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Write everything down! You’ll thank yourself later. Before you pack even one box, create a simple record keeping system. Create a computer-printed list of numbers with a space to write the contents, or have a spiral-bound notebook for the job. You’ll place a number on EVERY box you pack and list the contents on your list. Don’t put the list down unless it’s in a place you’ll call Packing Central. This is where you’ll find your labels, marking pens, box tape, and other supplies. When describing the box contents, be specific — “A-D files” is better than “files,” and “Tulip dishes” rather than “misc. kitchen.”
Have plenty of supplies.
Don’t make me say this twice– you’ll need LOTS of boxes–probably more boxes than you think, and having enough boxes will make your life easier! (If you buy your boxes from a moving company, you can always return unused boxes for a refund. If you got them free from the grocery, just toss any leftovers.) Have about 10 boxes set aside to use for last minute items on moving day, such as bedding, clothing, and cleaning supplies. You’ll need strong plastic packing tape to close the boxes securely.
Utilize wardrobe boxes.
These tall boxes are perfect for bulky, lightweight items such as comforters, pillows, and blankets, as well as clothes that need to remain hanging. Call your mover to ask the width of the wardrobe boxes he’ll be bringing.
Don’t make the boxes too heavy to lift. One mover told the story of someone who put a bowling ball in a wardrobe box! When the box was lifted off the truck, the bottom gave way, sending the bowling ball on a wild ride down the ramp, across the street to the gutter, then down a hill where it finally came to rest in a roadside ditch. (Is that a strike or a spare?)
Strategize wardrobe box use.
Moving companies will be happy to deliver boxes ahead of your moving day. Or if you’re doing the move yourself, get things organized as early as possible. A few days before your move, fill some sturdy handled shopping bags with bulky closet items such as shoes, sweaters, belts, and jeans. On moving day, fill the bottom of the wardrobe boxes with some of the shopping bags; then, add your hanging clothing. Pack hanging items tightly so things won’t move around and fall off of hangers. Finally, cover the shoulders of your clothes (a dry cleaning bag works well).
Anything you can pack ahead will save you time on moving day. If it’s summer, get your winter clothes out of the way. You don’t really need 5 radios or TVs around your house for the last few days there. Box up your shampoo and extra toothpaste and live out of a travel cosmetic case for the last week or two. Pare down cooking utensils and food supplies to bare essentials. Wastebaskets can also be packed (put things in them!) while you switch to using plastic grocery bags (hang them on a cabinet door or door handle to collect trash.)
Use your luggage.
Fill luggage and duffle bags with clothing, sheets, towels, and paper goods. Even for local moves you’ll be able to quickly spot your navy suitcase holding your favorite sweaters, whereas “Box #189” might remain elusive for days.
Safeguard valued items.
It’s a good idea to keep valuable possessions, such as silverware, collections, or antiques, with you. If you have a long move and no room in your car, bury the items in a box titled “Misc. from kitchen pantry”. Either way, check your homeowner’s insurance to see how you are covered during the move, and if you need additional insurance from the mover. Also, find out what paperwork (receipts, appraisals, and photos) you might need to file a claim in case of loss.
Use brightly colored storage tote boxes, one for each person. Let each family member fill theirs with items he/she will want ‘right away’ in the new home — a set of sheets, a towel, a couple of extension cords, a phone, nightlights, address book, pens and paper, keys, Kleenex, and travel cosmetic case, and so on.