You’ve signed the paperwork. You’ve handed over the keys. The deal is done. It’s official: You are selling your house. Which also means… you are moving.
Moving—excuse the colloquialism—sucks. No matter the joy that comes with buying a home, getting a new job or relocating to someplace interesting, the excitement fades when you think about the sorting, packing, garage sales, cleaning, loading and hauling and unloading. It’s sobering.
While the “wing it” approach might be tempting, your lack of preparation could spiral into a bigger crisis like having to pack all through the night before the buyers’ moving truck arrives. Yikes!
Fortunately moving doesn’t have to be the hangover you suffer after life’s victories. With the right tools and the right mindset, the moving process can be easier, more efficient and less of a headache.
That’s where we come in. We are here to make your move less menacing. With an extensive packing list, tips and tools for all types of movers and a handy guide to moving technology, you will soon be boss of the bubble wrap.
Moving Supplies Checklist
- Small boxes – 99 cents each / 83 cents per box for 25 or more boxes
- Medium boxes – $1.49 each / $1.33 per box for 20 or more boxes
- Large boxes – $1.99 each / $1.63 per box for 15 or more boxes
- Tall wardrobe boxes – $13.95 each
- TV boxes – 2 pack for $41.95 or 1 for $19.95
- Large picture moving boxes – $6.95 each
- Clear plastic bins – 12 for $22.99.
- Glass pack kits – $10.20 for one kit / $8.45 per box for 5 or more
- Large stretch wrap – $21.96 for 1,000 feet
- Packing paper or newspaper – $9.95 for 200 24” x 30” sheets
- Bubble wrap – $37.51 for 65 feet
- Furniture pads- $5 (and up) for 6
- Quilted blankets –$7.19 each
- Mattress bag – $4.95 for king size
- Furniture sliders 8 for $11.81
- Trash bags – 15.98 for 100 count box
- Markers – $2.79 for 2 markers and one knife
- Post-It notes – $13.99 for 12 multi-color pads
- Masking tape – $7.99 for a pack of 3
- Packing tape – $8.99 for pack of 3
- Duct tape – $14.99 for a pack of 3
- Box cutter – $7.97 each
- Measuring tape – $9.98 each
- Hand truck/dolly rental – Starting at $7
- Ratchet strap – $9.97 each
Moving Supplies: The Basics
Boxes, boxes and more boxes. You’ll need a lot of ‘em. In fact, some estimates show that packing up a three-bedroom house will require 80 to 100 boxes.
You can find boxes at a local office supply store, but they may be more affordable from a moving supplier. U-Haul and UPack also sell moving kits, which will provide the supplies you need for the specific size of your home. Plus U-Haul gives you a refund (with receipt) for unused boxes. Uboxes.com and other online retailers also sell boxes that are more affordable than the office supply big boxes.
You’ll want to get a good mix of sizes. Wardrobe boxes, large boxes, medium boxes and small boxes. We also love the Home Depot “heavy duty” line of boxes, which are perfect for heavy loads.
Here’s a quick and handy packing calculator to learn just how many of each you will need. It only asks you a few questions—number of bedrooms, whether you’re a minimalist or pack rat, and the number of people in house household—to provide a rough estimate of the number of boxes you need.
If you’re looking for more precision, this packing calculator from Home Depot drills down into whether you have a garage, dining room and basement; how many closets you have; and your TV count.
2. Clear Plastic Bins
Of course you will require fewer boxes if you have a collection of plastic bins. They are great for hauling and storing items you don’t use all the time. We like the clear bins ($17.99) from the Container Store, because they are super sturdy and good for heavy loads. For a cheaper option, check out the best-selling bins on Amazon, where you can get a pack of 12 for $22.99.
3. Cells For Boxes Or Glass Pack Kits
Concerned about packing your beautiful Bordeaux glasses in a decade’s old box smuggled from the alley behind a liquor store? We hear you. Ensure your stemware is safe with the help of a glass pack kit or cells you insert into a box. U-haul sells both (here and here). Uline sells tons of packing kits for glasses and other dishes.
