How to Pack Up Your House and Move Safely During Coronavirus

Editor’s note: All of HomeLight’s coronavirus information for buyers, sellers, and agents is available on our COVID-19 hub.

Packing up your entire house is never a fun or easy task, but COVID-19 has thrown movers a few additional curveballs. Quick and frequent runs to the hardware store are pretty much out of the question — and you’ll want to think twice about using borrowed or “found” moving boxes. Plus, now’s not the time to call in favors from friends, as much as you’d love to bribe them with some pizza and beer in exchange for their help.

If your move must go on, here we’ll cover how to get your moving supplies safely and on time, sanitize all your packaging, and strategies for packing during quarantine to make the best use of some extra down time.

A box used to pack and move during coronavirus.
Source: (Brandable Box / Unsplash)

Order your moving supplies early

Since trips outside the home are discouraged, you’ll want to have a comprehensive list of moving supplies ordered online well before you start packing up. Most services are reporting delayed shipping times between 5-7 business days after the order is placed. Work backwards from move-out day and allow for some padding in between.

HomeLight’s comprehensive moving supplies checklist includes the following:

You can order most of these supplies from Staples, U-Haul, or Home Depot for contactless delivery or pickup. It might be tempting for Prime members to go with Amazon, but the online retailer is giving shipment priority to essential items, so it’s hard to know exactly when your stuff will arrive.

Make sure you have enough boxes

Real estate agents and moving experts agree: now is not the time to scour the neighborhood for used boxes. With Craigslist and the liquor store off the table, here’s what you can do instead:

  • Use “box alternatives” you can find in your home.
    Pack items in laundry baskets, suitcases, and trusty old IKEA bags, which can hold up to 55 pounds.
  • Turn kitchen pots into packing boxes.
    You can fit spices and other small kitchen items inside cooking pots. Put a dish towel in the pot to avoid clanging, and don’t forget to secure the pot lids with rubber bands or packing tape.

Even if you use all the containers around your home to pack, you’ll probably still need a few moving boxes. The average three-bedroom home will require between 80-100 boxes to move. Try these sites to meet your new moving box needs:

  • Uboxes.com.
    Buy new boxes for an average 20% cheaper than the competition from this discount site. While contact and customer service hours are limited, they are still shipping on a regular schedule.
  • U-Haul
    If you prefer an assortment of boxes, grab a kit from U-Haul customized for the size of your home. The company also provides an assortment of specialty sized boxes perfect for a flatscreen TV or mattress.
  • PODS
    If you’re doing a DIY move with a portable storage container, you can buy moving kits, which include boxes and packing materials that perfectly fit into your container size.

You should also avoid renting moving blankets and instead rely on blankets, towels, bedding, or sleeping bags from your own home as padding.

Stock up on sanitizer

In addition to moving supplies, you’ll want to stock up on disinfectants and sanitizers for your home as you invite movers in, and ensure that boxes have been properly disinfected. Use one of the EPA-registered household disinfectants or dilute household bleach (5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water) for a DIY disinfectant spray. If both are unavailable, solutions with at least 70% alcohol can be used. Alternatively, you can use high-proof spirits, rubbing alcohol, essential oils, and paper towels to create a homemade batch of Lysol wipes.

A garage used to pack and move during coronavirus.
Source: (John Paulsen / Unsplash)

Take precautions with your supplies deliveries

Early studies emerging from Harvard show that the risk of being exposed to coronavirus via delivered packaging is low. However, given that the virus was detected on cardboard for up to 24 hours (albeit at low levels), we recommend playing it safe with the following tips as your supplies packages begin to arrive:

  • Leave packages at the door for a few hours
    To avoid infection from any traces of the virus that could have made its way onto the packaging, leave your deliveries outside or in a safe remote location — like the garage or mudroom — for up to 24 hours. After they’ve sat for a bit, bring them in and wipe the packages down with disinfectant. Wash your hands immediately after you handle any packages.
  • Remove outer packaging outside
    If you’re looking to be extra cautious, you can get rid of the outer packaging of a delivery before you bring the package inside. Pay attention to which surfaces you touched, or the package touched, and disinfect them immediately.
  • Use a staging space in your home as you pack
    As soon as moving boxes are packed and ready to go, put them in a low-traffic staging area, like a garage. If you’re using professional movers, you can prevent the spread by limiting the trips they need to take into the home.

