - Label everything

If you’ve got fixtures, fittings, and other small items, put them into separate sandwich bags. Label the sandwich bags with their contents and the items they’re associated with. Tape the bags to the items.

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Step 10 - Pack your essential items last

Go through each room on the last day in your old home and gather together all of the essential items. Pack them in overnight bags or suitcases and label them. Empty the fridge and freezer and put all of the food together with some ice packs. Do a final check of your old home to make sure you’ve got everything, and get ready to move to your new location.

As long as you start early, plan well, stay focused, and work with your friends and family, the burden of packing will be much easier. That means less stress for you, an easier time unpacking, and settling into your beautiful new home faster.

About Christa Baxter

Christa Baxter
Christa Baxter has worked as an editor for more than seven years. She leads the content team in producing whip-smart moving tips and recs. After relocating four times in the last calendar year, she’s got strong opinions about moving best practices. (Just don’t ever pull a Marie Kondo and suggest she whittle down her personal library.)
  • Joy Butler

    I think it’s really important to purge your belongings prior to a move. Getting rid of your stuff is a great plan so you can move for effectively. I will have to do that before my next move.