4. Plastic Wrap
You never know when plastic, shrink or stretch wrap is gonna come in handy during a move. Wrap your dressers to keep the drawers in place (if you’re hiring movers, check to see if they do this for you as part of their service package). Wrap your sofa to keep it clean during the loading and unloading. Wrap that awkward piece of furniture that may or may not fall apart during transit.
Note that there are different ways to use plastic wrap: Wide is best for protecting large items and appliances (along with blankets, pads or cardboard) and narrow is good for covering long and thin items like curtain rods.
5. Packing Paper or Newspaper
Do you kick it old school and get the newspaper delivered every morning? You are in luck! You probably have a recycling bin full of packing paper. Just be warned that yesterday’s news can become tomorrow’s dirty dishware. Use newsprint as a second or third layer along with white paper or bubble wrap or crumple it up to provide cushioning around all-ready wrapped breakables or fragile items.
If you get your news online, well, you may need to find packing paper a different way. You can find packs and rolls at Home Depot or U-Haul, or you can even order from Amazon, which would get to your home in two days if you have a Prime account. Or try out this recycled packing paper for extra cushion.
6. Bubble Wrap, Bubble Corners & Bubble Bags
Many a mover has contemplated their prefered form of wrapping material. This blog even analyzed the battle between packing paper and bubble wrap (spoiler alert: They each work for different situations). If you are a bubble lover, you will be happy to know that you can find bubble cushioning in every form these days: wrap, bags, pouches, corners, etc. If you want it cheap, you can head on down to the local Walmart. Or try Home Depot and U-Haul.
7. Furniture Pads and Quilted Blankets
Paired with plastic wrap, furniture pads can help you protect your most prized pieces. Basically, if you have nice stuff, you need them. If you rarely move, you might want to consider renting blankets from U-Haul, Budget (only available with a truck reservation), Penske or any other moving company. You can also buy quilted blanket moving pads of all varieties. If you don’t want to spend cash on these items, see the Penny Pincher section below. If you’re hiring movers, be sure to ask if they will provide you with moving blankets/furniture pads on moving day.
8. Mattress Bag
You may be thinking to yourself, “Mattress bags are a racket!” Nope, this is one item you do not want to skip. U-haul moving product and service expert Sperry Hutchinson says, “A clean bed is something you take for granted. But you realize when you are loading your nice clean mattress outside and onto a truck that you should probably have a mattress bag to keep it clean.”
9. Boxes or Protectors for Frames
Framed photos or art, mirrors or glass table tops are often the easiest victims of the moving process. If you’ve kept the original packaging, put it to good use here. Or you can always purchase boxes or picture packer kits. There are also tons of videos and blogs that tell you how to pack your most breakable items (here, here and here).
10. Floor Protection
In the midst of moving, the floor is probably the last thing you are thinking about… until your freshly redone hardwood has several new scratches. Use rugs or runners you already own to protect your hardwood. Or try out furniture sliders, which defend your floors as well as your back while moving heavy furniture. If anything else, lay cardboard across the heavy traffic areas.
11. Trash Bags
Trust us. Giant, sturdy trash bags will come in handy during a move. Not just for trash (obviously), but for items that don’t really require boxes. Think stuffed animals, beach towels, pillows and your collection of old college sweatshirts.
For labeling boxes. Use whatever you have lying around the house, or get a two-pack of these permanent, non-toxic box markers from U-Haul (bonus box knife included).
13. Post-it Notes
Use Post-it Notes to label rooms in your new home, so movers know where to place the boxes. This will help them know things like which bedroom is the office, and where the family room is versus the living room. Don’t forget to make sure the box labels match the Post-it Notes.
Use the Post-its from your home office, or this variety of sticky notes comes in six different bright colors for a consistent labeling system.
Another handy labeling system uses sticky colored dots. You can color code your dots and rooms, or use the dots to help the movers know what goes in the truck and what you plan to take separately.
