We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Moving is one of life’s most stressful events, so much so that respondents to a recent survey ranked it above divorce on the misery scale. However, the right tools make it easier. What are the packing essentials you should have on hand when you begin the process?
Stocking up before you start saves time. Few things are more frustrating than yelling, “Where’s the tape,” only to hear, “We used it all,” when you’re knee-deep in boxes. If you haven’t moved before, it’s tough to know what you need.
We have you covered with this guide. Here are nine packing essentials to stock up on for your move.
The first items on your list of packing essentials for your move are boxes. You need to remember two key things:
- You will need more boxes than you think.
- You will need smaller boxes than you think.
A common mistake first-time movers make is to invest in multiple large boxes. It’s all fun and games until someone throws out their back trying to lift a container filled far too heavy. If you don’t want one of your top players on the DL with a herniated disc come moving day, go light.
Nor should you count on simply bopping down to your corner grocery and picking up all the boxes you need. While some retailers do give away discarded boxes and even pallets for free, policies vary. Call and ask a manager what procedures they follow — you may need to ask them to set a few boxes aside and pick them up at an agreed-upon time.
Another way to get boxes for free? Check your local classifieds. People move all the time, and they don’t always feel like making a trip to the recycling center after the stress of relocating. Therefore, they’ll list any boxes they have available.
When it’s time to pack them, keep these tips in mind:
- The smallest boxes: Should hold heavy items like books and tools and specialties like collectables.
- Small boxes: Dishware, glasses, small appliances.
- Medium boxes: Toys, home decor and office supplies.
- Large: Pillows, blankets, lamps, large serving ware, decorative furniture pillows.
You’ll also need several types of tape so that you have the right one for the job at your fingertips:
- Acrylic packing tape: This stuff instantly bonds to corrugated surfaces, making it ideal for moving. It holds up well to extreme temperatures, which matters if you have to store your stuff between houses.
- Shipping tape: Is even stronger than strapping tape. It contains fibers to keep it from creasing or bundling, but you’ll need scissors to cut it.
- Box packing tape: Is great for big boxes with non-breakable items. You don’t need a tape dispenser, unlike packing or shipping tape — just tear it with your hands and slap it on to seal the box.
- Painter’s tape: Painter’s tape is designed to peel off easily. However, it’s crucial to have on hand during moving for marking floors where furniture goes and touching up any walls you might have damaged — if you want your security deposit back.
You’ll need several pairs of heavy-duty scissors. A good rule of thumb is two pairs per mover. Having a few extras saves frustrations, as you will inevitably lay some down and be unable to find them again amid the mess you have to pack.
You will need several types of padding to protect your valuables. The type you choose impacts your carbon footprint, so keep eco-friendliness in mind. For example, styrofoam packing peanuts aren’t recyclable — could you find a cheaper, biodegradable alternative like newspaper?
Here’s a list of some of the padding options you have, many of which you might have already:
- Old newspapers and magazines: These are perfect for stuffing inside glassware and placing between plates.
- Towels: You can also use your towels, wrapping them around valuables to save money and add cushioning.
- Blankets: Blankets work much like towels, but you can use them to wrap bigger items, like lamps. You can also wrap them around and between furniture in the truck to prevent scratches.
- Clear plastic sheet wrap: You’ll need larger cling sheeting to wrap devices like your televisions and computer monitors to protect the screen from breakage.
5. Big, Fat Sharpies
One of the worst parts of moving happens when you finally reach your destination. Now, you have to decide where everything belongs. It’s a lot easier if you label each box clearly while you pack it.
Sharpies are one of the handiest packing essentials, the thicker the better. Mark your boxes on every side to make it easier to identify the contents.
You can write directly on cardboard boxes. However, if your handwriting would embarrass a doctor on a good day, a label could improve legibility considerably. You can write on a flat, even surface, improving legibility.
Furthermore, color-coding labels can be a game-changer. Mark all the kitchen boxes with green labels and bedrooms in blue.
7. Trash Bags
Trash bags can be a mover’s best friend, and it isn’t only because of sorting through your belongings and deciding what to keep. Besides, you should try to earn at least a little cash with a yard sale before you haul a load off to the dumpster or recycling center.
What happens if you run out of boxes but only have a few items left? You could run back to the pack-and-ship store and spend money on another box or toss your items in a trash bag. They also come in handy as extra padding.
Finally, here’s a nifty trick for moving a closetful of clothes without much effort: put a clean trash bag over several hangers, threading a hole through the bottom of the bag. The plastic keeps dirt and grime off your clothes. All you have to do upon reaching your destination is place the hangers on the rod and rip off the protective coating.
If you only sleep on a single bed, you might not have enough blankets to act as furniture padding. Most moving companies provide blankets for use free of charge. However, if you DIY, you may have to pick up extras of these packing essentials at a pack-and-ship store.
9. A Padlock
Your final item on your list of packing essentials is one many first-time movers overlook, much to their dismay. Your moving truck probably doesn’t come with a lock on the pull-down door.
Guess what? If you stop for lunch or, you know, to sleep if moving across states, any wily thief could open the door in the night and help themselves to your household goods. Dial padlocks cost less than $10 at discount stores — it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Packing Essentials for Your Move
Moving is one of life’s most stressful events. However, having the right packing essentials makes the job easier.
Stock up on these packing essentials as soon as you find out about your next relocation. You’ll have the materials you need on hand and reduce your frustration as you transition to your new dream home.