Planning a Move: A Guide to Packing, Organizing, and Donating

Moving is never a relaxing experience, but the way you pack can make it much easier. But a few tips, smart suggestions, and checklists should help cut the stress and get you ready for the big transition.

General Packing Tips

First, keep your essentials, like clothes, phone chargers, snacks, and medications, in a suitcase. The suitcase will stand out from the boxes, making it easier to find, and it will keep everything you need for your first night in a new place together.

Keep a small box with tools you may need as you move, like a hammer, screwdriver, and duct tape.

Pack boxes with a soft layer at the very bottom. This could be newspaper or bubble wrap. It could also be towels, throw pillows, or blankets. Pack similar items together so you can easily find them later, and keep a protective layer, like more towels, newspaper, or bubble wrap, between them.

Remember that it's better to make a few extra trips between the house and the car than for the bottom of a box to fall out. Don't overfill boxes, and be mindful of weight. Cardboard can only withstand so much.

Gathering Your Moving Supplies

There are three essential moving supplies: boxes, protective materials, and a dolly. You'll probably have to rent a dolly, but it's worth asking friends first to see if they have one you can borrow. No one wants to spend extra money on boxes and protective materials, but often, you can hunt down some for free.

Remember to think creatively. You can move your clothes in a few old suitcases or borrow suitcases from a friend: They roll and are much easier to move than boxes. You can keep files and the contents of emptied drawers in canvas bags. If you still have boxes from small home appliances, you can use them to protect those appliances in the move.

Important Packing Tips

Prevent drops, breaks, and confusion with some advance planning. Make sure to label your boxes and keep an inventory, especially of expensive and personally important items. Knowing where your sheets and pillows are at the end of the day matters. No one wants to spend the evening tearing through every box to ensure that their jewelry collection is safe, either.

Keep your list on your phone or a physical clipboard. A clipboard won't run out of batteries, but you'll always have your phone in your pocket, so if you're a worrier, use both.

If you're hiring movers, give them advance warning about heavy or large items that don't fit in regular boxes. These include everything from your elliptical trainer to the hot tub out back. Failing to alert the movers means that they may have to partially unpack the moving van to make room, which will take extra time, or they may have to reschedule with more helpers and/or additional equipment.

Packing Checklists by Room


  • Pots, pans, and skillets

  • Glasses, mugs, and cups

  • Small appliances (toaster, blender, coffeemaker, etc.)

  • Plates

  • Serving utensils

  • Cooking utensils

  • Silverware

  • Cleaning supplies

  • Dry goods

  • Defrost the refrigerator 48 hours before moving.

  • Refrigerated and frozen foods go in coolers with ice.

Dining Room

  • Decorations

  • Disassemble all furniture that comes apart.

  • Wrap polished wood furniture in blankets for protection.

  • Roll up rugs.

Living Room and Den

  • Books, DVDs, CDs, Blu-rays, etc.

  • Pack electronics with extra protection.

  • Remove light bulbs from lamps before moving them.


  • Clothes

  • Jewelry (should be kept with you)

  • Garment bags and wardrobe boxes for formal clothes

  • Protect bedding with plastic.

  • Cover the mattress with a mattress bags


  • Shower curtains, towels, bath mats

  • Keep toiletries and cleaning supplies separate.

  • Tape open containers closed.

Laundry Room

  • Tape appliance cords to the backs of appliances

  • Pack dry cleaning goods together.

  • Consider throwing out opened/mostly used laundry detergent.


  • Hand tools

  • Power tools

  • Deflated pool toys

  • Drain gas from all machines.

  • Consider throwing out hazardous/messy materials.

Home Office

  • Protect all electronics with bubble wrap.

  • Pack attachments (mouse, webcam, keyboard) separately.

  • Disassemble furniture.

  • Back up all data from your computer.

What Packing Supplies Do I Need for Moving?

You'll need three big items: boxes, protective material, and a dolly. You can also use canvas bags for a lot of things, and large trash bags make great protection and transportation for soft home goods you don't use to protect items in boxes.

Where Can I Get Free Packing and Moving Boxes and Supplies?

Try getting materials for free by reaching out to friends. Chances are good that someone you know works in a big-box store and may be able to get some empty boxes for you. You can also find boxes and bubble wrap through social media (Facebook Marketplace is a great example) for free or cheap. Hold onto newspapers, magazines, and boxes used to ship online purchases in the weeks leading up to your move. Meal kit boxes are also a great size for moving.

How Do You Pack Dishes for a Move?

The more protective material you use, the better your dishes will weather the move. Between each layer, you need bubble wrap, fabric, or newspaper. This includes between stacked plates. Don't try to fill a whole box because dishes are heavy: With enough pressure, the tape on the bottom of the box will give way.

Where Can I Donate Used Clothing and Household Items?

Look around your immediate area to find regional charity shops and donation centers where you can dispose of things you don't want to bring with you. If you are part of a religious organization, ask if the organization is in touch with any charities that can use your secondhand materials.

Where Can I Recycle Electronics I Don't Want Anymore?

Recycling electronics can be tricky, but there are some private businesses eager to take your old tech. Best Buy has an electronics recycling program, for instance, and you can find ecoATMs that accept smaller electronics all over the country.