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Whether you’re hiring full-service movers or DIY’ing to save money on your upcoming move, getting at least some moving supplies is non-negotiable. So, unless you completely outsource packing (which will be expensive but will eliminate the need to get moving supplies yourself), you’ll need certain items to protect and transport your belongings. Even if you do pay someone to pack your home, you’ll still need to pack personal essentials for moving day.
Using the right packing material and moving supplies will keep you organized and your belongings safe so your move is streamlined and stress-free. Some are essential, some are just great to have. Here’s our complete list of moving supplies, packing tips, advice on how to save money on packing supplies, how to choose the right packing and moving supplies, and FAQs.
How to choose the right packing material and moving supplies
Packing material and moving supplies are your best friends for the duration of the move. Things like packing paper and bubble wrap will ensure even your most fragile items will survive being transported. A dolly and a hand truck will keep you from injuring yourself while you lug heavy items. Markers and labeling tools will keep you organized. Even everyday heroes like garbage bags and small resealable bags come in handy for packing.
Here are some steps you can take when it’s time to choose your packing and moving supplies:
Figure out your moving budget
The best way to pack for moving is to start earlier, rather than later. Our moving checklist suggests that you figure out your moving budget two months before the move. Before hiring a moving company or committing to a DIY move, figure out your overall relocation budget. Those looking to hire a moving company for a long-distance move should budget around $5,000. A local move, on the other hand, may only cost around $1,000. If moving for a job, be sure to also check with your employer about whether or not they’ll be covering expenses. The budget amount might fluctuate as you adjust, but it’s helpful to start with the ballpark figure at least. Please take advantage of our online moving cost calculator to figure out how much you can expect to spend.
Create an inventory
If you hire professionals, they will do an inventory too (in person or via a virtual survey), but you need to create your own inventory. This is a necessary step for several reasons, including figuring out what moving supplies you’ll need and in what quantities. Go through all your belongings, room by room and closet by closet. Include all cabinets and drawers. Get an idea of how much you’ve got and make notes of what can go. Take inventory of what furniture isn’t worth moving, and also do a closet purge. If it doesn’t fit, is out of style, and/or you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. The same goes for your children’s closets, linen closets and bathroom shelves. Toss, recycle or donate what you don’t need. Sell your better yet still unwanted items. It’s an undertaking, but it’s the only way to get an idea of how much you’ve got to move and to lighten your load.
Strategize your packing process
About five weeks before the move and boxing up your things, figure out a timeline for the packing process. Plan to pack all non-essentials first. These include items you won’t need in the weeks leading up to the move, including books, home decor items and electronics. Packing essentials should be last. These include kitchen items, dinnerware, clothing, toiletries, and any other items you’ll need in the days leading up to the move.
Plan out your packing supplies
Use our packing calculator to get a good idea of just how much you’ll need in terms of packing supplies. This way, you can be sure to get what you need on the first run to the store. To use the calculator, simply plug in the number of bedrooms in your home, the number of adults moving, your packing style (basic, average, professional), and your lifestyle (minimalist, modest, pack rat). The calculator will also give you the rundown of exactly what kind of boxes you’ll need by size and/or type, and the estimated total cost of your moving supplies. Take it with a grain of salt, as you might need fewer or more supplies as you go. You also don’t have to buy all the supplies. Some you can source for free (more on that below).
Order moving supplies
If you’re packing up your entire household, six weeks before the move is a good time to order all necessary moving supplies. From boxes and bubble wrap to tape and packing paper, these materials will help ensure that your belongings arrive safely at your new home. To find boxes and packing supplies in your area, try Moving.com’s box center.
A month before the move is the time to begin packing. Start by boxing up non-essentials and seasonal items first. These could include winter coats, off-season sports gear, books and any other belongings you won’t need in the weeks leading up to the move. Be sure to pack all fragile items with extra care and label boxes as clearly as possible. In addition, keep valuables and important documents separate.
Essential moving supplies
When it comes to moving supplies, cardboard boxes and packing tape are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of things that you need when you’re packing up to move, as well as on the moving day itself, and not all of them are obvious. To help you out, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of all the moving supplies and moving equipment you’ll want to consider getting for your next move.
- Boxes. Purchase cardboard boxes or rent plastic moving boxes for stowing all of your items in.
