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How to pack clothes for moving

Tips on packing your threads efficiently

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    Moving to a new place is exciting, but it's not without its challenges. Among all the tasks that come with moving, packing your clothes might seem like a minor job, but it might be more significant than you think. It's easy to underestimate both the amount of clothing you own and the effort it takes to pack it properly.

    The good news: We’ve got tips on packing your wardrobe to help you save space, minimize stress and streamline your moving process.

    Key insights

    • Prepare before you pack. Clear out your wardrobe, assemble the necessary supplies, make sure everything is clean and categorize your clothes accordingly.
    • Use wardrobe boxes or garment bags to make packing clothes on hangers easier, and fold or roll non-hanging clothes to minimize wrinkles and save space.
    • Protect your shoes by padding and wrapping them with soft materials.

    Packing prep

    Ensuring your clothes stay in great condition requires smart preparation — this step simplifies the process and helps preserve your clothes throughout the move.

    1. Declutter: Before you start packing, take the opportunity to declutter your wardrobe. Go through each item of clothing and decide what you want to keep, sell (see our tips for a successful garage sale), donate or discard. This will help lighten your load before you move.
    2. Gather supplies: Gather all your packing supplies, which may include sturdy moving boxes in various sizes; wardrobe boxes; packing paper or bubble wrap; packing tape and tape dispenser; plastic bags or garment bags; labels and markers; freezer bags (for small accessories); hangers; twist-ties or rubber bands; and vacuum-sealed bags.
    3. Sort and categorize: Sort clothes by material, season, pieces and person. Label boxes and bags for each person's clothes. Make sure to clean them before packing to avoid stains or odors while moving. Create a detailed list of your clothing items for reference and possible insurance claims.

    » MORE: Where to find moving boxes

    How to pack hanging clothes

    Hanging clothes are particularly susceptible to wrinkles and damage during a move. Many garments are designed to hang freely, and a lack of care during packing can lead to loss of shape, stretching or even tearing.

    With a little care, though, you can simplify packing (and unpacking) and keep your clothes in good condition as you move.

    Wardrobe boxes

    Wardrobe boxes are designed specifically for moving clothes on hangers. Here's how to use them:

    • Gather your hanging clothes.
    • Hang the clothes on the metal bar in the wardrobe box.
    • Make sure not to overpack the box (this can cause wrinkles and make the box too heavy to carry).
    • Use the built-in hanging rod and secure it in place to prevent clothes from shifting during transit.
    • Close the box and seal it with packing tape.

    » MORE: Where to buy wardrobe boxes

    Garment bags

    Garment bags are another solid option for packing hanging clothes. They’re used a bit differently than wardrobe boxes:

    • Keep your clothes on their hangers.
    • Slip the clothes into garment bags one by one, securing the hangers on the provided hooks.
    • Close the garment bag and zip it up.
    • Once the clothes are inside the bags, gather the bottom of the bags around the hangers and secure them with twist-ties or rubber bands to keep the clothes from sliding out.
    • If you don't have garment bags, you can cut a hole at the bottom of a large, clean trash bag for the hangers to go through — but this method doesn't provide as much protection as dedicated garment bags.

    How to pack non-hanging clothes

    Non-hanging clothes can take up a lot of space when not packed effectively. By using space-saving packing techniques, you can maximize the capacity of your moving boxes or containers.

    Folding your clothes

    Folding is one of the most common and straightforward methods for packing non-hanging garments. It helps to minimize wrinkles and keeps your clothes organized. Follow these steps for effective folding:

    • Lay the clothing item flat on a clean surface. Button up shirts and blouses, and zip up pants to maintain their shape.
    • Fold sleeves and pant legs inward, toward the center. Fold shirts vertically in half by bringing one arm over the other.
    • Fold the garment into a smaller rectangle or square shape (the size will depend on the dimensions of your suitcase or bag).
    • Stack folded clothes vertically in your luggage or boxes — imagine a filing cabinet — to maximize space and prevent excessive wrinkling.

    Rolling your clothes

    Rolling clothes not only conserves space but also minimizes creases. Here's how to roll your non-hanging clothes:

    • Lay the item facedown on a flat surface.
    • Fold sleeves or pant legs inward to create a streamlined shape.
    • Starting from the bottom, roll the garment tightly toward the top. This creates a compact cylinder shape.
    • Place rolled clothes in your luggage or boxes side by side.

    Use vacuum-sealed bags

    Vacuum-sealed bags are a game-changer when it comes to maximizing space. These bags use a vacuum to remove excess air, making your clothes significantly smaller. These are fairly simple to use:

    • Place a few folded or rolled clothes into the vacuum-sealed bag. Be mindful not to overfill.
    • Seal the bag using the provided closure mechanism. Some bags require you to slide a clip or use a zipper.
    • Use a vacuum cleaner or the manual pump provided to remove the air from the bag. As the air is removed, you'll notice the bag compressing and your clothes becoming more compact.
    • Once the air is removed, quickly seal the vacuum opening.
    • Place the vacuum-sealed bags in an easy-to-move container.

    Employ your luggage

    Another effective packing option is to use any suitcases and duffle bags you have. These items are well-suited for transportation, of course, but be mindful of the weight as you pack, especially when dealing with fragile belongings.

    » MORE: How to pack for a move

    How to pack shoes

    Your shoes need care, too. To protect them during transport, gently stuff each shoe with packing paper or soft socks. This maintains their shape and prevents any potential deformities during transit. To prevent scuffing and scratches, wrap each shoe individually with packing paper.

    To maximize packing space, place shoes toe-to-heel or sole-to-sole as you pack them. This arrangement minimizes friction and potential damage during the move. Arrange heavier shoes at the bottom of the packing container and lighter ones on top to prevent heavier shoes from pressing down on delicate pairs.

    You can pack your shoes in all kinds of containers — it just depends on what you have on hand:

    • Original shoeboxes
    • Moving shoeboxes
    • Large plastic boxes
    • Cardboard boxes
    • Storage containers

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      Should I leave clothes in dresser drawers during the move?

      Leaving clothes in dresser drawers during a move is possible and could work well if the dresser is sturdy and the drawers aren’t overly heavy or filled to the point of strain. Keep in mind, though, that this could make the dresser heavier and more difficult to move.

      How can I prevent wrinkles during the move?

      To prevent wrinkles during a move, try these tips:

      • Fold carefully.
      • Use wardrobe boxes.
      • Wrap delicate fabrics in tissue paper or bubble wrap.
      • Roll your clothing (especially for casual clothes).
      • Avoid overpacking.
      Can I use garbage bags to pack clothes?

      You can pack your clothes in garbage bags, but it's not the most recommended option. Garbage bags aren’t designed for moving and can easily tear, exposing your clothes to dirt, moisture and other potential damage. If garbage bags are your only option, make sure to reinforce them and use caution.

      Can I pack clothes with other items?

      Packing clothes with other items can be done, but be mindful of what you're combining. Avoid packing clothes with sharp or heavy objects that could damage the fabric. It's better to pack clothes separately or use designated clothing boxes to prevent potential harm.

      How do I label clothing boxes?

      To stay organized when moving your clothing, write the name of the room where the clothes will go ("Bedroom" or "Main closet," for example). You can also briefly describe the type of clothing.

      If you have delicate clothes, mark the box as "Fragile" so movers handle it with care. For any clothes you’ll need immediately, label the boxes as "Essentials" or "Open first."

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