How to Pack Moving Boxes the Right Way

Posted on Oct 12, 2014

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How to Pack Moving Boxes the Right Way


Are you planning a move across town or across the country? If so, you’ll need to pack just a few bazillion moving boxes.  Of course, you’ll want to protect your belongings and make sure you pack those boxes the right way.


Note:  If packing for a local move, packing need not be so labor intensive.  Special notations are made throughout this post for areas where you may decide to take “shortcuts” for a local move.


The following is a full course menu of packing tips from early preparation to how to pack each room and item of your home, with a side of printable color coded packing labels thrown in. 🙂


Packing Preparations


Here are a few general suggestions that can make packing a little easier:


  • Clear the clutter.  Sell or donate items you don’t plan on moving.
  • If you are using professional movers, have them pack the FRAGILE items as they are usually only responsible for the items they pack themselves.
  • Plan how you will pack.  First, pack items that you don’t use often.
  • Make a master packing list.  Print color-coded packing labels to place on the side of boxes ~ labels on the side of boxes can be easily identified even once stacked.


Color Coded Packing Labels


8 1/2 X 11 Printable:

{print on label making paper, cut each square, write contents on each appropriate square, place on box}

Note: refrain from noting anything of value on box or label (i.e. silver)


  • Have area rugs professionally cleaned before your move; they will return from the cleaners rolled, wrapped, and ready for shipping.
  • Separate breakables and non-breakables.


Recommended Packing Supplies


  1. Simple tool kit for disassembling and reassembling furniture
  2. Boxes – Read More Below: 

    Unique Sources for Boxes

    1. Check with friends who’ve recently moved, use any boxes they still have.  2. If get packages delivered regularly, start collecting the boxes; just break them down & store them in the garage or attic until needed.   3. Go to stores and ask for their boxes. Liquor stores have boxes that are especially useful for packing kitchen items such as glasses or stemware as their boxes are reinforced & have cardboard separators inside.


  3. Box cutters or scissors
  4. Bubble wrap, collect and save if you move often and/or get deliveries
  5. Blank newsprint found at packing-supply companies ~ good for dishes {as are kitchen towels} 🙂
  6. Color coded labels – See printable above
  7. Assorted color sharpies
  8. Small sandwich bags ~ to secure hardware and the like when disassembling furniture or electronics
  9. Large trash bags
  10. Packing tape {masking tape isn’t strong enough to support fully packed boxes}


General Packing Guidelines


  • Assemble the box securing the bottom closure with packing tape.  Apply tape in an H shape for added reinforcement.
  • Cushion the bottom of the box appropriately for the items being placed in the box.
  • Stuff extra paper, towels, even clothing into corners; they will take the brunt of the impact if a box is dropped.
  • Leave just enough room on the top for more packing material to serve as padding.
  • Don’t “underfill” boxes or they will collapse when stacked.
  • Tape the box once filled.
  • Label the side of each box so they remain visible when stacked.
  • You may want to double box fragile items; place the padded, packed small box into a larger one, padded with packing material.

This is also an excellent method for mailing delicate items


  • Pack one room at a time.  Avoid putting items from several different rooms in one box.

Although, I tried to follow this 2nd rule, and found that if I wanted a tightly packed box as is recommended I couldn’t always do this


  • Use small boxes for heavy items, large boxes for light ones, and medium boxes for everything in between.

A good rule of thumb in choosing a box, if you can’t easily pick up the box, it’s too heavy.


  • If not using suitcases for travel packing then yes, utilize them, and NOT with heavy things (i.e. books). Plan to pack with clothing or linens that aren’t utilized as padding.
  • Use brightly colored tissue paper to wrap small items that can be easily lost among the packing material, before placing them in boxes.
  • Affix the plastic bag of hardware or electronics to the corresponding furniture

However, don’t apply tape or any sort of adhesive directly onto polished or painted wood surfaces as it can mar the surface


  • If moving more than one family in the same truck, stick a circular colored dot on each box, one color assigned to each family.  Write last name initial of each family on corresponding boxes.
  • Number boxes and keep a master list so you can be sure no boxes are lost or misplaced on the other end of the move.


