How to Pack a Moving Truck
Load your truck quickly, safely, and efficiently with these simple steps.
Moving means the start of something new. A new job, a new school, maybe even a new family are in your future. But too often, these exciting developments are overshadowed by the stress of packing everything you own into a truck or moving container.
But there’s a better way! Over the years, moving professionals have developed some simple steps to quick, safe, and efficient truck packing. All you need is a few friends, little bit of DIY spirit, and this step-by-step guide.
1. Make your plan
The classic analogy for truck loading is that it’s like a game of Tetris. But that’s not exactly correct. You can’t just focus on how the “blocks” of your stuff fit together. You also need to consider weight, fragility, and accessibility. That’s a lot to think about.
This is why you need a plan for loading your moving truck.
Begin your plan with a list of everything that’s going in the truck, from your huge sectional couch down to your smallest box of random electrical cords. Once you have this list, you can begin to categorize your items.
Here’s a great way to categorize your belongings:
- Category 1: Bulky, heavy items like washers and dryers
- Category 2: Large, lighter items like desks, tables, and chairs
- Category 3: Boxes and smaller furniture items
- Category 4: Necessities that you need to be able to access easily
We’ll talk about how to load these categories into the truck in the next steps. But first, here are a few tips to remember while you’re loading and unloading your moving truck:
Distribute weight evenly: If you’re putting a really heavy item (like a huge oak cabinet) on the left side of the truck. you should put something else heavy (like a dishwasher) in the same place on the right side.
Protect your furniture with pads: The last thing you want to see when you’re unloading your beloved possessions is a deep scratch on the wood or a crack in the glass. Use moving pads (which you can usually buy at your truck rental location) or your own towels and blankets to protect everything you care about.
Combine items when possible: Your pillows might fit into the drawers of your dresser, and you might be able to use your clothes as insulation while you’re packing boxes. You can even throw some boxes underneath a table once it’s loaded. You can fit a lot into a smaller truck if you pack efficiently.
Lift safely: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your back straight, squat down, and use your legs to lift the load. But don’t just take it from us: do a quick Google search for safe lifting and loading techniques. The last thing you need when you’re moving is an injury!
2. Prepare your stuff for loading
Hopefully you’ve already got your boxes packed up (if you don’t you can use these nifty tips to help) and your furniture disassembled. Once that’s done, we’d recommend bringing all of your stuff to a “loading zone.”
Your loading zone can be in the driveway, the front porch, the living room—wherever you’ve got a lot of space. Place the items together based on the categories you made in step one. This way, you’ll be able to easily see your progress as you load up and you’ll know what still needs to be packed.
(If this is already sounding like way too much work for you, then you might want to look into full-service moving companies that can pack, load, and drive for you—we won’t judge!)
3. Load your heavy appliances
We know that getting motivated for your move can be a struggle, especially when you’re starting with the heaviest, clunkiest items you own, like ovens and refrigerators. But just think about how swole you’re going to get!
Seriously though, you should do the heavy lifting at the beginning for three major reasons: these items probably take up the most room, you probably won’t need these items first thing when you’re unpacking, and you’ll have the sturdy back wall to lean up against when you do need to lift. Win-win-win.
Once you’ve loaded those hefty appliances and furniture items into the very back of the truck (or moving container), you can load some lighter boxes on top of them. Stack these boxes as close to the roof as you possibly can.
This would also be a good time to put delicate items—like your Xbox or your china set—in the “mother’s attic” portion of the truck above the cab. If that’s not an option, use good insulation in the boxes to absorb any shock from the road and wrap the boxes in blankets when you load them in step 6.
Before you move on to the next stage of loading, you’ll want to tie off the row of items you’ve already loaded, for maximum security. Nylon rope and ratchet straps will both work great for this.
4. Load long, tall, and bulky items
Now that you’ve got your heaviest items loaded, it’s time to take care of the awkward stuff: mattresses, dining room chairs, oblong sofas, ping pong tables, full-sized cardboard cutouts of the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.
You want to make sure this bigger stuff gets into the truck while there’s still plenty of room to maneuver around. Placing larger items against the side walls of the truck or container will make it easier to tie them down.
Now’s a great time to take a break before moving on to the next step. You’re about halfway through loading! Give yourself a pat on the back. Take a trip to Taco Bell. Drink some water. You rock!
5. Load your heavy boxes
Your truck is probably beginning to fill up now, so you’ll want to make sure you save the remaining floor space for bigger, heavier boxes. This is a great time to load boxes of books, photo albums, exercise equipment, winter clothing, and other non-fragile items.
These boxes will create a base for loading all of your other odds and ends, so you’ll want to pack them tightly together. Be sure to tie down the boxes in rows so that they don’t slide around and wreak havoc while you’re cruising down the highway.
6. Load your lightest items
Finally, it’s time to load up those random boxes of clothes, toiletries, art supplies, kitchen utensils, and old DVD copies of The Hangover and The Matrix Reloaded. These boxes should stack snugly on top of those heavy boxes you placed on the floor.
It’s also the time to load up any remaining coffee tables, lamps, or other furniture items. Try to stack everything as close to the roof as possible. You don’t have to worry about it falling over in transit because you’ll be tying it all off in the next step.
7. Final loading and tie down
Hang in there, you’re almost done! Now that you’ve got all of your stuff loaded into the truck, you’ll want to make sure that it’s going to be safe as you drive.
Check for half-full cups of coffee that you might have left sitting on top of boxes, loose items that could fall out of place, and anywhere that exposed wood could get scratched up. Use furniture pads, spare blankets, or whatever random material you can find to fill in extra space so that things don’t jostle around.
Once all of your possessions are stuffed back into the truck like a solid block of Play-Doh, it’s time to do your final tie-down. Be sure to make a tight barrier with your rope or strap, like a net.
Hopefully you’ll have a little bit of space between this net and the door. You can place dollies, hand carts, and other moving materials here. This is also the perfect spot for BBQ grills, bikes, lawnmowers, and other hard-to-pack items.
And don’t forget to load an easily accessible box or suitcase full of essential items—a toothbrush, extra clothes, a huge bag of Flamin’ Hot Nacho Cheese Doritos—that you might need right when you arrive at your destination.
8. Pack your valuables
As long as you have a decent padlock on your truck, you shouldn’t have to worry much about theft. But with some things it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Also, if you’re carrying something incredibly valuable, maybe don’t pack it with everything else. (So if you’re moving with that solid gold candelabra that’s been in the family since the Napoleonic Wars, or if you’ve got a mini-safe full of cold, hard cash, then this applies to you.)
Instead, bring them in a personal vehicle or in the cab of the truck. If you’re staying somewhere overnight along the way, be sure to bring these items with you inside.
9. Unloading your truck
Packing up your truck is like biking uphill: the second half is going to be way easier.
When you’re unloading, you don’t have to worry about padding your TV or tying down your mattress. (Unless you’re moving to a zero-gravity space station—which, uh, can we come over?) And you’ll have days, or even months, to figure out where you want everything situated—so honestly, just carry it in the house and set it down.
Just be careful as you untie everything in the truck because, as flight attendants say, “items may have shifted during flight.”
And that’s it. You’re done. Grab a cold one from the fridge (or cooler, since you probably just plugged in the fridge) and sit down on that sofa you just hauled for miles and miles. You deserve a rest.
We hope you found this guide useful. Let us know your favorite packing tips and truck-loading hacks in the comments section!