What moving supplies do you need?

Boxes, tape, cushioning material — what else?

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Where are you moving to?

man moving a heavy carton box

Moving can be one of life’s most stressful experiences. There’s no denying that moving is hard, but by planning ahead and having the right supplies, you can make this anxiety-inducing task much more manageable. Giving yourself enough time to prepare will keep your stress level down and ensure you don’t overlook anything.


Key insights

Start planning and downsizing two to three months before your move.

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Order packing supplies about a month before you need them.

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Good boxes are essential for packing, and you have a few options on where to get these.

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Making a plan

It’s usually smart to begin planning your move two to three months out, and this starts by determining your budget and deciding whether you’ll want to hire help. Professional movers can transport your belongings from point A to point B and pack for you. However, if you’re packing yourself (or doing the bulk of it), follow the steps below.

  1. Perform a thorough inventory of your house, noting what's in each room and what you’ll get rid of before the move.
  2. Start purging items you won’t take with you. You can sell items that are in good condition (you might also consider donating some things). This will take time, but the effort is worth it to reduce your stress level and save money. Many moving companies charge by the total weight and volume of your load, so any amount you shave off means more money in your pocket.
  3. Order packing supplies. In the next section, we’ll go over in detail what supplies you’ll need.
  4. Begin the packing process about a month before your moving date. Start with anything non-essential, like out-of-season clothing and items in the guest bedroom, attic and garage. Address one room at a time and get each completely packed before moving on to the next.
  5. A few days before the move, pack a small suitcase for each member of the household to get through the day or two you’ll be without your belongings. This bag or suitcase should include toiletries, a change of clothes, a towel, medications and any personal items you may need.

» PLAN YOUR SPENDING: How to make a moving budget

Essential packing supplies

The supplies you’ll need depend on whether you’re planning to hire professional movers to pack for you. When your movers do the packing, the cost of the boxes is usually included in your quote. However, most people choose to do at least some packing themselves, so you’ll want the following supplies.

Boxes

Quality boxes (and enough of them) are arguably the most important of the moving supplies, and you have a few options for where to get these.

  • Home improvement stores and moving truck companies: Purchase boxes from stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot, or try U-Haul or your moving company. Buying new boxes means they will be uniform in size and easier to stack and pack in a truck.
  • Local shops: Ask for boxes from local grocery and liquor stores (produce boxes are some of the strongest).
  • People you know: Ask friends and neighbors for boxes, or look to local groups (like “buy nothing” groups) or Freecycle.org.

Many moving companies now rent plastic crates, which are best used in addition to cardboard boxes rather than replacing them completely. Unlike cardboard boxes, plastic crates require no assembly or taping.

No matter where you get your boxes, you’ll want different sizes and types. Chris Walls, president and CEO of Go Mini's, a moving and storage company based in Westlake Village, California, advises customers not to overlook specialty boxes — e.g., wardrobe boxes, mattress boxes and dish barrels.

While specialty boxes are an added expense, “what you save in time and hassle using these types of boxes can really cut down on the stress in what is usually one of the most stressful things you will do,” Walls told us.

» COMPARE: Best moving companies

Other packing supplies

Once you’ve secured your boxes, think about what other materials are likely to come in handy for your move. Consider the following:

  • Plastic bags: Zipper storage bags are ideal for sorting and keeping together smaller items like jewelry or hardware. Use large trash bags for lightweight, bulky items like comforters or to protect clothes still on the hanger.
  • Plastic stretch-wrap: Use this to wrap furniture with drawers or around cabinets to keep them from opening during transit. While you can use stretch-wrap from the grocery store, you can also buy bigger rolls from a moving supply company.
  • Box cutter: Everyone who’s helping you move should have their own box cutter, especially during unpacking.
  • Packing tape: Packing tape is essential for sealing boxes, but how much do you need? Walls suggests getting slightly more than you think: “There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a move and running out of boxes or tape. A good rule of thumb is a roll of moving tape for every 10 boxes or so.” Consider purchasing a few tape dispensers.
  • Packing paper: Use packing paper (or even stacks of old newspaper) to wrap breakable items such as dishes or to fill space in boxes to prevent items from shifting around.
  • Cushioning material: Cushioning material is perfect for protecting fragile items, and most households will only need a roll or two.
  • Cleaning supplies: Carry basic cleaning supplies like cleaning spray, paper towels, sponges, and a broom and dustpan in your car (not in the moving truck). You’ll want these on hand in case you need to clean up at your old place or once you arrive at your new digs.
  • Labels and permanent markers: Developing a labeling system will streamline your process and simplify unpacking. Some people choose to color-code (i.e., red for the kitchen, blue for the bathroom), while others number each box. Whatever system you choose for labeling, stay consistent and label the top of your box and two sides so the information is easy to find. Always use a permanent marker to avoid smudging in case your boxes get wet.
Packing tips
  • Don’t use boxes over 12 inches to pack heavy items like books — or they’ll become too heavy.
  • Leave larger boxes for bigger, lightweight items.
  • Fill all boxes to avoid contents shifting during transit.
  • There’s no magic formula to determine how many boxes you will need, but for a typical three-bedroom house, generally you’ll want 70 to 150 boxes, or around 25 boxes per room.

Moving tools and equipment

Aside from packing supplies, you’ll want other tools and equipment during your move, some of which you may already have on hand.

  • Dollies/hand trucks
  • Rental truck (if not hiring movers)
  • Lifting straps
  • Cargo straps
  • Ramps
  • Furniture sliders
  • Mattress cover
  • Bungee cords
  • Floor protectors
  • Toolbox 
  • Electric drill
  • First aid kit
  • Cleaning supplies (paper towels, garbage bags, gloves, window and bathroom cleaner, mop, bucket, broom, dustpan and vacuum)

If you don’t already own a dolly or similar tool, it’s probably worth the investment to protect your back from strain.

Where are you moving to?

FAQ

What moving supplies do I not need?

If you’re hiring movers to pack, they’ll likely provide most of the supplies you’ll need, but you should double-check what’s included in the quote. That said, you can cut down on supplies by using things you already own, such as towels and clothing, to wrap around fragile items. You can also repurpose drawers, laundry baskets and suitcases to use as boxes.

What unpacking supplies do I need?

Some of your packing tools will come in handy for unpacking: box knife, toolbox, large trash bags and cleaning supplies. However, you should also have tools for reassembling your belongings (e.g., measuring tape, stud finder, level, ladder).

Is it worth it to hire a professional organizer?

You may want to hire a professional organizer to help get rid of items you no longer need. An organizer can assist with the initial downsizing and packing as well as unpacking and organizing your new home.

What is a moving blanket?

Also called a furniture blanket or furniture pad, this is a large, heavy-duty blanket used to wrap around larger furniture items to prevent damage during transit.

How do you move your car?

Cars almost always need to be moved by a company that specializes in auto transport. This is typically done on an open-air transport trailer, a big box trailer or a train.

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