Masking tape, packing tape and Duct tape — you will need it all (skip the Scotch and electrical tape). Depending on the size of your house or the number of boxes you have, purchase a few rolls of masking tape and at least three to four rolls each of packing tape and duct tape.
Use the masking tape for labeling (it’s not strong enough for packing purposes), use packing tape for sealing most boxes, and use Duct tape for sealing heavy boxes and securing your possessions in place. Show your skills with a tape gun dispenser.
You can find all of these at your local grocery store, moving supply retailer, home improvement store and so on. If you like to order online, check out Amazon’s best-seller list for different tape varieties.
15. Utility Knife or Box Cutters
Break out your trusty utility knife and purchase a second; sharing will just slow down the process. We like this Dewalt snap-off knife because it’s well made, small enough to fit in your pocket and easier to use than bigger box cutters.
16. Measuring Tape
Never fail, every move includes a realization that at least one piece of furniture will not fit through a doorway, up a staircase or around a corner. Before your couch is lodged in some impossibly tight spot, ensure you have measuring tape on hand. You are welcome.
17. Dolly & Hand Trucks
Moving-related injuries are no joke. If you’re planning to lift heavy items without the help of movers, spare yourself aches and pains and rent dollies, carts and hand trucks from your local moving supplies store or home improvement store.
18. Ratchet Straps and Bungee Cords
You don’t want your great grandmother’s armoire or your new curved 4K TV sliding around the back of a moving truck. Invest in ratchet straps and bungee cords (get them all at home improvement stores or moving supply stores). Especially if you’re relying on your buddy with a truck (don’t we all have a buddy with a truck?) for moving help, you’ll need plenty of options to keep all your belongings from flying into traffic. Skip the nylon rope this time. As Hutchinson from U-haul says, “Most people are not skilled in the art of knot tying.”
19. Cleaning Supplies
Moving is dirty work, and the dirt usually ends up all over your white sofa and your good china. Make sure you have a solid collection of cleaning supplies, from all-purpose cleaners to dish soap to wood cleaners. Rags and bucket included.
Check out our deep cleaning supplies checklist for everything you’ll need.
Round it up all in one or two bins for easy access.
20. Your Home’s Inventory List
Moms everywhere have lectured their children with phrases similar to, “Organization is the key to success.” Make your mom proud and start the moving process with a home inventory list. Take stock of what you own, ensure nothing goes missing and get an understanding of what you may no longer need. For example, your inventory says you have three toasters and a toaster oven… You may have an idea of what’s going on Craigslist.
Tips and Tools for Different Types of Movers
The number 1 tip we can offer you is to start early. As soon as you know you are planning to move, book a moving company or a moving truck. “Locally, (buyers and sellers) don’t think they need to book a moving company two months in advance,” says Deb Parker, owner and broker at Parker & Co. Real Estate Services and a real estate agent ranking in the top 3% in Billings, Montana. “Even though you are just moving across town, prepare now.”
Parker acknowledges that moving isn’t easy, but it helps to be mentally prepared. One of the most challenging parts of the move, she says, is the mindset.
“Often you think of the move being from the time you start packing up to when you arrive at your new home, but when you make that decision, you are mentally starting to move out,” she says. “It’s a lot longer of a process than people realize.”
Part of that mental preparation comes down to being organized, making plans and having the right supplies and know-how for every situation.
The Cross-Country Mover
- Remember to prepare for life after you leave one home and arrive at another. Make sure you have easy access to clothes and all the essentials (ahem, toothpaste) during the trip. Have air mattresses, blackout curtains and light bedding at the ready in case you haven’t unpacked all your boxes before bedtime.
- Pack lots of healthy snacks and food for the road, including fresh fruits and veggies. You can only survive so long on burgers and chips.
- Get professional help. Cross-country moving is hard work. You may think your family can handle it: your wife driving the minivan with the dogs and the kids, while you drive the moving truck while towing your car. You are just one flat tire away from disaster. It will be challenging enough hauling your family, pets and vehicles (not to mention dealing with buying and selling your home), so hire a pro.
