When you first start packing for moving or storage, staying organized might seem pretty doable.
But by the time you’ve taped what feels like the millionth box, it can be tempting to just start tossing all of your belongings into unorganized bins and bags.
Don’t do that. Do your future self a favor and read our ultimate guide to packing anything and everything instead.
First, follow these six expert tips that will make packing a breeze, no matter what you’re boxing up. Then scroll down to find the right way to pack, well, anything.
1. Label the right way
Always label your boxes on the side, not on the top. Since boxes get stacked on top of each other, this will ensure that anyone who moves your boxes can easily read the label, says Ben Soreff, a professional organizer with House to Home Organizing.
2. Smaller is better
While it might seem like a good idea to stuff as many of your belongings into one huge box, that’s not ideal for anyone lifting and moving your boxes, Soreff says.
“Two medium boxes can be stacked and carried quickly up stairs or around corners, while a huge box is hard to navigate,” he says.
3. Don’t give up
Sure, you may start by carefully labeling every box with pristine penmanship and securely taping the tops and bottoms. But by the end, you might start to get a little sloppy with your packing.
Always keep in mind that someday you’ll be unpacking these boxes, Soreff says. Random, unlabeled boxes full of miscellaneous items are a recipe for disaster.
4. Don’t skimp
At the end of the day, you’re wasting your time and money if you skimp on packing materials.
“While it can seem expensive to really do a good job of wrapping items, this can be very valuable for protecting those items in transit and/or storage,” suggests Cori Bamberg, a certified professional organizer in Boston.
5. Make the most of containers
You probably already have a bunch of perfectly sized boxes around the house—you just have to know where to look. Pack smaller items (think silverware, knick knacks and cosmetics) inside plastic kitchen storage containers, Bamberg says.
6. Start early
You might take a look around your house and think, “I don’t have that much stuff. I got this. This will take no time to pack.” But you’ll be kicking yourself when you’re up all night before the movers come because you aren’t finished packing yet.
“Planning ahead is a really good idea,” says Ryan Evans, director of operations for Closetbox. “Start four or five days ahead of time so you’ll be ready.”
We also turned to the experts for their go-to packing methods for some of the most common household items. Here’s what they had to say.
Protecting artwork and picture frames
You can easily make your own boxes for artwork, mirrors and picture frames, says Soreff. This will ensure these items don’t get scratched or cracked during your move.
Wrap each item in bubble wrap first. Then, use a flattened cardboard box to make a sleeve by taping one side shut. Slide your artwork into the sleeve, then tape up the remaining open end. Make sure to label your art box to ensure it’s stored upright and moved carefully.
The best thing you can do to extend the life of your TV is pack it into a box, says Evans. Either keep the box it came in or order a special TV packing box online.
“That’s going to protect it while it’s being moved around,” Evans says. “With flat-screen TVs, you can break the pixels really easily.”
Before you move your mattress, wrap it with a mattress pad or carton, Evans suggests.
After all, you do sleep in your bed every night—the last thing you want is for your mattress to collect dirt and germs during your move.
Make sure you wash and dry all clothing before packing it away. For large amounts of clothing, store them in vacuum-sealed bags, suggests Bamberg.
You might want to skip the vacuum bags for super expensive clothing or heirlooms, especially if you’re planning to store your clothes for an extended period of time. For these items, Bamberg suggests using acid-free boxes and tissue paper.
Shoes also need to be cleaned before storage, Bamberg says. After all, there’s nothing worse than stinky shoes.
Stuff each shoe with muslin cloth or another type of stiff fabric to help them hold their shape. And while they may take up more room this way, Bamberg says it’s best to store shoes in individual boxes so they don’t lose their shape over time.
Bulky or awkwardly-shaped items
When you’re packing, you realize just how many awkwardly-shaped items you own. Your best bet for storing or moving those bad boys? Suitcases.
“A suitcase with wheels is the perfect solution for awkwardly-shaped and heavy items,” says Ross Sapir, president of Roadway Moving in New York.
Small electronics and cords
The last thing you want to do is lose the tiny pieces and cords that are critical to making your electronics work.
Stash these items in sandwich bags, then label the outside to explain which device the cord goes with. Sandwich bags are also useful for extra nails, screws and even small electronics, Sapir says.
Padding, padding, padding, says Olivia Joyce of Move Out Mates.
Fragile items such as plates, ornaments, glasses and bottles should be individually wrapped in bubble wrap or thick padding. Then, pack them tightly into boxes so they don’t rub together, she says.
You can also purchase boxes with built-in dividers, or snag some for free from your local liquor store.
Don’t forget to label fragile boxes, either.
Nightstands and dressers
Joyce recommends securing the doors and drawers with tape. Then, protect the corners with cardboard protectors or make your own using cereal boxes.
Remember when you bought that office chair? It likely came in a tidy little package. That’s because chairs and other pieces of furniture can be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Often, this is your best option for moving or storing furniture.
If you’re going to disassemble your furniture, just be sure to keep a copy of the assembly instructions handy for when they come out of storage.
Small appliances and electronics
The very best option for packing small appliances and electronics is to put them back in their original boxes, says Joyce. If you didn’t hang on to the original box, a medium-sized moving box will work instead.
“The trick is to make them safe for carrying and make sure they are able to support the weight of your electrical appliances,” Joyce says. “To secure the boxes, tape the bottoms with a few layers of tape and line the inside with bubble wrap.”
Also make sure you secure any cords using twist ties. When you’re done, mark these boxes as fragile and draw an arrow on the box so that it’s stored in an upright position.
Towels, sheets, curtains and bedding
Rather than packing these items, use them as your own DIY bubble wrap to protect other items. It’s a win-win: you won’t have to pack them separately, and you’ll keep your belongings free from scratches and dents.
What are your go-to packing secrets? Tell us on our Facebook page.