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February 12, 2024

Packing Tips Guide

Reviewed By: Benjamin Johnson, Sr. Director of Operations, Atlas Van Lines - 10+ Years in the Moving Industry

Packing Tips Guide
Many people find that taking advantage of the packing services offered by their moving company makes the relocation process significantly less stressful. Others, however, prefer to take care of the packing themselves. 

If you fall into the latter category, there are steps you can take to ensure the packing process is as efficient as possible. 

There are plenty of important tasks to take on before your move, from transferring utilities to scheduling your movers. Of all the jobs to finish before moving day, packing may be the most complicated. You do not want to pack anything too early, but you do not want to leave it to the last minute, either. 

Packing also involves a lot of physical labor. To make unpacking as easy as possible, use these expert tips below.

Packing Fragile Items

Not everything comes with you when you move, but your most important items always make the cut. In many cases, that means high-value, fragile items are being packed and shipped. 

So, what items deserve extra attention during the packing stage and how do you keep them safe during the move?


Although less fragile than glass or fine china, books, magazines, and similar items are very susceptible to damage from water, humidity, dirt, and mud. If packed incorrectly, it is very easy for books to tear through the bottom of a box and become damaged as they hit the ground.

There are several steps you can take to keep your books safe and make each box manageable, such as:
  • Using only small or medium-sized boxes. The weight of your books can make it easy for large boxes to tear.
  • Reinforcing the bottom of the box with packing tape to prevent collapsing boxes and spilled books.
  • The Spruce recommends storing hardcover books standing upright and paperback books on their backs or storing them with their spines down.


Whether it is China or your everyday plates and glasses, dishware is easily broken. Even the plastic cups and plates you may keep on hand for more casual occasions can be broken during your move.

To keep your dishes safe, follow this packing process:
  1. Use a medium-sized box and line the bottom with crumpled packing paper before adding any dishes.
  2. Place one dish on a stack of packing paper and pull one of the four corners of the paper over to cover it.
  3. Put a second dish on top and, working clockwise, pull the next corner of the paper over it.
  4. Add a third plate and pull the last two corners of the paper over the top of it.
  5. Wrap the stack in another layer of packing paper, then seal it with packing tape and store the plates on their edge.


There are many types of electronics - and many ways to pack them. Whether big or small, some general advice can help you get on the right track.
  • Keep your electronics in a cool, dry space to prevent overheating or water damage.
  • Use plenty of packing paper and bubble wrap to secure each item.
  • Remove batteries from portable electronics, remotes, and similar devices. If batteries get hot or are punctured during your move, they can explode or leak battery acid on other nearby items.
  • Clearly label fragile boxes as a reminder.


You will probably bring any mirror not attached to your walls with you when you move. To keep your mirrors from shattering or becoming damaged, consider these steps:
  • Use towels, sheets, or blankets to wrap several layers around each mirror, with a more stable material like cardboard in between.
  • Fill any spaces in the box in which it is packed with crumpled packing paper.
  • Look for a box that is as close to the size of your mirror as possible to avoid movement in transit.

Efficient Packing Tips

If you have a good idea of what responsibilities you will need to handle during your move, you may want to get an early start on packing. This process is both a crucial one for a successful move and a task that can take a large amount of time to finish. 

Let us look at some packing strategies that will improve your efficiency, save you time, and keep your belongings safe during your relocation.

1. Start with the Easy Stuff

There are some things you simply do not need access to on an around-the-clock basis. This depends on the time of year, where you live, and where you are moving to, so you will have to think through the specifics of your move. Some easy places to start include:
  • Seasonal clothing you will not need currently or at your new home, from winter coats to shorts and bathing suits.
  • Extra sheets, blankets, linens, towels, and similar items.
  • Out-of-season sports gear, recreation equipment, or decorations.
  • Most, although possibly not all, of your books, movies, video games, and other types of physical media.
  • Most of your dishes - leave enough to comfortably cook and serve your family, but pack away things like fine china, serving dishes for special occasions, kitchen gadgets, and similar items.
  • The contents of guest rooms and other areas of your home that do not see regular use.
  • Heirlooms, antiques, art, and other items that have sentimental or aesthetic but no practical value.
Starting with these items will allow you to get a head start on packing without disrupting anything especially important, making the rest of the packing effort that much easier. 

One thing to keep in mind is that towels, blankets, pillows, and certain casual clothes can all be used to pack up fragile things like glasses, mirrors, antiques, and similar belongings. You may want to put these items in boxes but not seal them up, then pull from them as necessary when packing delicate possessions.

2. Planning How to Pack the Things You Need

As with many packing questions, a lot of the answers depend on your personal needs. After you have the less regularly used items put away and have gotten closer to moving day, you can start considering what else to pack away in the final weeks and days in your soon-to-be old home.