- Spare car key – If you can’t find your spare have one made before the big move, costing you anywhere from $120 to $200.
- Lock – $13.95 will keep your belongings safe while you are luxuriating in America’s finest motels and truck stops.
- Toilet paper, paper towels, wet wipes – $6.97, $4.99 and $2.39
- Flashlight ($12.97) – Whether you get a flat tire in the middle of the night or you arrive at your new home without electricity, you will need something brighter than your phone
- Purge, purge and purge more.
- Do not hold on to items because you plan to hand them down to future generations. Monica Friel, a longtime professional organizer and president of Chaos to Order in Chicago, says young people today tend to collect less. “Younger generations are not as focused on things like knickknacks and china,” she says. “So think about what you are saving and why. Think about who are you planning to hand this down to and whether they really want it.” Instead, give away keepsakes now to people who will cherish them.
- Give yourself little goals. Friel suggests whittling drawers full of stuff down into a shoe box or two. “Whether it’s nail polish or craft supplies, work to purge and toss out what you don’t need until it fits in that box,” she says. “And then I put all the small boxes into one larger box for hauling.”
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – $9.69 in hardcover
- Square – Make your garage sale a success with the help of this little device, which will help you accept credit card payments. 2.9% and 30 cents per transaction
- Efficient storage ideas – Focus on creative ways to transport and store your stuff, such as underbed storage from $9.99 and up.
- When you are moving into a bigger home, there is a tendency to want to fill the space with more furniture. But before you drop big money on bigger furniture, move in and see how your current furniture fits in the space.
- Purge: Yes, even if you are upsizing, you still don’t want to move unwanted stuff across town or cross country. “If you keep too much, you can’t find what’s important,” Friel says. “No matter how much extra space or how little space you have, it’s good to know what you own.”
- Make sure each spare room has a specific purpose. Whether it’s a guest room or a gym or a storage space, defining your spaces will help ensure that your extra rooms do not turn into cluttered catch-alls.
- Tape measure – This Stanley PowerLock 25-foot measuring tape ($9.88) should do the trick.
- Floor plan mapper – Need help envisioning how you will lay out your much bigger new home? Work on your home layout before you even move in. Use MagicPlan to create a digital floor plan, add furnishings and even get cost estimates on materials you might need for a project. $2.99 per plan
- Overstock.com app – You’re probably going to need new furniture, art, rugs, etc. to fill up all those empty rooms. The free Overstock.com app available on the iPad and iPhone offers augmented reality to see how items would look in your home. Now get shopping!
The Frequent Mover
- There is a tendency for frequent movers to unpack only the basics and then leave much of their belongings in boxes. “I’m a big proponent of making the most of the space you have,” Friel says. “Make your home something you enjoy and love. Whether you are there for 6 months or 16 years, unpack everything fully, get rid of what you don’t want and enjoy what you love. When you have that extra room that’s full of boxes, it doesn’t honor that space and it doesn’t honor the money you are spending on that space. Get those boxes open now, and live in your moment.”
- Consider renting furniture. If you move a lot, you probably do not enjoy lugging a dining room or living room set from coast to coast and back again. Check out CORT, which offers home furniture rental kits for professionals, military families and students alike.
- Know where the important stuff is at all times. Make a binder that includes all your important documents, including birth certificates and social security cards, and home information.
- Multi-use hand truck ($249.69) – Instead of taking 50 trips from house to truck, use a multi-use dolly to make the moving process easier and more efficient. Plus, it’s great for moving your kids to college—and then back home again.
- Moving straps ($30.99)– If you are a DIY-type of person, moving straps will allow you to lift big, heavy appliances and furniture without the need for hired muscle.
- Home inventory software – Keep track of your stuff during, before and after moves with home inventory software like Moving Van, $1.99. Check out our technology section below for more ideas.
