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Biggest Packing Mistakes from Moving Experts


When it comes time for your move, you’ll find plenty of companies that provide not just moving services, but also packing and unpacking. It’s worth considering, since moving companies are usually not liable for damage in any boxes that you pack yourself.

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, more than 80% of all moves are completed with no damage claims, and almost all claims are resolved without arbitration.

But for some people, the risk of damage is lower than the expense of professional packers. Others simply prefer to handle the work on their own, as part of the process of downsizing and categorizing household items. That’s why MYMOVE reached out to professional moving companies and packing experts to ask for advice.

We asked each of the experts one question:

What are some of the biggest mistakes made when people pack their own possessions, and what are some ways to overcome them?

Here you’ll find some useful tips for packing so you’ll be better prepared to avoid problems when the moving truck arrives.

2 College Brothers

Packing can be one of the most dreaded, but also one of the most important components of moving to a new home. At 2 College Brothers Moving and Storage, we urge you to avoid these common mistakes when packing.

The wrong materials. It is important that you have the appropriate-sized boxes for what you will be moving. Keep it simple and try to stick with three different sizes, rather than a hodgepodge of old liquor and fruit boxes. This ensures a more uniform pack job in the truck. Don’t forget to pick up packing tape, packing paper, and a marker to label the boxes.

Boxes weighing more than 50 pounds. Too heavy of a box can compromise the integrity and stability of the box when carrying it and can cause injury to the movers attempting to lift it. Use small boxes for books, files, or canned goods.

Waiting until the last minute. On the days leading up to the move, take an hour each day to spend on each room. Most rooms can be completely packed up when a solid, uninterrupted hour is dedicated to it.

Arpin Van Lines

Packing yourself and using a professional moving service to load and deliver.

Inadequate packing materials. Use the same cartons that professional movers use. These cartons are available for purchase through moving companies and other retail storages. Purchase “quality” pressure sensitive 2-inch wide packing tape. Seal carton bottoms with 3-4 layers of tape and tops with 2-3 layers. Wrap items loosely with 2-3 layers of newsprint or paper.

Poor labeling procedures. All labeling should be printed 2 inches high on 2 sides and top using a black wide tip marker with your last name, the room the cartons go to, and a list of contents. Number each carton and cross reference it to a listing of the contents listed on a separate paper. Any special instructions, such as “keep upright” or “top load,” should be labeled on all four sides.

How to pack. Fragile items like platters, plates, and framed pictures should be triple-wrapped and placed on their edge. Lampshades and flower arrangements should be packed alone with room above them in the carton. Electronic devices like notebooks and tablets can be destroyed internally by exposure to magnetic fields when packed with speakers. Food should never be mixed with poisonous cleaners/chemicals. Delicate items like speaker fronts and computer/TV screens should be placed flat against the inside of the carton. Power cords, cables, and remotes should be packed with the main item. Liquids like water, drinks, and cleaners shouldn’t be packed.

Improper Preparation and Scheduling. Take the time to sort, purge, and organize. Start with the least-used items and work toward the most-used items. Set up bins for different items – trash, donate, recycle, and keep. Pack critical items on the top of cartons. Create “open first” cartons, which should be unpacked first, that contain items you will need right away.

Packing in a Disorganized Fashion. Set up a wrapping station with additional materials, tape, and utility knives. Pack items on counters or furniture items next, then empty and pack built-in areas like cupboards and closets. Lastly, pack decorative items from walls. Label each carton as it’s packed, and neatly stack with the label facing out.

Atlas Van Lines

During many moves, people overload boxes, load items into boxes improperly, and even pack them incorrectly. The end result is either pulled muscles from lifting, broken belongings, or a combination of the two. When people are packing their own possessions into boxes, it is important to know the box’s limits and how to properly pack the boxes in order to protect the items.

Box limits. A standard box measures about 1.5 cubic feet, which can hold around 65 pounds at the most. To some, boxes might all seem the same, but manufacturers use a system to measure overall weight capacity. For example, the standard box mentioned above is 200#. The next level up from it is 275#, which can hold up to 95 pounds. It is worth noting these are estimates of the strengths, and it is important to inspect boxes to make sure they are not damaged.

Packing properly. To start off, layer bottom of box with packing peanuts to protect items without taking up precious room. Every box should be packed with heavy items on the bottom that are wrapped in bubble wrap. Then layer lighter items on top. Before sealing box add more packing peanuts to add much-needed cushion between items.

