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A woman is smiling as she packs up a moving box in her living room. There’s a houseplant, a bicycle, and two other moving boxes in the room beside her.

Wondering What to Pack First When Moving? This Is the Only Checklist You Need

Packing Tips and Hacks

by LB Gabriel Posted on October 25, 2023

Boxing up your belongings and deciding what to pack first when moving sounds daunting — and for good reason. Think about every nook and cranny, cabinet and closet, attic and storage space. Your house holds more than you think, and putting all of those items in boxes is going to be time-consuming. You’ve got two options:

  1. Work proactively, tackling section by section at a reasonable pace until it’s all done or
  2. Wait until the last minute, pull a few all-nighters, and stress yourself out to the max trying to get everything done in a matter of days.

What’s that I hear? You want to go with option one? Smart choice. 

And don’t think you’re in this thing alone. This article won’t just help you figure out what to pack first when moving to a new home. It also breaks the list down in chronological order, so you can figure out your packing plan of attack and work more efficiently. We’ve got you.

How Long Before Moving Day Should I Start Packing?

Have you officially set the wheels in motion to move? Then that’s when to start packing for a move. This may sound like overkill, but chances are, if you’re selling your home, your realtor is going to ask you to clear out the clutter to make your home more appealing to potential buyers.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to hurry up and get your place rented so you don’t have to continue to show it, decluttering can go a long way in making your place more desirable. Regardless, this is a great time to get rid of the things you no longer want or need. 

But what about the stuff you still want to keep that needs to be kept out of sight? That’s where a PODS portable moving container comes into play. When you move with PODS, you have the freedom to start packing and loading as early as you want! Imagine packing up all those holiday decorations, winter clothes, and precious hand-me-downs and then having somewhere to put them that isn’t the hallway or the guest room (Crazy! We know!). And beyond just giving you space to breathe while you prepare for your move, loading your things in a moving container as you pack them up also makes showing your house a whole lot easier (your real estate agent or landlord will thank you). 

A man carefully loads his PODS portable moving and storage container.

Here’s What To Pack First When Moving — And What Can Wait Until the Last Minute.

If you’ve completed your home purge, stocked up on moving supplies, and hired a professional moving company, you’re ready to start packing. Here’s a play-by-play:

1. Start With the Stuff in Storage (5+ Weeks Out).

If you have holiday decorations, gift-wrapping supplies, old baby clothes, unused furniture, and more sitting in storage, go ahead and prep these items for packing. If you’re not currently using them, you likely won’t need them between now and your moving date. These items are perfect for the back section of your PODS moving container.

Wondering how to pack those oddly shaped holiday decorations for a move? They may be sitting in plastic containers now, but it’s better to pack them safely in boxes rather than loading those plastic bins straight into your portable moving container. Make sure fragile items are wrapped in bubble cushioning roll or tissue, and, when loading your box, fill any open spaces with extra padding. This can be done with more packing materials, or you could use something soft, like towels or linens.

Q: What items should I move first?
A: If you’re using a PODS portable moving container, we recommend packing and loading your unneeded storage items first. The main goal, though, is to think about anything that won’t be needed during the time you’re packing and moving — especially large items. Getting these things loaded will give you extra time and space to sort through the smaller stuff.

2. Move to Out-of-Season Clothes (4-5 Weeks Out).

The same principle applies for out-of-season clothing. Unless your move is months and months away (or in a totally different climate), think about the weather and pack up the pieces that you won’t need until the temperatures shift. If you’re packing up a lot of bulky sweaters and puffy coats, use vacuum-sealed storage bags to take up less space in your boxes, suitcases, or drawers.

Use small or medium-sized boxes for packing all clothing items. Putting them in a large box will make the box too heavy. For more clothing pack hacks, check out this article on the PODS Blog. It’ll show you how to roll your clothes (that’s right, no folding), so they take up the least amount of space inside your moving boxes.

3. Wrap Up the Fragile Items (3-4 Weeks Out).

If you’re in the middle of moving, you’re probably not throwing a dinner party, right? We don’t recommend packing up your everyday dishes just yet, but now is a great time to start carefully wrapping your fine china, crystal, silver, and other pieces that aren’t for daily use. Remember to label each fragile box clearly, though, so anyone moving or handling the boxes knows to handle them with care.

If you’re loading fragile boxes into a PODS container, they should be in a snug space where they won’t be crushed from the top or sides. 

A couple works together to move a mattress off of a bed. They’re preparing to pack it for a move.