The Family Move
- Have your movers pack your kitchen boxes last, so when you arrive at your destination, you can easily unpack your kitchen. This is a good tip for everyone—but especially for parents. No one wants to face a toddler with low blood sugar, right? Plus, the kitchen takes the longest to unpack, so it’s good to get the process started quickly.
- Pack overnight bags for everyone in the family for more nights than you expect. “Make sure you have the pacifier and blankie with you in the car and pack for at least a couple of nights in case there are issues,” Friel says.
- Parents tend to have collections of art and projects from their children’s school days. Instead of moving a museum’s worth of construction paper and papier mache, consider taking digital images of the art projects for a coffee table book. Then you can actually enjoy their creativity and cuteness.
- Kids boxes – Make your kiddos smile and engage them in the moving process with these silly boxes from U-Haul. Boys and girls, $1.95
- Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family’s Transition to a New Home – $5.86 in hardcover
- Camera ($69.99) Prepare for emotional challenges by letting your child to take photos of their old house and room, their neighborhood, friends they may be leaving and their school.
- Snacks, snacks and more snacks… also water – Prices vary, but pack these types of foods for extra energy.
- If you are an art collector or have some nice pieces that you value, call the professionals. Professional movers know how to pack and transport delicate, breakable and valuable pieces.
- Take your home inventory list to the next level, and include value and condition for each piece. Take digital photos as well, and include the photo ID for each item on your spreadsheet.
- Buy extra packing paper to ensure you have enough to sufficiently cover your knickknacks, china, etc. Purchase bubble pockets or padded pockets for even extra padding.
- Use glass divider kits for your little knick knacks or small, breakable items.
- Foam pouches – 25 packs for $11.50 to pack your dishes.
- Adhesive rolling tape that reads “Fragile” ($7.99) so your hand doesn’t cramp up writing it over and over.
- Heavy duty and double- or triple-walled boxes (From $25 and up) – A stronger box with reinforced walls can ensure that nothing is squashed and no collectable is devalued.
The Clothes Horse
- Don’t forget to utilize the bottom part of your wardrobe boxes during the move. Store shoes or sweaters underneath your hanging clothes to maximize space.
- Analyze your clothes piece by piece. What’s outdated? What doesn’t fit anymore? Donate anything that reminds you of “the good old days.”
- Pack your garments into similar groups: by season, by fabric or by purpose. It’ll be easier to find what you need, and similar items will necessitate similar treatment.
- This may seem obvious, but make sure your clothes are clean (no judgement). If you have a lengthy trip, you do not want your favorite duds ruined by mildew or mold.
- Clear stackable shoe boxes – If you love your shoes, you need to protect your shoes. Invest in clear stackable shoe boxes for both moving and storing your Jimmy Choos or Nikes. $7.99 each
- Vacuum storage bags – The ultimate space saving tool for people who love shopping and clothing. $29.99 for hanging bags; works with any vacuum.
- Hat boxes – (From $7.99 and up)
The Penny Pincher
- Seek out free boxes and supplies. There’s always the good ol’ liquor store and grocery store drive-bys. Scout for boxes weeks before you move, so you know how many boxes you need to purchase. Also check local Facebook buy/sell/trade pages and Craigslist to find people giving away boxes, bubble wrap and packing paper.
- There is no need to buy prepackaged packing paper and fancy packing dispensers. Grab a stack of newspapers and get to work. Use clothes, towels, sheets and blankets for padding appliances and technology and separating breakables.
- Don’t even think about moving empty luggage, duffles, backpacks or bags. Take advantage of these carriers and fill them full. If you have a hard shell rooftop car carrier, make sure it’s utilized during packing.
- According to U-Haul moving product and service expert Sperry Hutchinson, timing is everything. You can save money if you plan your move for Sunday through Thursday. U-Haul and other companies offer lower rates mid week — as well as mid month and during the off season (pretty much any time that’s not summer). Plus, banks and utilities are open mid week, so you can take care of all your business.
