Section 3: Packing
If I’d known how much packing I had to do, I’d have run again.
–President Harry S. Truman
Packing is, by far, your biggest task to do before moving day. It’s also the best way to save the most money, and is also the biggest factor in avoiding unnecessary damage. If you do it well, it will make unpacking a breeze rather than a headache. You’ll also likely save a lot of money.
Most people dramatically underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare and pack smaller items. This means they’re still packing when we arrive, which means more time and a higher cost.
Most people also don’t understand that for trained professionals, moving larger items is actually quite easy. The most aggravating part of a move is the mounds of miscellanea, the cords, the appliances, the blankets, and Great Odin’s Raven, the clothes! The clothes are everywhere! Packing these items into the right size boxes means there are fewer trips in and out of the house to the truck, which then reduces the amount of time and money involved.
In other words,
Do not underestimate how long it will take to pack everything up.
It is a very time-consuming exercise that you should aim to have completed at least a day before your move. It is not unreasonable to start packing at least two weeks out from your move date. Remember, this is all about saving time and therefore saving money!
One last point before we get to the details:
Boxes and packing supplies
If you have the will to be well-prepared, next you’ll need the tools.
First off, get boxes. Right now we still have a little side business called Rent Our Boxes. It’s a pretty neat deal — you order what you need online, then we deliver the boxes for you to use for up to two months. Then we pick them up for free. Prices are commensurate with many other box-supply places. Factor in time saved for picking them up and getting rid of them and they’re actually much cheaper. However, since that business makes no money, we’re likely going to just sell them. Whatever the case, I can’t understate the importance of getting boxes.
You’d think this would be obvious. It’s not. Some people think they’ll save a few bucks and just “organize” all their stuff into neat little piles. It happens all the time. But here’s the deal: if we have to carry armloads of stuff to the truck, it actually takes many more trips. Plus, the risk of damage goes up.
A much better option is to pick up free boxes somewhere (liquor stores, any retail stores, etc.) At least this protects your stuff. However, when we’re on a job with a hundred boxes and no two boxes are the same dimensions, we end up playing Tetris which, again, takes time and therefore costs more money.
The best option is to get small, medium, large and/or wardrobe boxes. With no more than about four sizes, we’re able to stack and secure them in lightning speed.
How to Pack
I said at the outset that this guide won’t cover all the aspects of packing, but in keeping with the purpose of this guide (which is to save you time and money), I want to tell you what we like to see when we arrive.
When we walk into a place, we like to see clear pathways, boxes in one central location, preferably near the exit point, and furniture broken down and ready to go.
This means we can take a quick look around and then start stacking (either on our carts, in the elevator, or directly in the truck). The fewer times we have to take a guy “off the line” to disassemble something, for example, the more efficient we’ll be.
Now, if your place doesn’t allow for that kind of an arrangement, or you’re wrestling with four kids through the whole process, don’t worry about it. We understand. (In particular, I understand, because I’ve been through this several times in the last few years with one, two, and three kids. The fourth arrived in our latest place, which we are now certain is our FINAL place. At least for a couple more years…) The above is just the ideal.
General Principles for Boxes:
Usually, a box is the best thing to use for packing things. The larger the box, the more items you can fit in it. Simple, right? However, it doesn’t always make sense to pack as much as possible into large boxes. For example, your entire book collection shouldn’t be placed in one big wardrobe box. This is NOT economical or even safe. So, choose your boxes wisely. For heavier items, use a small box and for lighter items use a big box. If you are dealing with bulky light items (such as pillows) that are unbreakable, then we recommend the usage of heavy duty garbage bags for ease of transport and packing.
- Ideally, boxes should all be the same size, or at most, about three sizes. (We understand that everything won’t likely fit in the same size boxes.)
- Boxes should all be taped.
- Heavier items like books should go in small boxes. Lighter, “fluffier” items should go in bigger boxes or bags.
- Boxes should be filled. If a box doesn’t have a solid top, or at least cushioning to fill empty space, it won’t be as “stackable.”
- Wardrobe boxes should be for nothing heavier than clothes. We can lift some pretty hefty stuff, but it’s not more efficient to “just use one box for all my books.” When we encounter this, two guys often have to lift one box, meaning there’s one less guy stacking and transporting things to the truck.
How to pack the perfect box
- Plan what you are putting in each box. Keep breakables to the minimum number of boxes.
- Place a good layer of wadded-up newspaper across the bottom of the box, and up the sides as high as the first row of items. Using newspaper will save you money – we recommend The Washington Post or The New York Times. (Haha. Sorry, couldn’t resist).
- Form a layer of plain paper – newspaper shouldn’t touch your items as the ink rubs off. Make sure they fit snugly so there will be no movement.
- On top of this layer of wrapped items, place another layer of crushed newspaper, working up from the heavier items at the bottom, to the lighter items on the top.
- Finish flush to the top of the box with a final layer of crushed newspaper. All items should fit tightly to ensure there is no movement.