Packing priorities during quarantine

Right off the bat, start packing away non-essential items in your home, including:

  • Wall hangings
  • Out of season clothing
  • Holiday and home decor
  • Special occasion and infrequently used dishes

Next, before you start packing anything else, start thinking about your overnight bag. Typically, this bag is limited to toiletries and a few sets of clothes to get you through the first few days in a new place. Amid a pandemic, you want to be extra thorough and make sure you set aside items you’re using most right now. Because you’re encouraged not to leave the home unless absolutely necessary, plan for a larger-than-normal overnight bag for everyone in your home and be sure to:

  • Keep iPads or other entertainment for the kids easily accessible to help with the move transition.
  • Put anything you need to work remotely (laptop, chargers, extra screens) in a backpack.
  • Double check for all your essential toiletries — if you forget the toothpaste or (god forbid) toilet paper, running to Walgreens is a little more complicated than it used to be.
  • Set aside paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic cutlery.
  • Plan for a few nonperishable meals with a food bag including PB&J, instant mac n’ cheese, cereal, or the like in case getting to the grocery store is difficult.

Consult HomeLight’s comprehensive moving checklist to make sure you have everything. Label boxes or bags with any of your essentials, and plan to have them travel with you, not with the movers or in the van. This ensures you can access them ASAP when you reach your new home without risk of contamination. (You’ll want to let whatever the movers have touched sit for 24 hours if you can).

Next, with your essentials identified and set aside, consider how your lifestyle has changed over the past few weeks and how it may have drastically altered your packing priorities. You may decide to:

  • Pack your fancy clothes and office attire first — your sweatpants and comfy clothes last.
  • Leave your home office intact until right before the move so you can maintain productivity.
  • Consider what cooking utensils you’re using most frequently and keep those together in a ZipLock bag since eating out is a challenge right now.

Don’t underestimate how long it’ll take to pack

Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, don’t count all the extra time you’re spending at home leading to extra productivity.

It would take the average person 3-5 days to pack a three-bedroom home — but that’s if they were theoretically going nonstop without breaks. And that figure also doesn’t factor in the time it takes to wipe down boxes, entertain the out-of-school kids, and cook most meals at home — aka the joys of quarantine. So try not to leave work until the last minute, even if you feel like you have the time.

Use any extra time at home to sort and donate

Anything you can do to donate what you don’t need will be time well-spent. The more items you can get rid of, the fewer boxes you’ll have that need to be handled by movers. Donate non-perishable food items or unwanted clothing to those who might need it. Many traditional drop-offs, including Goodwill, aren’t accepting donations at this time, but here’s a few ways to get creative:

Leave your residence spotless for the new owners

Top-selling San Antonio real estate agent Reagan Williamson has been helping a lot of real estate clients through big moves before and after the pandemic. While he hasn’t seen much change in the time of COVID-19 as far as moving goes, one thing he has noticed is that his seller clients are hypervigilant about cleaning for the new owners. “Sellers really want to do a deep clean and leave a spotless home for the buyers coming in,” Williamson says. Probably something you planned to do anyway, but it’s a good reminder!

A pizza delivered while moving during coronavirus.
Source: (Aurélien Lemasson-Théobald / Unsplash)

How to unpack and move in safely

Following CDC guidelines, Ricardo Ramos-Seyffert, marketing manager of one of America’s most popular moving services, Allied Van Lines, encourages customers to do “a deep cleaning of the new home before unpacking, or observation of a quarantine period between the delivery and move-in dates.” If boxes were transported by professional movers, they should be disinfected or kept in the garage or other low traffic area for at least 24 hours before you open them.

Go ahead and get takeout!

And after all that work, we wouldn’t blame you for craving some takeout for dinner. Early studies are showing it is safe to order takeout or delivery, as long as you can opt for a contactless drop-off. The biggest risk of transmission comes from interaction with the delivery person, not from the food or the container it’s in. But, to be safe, dispose of the packaging as soon as possible, and wash your hands thoroughly before you eat.

Plan ahead and play it safe

No one loves the idea of packing and moving, and circumstances surrounding the coronavirus have surely made a monumental task even more challenging. But if you order your supplies plenty early, pack in a strategic order, and stage your belongings to avoid contact with movers, you can help to make it a more manageable experience for everyone involved and get to your next destination as safely as possible.

Header Image Source: (kurhan / Shutterstock)