11 Tips to Pack Away for a DIY Move

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated February 24, 2022
Couple in their apartment packing boxes
Photo: Drazen_ / E+ / Getty Images

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Let’s face it: Handling your own move is difficult. Whether you’re relocating across the street or around the world, it takes a lot of thought, preparation, and, when the big day arrives, muscle strength and stamina to pack up and transport your life from one place to another. 

But it’s not always feasible or desirable to hire professional movers. You don’t have to grit your teeth and bear it—take these tips to make your moving process as light as possible. 

1. Aim for a Midweek Moving Day

It’s not always possible to pick and choose the day you move. But if you have some flexibility, midweek and mid-month dates are always better than the first and last weekends of the month. The demand for moving services is lowest at these points, so you’ll pay less and choose from a wider selection of truck and other equipment rentals. 

2. Purge Non-Essential Items

One of the silver linings to the hassle of a move is that it forces you to finally get rid of all the clutter and bric-a-brac that you don’t need but haven’t thrown out. Save yourself time and stress by getting a jump on this process several weeks before the big move. 

Make a decluttering checklist and target items like expired foodstuffs, cookware and appliances that you haven’t used in ages, expired medicines, unneeded personal care products, and outdated electronics. Set a timer and spend an hour on it every day in the week before the move—you’ll thank yourself later. 

3. Check Your Insurance Policy 

Insurance companies don’t spend much energy advertising it, but many homeowners and renters insurance policies include moving coverage. 

Before you shell out additional funds for moving insurance, contact your insurer to find out whether or not you’re already covered. 

4. Get a Head Start

Woman talking on the phone and using laptop at home
Photo: allensima / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Your natural impulse will be to procrastinate on all the dull errands that come with a move, but try to resist it. Not only should you start packing as soon as possible, you should also get an early lead on: 

  • Booking services: Don’t delay on reserving your moving truck, moving container, or storage unit. The longer you dither, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to find what you need for a reasonable price. 

  • Notifying utilities: Make sure to get your service transferred to your new place to avoid spending your first night there in the dark. 

  • Changing your address: Contact the post office to set up mail forwarding and change your address to avoid missing important correspondence. 

  • Stocking up on packing materials: The sooner you have a solid supply of boxes, packing tape, box cutters, and other packing necessities, the sooner you can start packing. 

5. Take Photos Of Electronic Wiring Before Packing

Before disassembling and packing up wired electronics like home entertainment systems, multi-component audio set-ups, and desktop computers, take photos of the wiring set-up. Having those images to refer to will save you from digging around for old user’s manuals or scouring the internet for configurations when it’s time to unpack and set them up in your new place. 

6. Pack Strategically 

The difference between a nightmare move and a surprisingly easy one is determined by the thought and energy you put into packing. Take these steps to transport your belongings efficiently and safely.

  • Pack a bag or suitcase with everyday essentials: On the night before your move, gather all of the items you’ll need throughout your move and immediately after, including your phone and tablet, a toothbrush, and a change of clothes. Pack them in a clearly labeled bag or suitcase that you can unpack first. 

  • Use clear plastic bins: Store items that you’ll need immediately after arriving at your new place in clear plastic bins instead of cardboard boxes. This includes necessities like a box cutter, paper towels, trash bags, power strips, and phone chargers. That way, you’ll be able to see what’s inside without opening up lots of boxes. 

  • Swap bubble wrap for clothing and towels: Wrap your fragile possessions and fill out your boxes with soft items, like clothing, towels, and washcloths. It will save you money on bubble wrap and other packing materials while cutting down on additional packing. 

  • Don’t empty your drawers: When you remove your dresser drawers, don’t empty all the items into boxes. Instead, leave everything inside and wrap the top with tight layers of plastic wrap. 

  • Stabilize table and chair legs: When moving tables, chairs, and other pieces of furniture with legs, use wooden beams to stabilize them and minimize the risk of damage. After you’ve wrapped the item in moving cloth or bubble wrap, place two wooden beams in a criss-cross position across the center, securing them to each leg with packing tape. 

  • Pack small boxes together: Small boxes are the best choice for fragile and heavy items, like vases and utensils, but you don’t want to carry armfuls of tiny boxes back-and-forth all day. Instead, wait until you have a set of smaller boxes and then pack them all together tightly in one larger box.  

7. Spring For a Truck With A Ramp

Son helping dad load boxes into a moving truck
Photo: kali9 / E+ / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

A lot of the stress and difficulty of moving by yourself is unavoidable— you’re shouldering the burden of moving lots of heavy, precious objects. One thing you can do to (literally) lighten the load and make the process go faster is to rent a truck with a ramp (or that allows you to pay extra to add one). It may not seem like a big deal, but over the course of the move, using a loading ramp rather than lifting each item into the truck will save you significant time and muscle strain, especially when moving heavy appliances.

8. Keep Important Documents In a Folder

Moving involves a ton of paperwork—leases, rental forms, receipts—not all of it’s available in digital form. Set aside a manilla folder so you can keep all these important documents at hand. You don’t want to be scrambling for the right paperwork or watching your phone battery die when it’s time to return your truck rental.

9. Take Photos Before and After Moving Out

If you’re a renter, take photos of it after you clear everything out and clean, then take more photos of your new place before loading anything in. You want solid documentation of the condition you left your unit upon departure and how you found it upon arrival should there be any dispute with the landlord in the future. 

10. Ask for Help With Kids and Pets

Moving day is demanding enough, both physically and intellectually. You don’t want to have to stay on top of the moving process while also keeping an eye on children and pets. Instead, ask friends or family members to watch your little ones and furry friends, or hire a sitter for the day.

11. Make a Game Plan for the Big Day

Even a relatively light move involves multiple trips, coordinating assistance from multiple different people, and making on-the-fly adjustments to respond to unexpected problems. Don’t just wing it; sit down and write out a plan for how the day should unfold. 

Which pieces of furniture do you need to load first? Who’s picking up the truck? Where are you picking up the pizza and beer you promised your friends? Not everything will go according to plan, of course, but the challenges will be much easier to navigate than if you have no plan at all. 

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