Packing Secrets from the Pros

Whether it's dishes in a box or furniture in a truck, it will travel better if it's carefully and tightly packed. When things can move around they rub against each other, which increases the changes of damage or breakage. Here's how to pack the right way.

Anne Krueger


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The Dresser Trick

    You don't have to take everything out of your dressers when you move! Lightweight items, such as clothing and linens, can stay. In fact, it's a smart idea to put a clean set of sheets, towels, and pajamas in each dresser so that you'll know right where they are when you get to your new digs.

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How to Book It

    Whether you'll be the one lugging the boxes or not, it's wise to pack heavier items, such as books, in easier-to-handle smaller boxes. Separate books by size so that you can pick and choose the right size and shape to fill each box snuggly.

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Put Like with Like

    Items of similar size, shape, and weight travel well together. Lampshades, for instance, often fit one into the other, saving space and offering each other protection. Lightbulbs can be wrapped carefully with extra paper (or slipped back into the sleeves they came in if you were savvy enough to save them) and put into a box marked "Extra Fragile."

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Safeguarding the Little Things

    Whenever you can, tape a small item to a larger piece so it won't get lost (a finial with the lamp it goes with or a remote control with a TV, for instance). If that won't work, wrap the small item in a piece of colored tissue paper so that it stands out amidst the packing paper and doesn't accidentally get thrown out. You can also put the tissue-wrapped item in a small plastic bag and tuck it into a box.

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The Sneaky Sheet Secret

    You knew those old sheets would come in handy some day, and that day has arrived! Fitted sheets are a great way to protect mattresses (put on two; one on the front and one on the back) and other furniture. Wrap them around upholstered chairs or other small furnishings. They're easy to wash (or toss) when you get to your new home.

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When to Double Box

    Smart shoppers (and movers) know to save the original boxes that came with electronic equipment. If your computer or TV can go back into the protective pod it came in, it's sure to fare the move in good shape. It's even smarter to put electronics in a second box to give them some extra padding and protection. And then you can then label the box with the contents and room destination.

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Figure Out Your Filler

    There's always a great need for soft stuff during a move -- to tuck into a box to keep it snug, or to provide a buffer between two pieces of furniture in the truck. Clothing that doesn't fit into suitcases, boxes, or dressers can do the trick. So can blankets, stuffed animal collections, pillows, and other linens. Stuff them into sturdy garbage bags and you have instant padding.

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Be a Smart Labeler

    Boxes should be numbered and labeled. Most expert packers suggest that you identify the contents of the box ("CDs") and its ultimate destination ("Family Room") on the top and on one side. Some people really get into it and color code by room or floor (marking all boxes destined for the basement in blue, for instance). If you're using a professional mover, they'll tag every box and mark it on an inventory sheet.

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The Right Way to Pack Dishes

    Surprisingly, the smartest way to pack dishes is not stacked on top of each other, but on edge. They are much less likely to break. Of course, they still need lots of padding with paper, dishtowels, whatever you can find to cushion the top, bottom, and sides of the box. Special dish packs are also available for purchase at packing stores or from the mover.

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Boxed Is Best

    The more you can box, the better. That's because it's easier to pack similar shapes together in a truck than it is to work with unusual shapes. So maybe the floor lamps, the garden tools, and the golf clubs can each go into wardrobe boxes. Put the pots from the patio into the same size box that you're using for table lamps. This little trick will make the job of loading the truck much easier. As you're packing, make sure that each box is filled to capacity and well padded. Items should not be able to shift inside or be poking out the sides.

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The "Exit" Box

    Reserve a box for those items that you know you'll need the minute you arrive. A flashlight, the coffeemaker and some coffee, tools you'll need for assembly, the telephone, paper products, and so on. Label it accordingly and make sure it's last on and first off your moving truck.

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