4. Pack Up the Guest Bedroom (3 Weeks Out).

Guest bedrooms don’t get a lot of regular use, so chances are, you can pack up these rooms and any other rooms you’re not frequenting. Bonus points if you can go ahead and break down beds and wrap up dressers at this time, but you may be expecting some out-of-town packing help during this transition time between closing on your current home and moving into your new one.

If you’re able to move the guest bedroom rug, go ahead and roll it up, then secure it with plastic wrap. It may be tempting to stack rugs in the bottom of your container or moving truck, but this can be a very tricky situation to maneuver. 

Pro Tip: If your guest room dressers are sturdy and have available drawer space, use them to store your out-of-season clothing items. Remove the drawers and secure them with stretch wrap to keep things from falling out. Then, these drawers can be stored in your PODS moving container. Read more about this and other pack hacks on the PODS Blog.

5. Box Up the Books, Artwork, and Decor (2-3 Weeks Out).

Artwork and home decor are nice to look at, but they’re not vital to everyday life. Pack these items up two to three weeks before your move date. The same goes for the books lining your shelves. You can keep one or two out for entertainment, but the rest are ready for boxes.
Speaking of boxes, it’s tempting to load tons of books into one big box, but this makes for a very heavy package. Instead, pack like a pro by putting heavy items like books into smaller containers, so you can lift them more easily.

6. Load Up the Linens (2 Weeks Out).

Keep one set of sheets for the beds people are sleeping in until the night before the move, but pack up the extra linens, towels, and blankets two weeks ahead of time. If you have extra linens that aren’t needed during your packing timeline, you can use them as padding in other boxes.

7. Tackle the Toy Box (1-2 Weeks Out).

For those with kids — or adults with intricate hobbies — now is the time to go through those toy boxes and storage bins to figure out what’s moving and what can be sold, donated, or tossed. Your kids may balk at the idea of their toys being packed up, but you’d be surprised how much of their loot they actually won’t miss.

Also, here’s a secret parent-to-parent tip: Pack up the toys while the kids are away. You’re the best decision-maker about what stays out and what’s destined for the portable storage container, but it’s tough to make those calls when a small pouty face is tugging on your heartstrings.

8. Store the Shoes, Jewelry, and Clothes (1 Week Out).

A week before the move, pack up your clothing, shoes, and jewelry. Set aside two suitcases or clear bins — one for the things you’ll need the week before your move and one for the clothing and toiletries you’ll need for the week after. You may have some overlap, but this is a good way to keep things organized.
A tip for packing shoes: Throwing them into boxes can cause bending and damage. Instead, wrap them in packing paper and place in boxes, or put some bubble cushioning roll in between pairs for extra protection.
To keep your jewelry organized and knot-free, hang bracelets on a carabiner to keep them together, and string necklaces through paper straws to prevent chain tangles. Smaller items, like earrings, can go inside a pill box or tackle box.
Q: What should you not pack when moving?
A: Some jewelry will be fine in specialized jewelry packaging, but some pieces may be too precious to leave in storage. Keep smaller, irreplaceable items with you (instead of in a container or moving truck) during the moving process.

9. Leave the Kitchen for Last (2-3 Days Out).

If there are items in the kitchen you’re not using every day, go ahead and pack them up a week or so before your move. Often, the kitchen is the most difficult room to pack, and the room people leave for last, since it’s being used right up until moving day. 

Fair warning, though: This is not an easy room to pack. It’s imperative that you clean out the cabinets, declutter the drawers, and purge the pantry. Think about how much weight all of those canned goods will amount to if you choose to pack and move them all. Our advice? Donate to a food shelter instead.

Once the purging is done, fill a box with only the items you’ll need for the first few days in your new home. This could be a few dishes, cups, utensils, dish rags, and soap — and that coffee maker for a much-needed shot of caffeine. The rest of the items can be packed in their own boxes; we recommend keeping a few categories together, like dishes, pots and pans, utensils and cooking tools, pantry items, and so on. 

Q: What are the last things to pack when moving?
A: The kitchen should be the last room you pack when moving because you use it the most (except for those rarely used items, like that fondue kit and punch bowl; go ahead and pack those now). The very last things, though, should be the things you’ll need right up until moving day. These essentials should go into their own bag, so you have them readily available when you get to your new home. This includes toiletries, medicine, a few articles of clothing, electronics and chargers, and a few other items. Think about what you’d pack if you were going on a two-day trip.

Moving to a new home is an exciting time — but it’s also a lot of hard work. Make that first time you unlock your dream home one to remember by making everything leading up to that moment flow as smoothly as possible. Knowing what to pack first when moving and following a packing plan is a little prep work that makes the dream work.

LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter, and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS Blog contributor, she's a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she's not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.

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