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Moving Supplies: Breaking Down the Essentials

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Many people contemplate relocating to a new residence with the same dread that precedes a painful dental procedure. Many fear that their belongings will be damaged or lost, but as is the case with other major undertakings, planning ahead can simplify the process and reduce stress. Acquiring essential moving supplies soon after confirming your new residence will save time and minimize the risk of forgetting something important.

Basic Packing Materials

Moving your belongings exposes them to the potential for falls or collisions, and hauling them elsewhere in a vehicle typically entails a bit of jostling as well. You'll want to pad your belongings against severe impacts or persistent bumps in transit.

Cardboard Boxes

Corrugated cardboard boxes can be remarkably sturdy and resistant to minor impacts. Many grocery stores, warehouse stores, retail stores and restaurants are happy to give away their used boxes to customers. Larger, thick-walled boxes are the most useful for moving the majority of your possessions. It's best to avoid boxes that may have been exposed to toxic materials, such as industrial cleaning chemicals.

Because rounding up enough of the most desirable boxes may take time, it pays to start collecting them a few weeks or months in advance. You can save on limited space by breaking down the boxes and storing them flat until you need them. Alternatively, you may choose to buy your boxes from a moving company or another supplier. The boxes will be clean and just the right size, and you won't have to store them for weeks before you use them.

Lidded Storage Bins

Inexpensive, stackable plastic bins of all sizes have become astonishingly popular, and they can be purchased virtually everywhere. Depending on their quality and construction, these bins protect their contents very well against water damage and insect infestations. Some even come with locking lids that resist accidental spilling. Many bins are made from a transparent material that allows instant viewing of their contents, which is especially useful after you've begun unpacking. Most plastic bins will last decades with reasonable care.

Plastic storage bins do have their drawbacks, though. They cost more than cardboard boxes, and they may not stand up as well to repeated collisions with vehicle walls or other objects. Stacking them too high may crack the lids or even shatter the bin bodies. Long-term exposure to unfiltered sunlight may result in discoloration and brittleness, leading to unexpected failures. Sturdier plastic bins that do meet rigorous shipping and storage challenges typically cost much more than ordinary storage bins, but they might serve well for expensive tools and other valuable items.

Plastic Storage Bags

Ordinary storage bags of the sort used to hold food do yeoman duty in keeping numerous small items clean and organized. These bags also reduce the risk of such small items mysteriously disappearing into unseen corners during packing and unpacking. Inexpensive freezer-style bags tend to hold up better under the stresses of sharing a container with other items in transit. If desired, large garbage bags are useful for further protecting bundles of clean clothing and other easily soiled items stored inside shipping containers.

Packing Peanuts and Bubble Wrap

The great majority of your smaller belongings can be adequately secured and protected inside cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins with packing peanuts and bubble wrap. Packing peanuts are best used to fill air spaces inside shipping containers, and a snug coat of bubble wrap serves well for protecting fragile items that cannot easily withstand extended jostling or collisions with other objects.

Used packing peanuts sometimes are available free or at low cost from Craigslist and other venues, or you may have saved the peanuts from your shipping packages over the years. Your local shopping mall may have several retail stores willing to give you unwanted packing peanuts from their corporate shipments. Alternatively, you can purchase large bags of packing peanuts from a moving company or an office-supply store.

Bubble wrap is inexpensive and widely available from office-supply stores and large retail stores. It takes a surprising amount of bubble wrap to properly protect fragile items, though, so you should buy at least twice as much as you think you'll need. Used bubble wrap usually isn't worth salvaging because the small bubbles deflate too easily after sustained usage.

Shredded or Crumpled Newspapers

In a pinch, you can use crumpled or shredded newspapers instead of packing peanuts and bubble wrap, especially if you've underestimated your needs and have no time for better alternatives. Your local public library branch probably has a reasonable quantity of lightly handled, reasonably clean newspapers on hand. Newspaper material isn't nearly as resistant to compression and sharp shocks as packing peanuts, so you should compensate with larger air spaces and generous amounts of the shredded or crumpled newspapers.

Fragile items are better off in individual containers if you must rely on newspaper material for packing them. Furthermore, newspaper ink can smudge your belongings, so you should protect items such as exposed documents by storing them inside garbage bags.

