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Pack Like the Pros

If you've hired a professional moving company, you can still opt to pack all or some of the goods yourself, keeping your costs down. And here are some helpful hints to help you pack like the pros.

Your boxes and packed materials will be expected to meet specific standards. Moving company representatives will inspect your boxes and if they think items are improperly packed or cartons are susceptible to damage, they may refuse to load the items until they are repacked.

Generally things from garages, attics and storage spaces, such as holiday decorations and sentimental items are the ones that need to be repacked. Look for cartons that are torn, ripped, soiled, will not close or cannot be sealed. Replace those with fresh moving boxes. Another repacking giveaway is if you can hear the contents rattle when you shake the box. In that case, add more insulation.

What to Pack?

As a general rule, furniture and major appliances will be wrapped and padded by your moving professional. Items requiring professional disassembly and/or crating are best left to the professionals.

Moving Box Basics

Use new, high-quality packing materials specifically designed for moving to better ensure your items will safely arrive. Professional moving cartons come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are specifically suited to fit a variety of household goods. Barrel shaped boxes are great way of loading odd-shaped items into one container.

Supplies You Need

o Bundles of packing paper (clean, unprinted newsprint)

o Bubble wrap, tissue paper or paper towels for delicate items

o Rolls of PVC tape (don't use masking tape or cellophane tape)

o Tape dispenser

o Broad-tipped markers for labeling

o Scissors or sharp knife for cutting cartons

o Notebook and pen or pencil for listing contents of cartons as they are packed

o Labels or stickers for identifying boxes

Wrapping Basics

As you probably know, you'll need to wrap most items to protect them from scratching and breakage. There are a variety of materials available, including bubble pack, foam peanuts and tissue. However, most professionals use bundles of clean, unprinted newsprint (available at your moving supply store).

Start by placing a small stack of paper on a flat, uncluttered table or countertop. Round glasses and jars can be rolled up in two or three sheets of paper; always begin from a corner of the sheet and fold the sides in as you roll. Large or odd-shaped items require a similar technique. Place them in the center of the sheet and bring the corners together. When the corners come together, secure them with tape.

Before packing each carton, line the bottom with a few inches of crumpled paper for padding. Then place large, heavy items on the bottom and lighter, more fragile items on the top. Plates, books and things of a similar shape, should be loaded vertically to utilize their own maximum structural strength. Don't overload cartons; keep them to a manageable weight. Fill in any holes and top off loaded cartons with more crumpled paper. Then tape cartons securely to avoid shifting.

Labeling Tips

Follow these tips for effective easy-to-read labeling.

o Use a broad, felt-tipped marker.

o Clearly mark your name, the room it should go to and contents on each box.

o Indicate "FRAGILE" on delicates; "THIS END UP" where appropriate.

o If available, include your bill of lading (or invoice) number on every box.

Most movers suggest you start with out-of-season items. Next, pack things used infrequently. Leave until the last minute things you'll need until moving day. Here are some more professional tips:

o Empty drawers of breakables, non-transportable items and anything that would puncture or damage other items.

o Pack similar items together. For example, don't pack delicate figurines in the same carton with heavy pots and pans.

o Keep all parts or pairs of things together. Curtain rod hangers, mirror bolts and other small hardware items should be placed in plastic bags and taped or tied securely to the article to which they belong.

o Wind electrical cords, fastening them together.

o Wrap items individually in clean paper; use tissue paper, paper towels or even tissue for china, crystal and delicate items. Colored wrapping paper draws attention to very small things that might otherwise get lost in a carton. Use a double layer of newsprint for a good outer wrapping.

o Use newspapers for cushioning. Remember, the ink can rub off and embed itself onto fine china.

o Place a two- or three-inch layer of crushed paper in the bottom of cartons for cushioning.

o Build up the layers, with the heaviest things on the bottom, medium weight next and lightest on top.

o As each layer is completed, fill in empty spaces firmly with crushed paper and add more crushed paper to make a level base for the next layer, or use sheets of cardboard cut from cartons as dividers.

o Cushion well with crushed paper; towels and lightweight blankets may also be used for padding and cushioning. The more fragile the item, the more cushioning needed. Be sure no sharp points, edges or rims are left uncovered.

o Pack small, fragile, individually wrapped items separately or a few together in small boxes, cushioning with crushed or shredded paper. Place small boxes in a single large box, filling in spaces with crushed paper.

o Limit carton weight to about 50 pounds. Avoid overloading cartons but strive for a firm pack that will prevent items from shifting; the cover should close easily without force, but should not bend inward.

o Seal cartons tightly with tape except for those containing items that must be left open for the van operator's inspection.

o As you finish with each carton, list the contents on the side of the carton (for easy viewing while stacked) and in a special notebook. You might want to number and/or code the cartons as well.

o Indicate your name and the room to which each carton should be delivered at destination. Tape a sign on the door of each room at destination corresponding to the carton labels so movers can get the cartons into the proper rooms quickly.

o Put a special mark (the number 1, or the letter A) on cartons you want to unpack first at destination.

Follow all those tips and your boxes will be packed professionally and for much less the cost!

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