What Packing Supplies Do I Need to Move?

Moving is hard. Starting over is exhausting enough, without even considering the mounting piles of stuff that you know moving will make either your arms or your wallet groan.

Make sure you’ve got these Moving Day Musts, so you can pack all your stuff without added stress or expense.

Moving Day Musts:

  • Boxes (and lots of them!)
  • Packing tape
  • Box cutter
  • Packing paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Furniture pads
  • Labels
  • Carpet protection tape and felt pads
  • Moving truck or trolley

How many boxes should I get?

It’s hard to know exactly how many boxes you need—it varies depending on how you personally pack. (For instance, some stack each book in its proper place, while others wad as many shirts into that box as possible, hoping Superman will come lift it.)

But for an estimate, think about this. A 700-square-foot apartment can use as many as 38 boxes (most of them small- or medium-sized), and a 2,200-foot apartment could use 128 boxes. But again, it all depends on how much stuff you have, and how much you fill the boxes.

Remember, you don’t need Rubbermaids—cardboard moving boxes work great and give you a wider variety. Which is good because you want boxes of all sizes, and it’s better to err on the side of too many than not enough.

Put heavy items like books and cast-iron pans in small moving boxes and light objects like blankets and shoes in larger boxes, so you can still carry them. And don’t overstuff the boxes—they stack better if the tops are flat.

Where can I get boxes?

You can buy boxes from moving companies, home improvement stores, or even Amazon. All of those places carry regular boxes, but if you’re looking for unique sizes or styles,  like TV boxes, china boxes, and wardrobe moving boxes, you might have to shop around.

If you don’t want to spend money on boxes, you can usually run by your local grocery or liquor store, and they’ll have free boxes from their deliveries. (Plus, the liquor store boxes should have dividers inside that could work for your glasses).

Or you can find websites, like U-Haul’s Box Exchange or Box Cycle, that advertise free moving boxes online in your area.

How important is tape?

We’re all for saving wherever possible, but don’t skimp on tape. Plan on getting several rolls—tape doesn’t go bad, so if you have some left over, just hold onto it for a rainy day.

There’s also a reason packing tape exists—when you’re moving heavy things, you need heavy-duty tape to secure those packages. Masking tape and duct tape have their place, but at best, it’s for labeling or reinforcing the heaviest boxes. That’s all.

You can buy a dispenser or tape gun to make taping all your boxes faster. It may seem like a silly luxury, but the extra time is worth it. (Nothing’s worse than spending forever trying to tear off a piece of tape and then trying to untangle it after you accidentally taped the tape together.)

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You may also want to add a box-cutter to your list when you pick up the tape gun—it’ll make move-in day that much easier.

What type of packing materials should I use?

When it comes to securing glassware or fragile decorations, you have some options:

  • Packing paper
  • Old newspaper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing peanuts
  • Personal linens

For dishes, old newspaper works just as well as packing paper. And for decorations or other breakables, your moving company or a home improvement store can sell you bubble wrap or packing peanuts, which help keep  great-grandma’s china from getting dinged during the move.

But if you really want to be spending-savvy and care very little about your collection of mismatched IKEA glasses, you can pack things in your own linens or pillows. It’s not as easy as bubble wrap, but it works well enough and might help save the Earth a little.

Why use furniture pads?

Furniture pads are like thick, padded blankets that protect your furniture and breakables as you travel.

They’ll ensure your table or stainless steel washer doesn’t end up looking like it spent one too many nights on a bumpy road. You can tape your own blankets on to protect furniture and appliances, but they probably won’t protect your stuff as well.

Chair covers and mattress covers (giant bags for furniture) are also designed to keep furniture clean and safe in its travels, too. And things like stretch wrap can be helpful in keeping all those dresser drawers in the dresser. So choose both pads and covers—better safe than sorry, right?

You can pick up furniture pads (or any of this stuff, really) at a local Home Depot or even a local U-Haul shop. Any home improvement or moving company should sell them.

How important are labels, really?

You don’t want to forget labels, or else packing will be nothing compared to the nightmare of guessing where the contents for each room are. But your labels don’t have to be fancy. They just have to be clear and easy for you to read or remember.

You can use

  • Masking tape
  • Color-coded labels for each room
  • Colored markers (to write directly on the box)
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Also, consider leaving out some small plastic bags where you can store the screws and tiny pieces that belong to the furniture you disassembled. Keep those clearly labeled and in a small box, so they’re easy to find when you need them.

How do I get stuff out the door without killing the floor?

If you’re moving DIY-style, you’ll still want to follow professional moving companies’ examples here—lay down carpet protection plastic (shrink wrap, essentially) and felt pads on the stairs and major walkways through the house.

It’s a hassle, but you’ll be grateful for it later when you don’t have to sweep up all that dirt or fix the floor you just scratched when you dropped what you thought was just a light, medium box.

And if you hired a moving service to load and transport your things, and they don’t do this, be very, very concerned.

How do I move my really heavy stuff?

The last thing that you need is an actual way to move everything. If you don’t hire a moving company, you can still rent things to help make all the heavy lifting easier.

Some things to consider renting:

  • Moving carts
  • Lifting straps
  • Trailers
  • Dollys
  • Moving trucks

You can rent local or long-distance moving trucks, depending on your current location and end destination. If you’re going to be using your own vehicle, make sure you have strong rope or cargo straps to keep things secured.

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You may also want to invest in a pair of quality work gloves, to protect your skin while you’re loading boxes all day, and a padlock for the truck, so your storage won’t get broken into along the way.

Now that you know all your moving must-haves, start looking at truck rentals to get your moving process started. Or if you’re still dreading loading your overflowing closet into empty cardboard boxes, you can look at professional moving companies that will handle all this for you.

Now that you know, let us help you find a mover.

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