4 Simple Packing Strategies to Make Your Big Move Smoother

Stephen M. Daniel
Researcher & Writer
Read More
December 15, 2015
6 min read

At a glance

Moving truly asks a lot of you: time, money, and energy. Though no move is completely stress-free, there are ways you can better prepare yourself and find the right balance of cost, time, and effort. Whether you’re staying local or moving across the country, there are some practical packing steps you can take that will make the process smoother.

Here are some ways to organize your packing to help eliminate worry and ensure you leave nothing behind.

4 organizational strategies to ease your move

There are different, systematic ways to organize your move. Let’s look at these four helpful methods to make your packing faster—and less expensive.

1. Three piles method

This method allows you to separate everything you own into three piles. It works well if you’re cleaning out your garage and prepping your entire house for a move across the country.

  • Best for: Moves on a short timeline, as it works best when you can do everything at once. 
  • Worst for: Packrats and people with large collections. The decision to keep or not keep some items can make analysis paralysis set in. 
  • Supplies needed: Standard moving boxes, packing tape, and trash bags.
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Looking for cheap moving boxes?

Not all moving boxes are created equal. Some just hold up better during a move. Here is a guide to finding affordable moving boxes that will protect your items during transport.

The three piles method works like this:

  1. Start with a room with a lot of empty floor space. Move furniture to another area of your home if necessary.
  2. Designate three areas on the floor: throwaways or donations, items coming with you, and items you’ve yet to decide on.
  3. Go through every object, placing each in its appropriate pile.
  4. Once you’ve finished, go through the items in another room of your home and place them in the piles you’ve created in the original room.
  5. After you’ve gone through all your rooms, transport the donated items to a donation center and throw away or recycle any items that are trash. For more ideas on what and where to donate, check out this helpful donation guide.
  6. Pack the items going with you to your new home, and move them to your staging area for the moving truck.
  7. Review the items you need to consider, packing those you decide to keep and giving away or selling the rest.

You can use this method with the items you don’t need to access on a day-to-day basis, leaving your furniture and essential items out until moving day. You can also choose to use bags or boxes for your three spaces, packing items as you go.

2. Future home method

This method focuses on the organization of your new home, rather than the home you’re leaving.

  • Best for: Moves where you’ve seen the house already and have a plan for each room.
  • Worst for: Homes with lots of large furniture, which can overcrowd your staging area.
  • Supplies needed: Standard moving boxes, packing tape, trash bags, and permanent marker.

This forward-facing method works like this:

  1. Clear out floor space in the garage or a room you can devote to this purpose. 
  2. Set up a moving box for each room in the new home. Label each box appropriately. Include an extra box labeled “Donate” and a box of heavy-duty trash bags.
  3. Beginning in the first room, move items to the appropriate box. For example, stuff going to the master bedroom goes in the master bedroom box. Set furniture near the pile of boxes going to its corresponding room.
  4. When you fill a box, seal it up, then open and label a new box. 
  5. Repeat for every room in the house.
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What to do with all that junk

If you’re in the middle of moving, chances are you’re realizing you have a lot of things in your home that you no longer use or need. If you have a good amount of junk, consider hiring professionals to whisk it all away for you. We’ve evaluated some of the top junk removal companies from all over the country to help you do just that.

If you really want to strategize your new home, get a roll of masking tape. Use it to create a floor plan of your new home there on the floor of your staging area. Place your boxes in the rooms of the floor plan where they’ll go when you’ve finished.

3. Moving helpers method

With this method, you designate certain tasks to each kind person helping you with your move.

  • Best for: In-town moves where you have friends and family on-site to help with the move on both ends
  • Worst for: Families with lots of smaller helpers (your children can help with the move too but may require a little extra help and effort from you)
  • Supplies needed: Standard moving supplies, communication channels, and notepad or spreadsheet

How this method works:

  1. Get a list of the people you are certain will participate in your move. This includes the people living in your home, plus anybody who has agreed to help.
  2. Make a list of the things needed to complete your move successfully. This should get down to the level of packing each room in the home, renting and driving any moving trucks, securing new keys and turning in the old, and closing out utilities.
  3. Match each person on the first list with one or more duties on the second list. For example, each child would be responsible to pack their own room (if they’re old enough), while your friend driving the moving truck would be on duty to rent, drive, and help load the truck.
  4. Create a timeline for each person and item, getting them to agree to when they’ll have each task finished. Follow up a day or two ahead to make sure they’re still on schedule.
The proper way to load a moving truck

Whether you’re a newbie at loading a truck or you’ve done it for countless other moves, it’s important that you load everything in the safest, most efficient ways possible to avoid any mishaps. Here are five essential steps for loading your moving truck.

This system works best when you know exactly who’s involved. If anybody on your list seems likely to mishandle or need help with their task (for example, a friend who tends to duck out on plans last minute, or a child or teen who will need extra guidance), make sure you assign a back-up person and set their timeline so there’s space to get things done.

In the case where extra people show up, delegate two or three tasks where many hands make the work lighter. Loading the moving truck, moving the furniture, and running errands are good examples.

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Best moving truck rental companies

If you’re in need of a rental truck, there are many for you to consider, depending on the size of your load and the distance you’re moving. We’ve evaluated the top moving truck rental companies across the country to help you choose the right moving truck for you.

4. Room by room method

The room by room method can be extremely satisfying because you get to celebrate partial progress.

  • Best for: Homes with “extra” rooms you can live without for a couple of weeks.
  • Worst for: Families, since kids don’t always understand what’s happening.
  • Supplies needed: Moving boxes, contractor bags

Here are the steps involved in the room by room method:

  1. Choose a staging area for your move that is large enough to hold most of your possessions. In most homes, this will be the garage.
  2. Choose the room you use the least in your home that isn’t your staging area.
  3. Go through that room with a trash bag, throwing away everything that you want to discard.
  4. Go through that room with a large box or bin, pulling out everything you intend to donate, sell, or give away.
  5. Move that box or bin into your car or by the door for later.
  6. Pack all the remaining items in the room into boxes, then move them to your staging area.
  7. Move all the furniture in the room to the staging area.
  8. Vacuum and clean the room, then close the door. Pretend it doesn’t exist for the rest of your time in the home.
  9. Repeat Steps 2 through 8 for the other rooms in your home.
The 411 on moving supplies

Moving involves way more than boxes and tape. Our ultimate moving supply list has everything from appliances to cleaning supplies to packing materials to help you through your move. It even has an online calculator to determine the number of boxes you need

This works best if you schedule each room’s treatment with your move-out date in mind. You can do your home office, guest room, and storage area early. Work on the bedrooms the week before your move, leaving the mattresses so you still have a place to sleep. In most homes, the kitchen should wait until the morning of the move or the night before.

The takeaway

The packing strategy that is most appropriate for your situation depends on the details of your move, how much stuff you have, and who is helping you with your move. There isn’t a universal packing method, so it’s important to pick the method that fits your move best.

Remember that no move is perfect or completely worry-free, but you will enjoy the process more than if you hadn’t organized your things first.

Recommended resources

At Move.org, it’s our goal to take away some of your overwhelm and provide you with tips and ideas on how to make the most of your move. Take a look at our ultimate moving checklist that will help you through every stage of the moving process. And be sure to check out even more resources below:

Stephen M. Daniel
Written by
Stephen M. Daniel
Stephen M. Daniel felt like a professional mover when he moved eight times from ages 18 to 30. He’s tweaked his strategies into these packing systems.