Clothing is a good place to begin. You could pack up most of your formal clothes but leave a few outfits to wear to the office in a week or so before your move. Can you do a few loads of laundry before moving day and simply re-wear some more casual items?

Non-perishable foods are another area where you can get a bit of an early start. You may want to bring certain items, like expensive or uncommon herbs and spices, along with you during the move. 

In other cases, you may want to donate inexpensive and easily found shelf-stable foods through the Move For Hunger program. All you have to do is make sure your local Atlas agent participates, let them know you have a donation, and set aside any unopened, non-perishable food. Your agent will do the rest!

3. Leaving the Packing to the Pros

There is an alternative that ensures your packing is done quickly and efficiently: Calling in the professional packers at Atlas. Use our packing services, and you will not have to worry about when to pack away each room, closet, or individual item - just get in touch with us! 

Using a packing service takes much of the labor and planning out of packing. Providing professional packers with just a few things means your belongings are handled carefully from the beginning of the moving process to its end. 

As professionals who regularly secure all sorts of belongings safely and securely, professional packers can offer peace of mind - especially when antiques, large items, and especially fragile possessions are involved. 

If you plan ahead, they can also help you get out of a potential time crunch. Instead of dealing with the logistics of packing and moving at the last minute, you can focus on securing the relatively small number of items you need to carry yourself and start planning for your arrival at your new space.

4. Create a Process When Packing Your Belongings Yourself

​Setting up an organizational system is a vital way to prevent stress when you are packing - the more organized you are, the less chaotic the process will seem. 

Perhaps this means color-coding your boxes by room or item type. Or maybe you would rather number each box and keep a corresponding inventory list in a notebook. 

Use apps, spreadsheets, checklists, and other tools or materials that can make the organization's process easier. Just remember that the better organized you are now, the easier the unpacking process will be later. 

5. Pack with Weight and Volume in Mind

Ideally, you want to fill up boxes and containers as much as possible before you move. This allows you to unload in as few trips as possible and reduces the number of boxes you must track and be responsible for. However, you want to take the weight and volume of everything you pack into account by:
  • Filling up boxes with a mixture of light and heavy items when possible.
  • Use small boxes when packing only heavy items, such as dishware or books, and save large boxes for lighter ones.
  • Load heavy items on the bottom of the boxes to avoid damage to anything else inside.
Using this approach puts you in a great position to minimize the number of boxes you use, distribute carrying weight, and plays into our next tip.

6. Label Your Boxes

In most cases, unpacking is a lot easier when a box only contains items from a single room or area of your home. There will undoubtedly be exceptions, so the best way to deal with them is by writing a quick list of each box's contents on the side. 

With the help of your smartphone, you can also simply number each box, then keep more detailed lists in your phone's notes app or send an email that contains the list to everyone involved in the move. Putting the boxes in the right room as you move in makes the rest of the process that much easier.

If you use this approach, you can also easily set aside a few boxes that contain the items you will need for the first few days in your new home. From sheets and pillows to basic cooking supplies, toiletries, and your computer or phone charging cord, quick access to such items helps you start to settle in.

7. Use Everyday Items to Protect Fragile Belongings

There are some scenarios in which bubble wrap or packing paper is the best option to transport something especially fragile - be it a mirror, lamp, or decoration. 

However, many of your belongings can be kept safe by using things you already own, like towels and clothing. Your kitchen towels can be placed between layers of plates or wrapped around glasses. You can use bath towels to wrap around larger pieces, like ceramic serving trays and glass pitchers.

8. Take Pictures Before Packing

Whether you want to remember how you organized your tools or avoid playing guessing games with your TV cords, a photo is an easy way to remember where everything goes. 

Even if you simply like the way you currently have family photos arranged on the mantle, a photo helps you make sure everything returns to the right place.


9. Declutter First

Decluttering is a crucial first step in packing your home for a move. Especially if you are preparing for a long-distance relocation and your moving company is charging based on the weight of your belongings. 

It is important to only bring the items you need. Go through each room in your home with a trash bag, a donation box, and a sell box. Trash anything that is broken, stained, torn, or otherwise damaged, and sell or donate anything you have not used in at least one year. 

Be ruthless - sentimentality is understandable, but if you never use something, there is no reason to keep it.

10. Gather Plenty of Packing Supplies

There are plenty of packing supplies you will need to stock up on to keep your belongings organized and secure. Here are the basics:
  •  Boxes
  •  Packing tape
  • Packing paper, bubble wrap, and other cushioning for valuables
  • Permanent markers
  • Plastic baggies
Gather at least three different sizes of boxes, and make sure some are corrugated or extra sturdy for safely transferring your dishware and any other fragile items. 

You will likely need more packing supplies than you think you will, so stock up. If you purchase supplies from Atlas, you can always return anything you do not end up using.