Global Van Lines

The Biggest Risks When You Pack Your Own Move

Everyone likes to save money. When you move your entire household, packing your own possessions seems like an excellent way to stay on budget. However, you may be risking your personal treasures, and that can cost you more money than if you had hired professionals.

You limit carrier liability. First, the moving carrier that transports your DIY packed goods has only limited liability for damaged or destroyed contents. Your mover is only responsible for the contents of the cartons it packs. You have a lifetime’s collection of valuable possessions and family heirlooms that should be fully protected and packed by professionals who know the ins and outs of packing safely and securely. When you have a professional pack for you, the carrier is responsible for damaged items.

Some materials should not be shipped. In addition, many hazardous materials should not be packed along with your shipment. Even nail polish remover, which seems harmless, can endanger your entire shipment. And, finding the right packing materials, boxes, and other supplies is easier today; however, if you have a unique, hard-to-fit item, such as a chandelier, you need specialty materials.

Lifting heavy boxes risks dropping breakables. Lastly, lifting and moving heavy boxes during a move can wear you out. You risk dropping breakables. Why not allow professionals to do the packing? You will protect yourself against damaged goods and save on potential expenses. If you want to save money, you could even consider hiring professionals to pack only your fragile and high-value items.

Save your back and save your budget. Let experienced, professional packers prepare your move.


Using bags, not boxes. People will often fill up trash bags with miscellaneous stuff during last-minute packing. When big furniture pieces are packed next to a bunch of trash bags, the furniture has more room to shift. A shifting load can cause major damage. Always use heavy-duty boxes to keep the load tight!

Risking it. Many people don’t realize if they pack their own boxes, then the boxes aren’t covered by the moving company’s insurance protection. We see a lot of people get caught off guard by this. Have the moving company pack your expensive or breakable items.

Using plastic totes. Plastic totes may seem like a great idea, but often times totes will buckle and crack under normal amounts of weight. It’s better to use moving boxes, which do a better job of absorbing the weight and keeping the load tight.

OZ Moving and Storage

Heavy boxes. Don’t pack any boxes that are too heavy. Even if you hire movers, they aren’t supermen. Pack dense, heavy items like books in small boxes to make sure carrying them is manageable. Movers can’t handle your box if you can’t lift it.

Used boxes. Use the right boxes. If you are packing heavy stuff in a raggedy old box, it could break or cave in and damage your stuff. Packing things like lamp shades, make sure to use sturdy boxes.

Unlabeled boxes. Use labels when you take things apart. We have seen people have trouble with putting back together their items – cribs especially – after disassembling them. If you’re packing any private items you’d be embarrassed to have revealed, make sure to be discreet if you don’t want anyone stumbling upon them.

Overconfidence. If you’re not sure if you can accomplish some part of your move without professional help, don’t try. We were called up once by a trio of college students who had gotten their couch stuck in a staircase. Getting in over your head and having to call emergency help is not ideal.

Packing the truck. Your heaviest boxes and items should go at the bottom of your truck, with the lighter stuff on top. Doing this in reverse can crush your belongings.

Empty space. Don’t leave empty space in your boxes; fill them with packing material. You don’t want things shifting too much in transition.

Rachel and Company

Packing everything that you have. Take packing as an opportunity to review your inventory. Get rid of items that are damaged or that you don’t use so that you don’t have to end up packing (and unpacking) them.

Lack of labels and categories. When you pack a miscellaneous box, it likely will remain a miscellaneous box after your move, tucked away in the corner of a room because its contents are too daunting to put away. Take the time to categorize items and keep like with like when it comes to packing a box. Create a detailed inventory so that you know where to find what you’re looking for without having to dig through each box.

Forgetting about the floor plan. Before you pack, think about your future space and what will fit. Will your future living room fit your existing couch? Will your utility shelving unit fit in your new garage? Are you downsizing and no longer need guest bedroom furniture? Make a plan to dispose of or sell these items so you aren’t stuck dealing with it on the other end when space is limited.

Remarkable Spaces

Often when people don’t take the time to organize their move, they easily become overwhelmed by the whole process. They take what seems to the be easy road, yet find in the end that it wasn’t the most efficient and effective way to move.

