How to Pack, Part 2

Some movers use a separate packing crew, who will arrive one day to tear through your belongings. You must supervise this process; after all it is your stuff.

If it is a hot day, have some sodas, juice and water available. On a cold day, offer tea, coffee or hot chocolate as appropriate. Don't serve alcohol, as it will not likely cause the packers to be more efficient and careful.

Moving Boxes & Supplies

It is best to leave the drinks out on the kitchen counter (the table will soon likely go out the door) with paper cups. You'll be too busy keeping up with things to be a waiter, and the workers will likely feel more comfortable not having to ask each time for a drink, especially if you and the crew do not easily share a common language. Paper cups don't break and they will not need to be packed later.

Before the packers arrive and start in, sort things into their respective piles: things to be packed for sea shipment, things to be packed for air shipment, things for storage, things not to be packed because you will sell them, or because you will be taking them with you on the plane in suitcases. If your home has multiple floors, or many rooms, it can get very, very hard to watch the packers at all times so that they don't accidentally crate up an old TV you plan to give away next week before you leave.

You can also help things along by:

  • Gathering books all in one place (they pack well with each other but will trash a box of fine china if spooned in to fill up a carton).
  • Take all photos and pictures off the walls and collect them in one place (they pack best when stood on end, like books on a shelf, as opposed to being stacked like pancakes).
  • Get all the really fragile stuff together in one place, making it easier to watch what happens to it.
  • Roll up rugs and carpets to make them easier to handle and to lessen that damage that a whirlwind moving team can do with muddy shoes. You don't really want to next see those mud stains when you unpack in Budapest, right?
  • If you have the original cartons for things like computers and stereo gear, either pack these electronics into the original boxes or have the empty boxes ready so that the movers can use them. The original boxes usually will have custom-sized styrofoam inserts in them to properly cradle sensitive electrical things.
  • Disassemble any large children's toys. Tie parts together with tape or string. Put small pieces into plastic bags and tape the bags securely to the other parts of the toy in hopes that you'll be able to assemble them all at the other end without significant pain.

The best way to help the packers do the right thing is to physically separate your things. In other words, we will move everything out of a bedroom except items destined for air shipment. The den will contain only things for storage. Put signs on the doors to make it even clearer. It is much, much easier to say “Don't touch anything in the hall closet, we'll hand carry that on the plane” than to give out item by item tips. You might also be able to convince the packers to do your stuff room-by-room, which is easier for you to monitor.

Everything will end up in a cardboard box, nicely taped shut. Be sure that you get an inventory (sometimes called a packing list) from the packers. This list should indicate what is in each carton, such as “Box 24, linens and toys”). The boxes themselves should not have explicit contents descriptions written on them, such as “valuable coin collection”. If you were a thief, would you go for that box first, or one marked “Unread newspapers”? You can, to help yourself on the other end, mark boxes as “Kitchen”, or “from bedroom closet”.

Don't laugh at that last label. When all these boxes arrive one day in your new home and your daughter needs her baseball glove NOW, remembering it was in the bedroom closet at the old home can make finding it much easier if you have a box marked “from bedroom closet”.

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