- Packing tape. You’ll need it for both building boxes and sealing them up once they’re full, so skip the dollar store packing tape and splurge a bit on tape that’s more durable.
- Packing paper. You’re going to want plenty of ink-free packing paper for wrapping fragile and/or sharp items in, as well as to provide extra cushioning and stability in boxes.
- Plastic wrap. You don’t need to buy plastic wrap that is moving-specific, but you should have at least one roll of sturdy plastic wrap that you can use to wrap around certain items.
- Bubble cushioning. Use this to wrap up extra fragile items like those made of glass, ceramic, and porcelain, and to provide some padding inside into boxes.
- Plastic baggies. Little plastic sandwich bags are fantastic for storing small items that might otherwise get lost, like furniture screws.
- Labels and/or markers. When it comes to labeling supplies, you can simply label right on boxes with a permanent marker or use labels and a marker (if you’re using plastic bins, go with the latter option).
- Scissors or box cutter. From cutting packing paper and bubble cushioning to unpacking and opening boxes, there are many ways in which scissors and/or a box cutter will come in handy during your next move.
- Cleaning supplies. While cleaning supplies aren’t exactly “moving supplies,” they are absolutely necessary to have before and after a move.
- Plastic stretch wrap. If moving yourself, you will likely need to purchase a roll of plastic stretch wrap to protect large bulky items, such as couch cushions and furniture pieces.
Moving equipment and moving tools
- Rental truck. If you’re not hiring movers, you’re probably going to need to rent a truck.
- Dollies. There are appliance dollies, furniture dollies, and utility dollies (sometimes called hand trucks), and all are ideal for helping you move heavy boxes and bulky furniture from home to truck and back again.
- Furniture pads/moving blankets. These will help cushion your items as they make the journey to your new home.
- Lifting straps. DIY movers will want to invest in a couple of sets of lifting straps, which distribute weight more evenly so that you can lift big pieces of furniture and large appliances.
- Cargo straps. Cargo straps, also called safety straps, help secure items in the truck so that they don’t shift around.
- Trailer. If the moving truck is not enough, get a trailer so that you can safely tow belongings on the back of your car.
- Ramps. Most rental trucks come with ramps, but the same can’t be said if you’re borrowing a friend’s truck or using your own.
- Bungee cords. It’s those cords that you probably already have in your trunk to transport oversized items.
- Mattress cover. Without mattress bag covers, your mattress will likely become dirty and bent out of shape while in transit.
- Furniture sliders. They will enable you to easily move heavy furniture and will protect the floors from dents and scratches.
Personal essential moving-day items
- Toiletries bag. Make it easier on yourself by packing a toiletries bag with the items you use daily and the items you know you’re likely to need right away: a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, contacts and contact solution, soap or hand sanitizer, etc.
- Toilet paper. In the same vein as the items above, this is an essential that when you need it, you really need it.
- Change of clothes. Think of a move like a trip, since you won’t be able to easily access most of your day-to-day belongings right away, and pack the clothes you’ll need to get you through it (we suggest a pair of pajamas, a change of pants and shirt, something warm just in case, and a few fresh pairs of socks and underwear).
- Towels. Both for personal last-minute use and to wrap fragile items last-minute, plus you’ll likely need them right away in the new house.
- Toolbox. To disassemble and assemble furniture, you’ll want to acquire the basic tools you need to do so (if you don’t have them already).
- Cooler with snacks and water. Good options include protein bars and individually packaged snacks, and you’ll want a bottle or two of water in there too.
- Chargers. Make sure to pack everyone’s phone charger, computer charger and any other important charging devices into a separate bag or box.
- First aid kit. Injuries do happen, so leave your first aid kit easily accessible on moving day.
- Paper towels. For cleanup at the old house and the new house.
- Garbage bags. You’ll need those for cleanup and last-minute packing.
How to save money on packing supplies
If you buy all of your packing supplies, the total cost will add up quickly. But there are some ways to cut back. Read up on how to save money on packing necessities so that you don’t end up spending more than you have to.
- Rent instead of buying. Big-ticket items like hand trucks, moving blankets, trailers and more are available for rent at many locations, including home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, truck rental companies, storage companies and moving companies.
- Don’t over-purchase. You can probably return unused supplies, but why add to your already overwhelming to-do list? Figure out exactly what supplies you’ll need and stick to it. You can always buy more later.