Packing Tape and Tape Gun

Although the common practice of simply interleaving the box flaps works well enough for smaller boxes that hold light items, cardboard boxes usually do better with packing tape to seal them against spillage and loose debris. Packing tape can also add structural strength to thin-walled or torn boxes. More critically, securely taping the open top of a cardboard box will stiffen it against tearing and eventual destruction from heavy items that cause the box walls to persistently flex in transit.

Good-quality packing tape is always useful and has a long shelf life, so it doesn't hurt to stock up. Using a decent heavy-duty tape gun instead of relying on a pair of scissors or a knife will result in cleaner cuts, improved safety and faster packing.


Scribbling even minimal notes on labels affixed to your boxes and storage bins will make short work of finding small items upon arrival at your new home. A large package of self-adhesive labels doesn't cost much, but you can resort to attaching paper cards or scraps of printer paper to your shipping containers with the label gun after writing your remarks. In any case, labels should be placed where they cannot accidentally rub off during transit.

A habit of labeling everything with useful notes also will assist with unpacking. With properly labeled boxes, you can easily retrieve your most-needed items first. Furthermore, properly labeling containers makes it far simpler to physically arrange your sturdiest belongings near the bottom of the pile in the transport truck and your most fragile belongings near the top.

Special Moving Materials

Sometimes, you'll be faced with the need to pack unusually delicate or heavy items, such as refrigerators, stoves and small-scale industrial equipment.

Packing Paper

For best results, fine china, crystalware and other unusually fragile items should be stored inside individual cardboard boxes lined with packing paper, after which the boxes should be surrounded with bubble wrap and further protected with shipping peanuts inside a shared shipping container. If you own fragile antiques or rare items that hold great commercial or sentimental value, then you might consider hiring a specialist to transport them separately.

Loose Cardboard Sheets

Lampshades, framed artworks and other bulky, lightweight items that cannot be stuffed into ordinary shipping containers often can be adequately protected by using your tape gun to construct form-fitting cardboard shields around them. A cautious application of lightly wadded packing paper will then safely secure the contents of the shield against excessive shifting in transit.

Hardware stores and art-supply stores sell large cardboard sheets at a reasonable cost. You can also cut up oversized corrugated cardboard boxes, such as appliance boxes, which are frequently available without charge from local appliance stores.

Moving Blankets and Pads

Furniture, appliances and other large, heavy items are best protected during transportation with heavy-duty moving blankets and pads. Moving blankets also may be draped over shipping containers to prevent them from banging against truck walls and other items, and thick pads will help prevent damage to and from small-scale industrial equipment such as riding lawn mowers. You can buy your own blankets and pads from hardware stores and other commercial suppliers, but many individuals prefer to temporarily rent them from a moving company.

Heavy-Duty Hand Truck

If appropriate, you'll want to buy or rent a good-quality hand truck made specifically to safely move refrigerators, stoves and other heavy, bulky items. Most individuals decide to rent this equipment from a moving company rather than risk serious injury from the sudden failure of a cheaply made hand truck. If you prefer to purchase your own hand truck for future use, you can ask an experienced mover about a reliable manufacturer of high-quality hand trucks with beefy wheels and sturdy, well-designed appliance straps.

Reputable Movers and Packers

Handling the packing and moving details by yourself is very doable, especially if family members and friends can help with loading and unloading. If you're trying to move a large household by yourself, suffering from health issues or unwilling to devote so much time to the gritty details of uprooting your whole life to another location, then hiring movers may be the best solution.

International Relocation

If you're crossing national borders during your move, then border inspectors may wish to examine part or all of your cargo. If you anticipate this possibility, then you may wish to take along extra cardboard boxes and packing tape for repacking your belongings. It might also make sense to rent a larger truck to make it easier to unload and reload shipping containers selected for inspection.

Thinking ahead makes packing and moving go far more smoothly. Even the apparently daunting task of unpacking can be streamlined as you empty out one well-packed and labeled container after another. The moving experience is rarely painless, but smart planning prevents unnecessary stress and minimizes damage to your belongings.

Source: northAmerican

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