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10 Tips for Self-Packing for Your Move

If you’re trying to save a little money on your move, or if you prefer to pack your most precious items exactly how you’d like, you’re probably considering packing your household items yourself. Before you start filling your boxes, keep a few things in mind.

Here are 10 top tips for safely and correctly packing your items yourself:

1. Use Sturdy, New Boxes

Clean, dry, new boxes are more stable and secure than most used ones. Cardboard fibers become stressed over time, and seams and edges become more likely to tear. Reinforce all suspect edges and corners with sturdy packing tape. Best places for new boxes are Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, and office supply stores like Office Depot.

Try the following locations for gently-used boxes:

  • Grocery stores – Many grocery stores are glad to have you take their empty boxes to save their having to pay for recycling. Make arrangements with the store or department manager to pick up boxes, and be prepared to pick them up during the early morning hours, when most stores are re-stocking their shelves. Avoid produce boxes and waxed boxes.
  • Shoe stores – Shoe stores are a great place to pick up free boxes but avoid large-size boxes. Stick with smaller, easier-to-manage and easier-to-transport boxes that are sturdy. Avoid boxes that open in the middle of perforated seams.
  • Big-box stores – Sam’s club, Costco, and other warehouse stores are a great place to pick up serviceable boxes.
  • Office supply stores – Many office supply stores that sell boxes have a policy not to allow customers to take their used boxes. They’re more interested in having you buy new boxes from them rather than giving you their old ones. Check with office supply stores as a last resort.

Be sure to check with management before taking boxes, and don’t climb into recycling bins or dumpsters to find boxes. Taking boxes without permission or from bins is dangerous and prohibited.

2. Use the Right Packing Material for the Job

Use clean, new packing paper, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, or inflatable packing wrap. Refrain from using newspaper, or use it sparingly as it can leave marks on some items.

3. Don’t Skimp on Packing Material

You can recycle nearly all packing material, so go ahead and use an adequate amount. It’s better to use too much packing material rather than not enough, and in the end, you’ll save time, energy, and frustration.

4. Don’t Over-Pack Your Boxes

While it may be tempting to stuff boxes as full as you can make them, overstuffing boxes stress them, making it far more likely that they’ll tear. A good rule of thumb is to use smaller boxes that are half full of packing material, and half full of your items.

5. Use the Right Box for the Job

Nothing will frustrate you more or lead to injuries faster than using boxes that are too big. Big boxes are unwieldy, and it’s far more likely that a big box will cause a fall than a smaller box. Big boxes also tend to hide the view, making accidents far more likely.

Use large boxes for lightweight items such as clothes, bedding, or pillows. Make sure you lift a box to judge its weight, and if you’re in doubt, lighten the load.

Your heavy items should be packed in smaller boxes. Books, records, paperwork, etc., are too heavy for large boxes.

Most retailers that sell boxes offer specialty boxes for paintings, mirrors, wardrobes, dishes, etc. While it may be enticing to cut corners, items in specialty moving boxes are less likely to be broken.

6. Gather Your Supplies Before You Begin

Make sure you have labels, pens, markers, packing material, and boxes before you start packing. It’s tempting to start even if all you have are just boxes, but without everything in one place, incorrectly packing is far more likely.

7. Pack One Room at a Time

Bring your empty boxes, tape, labels, marking pens, and packing material into your room, set them in a visible place, and pack one room completely before moving on to another. Pick a designated spot for the boxes in a room near the exit, but don’t block doors or walkways.

8. Label Boxes Correctly

Use a code you can remember – MBR for Master Bedroom, DR for Dining Room, etc. Put ‘FRAGILE’ labels or write FRAGILE in RED on boxes containing anything breakable. Consider using color-coding for easier identification.

Label every side of the box and not the top. When boxes are stacked on top of each other the label on top cannot be seen.

9. Don’t Over-Stack Boxes

Remember the rule of 3’s: stack no more than three boxes on top of each other, and don’t go over 3 feet in total height. Gravity will always win.

10. Don’t Rush It

A job done hastily is more likely to be done incorrectly. Plan on at least 3 hours per room to do a proper packing job.


If you follow these tips, you’re sure to make your move less stressful and more successful. If you decide you need help with the packing, give us a call. We can help.

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