Guidelines to Pack Item by Item


Click on each Tab below for detailed packing instructions.

It’s recommended to carefully wrap china in sheets of clean/blank newsprint paper.  Cushion the bottom of a small box with either newsprint, packing peanuts or bubble wrap.  Wrap each piece of china individually ~

  • Place the first plate in the middle of a stack of packing paper or bubble wrap;
  • Fold the packing paper and/or bubble wrap over the plate completely
  • Place a second plate on top of the first; repeat process
  • Add a third plate on top of the second; repeat process Keep Your Bundle Limited to 3 Items
  • Turn the bundle of 3 plates upside down on packing paper and rewrap {double-wrap}
  • Seal with tape Pack the bundles in a row on edge within the box; they’ll be less likely to break this way than if flat.

Add additional bundles until the box is filled.  Leave no unfilled space; stuff the sides with packing material. Cushion the top of the box with 2-3 inches of packing material to protect rims.

Place a piece of cardboard divider flat over the packing material as well as between any tiers within the box to keep box more stable and tiers more level.  In considering dish tiers, for instance, smaller plates, saucers, and shallow bowls would be a good second layer.  Wrap and pack smaller items in the same way as larger items.

Once box is packed, tape shut. Label boxes with a “Fragile: Handle with Care” label.  Indicate with an arrow which side is up. ↑


How to wrap a Teapot:


Wrapping a Teapot can be a little tricky.

Wind paper or squares of bubble wrap around the handle, then additional wrap around the spout.  Double wrap the body of the teapot and secure with tape.  Wrap the teapot lid separately.  Place lid and pot together in the same box. Consider packing in a small box that can then be placed inside a larger box.

Nest pots and pans of graduated sizes together ~

  • Place packing material inside the largest pan
  • Insert a smaller pan, lining with more packing material
  • Insert an even smaller pan; repeat process
  • Turn nested pans upside down on packing paper or bubble wrap and double wrap
  • Seal the bundle with a piece of tape

For Fine Silver (the type you normally keep stored away in its own chest), you’ll want to nest and wrap just as you would your china dish packs.

If any large pieces have handles, say a pitcher, for instance, wrap the handles first, then wrap the body. Place the bundles back in the silver chest as this will cushion it. Then wrap the chest itself in packing material.

Options for wrapping Knives:

  • Wrap knives in sleeves designed specifically for the purpose of transporting knives, or
  • Wrap knives individually in paper then in bubble wrap.

Label the bundles so you’re mindful of the sharp edges when you unpack it.

For flatware, use plastic wrap or paper & tape to wrap the silverware trays before packing flat in a box.

Individually wrap each piece of stemware and glass ~

  • First, insert clean, wadded-up newsprint or paper towels.
  • Then wrap paper or bubble wrap around the stem.
  • And then wrap the entire glass another time.
  • Consider putting each individual piece into a clean sock for extra cushioning.
  • Place upright in either a specially tiered dish pack or in a small box separated by cardboard dish pack partitions, cushioning them well with packing material rather than placing them flat.
  • Label boxes “Fragile, This Side Up.”

If you’ve kept the original packing for your small appliance, use that to repack.

Otherwise, try to pack each separately in a box close to the appliance’s dimensions, rather than bunched together in one box ~

  • Wrap each appliance with packing paper, and bubble wrap if it is heavy or fragile
  • Place it into its box, making sure the top is cushioned, and any gaps are filled with packing material or clean rags or kitchen towels.

It’s recommended to pack pillows and bedding in packed in lined cartons separated by layers of clean paper, or I opt for placing in heavy duty trash bags, writing the content identification on the outside of the bag with a sharpie, and placing the couch pillows or heavy bedding inside of entertainment centers or armoires.

Pack shoes in their original shoebox, if possible, and place in a carton.

If shoe boxes are not available, individually wrap them to prevent abrasive damage.

