Quick: What's the worst part of a move? Packing—or packing? (Or is it packing?)
Stuffing your entire home into a bazillion cardboard boxes (knowing you will have to unstuff them after the move) is, by general consent, one of the worst activities ever. And while it might seem like a mindless task, keep this in mind: It's entirely possible to do it wrong.
Watch out for these pitfalls to keep your move smooth and your prized possessions safe.
1. Forgetting about the first week
It's likely you've heard the advice to keep your essentials handy—but that doesn't just mean packing an overnight bag with some clothes and your toothbrush. There's a good chance you won't get fully unpacked for several days—maybe even weeks. So you'll want to consider all of the things you might need while you're in limbo.
Add to your overnight bag other essentials such as toilet paper, towels, first-aid supplies, and anything else you think you might need in the first few days. (Did somebody say “corkscrew”?)
2. Not being proactive
Proactive packing can make the unpacking process much smoother. So what does that really mean? Consider the space you're moving into: Where will each item go? Where would you like to store your dishes, your extra toilet paper, your winter clothes? Knowing all this ahead of time means you can direct each box to its proper location, instead of dumping them all into a room and sorting them out later.
Think about your junk drawers, too, says Kristen Laxgang, co-founder of Two Girlz Packing in Chicago. Try putting miscellaneous smaller items in labeled Ziploc bags, which "makes for an easier unpack than digging through boxes."
3. Overloading boxes
There's a reason book boxes exist—books are heavy, and putting too many in a large cardboard crate guarantees a very rough day of moving.
"It's just a back-breaker," says Kelly Petersen, who co-founded Two Girlz Packing alongside Laxgang. "Magazine, books, and records should always be in file boxes or small book boxes."
For other heavy items, make sure you're keeping the box's cumulative weight into account. Packing a full set of dumbbells? Divide them equally among a number of boxes, filling extra space with lightweight items such as pillows and comforters.
4. Packing breakables the wrong way
Packing fragile items can be oh-so-stressful, but there are ways to mitigate risk. For instance, Petersen and Laxgang recommend standing plates on their side, where impact is less likely to cause damage.
Of course, you can always use tons of bubble wrap to pad your breakables. But recyclable paper is actually the best multipurpose protection, Mike Dahlman, the general manager of You Move Me in Vancouver.
"As long as glass doesn't touch glass, it's pretty stable," Dahlman says. "You just want to fill each box."
5. Being too specific with labeling
Packing up your grandmother's antique jewelry? Try using a code name so anybody who spots the boxes in your packed truck doesn't get any ideas, Petersen says.
While you don't want to confuse yourself when unpacking, this will keep others from deducing which boxes are worth a small fortune.
6. Getting sentimental
We're not saying don't pack your old love letters and high school yearbooks. But you should be prepared for what might happen when you do: hours and hours lost to reminiscing. Happy memories? Angry, tear-filled memories? Doesn't matter: It's still valuable time wasted.
"People start packing and run into all these things they haven't seen in years," Laxgang says. "If you think that's a possibility, plan in advance. Prioritize the most important rooms, and get those set up first before you move on to the memorabilia."
7. Forgetting the final sweep
Before handing over the keys, do one last sweep through your former home—including checking inside the washing machine, oven, refrigerator, and dishwasher.
You'll rest a lot better in your new home knowing nothing was left behind in your old one.