Not being organized. For those who only write on boxes or label boxes by room location, but leave off important details such as contents, box numbers, and important information regarding each box, they are more likely to experience an inefficient move and have moving helpers bug them with more questions.

A really good resource to overcome inefficiency is using a color-coded label system such as the Well-Planned Move: Moving Labels. This kit is the most complete packing organizer chocked full of practical and useful tools to make a move organized and smooth.

The kit includes everything you need including a Room Color Chart; Room Signs; Color-Coded Moving Labels with space for content descriptions, floor level, notes, and box numbers; Attention Labels for fragile and heavy boxes or boxes containing liquids and items that may melt; Hazardous Labels; Open First Labels for essentials; and Important Documents Labels.

Using a complete organizing system is the most effective way to streamline the packing and unpacking process and alleviate the stress and hassle of moving.


Forgetting to delegate. You can’t do it all yourself, so if a friend offers to help or you have hired movers and they have some free time to lend a hand for unpacking, give them an area to focus on or a task to handle that will help get you to the finish line. For example, they can help you break down and stack empty boxes and put packing paper and trash in a bag. It’s better to clean as you go rather than wait until the end of the day when you just want to go to sleep.

Using the wrong boxes. A few small breakable items could be crushed in a large box that is overloaded. If you have a valuable large item such as a TV, mirror, or piece of art, make sure your box is a bit larger than the item itself. If possible, get boxes designed for the fragile item you’re trying to move. For example, dish-packing boxes are perfect to store valuable china, and they’re often made with a sturdier cut of cardboard than other boxes.

Not protecting your breakables. Bubble wrap, Styrofoam padding and polystyrene filler are all things used by professional movers and packers to keep things from breaking, but if you don’t have those, you can also use towels, pillows, blankets, newspaper, and clothing to protect your fragile items. This should be obvious, but be sure to mark boxes that contain fragile items so it’s obvious to anyone picking it up.

Packing with no plan. Start off packing your least used items, and end with the items you use daily. Be sure they get loaded into the truck or your car in that order as well so that what comes out first is the stuff you really need. Be sure to think about everything you’ll need for the first 24 hours, including for eating, sleeping, wearing, and using the bathroom. This includes towels and bedding. You want to store like with like, be sure to label what’s in each box. Items should go with similar items that are kept in the same room or space. Also, use smaller boxes to store heavy items like books, and larger boxes can be used for bigger, lighter, items like towels and comforters.

The UPS Store

Don’t dumpster dive. Instead of digging through the dumpster at a local supermarket looking for used boxes, which often aren’t sturdy enough to withstand a move, get new boxes of all sizes, specially engineered to withstand the stress of a move.

Use the right materials. DIY movers still try to get by with packing items in newspaper, clothes, sheets, towels or blankets, or tissue paper, rather than using packaging supplies. By using the right packing materials, including bubble and air cushioning, there is less of a chance that your dishes or family heirlooms will end up in pieces.

Pack correctly. Never exceed a box’s maximum weight, which is usually printed on the bottom flap. Use smaller boxes for heavier items such as books, files and kitchen appliances. Large boxes are perfect for lightweight, bulky items such as linens, clothing and lampshades. Put heavier boxes on the bottom of the truck to ensure the lighter boxes, which sometimes contain fragile items, do not get crushed.

You Move Me

Sourcing moving supplies from around the house. Pack your items in boxes and containers specifically designed for moving and transferring. Count your items and determine how many boxes or transfer units you will need. Wrap your items accordingly, remember if you are using old towels or newsprint to wrap fragile items, newsprint can be dirty, which means more washing to do in your new home and old towels slip easy and cannot be secured with tape. At You Move Me, we recommend considering packing paper, Bubble Wrap, clear packing tape, and storage pads when packing.

Leaving packing to the last minute. There is nothing worse than rushing. People often forget the importance of starting well in advance of moving day. Having the time to properly pack items can reduce a lot of the the stress associated with a move.

Starting in the kitchen. Begin packing with your storage areas: Anything you haven’t used for a year and cannot guarantee you will need again and items that have no sentimental value, should be the first to go. Move on to the rooms you will use infrequently prior to moving day. Box up the items to be transported to your new home. The last items you pack up prior to your move should be your everyday kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom belongings.

Over-packing. The heavier the item, the smaller the box! Over-packing can lead to unequal distribution of items and possible damage. .

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