Wrap in either paper or plastic bags the stacking them in a mid-sized box.

Clothes are left on hangers and hung in special wardrobe cartons when using professional movers and is recommended for a cross-country move.

Vacuum seal out of season clothing to minimize storage footprint.

For a local move, it’d be easier to place a garbage bag over the clothes and their hangers, much like a garment bag used by the dry cleaners or clothing stores.

Some moving companies offer special boxes designed specifically for lamp bases {these boxes are also a good size for garden tools and golf clubs}.

Place lampshades in a carton surrounded by tissue paper or bubble wrap (NOT newsprint paper). Some shades may be able to nest inside each other.

You can wrap the light bulb in bubble wrap and paper, put inside a sandwich bag, and place with the lampshade.

Pack the base of the lamp in an upright position in a well-padded box.

Wrap the harp separately, put it inside a sandwich bag or freezer bag {depending on size} and put it inside of the box with the lamp base.

If possible, pack electronics in their original cartons.

It’s recommended to check owner’s manuals for the manufacturer’s moving tips.

Printers especially require special packing.

Usually, though, as long as proper packing materials are used {bubble wrap, newsprint, foam sheeting, comforters/blankets, pillows, etc.}, electronics can be safely packed in sturdy boxes and/or double-boxed.

  • Start by letting equipment cool to room temperature before packing.
  • Take a picture of how electronics are hooked-up to serve as a diagram later.
  • Consider placing small colored stickers on each cord to correspond to the same colored sticker where the cord connects to the electronic device for easy reference.
  • Pad the box with lots of packing material.
  • Wrap electronics with paper and place in a box.
  • Tightly pack padding around and on top of the unit to prevent damage.
  • Firmly seal the box with tape in an H shape.
  • If loading on the moving truck, label the carton as “Fragile – Top Load.”
  • Additionally, write only which room to unload to; it’ll lessen the chance of theft.


For Computers:


  1. Make copies of all computer files and store them online or carry them with you in the passenger section of the car rather than the truck or in your carry-on luggage if you’re flying. This will ensure the files don’t get too hot or cold, causing damage.
  2. For actual hard files, transfer them to a cardboard file box and carry these important documents with you to guard against identity theft {i.e. birth certificates, passports, financial records with bank account numbers}

Since books are heavy, choose small boxes when packing them.

Lay hardcover books flat the box, alternating bindings {the spine then the open side of the book}.

Keep like sizes together.

Place a piece of paper between books to prevent them sticking together and ruining covers.

Fill empty spaces with small paperback books or wadded-up packing material.


Use cardboard dish pack partitions to pack breakables.

Wrap statuary and figurines with bubble wrap, then snuggly wrap with clean paper. If bubble wrap is not available, use clean paper or towels to wrap the article until it is adequately cushioned.

For open bottles and toiletries, put plastic wrap or tape over the opening, then put the lid back on.

Wrap in clean newsprint paper or washcloths.

For extra security, place bottles in a resealable, watertight bag such as a freezer bag before wrapping and placing in the box.

Wrap the picture or mirror in a cushion of clean newsprint paper, followed by bubble wrap or heavy blanket.

Place in a flat carton. or use box cutters to cut cardboard into 2 equal size padding pieces, sandwich the padded mirror or glass between the cardboard. Carefully tape and seal the cardboard together.

  • Always stand glass, pictures and mirrors on their edge, NOT flat.


For Framed Artwork:


  • Wrap in tissue paper and sandwich each item between two layers of foam board, slightly larger than the frame.
  • Secure the corners with foam board and tape.
  • Wrap the bundle in kraft paper.
  • You can also place the bundle inside a rug and tie twine around it in the shape of a lower case t to secure it or secure it with stretch wrap.
  • Either wrap tools in stretch wrap or tie together with twine.
  • Put clean sheets over furniture then pad with moving blankets, and secure with stretch wrap.


    Be sure to visit the home page of this series, The Ultimate Movers Guide for more tips with any other aspect of moving or packing.



    P.S. What tricks have you found helpful when packing?



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