- Thinking about skipping some of the aforementioned supplies? Want to move your flat screen TV cross country with nothing more than duct tape and packing paper? Don’t think of packing supplies as superfluous, think of them as cheap insurance. “Ensure that everything you own will get to your new home,” Hutchinson says. “You don’t want to go through the emotional process and the financial process of sentimental or important possessions being broken.” Remember that packing supplies are more affordable than replacing your beloved keepsakes.
- Sell, sell sell. Everything you own will cost you money to move, so downsize before packing up. Plus, you make extra money to help pay for boxes, which you can resell later.
- Portable moving container ($800 for PODS) – Moving cross-country but can’t afford a professional movers? Consider packing your own portable moving container and letting the company ship it. Price depends on distance moved and length of time, but pricing starts at
- Letgo – Sell your used items locally on the popular Letgo app. Just snap a photo of the thing you want to sell, set a price and post it. Interested buyers will message you.
For Moving in Extreme Weather
- Some collectables, art, glassware and technology can be harmed by fluctuations in temperature. Consider keeping these sensitive items in the cab of the moving truck or in your personal vehicle.
- Prepare for the “what ifs.” You may not have to worry about rain or snow on moving day, but you should prepare for it nonetheless. Be flexible and be mentally prepared to handle any challenge that moving day throws at you.
- When it’s hot out, you are not the only thing sweating. Consider the items that may not do well in high temps for an extended period of time, and prioritize getting those things—like food and electronics—transferred first.
- Consider having your utilities turned on before you arrive, and turn on the air conditioning or heat before you unload and unpack.
- Does the forecast call for 95-degree temps? Start early and get the loading done before noon. Remember to stay hydrated and to apply sunscreen (we are starting to sound like your mom, aren’t we?).
- Make sure you have shoveled your driveway and walkways before movers arrive. That’s your responsibility.
- Carpet protector – Rain, sleet and snow can ruin a moving day. Invest in carpet film protectors for $36.48 (also good for painting) to ensure that your carpet isn’t destroyed in the moving process.
- De-icer – Make sure your driveway and sidewalks are no-slip zones. This Safe Paw Non-Toxic Ice Melter won’t hurt Fido and is under $20 on Amazon.
- Extra plastic wrap – The moisture from rain or snow can leak through moving blankets or pads, so have extra plastic wrap on hand to keep water out. Get 1,000-foot rolls from Home Depot for $21.96 apiece.
Getting Techie With Your Big Move
Here are some helpful tools for the modern mover.
- Sortly: An app for the uber organized. Sortly allows you to create an inventory of all your stuff and organize where each item is packed. Includes photos, QR codes and checklists.
- Unpakt: No need to call a bunch of moving companies to compare pricing. This app is your one-stop digital stop. Find, hire and manager movers through this easy app.
- Dolly: Dolly is a little like Uber for moving. Need an extra hand during your move? Need someone to pick up a Craigslist find? Need some help taking a load of trash to the dump? Dolly is your new “friend with a truck.” Their staff are all independent contractors who have been background checked. Plus, they won’t give you a four-hour window for arrival. They will be there when you want them there, gosh darn it.
- Thumbtack: Let’s face it: You need help. Thumbtack ensures that movers, landscapers, house cleaners and interior designers are no more than a click away. It’s the easiest way to find pros in every corner of the U.S.
- Moving Checklist Pro: This handy app is your digital checklist, helping you remember to cancel your utilities, book your movers, change your address and so on.
- Movinghelp.com: This U-Haul-run site helps you compare moving companies and read reviews as well as booking your movers.
No matter the type of mover you are, start the moving process early and don’t wait until the last minute to pack the less utilized areas of your home.
“Look in areas that you don’t think about: attics, basement, the garage,” Friel says. “There are so many little items in those spaces that get forgotten, and focus on those areas as soon as you can.”
With the help of our experts, supplies list and countless tips, you are certainly one big step closer to having a less stressful and more efficient move. So what are you waiting for? Get packing!