- Close and tape the box, clearly marking its contents and the room it’s going to (e.g. Dining Room, Living Room, etc.)
- Don’t overload or overflow boxes. Don’t pack big boxes with books or heavy items – they will take longer to move.
There’s a good reason for all these box-packing suggestions: they cut down on the time we have to “play Tetris.” If we have no more than three sizes to work with, we can use every available cubic inch of our box trucks, and we don’t have to spend time figuring out the perfect “fit.” And if almost any box can be stacked on another, we don’t have to “weigh” each one. Now, we won’t pack heavy boxes on top of lightweight boxes, but sturdy, uniform sizes give us more room to work with in less time.
It’s tempting to go down to the local liquor store and pick up a few dozen boxes. Craigslist and friends often have leftovers you can get for free. If you’re on an extremely tight budget, we won’t begrudge you using them. However, experience has taught us that if we have 50 boxes and no two are exactly alike, it’ll take us a lot longer to find that perfect, most efficient use of space.
A word about valuables
I’m often astounded to see open or unpacked jewelry boxes on the job. On one hand, I take that as an enormous gesture of trust, but on the other, the business owner side of me with his entire livelihood tied up in the success of the business sees a massive possibility for trouble. While none of our guys have ever been accused of theft, I’m not looking forward to the first time. Locking up your valuables just makes good sense no matter who’s in your home.
General Principles for Furniture:
If you have the time, tools and know-how, disassembling furniture saves us time and saves you money.
Not to worry – if you’d rather we disassemble furniture than needs to be disassembled, we’re happy to do it.
Certain things like dining room tables often need to be taken apart to get out of a house or apartment. Even if they fit out the front door of your place, there’s no guarantee they’ll fit easily into the new place. Plus, while we can work wonders with such an item in the truck, it’s virtually guaranteed that we can save more space in the truck with the legs off the tables.
Pegs and pieces
Anything with “pieces” should be disassembled and taped/wrapped up. Take Ikea bookshelves, for example. Most of the time, these have removable shelves with little pegs that hold them up. These
pegs are easily lost, and the shelves, while not heavy at all, slide very easily when holding a stack of them. It’s best to put the little pegs in a sandwich bag, and shrink- or stretch-wrap the shelves together. That turns five shelves into one solid, stackable block.
Sleeper sofa mattresses should be removed, rolled up and tied closed. In addition to removing the mattress, please tie the pull-out bed shut if possible.
Take legs off of tables, wrap them in something like a blanket or bubble wrap.
Any cords should be rolled up, and ideally, tied off with a rubber band or something similar. Then, it really helps if the rolled up/tied up cord is taped to whatever device it belongs to. This keeps the clutter to a minimum and reduces tripping hazards.
Please remove lampshades and light bulbs, particularly if the light bulbs are the special “environmentally friendly” CFL variety. They may save a few bucks per year, but if one breaks, we literally have to leave the room for 15 minutes to ensure everyone’s safety (mercury). Lamps with the shades still on are somewhat difficult to pack.
We play it by ear, but for the most part, we prefer that dressers are emptied of all contents. If you don’t mind folding them later, a great way to quickly empty the drawers is to dump them into trash bags. Please don’t tape the drawers shut with contents still inside unless the dresser is exceptionally light and sturdy (this excludes virtually all Ikea dressers).
If you can get picture boxes, great! Otherwise, bubble wrap is an excellent thing to wrap them in. Large, uncovered pictures are no fun to pack around because the safety precautions involved usually eat up a lot of space in the truck. We do have a small mountain of thick moving blankets in every truck, but we can only carry so many. Numerous pictures eat through our blanket stockpile extremely fast.
These are very easy to transport once broken down and taped together. Again, we’re happy to do it, of course.
Flat Screen TVs
We have successfully moved thousands of flat screen TVs with only one mishap (this occurred because while the TV was in its original box, the owner had neglected to protect it with the factory supplied Styrofoam supports. The crew leader (*cough,* me) then strapped it down, unknowingly flexing the TV base inside the box beyond its capacity.) Since most people don’t have the original boxes for their TVs, we’ve devised a method of keeping them safe and functional. However, if possible, we prefer that TVs be well-prepared before the move.
Here’s what we recommend:
- If you don’t want to spend money on a TV-box from a local truck rental or storage place, take an old blanket and wrap it around the TV.
- Then, cut an appropriately sized moving box into two halves. Put one half on each side of the TV (front and back).
- Finally, tape it all together so that you have a soft inner lining (the blanket) protected by a harder outer shell (the cardboard.)
That’s it for now. These are general principles, and believe me, every move is different. So, don’t think that it MUST be this way or you’re going to spend a ton of extra money. However, if you get the gist of it — proper preparation is the key to a fast, less-expensive move — you’re ahead of the game and among the 50 percent or so of customers who follow these principles and cost me a lot of money by cutting down the move time!