How to Pack Like a Pro

Two Methods:Packing to MovePacking for a Trip

Are you packing to move or are you packing to travel? Either way, we'll help you find a way to do it efficiently so that you can get the most out of your experience. Packing of any kind can be stressful but with some strategy, tips, and motivation, it can actually be a fun experience.

Method 1
Packing to Move

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    Sort through all of your stuff first. Start your moving process by getting rid of the items that you don't need. There's no sense in organizing and trying to pack a bunch of stuff that you'll just get rid of anyway, so pick through your home meticulously and get rid of as much as you can. Go room by room and look for items that you haven't used at all in the last year. Chances are, if more than a year goes by without use, you probably don't need the item.
    • Everyone has sentimental knickknacks and old papers that they don't want to get rid of. That's fine. But a healthy practice is to keep a small or medium size box that's devoted to these items. Keep only what you can fit in the box. If you want to put in things that are new, you have to empty out things that don't matter to you quite as much any more. This practice will keep you from hoarding items.
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    Find some boxes. Next you'll want to get some boxes to pack items in to. You might want to use plastic bins for some items, like papers and clothes, which are sensitive to water and staining. This will keep them from getting damaged. For most other items however, cardboard boxes are the way to go. Use mainly small and medium size boxes and pack them no heavier than 50 lbs.
    • You can often buy cheap cardboard boxes from auto shops and hardware stores. Avoid the boxes sold by moving companies, as they are often more expensive.
    • You can also get boxes for free, although they might not be in as good condition. Go to grocery stores, wholesale stores, large cafeterias or restaurants, and liquor stores and ask if they have any boxes you can have for moving. Since they have to take the cardboard to the recycling anyway, they're usually happy to give the boxes away. Liquor store boxes are best for moving, since they're designed to carry very heavy items without breaking.
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    Get some tools. You will want to rent a few items from your local hardware store or moving company, in order to make this process easier and less back-breaking. Mainly, you'll want a hand truck and possibly a dolly. These will help you transport very heavy items and more than one item at once, speeding up the process and making it easier on your body.
    • Of course, you'll want other items too. Tape, shrink wrap, pens for labeling, scissors, box cutters, twine and cords are all very useful for packing and moving.
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    Set aside items you'll need immediately. Make a separate box or bag with all the things that you'll need for the first few days after moving. Put things inside like a few changes of clothes, your toiletries, a roll of toilet paper, a few plates and utensils, and maybe a frying pan. This will save you from having to dig through a bunch of boxes right away to get at the things you need most.
    • Remember to tape the lids closed on liquid items and wrap them in bags. You don't want all of your immediately needed items to be covered in shampoo.
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    Separate out really important or valuable items. For items that are really important, like all of your moving documents and important documents like birth certificates, you will want to have a separate box or bag. You should also put very expensive items in this box, like your mp3 player and your grandmother's jewelry. This box should be transported in your car with you or on your person.
    • If you're moving very far, it might be a good idea to have this box shipped ahead of you. Send it to your new home if someone is waiting there to receive it or have it shipped to someone you trust.
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    Start organizing. Now that you've got all that done, you can start going through the rest of the items in your home. Go room by room and try to keep similar items together. Place heavier items at the bottom of boxes and try to evenly distribute the weight between boxes. Make sure the box is full and if it's not, fill it with packing paper. If the top of the box has nothing below it, it will be more prone to collapsing, which can break the items in your box. As you pack, be sure to label everything clearly.
    • Make an inventory list as you go, numbering the boxes and indicating which important items are in which boxes (as well as how many boxes there are). You can also use color-coded tape to indicate which room boxes belong in, for example making all boxes for the living room green and all boxes for the kitchen yellow.
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    Pack delicate items cleverly to keep them from breaking. You're probably acquainted with the idea of wrapping delicate items in newspaper or bubble wrap. These are both very good practices and you should definitely wrap items which are prone to breaking. However, you should consider also using non traditional items, since sometimes these can be doubled up to save you packing space.
    • For example, wrap your glasses in pairs of clean socks and your picture frames can be wrapped in towels.
    • You should also remember to wrap items to support them. Items with holes at the center or long arms should be wrapped to give them support and make them look more like solid objects. This will keep them from getting broken.
    • Make sure any boxes that do contain delicate items are marked as fragile. This will help you decide how to organize boxes in the truck and keep you from accidentally breaking items.
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    Make good use of space. Look for any place where there is empty space and use it for packing space. This can reduce the overall footprint of your move, saving you money on trucks or containers. Large furniture items are usually the best example of spaces that can be multipurpose.
    • For example, you can stuff linens in your fridge. Your dresser drawers can filled with rolled up clothes and saran wrapped individually. Since the drawers are best carried in to your new home one at a time anyway, you can use the space so that the dresser space isn't wasted when it's in the truck.
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    Stay focused and motivated. Most importantly, you're going to want to stay focused and motivated. Even the most fastidious packer can move at a snail's pace if they get bored and distracted. Pack with other people, making it a social gathering. If you can't do that, at least put on your favorite movie or an energetic soundtrack. This will help keep you on task.
    • Start with the most difficult items to pack. This means that by the end, when you're getting tired, you'll be able to knock out the easy items just like that.
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    Load it up! Once you’re done packing, load the boxes and items into a truck or other transportation method for getting them to their final destination. Put the tools, like the hand truck, that you got to good use and be sure to strap everything down. You may also want to wrap large items, like bed headboards and dressers, in blankets, in order to keep them from getting scratched by boxes.