- Source free boxes and other moving supplies. Cardboard is durable and can easily be reused. There are plenty of places where you can get boxes for free. Call up local businesses and see if they have boxes you can pick up. Many of them just get rid of their boxes after unpacking inventory. They may also have some other useful materials for you, like bubble wrap and packing paper. Put a call out on your social media pages too, as you may have some friends and family with supplies to get rid of as well.
- Get creative with what you already have. Chances are that you already have plenty of items in your home that can serve double duty and save money on packing supplies. You probably already have markers, scissors and resealable bags. You can use suitcases and duffle bags for everything from packing your clothes to bedding to books. Use dresser drawers and garbage bags too. Instead of bubble wrap and packing paper use linens, towels and clothing as packing material. All these are perfectly fine for wrapping and cushioning fragile items.
- Lighten the load. The less you have the less you’ll need to pack, right? Sell, donate or toss what you no longer need. There are many ways to do just that, and lots of places will gladly accept your things, and even pick it up. If your stuff is in less than stellar condition, you can always hire a local junk removal company to get rid of it for you. Not ready to say goodbye to some of your belongings? Consider putting them in storage. To find self-storage in your area, use Moving.com’s Storage Center. Just type in the zip code or your city and state of residence and click the ‘find storage’ button. Moving.com will pull quotes from the closest storage unit facilities near your new home to compare.
Packing: expert tips
Packing to move might be the most time-consuming part of the whole process. Our best packing tips for moving are all about saving yourself time while still making sure that your belongings are safe. Here are some suggestions to ensure a smoother move.
- Start early. We recommend sourcing moving and packing supplies as soon as you’ve done the inventory and know at least approximately what you need for packing. Ideally, you should start ordering and sourcing moving supplies six weeks before the move. Begin packing a month in advance.
- Set up a packing station. That way, you won’t waste time looking for any supplies and can use the station to tape and label boxes. It could be a folding table or the guest bedroom.
- Set up boxes as you need them. Keep your space as clear and manageable as possible by only setting up boxes as you’re ready to fill them. Once a box is filled take it to the packing station for taping and labeling.
- Put destination rooms on the boxes. Put the name of the room the box is going to on every box. Other options are color-coding the boxes or labeling them with the contents. We only recommend the latter if you’re moving yourself. Otherwise, the movers won’t know where the boxes are going.
- Don’t forget to mark boxes as fragile. It’s especially important if you’ve hired movers as they won’t know to be extra careful with some of your boxes.
- Keep the hardware in a plastic bag. When you disassemble furniture, put small hardware in a sealable bag and label it. Tape it to the furniture it belongs to or keep it all in a box together.
- Take pictures of the box contents. Snap a quick pic of the inside of boxes after they’re packed in case you need to jog your memory later. While you won’t capture every item in the shot, it should help you get a general idea of what you’ll find in each box. This will be also helpful if any of the items are damaged during the move and need to file a claim with the moving company.
- Pack the packing supplies last. You’ll probably need at least some of them on moving day, like tape and markers, so keep them unpacked and at the packing station till the very end.
Moving supplies: Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about moving supplies.
What moving supplies can I do without?
If you are hiring professional movers you won’t need to buy or rent any of the moving equipment like dollies and moving blankets as they will bring their own. You can also skip buying some packing supplies (like bubble wrap and packing paper) and use towels and bedding instead to cushion and wrap items.
What unpacking supplies will I need?
You won’t need much, thankfully. You’ll only need scissors or a box cutter to cut through packing tape plus some garbage bags to dispose of your packing materials so you can throw them away, recycle or give to someone else later.
What is a moving blanket?
Moving blankets (sometimes called furniture padding) are heavy-duty cloth coverings used to protect furniture, appliances and other large items when you move. These blankets are designed to absorb shock and provide cushioning to whatever they are covering. Some moving blankets come with interior cushions to provide extra protection for fragile items.
Now that you know what moving and packing supplies need and where to find them, it’s time to start planning your upcoming move. Our website makes it easy to find and book the best moving company for the job. To find a reliable moving company, start by getting a moving quote. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. Best of luck and happy moving!
Moving resources: helpful moving checklists, calculators and other resources
Moving can feel overwhelming. Here are our guides and moving and packing tips to help make your move less stressful and more streamlined.