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Packing Guide

Packing is a vital part of a successful move and it's one of the hardest things to get right. We may all think we can pack but when faced with boxing up our entire possessions for a move to a tight deadline then it can quickly become a daunting process! If you really can't face packing up your home yourself then you can always opt to pay your chosen moving company to do it for you. Some of them will even unpack for you at the other end!

The truth is that most of us will pack for ourselves. We can make the whole process easier by being organized about it and doing as much of it as possible in advance. Even if you hate making lists, now is a good time to make one. You'll feel so much better once you can tick things off as completed!

The first thing you need to do is to think about packing materials. Don't simply assume that you can make do with what you have in the house. Using refuse sacks, bags and old boxes to pack your prized possessions is no guarantee of protection. You should, however, be looking to fill suitcases, travel bags, drawers and the insides of wardrobes etc., with stuff. This adds ballast and also maximizes your use of space.

You can often hire or buy special packing cases and materials from your mover. This is a worthwhile option. Be careful about recycling old cardboard boxes. Cardboard degrades and the last thing you need is to see everything that you carefully packed fall out of the bottom of a box before it even gets to the removal van. As a guideline you should be looking to have a store of the following packing materials:

  • Strong boxes of various sizes - if you'll be packing books, Get hold of book boxes. These don't hold hundreds of books but hold enough to guarantee that each box can be carried by one person!
  • Scissors and a craft knife
  • Something to wrap and protect fragile items such as bubble wrap, newspaper, packing paper etc. Remember that it will cheaper to recycle old newspapers but the ink may come off on items and you'll have to spend time cleaning them afterwards.
  • Marker pens so you can identify what's in what box.
  • Rolls of packing tape.
  • Screwdrivers and other tools to dismantle any furniture as necessary.

Before you start to pack check the terms and conditions of your moving company and see what they say about packing. If you're packing yourself, your movers have no quality control and will often refuse liability for damage. They may also expect you to provide a list of valuable items for insurance purposes. It's important to be as thorough as possible here otherwise you could find accident claims virtually impossible. If you're at all worried about valuable items or those of sentimental value then physically transport them yourself. You also need to talk to your mover about things they can't move - generally these will be flammable or hazardous materials but some movers won't transport houseplants!

The worst part of packing is the beginning. No matter how small your home, you can guarantee that you'll look at it and not know where to begin. This is where you need to be organized. If you wander round the house packing bits and bobs as the mood takes you then you won't really get anywhere. It's better to take a military approach and tackle one room at a time. If you're starting way ahead of schedule you'll find that you won't pack everything in the room all at once as there will be things you'll continue to use before your moving day. That doesn't matter - you'll feel better and achieve more if you take a structured approach.

At this point you need to get a moving book. This can just be a cheap notepad but it's going to be your bible through the move and will make your life much easier. Every time you pack a box or container, write the room it comes from/should go to in big letters on the top. Give it a number. Write the number in your moving book and a brief description of the contents. This will make it much easier for you to unpack essentials in your new home. Identifying the destination room of each container will also help your movers - they can simply place stuff where it should go rather than piling it up in any old room. Some people use color coding for this and stick colored stickers on the doors of each room in the new house. All the movers have to do is match the marker or sticker color on the box or item with the color of the room.

Before you start packing boxes you need to take your moving book through each room of the house and look at large items of furniture. The chances are that if they got where they are, you can get them out again. But don't presume this is the case. If you built them from a flat-pack then they might be too big to get out of the door or down the stairs. If this is the case, you need to dismantle them and get them ready to be loaded with plenty of time. This is NOT something you want to be doing the night before your move. It's a good idea to dig out original instructions for these items and put them in individual bags with all the screws and nuts etc. Put these bags in a single box that is clearly marked so they can be easily found.

The first box you should prepare is your 'Essentials' box (es). You'll fill this as you go along and it should be loaded into the van last and unloaded first. You can put whatever you think you'll need in here - it's really useful if you're just too tired to unpack after the move. You could include a change of clothes, night-clothes, toys, toiletries, light-bulbs, drinks, a kettle, tea/coffee, cups, a torch, a telephone - whatever you need to get through the move and possibly even a night with no unpacking!

It's useful to try to keep similar kinds of items together when you pack but also important to make sure that the weight of your boxes is evenly distributed. Don't be tempted to overfill boxes with heavy things - it's far better to place a few heavy items at the bottom and then pack the rest of the container with lighter things. Boxes should be filled to capacity at all times. Bear in mind that they will generally be stacked on top of each other and they need to be stable enough to cope with this. You can always fill spaces at the top with towels, bedding, curtains and clothes. This will avoid boxes breaking and will also make sure that they can be easily lifted. Remember that each box should be light enough to be carried by a single person. If it takes two, it'll just take longer.

It's absolutely essential to mark boxes that contain fragile items with a clearly visible and large FRAGILE! You have to do everything you can to make sure that your movers take due care and attention. But, it's your responsibility to pack these items carefully. Firstly, cushion the bottom of the box with bubble wrap or paper. Then wrap every item in at least one layer of your chosen packing material. Pack these items sensibly - they need to fit together comfortably enough to avoid moving around but not so tightly that they put pressure on each other. You can use packing material to fill gaps and should finally put another layer of bubble wrap or paper on top.

If you have a garden/yard or garage take some time early on to think about what you'll be moving. Most things will just go straight in the vehicle or in boxes but things such as lawnmowers and power tools need to be thoroughly drained of any petrol etc., to avoid leaks.

You also need to take care with your large and valuable appliances and goods. Read the manuals for large appliances - they often contain information about necessary steps to secure them. For example, fridges and freezers need to be thoroughly defrosted and washing machines drained before they are transported to avoid water leaks. Their doors and loose inside pieces such as shelves and drawers also need to be tied up or taped down to stop them moving in transport. If you can, pack electrical equipment such as TVs and stereos in their original boxes. This not only tells your movers to take care but also minimizes damage, as the boxes are exactly the right size for the item. If you don't have the original boxes try to find ones that are of a similar size and pack any gaps with tightly wadded paper. If you have a turntable, remember to tie down the player arm!

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