Method 2
Packing for a Trip

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    Check out what you’re getting yourself in to. You need to know what you can expect once you get to your destination. First of all, if you’re staying with a friend or family member, see what items they have there for you to use (like towels and shampoo). You should also check the weather report for your destination, so you know what kind of clothes to bring.
    • Make sure to consider what the weather will be like in the evenings and mornings too, not just what you’ll need for daytime wear. Some places are very hot during the day but freezing once the sun goes down.
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    Shoot to only take a carry on. You want to pack as light as possible, since toting around a bunch of stuff you don't need will only add to the headache of a trip. By taking only a carry on, you can save yourself some baggage fees, get out of the airport faster, and have less to carry as you make your way to your hotel.
    • Even if you're going on a trip for a long time, you can still pack lightly. Simply find a laundromat or other way of cleaning your clothes (such as borrowing a friend's clothes or washing them by hand in the hotel's tub).
    • If you do use this method, keep in mind that you will be limited in the items that you can bring, such as liquids and sharp objects. However, sometimes these items can be purchased once you arrive.
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    Make everything as useful as possible. Try to find as many opportunities as you can to make items count for more than one purpose. Stick to a color scheme when picking your clothes and try to pack three tops for every pair of bottoms. No one will notice that those jeans are the same and you can get vastly different looks by pairing items creatively.[1]
    • For example, for a one week trip, you can pack one pair of pants, three tee shirts, two tank tops, two formal shirts, a button up sweater, and a pair of pajama bottoms. The sweater can not only be paired with the formal shirts for style and the tees for warm, it can also be paired with the two tank tops to act as another casual top. All of the shirts can be worn as pajama tops after their respective days of wear. Between the pair of pants you wear on the plane and the pair you pack, you'll have plenty of clothes for your trip.
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    Choose layer-able, lightweight items. When you choose which clothes items you bring, choose items which can be layered. This will help keep you prepared for whatever the weather works out to be while you're there. You'll also want to go with items that are lightweight, since this will help with the layering but also keep your bag lighter overall.
    • For example, wear a sweater on the plane and keep your bag packed with lots of light tops that can be worn with the sweater as needed.
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    Try rolling your clothes. There are many different schools of thought on what the best way to physically pack your clothes is. The truth is that it depends on what you're packing, how much you're taking, and how well you pack it. One good option is to roll your clothes. This uses less space than laying your clothes folded in the bag and can actually prevent wrinkles if you use a nice, tight roll. However, this method only works well if you plan on taking a very full bag.
    • When you roll items, be sure to keep them as tight as possible and smooth wrinkles as you roll them. This will prevent major creases from forming.
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    Create an overnight bundle.You can create an efficient bundle of overnight items by rolling them all together. Lay a tee shirt out flat on your bed. Fold up your underwear and some pajama bottoms into a roughly 10x10" square and place the square up at the collar of the shirt. Fold the left side of the tee over and then the right so that you have a long triangle going up and down. Now, lay your socks horizontally across the top, central part (where the underwear are). The open end of the socks should be facing outward and sticking out a few inches from the edge of the shirt. Now, roll up the shirt, tossing in a toothbrush and other toiletries if you like once you have a roll, fold the edges of the sock over the ends of the roll to create a nice, tight bundle.[2]
    • You can make multiple bundles for packing for a longer trip, using this method to keep the individual items for specific days separate, saving you from having to dig through your bag for the right pair of socks.
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    Try bundle-packing. If you want to pack more items or want to be extra sure to prevent wrinkles, pack with a larger bundle.[3] Start by laying your blazers and tailor shirts on top of each other at 180 degree angles. Line up the top of the shoulder on one with the underside of the arm on the other, so that the sleeves are layered on top of each other. Alternate layer by layer, moving from nice shirts to tees and finally to pants, which should be placed perpendicular to the rest, following the arms of the shirts instead. Finally, fold your pajamas into a square and place this at the center. Now, wrap each item around that center bundle individually, pulling over the left sleeve, right sleeve, top and bottom. Smooth the fabric as you wrap until the whole bundle is ready to go. Simply strap it into your suitcase and you're ready.
    • Keep in mind, however, that this method isn't very TSA-bag-search-friendly. Don't use this method if you know you're not going to have a lot of time at the airport, since you'll have to take the time to refold the bundle.
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    Use the space available to you. Look for spots in your suitcase with empty space. This empty space can be taken advantage of to save even more room. For example, you can use the inside of shoes to store socks and underwear.[4] You'll also want to pass on using bags with lots of compartments, pockets, and zippers. These just add weight. You're better off utilizing a large, open space and using bundles or bags to keep items separate. [5]
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    Compress clothing when you can. If you're not worried about wrinkles (such as if you're just flying home to visit your parents), you can save yourself even more space by compressing your clothes. Use a vacuum seal bag, a large ziplock, or even an extra pair of Spanx to compress the bundles we helped you make in earlier steps.
    • The Spanx or other shape wear items are very useful for this purpose. Buy a cheap pair that are intended for a waist size about as big as the bundle you made. Just fit it over the bundle and you'll find you have even more space.
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    Factor in space for souvenirs. Leave some extra room in your suitcase for any new items that might come home with you. This will be very important, especially if you don't want to pay to have to ship things or get an extra suitcase to take home with you.
    • Especially with international and vacation travel, it's safe to assume that you'll probably buy new clothes while you're there, so there's no need to pack an outfit for every day that you'll be gone.
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    Keep everything important organized and prepared. Be prepared and make sure you're organized with everything else that goes in your suitcase. Have your electronics changed and pack the charger (as well as a converter for international travel). Bring extra pills if you take medication. Have cash money ready for immediate use, in the event that your cab driver doesn't take cards. You'll also want to have a sheet with contact information, addresses, and directions on your person, in case your bag gets lost.
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    Pack a separate pouch for the plane. Pack a separate ziploc full of items that you'll want to use while you're on the plane. This bag can be placed in the front pocket of your suitcase or even in your purse, making it easy to access. This will help prevent the need to dig through your suitcase as you stand awkwardly in the aisle.
    • Include items like your mp3 player, your headphones, medication, snacks, and a book in this separate bag.