12. Know the Packing Basics

There are some packing basics everybody should keep in mind as they prepare for a move. First, spread your packing out - you do not want to be scrambling at the last minute. Begin weeks in advance with storage closets and decor that you will not miss if it is packed away, and work from there.

Also, make sure when you are packing boxes that you place heavy items on the bottom and lighter ones on top. This will keep your boxes more stable in transit. Remember that large boxes should hold lighter items, while heavier items can go in small boxes.

Finally, pack two or three "load last, unload first" boxes, which will contain kitchenware, bedding, and other items you will need right away at your new place. You do not want to make it to the new house and realize you have no idea where your coffee maker or your best work shoes are.

Packing for a Temporary Living Situation 

Sometimes, moving is not permanent. Some companies relocate their employees for only a couple of months to work on a project at another office. Then, when the worker is finished, he or she may move back. On the other hand, some families move to another state, but the house they bought is not ready yet. 

Both cases can require temporary living situations. This kind of move is very different and, as a result, so is the prep work before the big day. Here is what you need to know about packing for a temporary living situation.

Think Practically

If you are moving to another state for a temporary move, that usually means you are not bringing along everything you own. For example, say you live in Chicago and are moving to Los Angeles to work on a special project at your job. You are most likely not bringing all your belongings across these states. 

When approaching a situation like this, here is something to take into consideration: Are you keeping your home in Chicago? This can make a big difference in your packing process. 

If your Chicago home is not going anywhere, you can leave plenty of items behind. If this place is being sold, you either need to bring everything with you or rent a storage space.

In either case, it is important only to pack things you will need over the course of your stay. Be sure to factor in the differences in climate and season when you are packing. 

Determine What's Included

You are going to want to find out what your short-term rental includes. Is your apartment fully furnished with the basics, like a bed and couch? Or what about the non-essential furniture like a dining table and entertainment set? 

Make a list of what furniture is essential for you, and then check off what is included. This will prevent you from moving any unnecessary items and ensure you will not leave something you need behind.

Is a microwave included in your new home? It is important to look into what appliances come with your temporary home. Check out what your living arrangements include so you can plan accordingly.


Store the Rest

The items you do not take with you have to go somewhere. If your home is not being sold, your belongings can stay there. If you are selling your home or terminating your lease, you are going to want to invest in some storage space. 

That way, you can keep items that you will not be needing in a safe place. For example, you do not want to get rid of your desktop computer but do not want to transport it all the way across the country for three months. Instead, opt to bring along your laptop and keep the computer in your storage space until you get back. 

There are plenty of other items you own to which you can apply this same method. Moving can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. If you do not need it, store it. Many different companies offer various sized and priced storage units to fit your budget and lifestyle. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Unpacking

Boxes, boxes, packing peanuts, and—you guessed it—more boxes. If the thought of unpacking disorder after a move makes you sweat, you are certainly not alone. 

Even the most even-tempered person can become overwhelmed by the enormity of organizing a new home. Remember that after the movers have gone, everything will be unpacked eventually, as long as you keep working, stay organized, and maintain a positive attitude. 

Consider some dos to get the unpacking process underway in no time:
  • Do unpack the "essentials" box first. This 'lifeline' should be the first off the moving truck and perhaps even transported with you in the car. The box should contain everything you need for a couple of nights, including medication, extra toiletries, and towels. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way—if in dire need, a convenience or drug store is likely minutes away in any new city.
  • Do unpack the kitchen early in the process. If all boxes have been clearly labeled, you should be able to locate what you need easily. Having major food appliances like the coffee pot and toaster hooked up makes life a little easier in what can be an exhausting (and hunger-inducing) process.
  • Do take time to enjoy your new space once you have unpacked the main essentials. Breaks are ideal for easing stress levels, getting to know your new neighborhood even sooner, and avoiding too many open boxes being strewn about at one time. Set aside time each day for unpacking and a few hours to explore.

A few key points to avoid in the unpacking process include:
  • Do not assemble large furniture until you have planned where it will be placed. If you obtained plans for your new home prior to moving, arranging furniture should be straightforward. However, large armoires or tables in random places are annoying and dangerous if constantly being dodged. Always try to put furniture organization toward the top of the unpacking to-do list.
  • Do not assume you have to unpack everything in one day—or even in one week! While unpacking marks the end of a long move that is likely been in the works for months, resist the urge to conquer the unpacking process too quickly. It is a completely normal reaction to want to put everything in its proper place as quickly as possible but always think ahead before diving in. Adjustment to the new home will begin, regardless—spare nerves in the process.

Let Atlas Take Care of the Packing

Atlas’s professional packing and unpacking services have complimented local, long-distance, and international moves for over 75 years. Want to ensure your belongings are handled by trusted experts? Get a quote and experience the Atlas difference.