Packing materialsYou can usually get free or super cheep boxes from craigslist or freecycle. I've only paid for boxes once in 8 moves, and it was $10 for 40+ high quality moving boxes with dividers and packing materials from someone on craigslist! You can also call around to local stores and ask them to save boxes for you. Pass on grocery store meat boxes and produce boxes. You don't want to risk bugs/raw meat juice. Ew! But often there are plenty of great sturdy clean boxes from stores. Save up newspapers for packing fragile stuff. I pass on the love and give away my free boxes when I get to my destination and unpack.
Packing TipsI like to use trash bags for blankets, pillows, and clothes not used for padding furniture or for filler in boxes. Make sure to label the trash bags clearly with colored labels or permanent markers and keep them all together. No one will think it's trash if there's a pile of them and they're labeled. These bags work great in the moving truck to pad furniture or fill holes or just to throw up on top of everything in the end. By the way, I've never had anything thrown out yet!
Pack hanging clothes by making a hole in the middle of a bottom of a trash bag for the tops of the hangers. Grab a big handfull of clothes by the hanger hooks and pull the hooks through the hole and then pull the edges of the trash bag down over the clothes. If it's a long move, you can pull another trash bag up from the bottom of the clothes if needed and tape it in place or use drawstrings on the bag to loop over the hanger tops. Hang them back up in the closet and on moving day take these out last and lie them on top of all the boxes and stuff. At the new place, just pull off the trash bags and hang them up in the closet again.
Label your boxes well. Even if you don't know what your new layout will be like, you're going to label the kids' stuff to go in their room, and decorations to go in the living room, etc. You can color code or number boxes for which room they will go to. Make a list or a rough map with each room assigned a color or number. This makes it a little harder and takes longer on the unloading end (so take this into consideration if you have volunteer movers that aren't quite friends yet) but it is much easier on you to have things get to the right place. Make plenty of copies of your list/map if you make one and post them on the front door and at different levels of the house. Label each room with it's color or number too. I've moved without or with labeling and maps and I'd say what I do just depends on how organized I feel at the time. The pictures below may convince you to be organized though. We actually could not walk into our house after our new friends helped us move in here. We all just dumped it anywhere. The overwhelming sort out was painful. Lesson learned.
Mark fragile boxes on the top and at least one side and pad breakables well. Stacking picture frames and dishes and platters vertically decreases stress on them. Label heavy boxes clearly and grab the right size box for the job. For light items, grab a large box; for books or anything else heavy, a small box. You want to completely fill boxes so they don't buckle later and make a whole stack of boxes unstable. If a box is very heavy but has extra space at the top you can fill the rest with throw pillows or the like.
For large breakables like mirrors, tape padding onto it. For furniture that you don't want scuffed up, wrap it in a throw blanket or furniture pad.
Keep a container full of your packing paper, packing tape, trash bags, scissors, and permanent markers. Take this container around with you when you pack and you won't spend hours searching for "that packing tape that was just right here."
Well, it looks like there will be a part 3 of these how to move posts. It will talk about the method I use to actually pack. If you wonder where to get started and what's important to remember when packing, it will have some great info for you.