  • Make it easy to know when fragile items are being handled. For boxes with delicate contents, clearly mark Fragile or This Side Up to lessen damage.
  • Get new boxes. Used boxes are not always sturdy enough to hold heavy items. If you want to use reused boxes, make sure that they are moving boxes, in good condition, and recently used. If unsure, use old boxes only for unbreakables, like stuffed toys, clothes etc.
  • Use bubble wrap and packing paper to wrap items. Beware of black ink rubbing off from newspapers. Packing paper is plain white, butcher's type paper.
  • Label boxes with the rooms where the contents will be unpacked. This lessens the sorting challenge for you at the arrival end.
  • Pack heavier items in smaller boxes and lighter items in larger boxes. This makes carrying a cinch.
  • Wrap fragile items in bubble wrap and pack in Styrofoam peanuts. Sometimes clothing can be used for wrapping also but not your favorite sweater.
  • Pack dishes on the edge, tilted sideways, instead of packing flat to reduce breakage.
  • Have children help pack their own things. Except for breakable items, they should be fine packing toys, books, their own clothing, and it takes a lot of weight off you.
  • Pack heavy items separately, as noted above. There is no award for breaking your back and giving yourself varicose veins trying to lift too many heavy things at once.
  • Get help for heavy items. If you can't shift a heavy or awkwardly shaped item, get neighbors, friends, family, even briefly hired help, to come and give you a hand. Your health is always worth more and getting your health fixed carries a large price of its own.


  • Plan in advance. Do not leave packing until the last minute or you will become very stressed.
  • Don't break your back. Always bend by bending your knees. Lift from this position. Do not lift by simply bending over the back and picking something up.

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Categories: Moving House and Packing