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Box it Up: Moving a Mountain of Belongings

by Mary Leigh Howell

Unless you're a professional organizer, you probably don’t look forward to boxing up the contents of your house. While there's no magic formula for packing a lifetime of belongings, there are some helpful guidelines to make the process easier.

Start Your Organizing Engines

Before you pack that first box, take a good look at furnishings, closets, cabinets and drawers.  If there's anything you can get rid of, now is the time. 

"Don't take anything to your new home that you don't love, or think is useful or beautiful," says Barry Izsak, a certified professional organizer and former president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. "Moving is a great litmus test of truly deciding things that bring value and joy to your life."

Remember to take space into consideration. Will all your belongings fit attractively in the new home? Professional organizer Janet Taylor recommends reviewing the layout of your new location. Sketch out room dimensions, and window and door placements. These factor into where, or if, your furnishings will fit the new location.

Container Quest

Good boxes can be found most anywhere – big box stores, grocery stores, classified ads or your own attic. Just make sure they are sturdy enough to protect the contents and withstand the moving process. "Boxes have crush standards printed on them, so you will know what kind of pressure they can withstand," says Izsak. 

If you're running short on time, order boxes online from a paper or packaging website, and have them delivered directly to your door, advises Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink. Most of these sites will sell moving kits, which include boxes, bubble wrap, shipping tape and markers.

Packing it In

Before packing the first box, decide on the items you want to take, but don't use every day.  "Good china, knick-knacks and holiday decorations can easily be packed first," says Izsak. "They won't impact your life in any significant way before the move."

Once these items are packed, you can attack the rest of the house. When packing homes for her clients, Helene Segura of Living Order follows these basic rules: Pack like items together and pack one room at a time. It avoids having boxes of miscellaneous goods and makes unpacking easier. Halfway through each box, test the weight by lifting it. "If it's already heavy, stop packing and stuff the top of the box with paper," says Segura. "Then move on to the next box." 

The basic rule of packing a box is that heavy items go on the bottom, and light items up top. When packing heavy items, use smaller boxes. "Especially for things like books and small statues," adds Segura.

WWhen packing fragile items, like dishes and glassware,  use bubble wrap, newspaper or linens to cushion them. "Stand dishes, bowls and glasses upright in a box," says Izsak. "The bottom line rule is that you want the least amount of surface area exposed if the box is crushed."

Is a Box by any Other Name?

Unloading a truck full of brown boxes can be like choosing dinner from a pantry with unlabeled cans. Clearly marking your boxes will eliminate headaches when it's time to unload. "Label the top and side of each box with the category of items and name of the room from which it came," says Segura. "If it’s going to a room with a different name at the new house, include that as well. Use a thick marker that’s easy to read from a distance." Make sure to write in large letters which boxes contain fragile items.

For the super-organized, Amber Kostelny-Cussen of Amber's Organizing, keeps a master log of all boxes in three-ring binder, and assigns a number to each box. It's a great way to keep track of a large group of boxes and  you know where you are in the process.

Mary Leigh Howell specializes in communications for the home, furnishings and garden industries.