Packing is an art form. Everything from the way you pack to when you pack plays in to the overall success of your move and the stress (or lack thereof) that accompanies it. And it makes sense—aside from actually getting everything from point A to point B, packing up your moving boxes is the part of your move that requires the most foresight and action. And if you fail to avoid some of the most common packing mistakes, chances are you’ll end up making your move a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
Before we dig in to what packing mistakes you need to avoid (and more importantly, how to avoid them) remember that nobody is perfect when it comes to moving. Errors are bound to happen no matter how much you try to prevent them. But you can mitigate what goes wrong and set yourself up for an easier move if you take the time to learn where most people get off track. This is a good place to start.
Packing mistake #1: You don't plan ahead
Packing is as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. The more of a plan you have going into it, the better set up for success you’ll be. Unfortunately, too often people just dive right in without having any real idea of how they’re going to get every single belonging they own packed safely and efficiently. The result? Wasted time, wasted energy, and a packing process that is way more difficult than it needs to be.
How to avoid it: A few days before you’re planning to get started, put together a game plan for how you want to pack up your place. You don’t have to write it down, though it’s helpful if you do. The goal is to have a sort of blueprint for the next few days of packing, including the order that you intend to pack things and how they’ll be packed. When you finally do get down to business, you’ll not only be well prepared, you’ll also be way more effective in your efforts.
Packing mistake #2: You don't give yourself enough time
This is one of the worst of the packing mistakes, because even if you avoid all the other mistakes on this list, if you don’t give yourself enough time to pack you’re inevitably going to end up stressed and overwhelmed. (Not to mention the fact that having a lack of time to pack is also the precursor to many of the packing mistakes mentioned in this article.) The less time you have to pack, the more of a headache the whole process is going to be, so you’ll definitely want to do your best to time everything out correctly.
How to avoid it: Be realistic when figuring out your timeline and assume that everything will take a bit longer to get done than you’re assuming. It’s much better to err on the side of leaving yourself too much time than not enough. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need about two to three days to pack a studio or one bedroom home, three to four days to pack a two bedroom home, and five to six days to pack a three bedroom home (add on more days if your home has more bedrooms). This is assuming, of course, that you’re packing all day, which is often not doable when you factor in jobs and other responsibilities. The trick to giving yourself enough time is to over-estimate how many days you’ll need, particularly if you can’t allot any full days to the task, and to work distraction-free during the times you are actively packing.
Packing mistake #3: You don't get enough supplies
We’ve all been there: you’re on a packing roll, exemplifying productivity as you fill box after box, until suddenly and unexpectedly, whoops—you’re out of supplies. Running out of supplies means having to take a break to run to the store for additional items, which takes away precious time from what you should be doing and makes it more difficult to get back into the right head space when you finally return to the task.
How to avoid it: Just like with timing, figure that you’ll need more than you think you need when it comes to packing supplies. If you’re new to moving or not especially organised when it comes to filling up boxes, you may want to purchase a little bit more than recommended.
Packing mistake #4: You don't get rid of stuff
Packing stuff that you no longer want or need is a big waste of time, energy, and supplies. In addition to making packing more difficult than it needs to be, failing to get rid of stuff also makes unpacking more difficult. There’s a lot that needs to get done when you’re moving and it’s easy to justify skipping the organisational step of sorting out the things that don’t need to come with you, but it’s a necessary task and one that is always worth it in the long run.
How to avoid it: Before you start packing (or while you’re packing, if you don’t have time to start earlier), separate out the items that you no longer have a use for. Put them into three piles: one pile for donations, one pile for recycling, and one pile for trash. This is not the time for sentimentality—try to get rid of everything that no longer serves a purpose for you, such as clothes you haven’t worn in at least a year, kitchen gadgets you keep bringing from home to home but never actually use, and old papers that you know you’ll never need to look at again. Both you and your moving boxes will feel much lighter after getting rid of all the clutter.
Packing mistake #5: You don't secure things well enough
What’s the use in packing up items if they’re just going to be broken by the time you get to your new place? Not having enough time or enough supplies leads a lot of people to slack when it comes to securing items in boxes, as does simply being a bit lazy about the packing process. But just throwing everything in a box and hoping for the best is high up there when it comes to packing mistakes, and doesn’t usually end up saving a lot of trouble.
How to avoid it: Use your best judgement about what needs to be wrapped and packed with fragility in mind. This includes the obvious things like glass and other breakables, but also things like electronics and non-durable plastics. Use packing paper and bubble wrap to keep things secure, but also look for ways to get creative in how you securely store your items for moving. For example, everything from your linens to your socks can be used to reduce the impact around your belongings and keep things protected. Use dish towels to fill in gaps so things don’t move around, and pack large, difficult to wrap breakables like lamps in extra large boxes filled with bedding.
Packing mistake #6: You get too caught up in perfectionism
If you’re a perfectionist in other areas of your life it makes sense that you would be applying the same mindset to packing. However, trying to pack perfectly is a waste of time and a major source of moving-related stress. Nobody is judging you on how Tetris-like your boxes are packed or how meticulous your labels are. Obviously you want to make sure things are packed in a way that’s both functional and safe, but there’s nothing to gain from getting bogged down in the details.
How to avoid it: There’s no “perfect” way to pack aside from the way that effectively gets all of your things to your new home. Do what you can with the time you have and the resources you have, and don’t waste time on the things that require more effort than they’re worth. If you have the time, go ahead and make sure things are packed and labelled in the best way possible, but don’t worry if they’re not—it’s not the end of the world.
Packing isn’t easy, which is why packing mistakes happen so often. Every time you move you’ll be faced with different nuances and complications, so do your best to remain positive. And remember: if you can take steps to avoid common mistakes, you can have a little bit more control over how everything goes. Sometimes, that’s the best you can hope for.