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Packing Out – Ten Tips to Stay Sane

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We took a BIG load of moving boxes to the recycling center today.  They had been piling up in our garage since we moved in to our “forever” house eleven months ago.   This is one of the downsides of retirement:  the motivation to unpack and get rid of boxes is lessened by the knowledge that we have MANY years to do it all, instead of somewhere between one and three.  But, we digress.  The pile of boxes, labeled with our name and the boxes’ contents made us reminisce about all the moves we’ve made and the wealth of moving tips we acquired, some more cheaply than others.  Since we don’t plan to move again, ever, it seems fair to pass some of them on.

1. Keep Original Boxes for Breakables When Possible

We had limited breakage of our wedding china and crystal throughout our moves.  Most of it I had the original packaging for and I would pack (but not seal) them prior to the arrival of the moving company.  This worked for special Christmas ornaments, electronics, and small appliances as well.  We never had damage on anything that was in its original packaging.

2. Clear Out Junk and Get Rid of Garbage

Yes, we have had garbage packed by movers – and wet bathing suits – and open shampoo.  The packers are not paid to sort through your stuff, but to pack it; so they do.  Take the time to dump garbage bins and pick up errant scraps of paper.  You’ll be glad you did on the other side.  More importantly, moves are an excellent time to really clear your house of old toys, old books, outdated or outgrown toys, and the furniture your in-laws gave you but that you don’t really like.  If we couldn’t decide on something, Susan’s method of decision making was to imagine unpacking it at our new home.  If she liked the vision, we kept it.  If she didn’t….out it went.  Bonus Points! Goodwill will love you and you can deduct the contributions on your taxes.

3. Create an “Off Limits Room”

This is essential.  Prior to the arrival of the packers, choose a bathroom, a closet, an office or any other well-defined and out of the way area to place the things that should not be packed.  Put anything you don’t want packed in there- purses, moving papers, dog dishes, children.  Mark the area clearly- we used tape, or a big sign taped to the door that said “Do Not Enter – Do Not Pack”.  In a few of our early moves we didn’t do this quickly enough.  There is nothing worse than telling a packer you have to find one certain box out of two hundred already sealed boxes because they packed something you need.

4. Avoid Mold: Use Charcoal in Refrigerators

We can brag on our system for refrigerator moving since we never had to clean mold out of a refrigerator or freezer on our moves.  One of our refrigerators sat in storage for seven years!  1. Clean the appliance really well.  Make sure to get in the nooks and crannies behind the drawers.  Clean the folds in the door gaskets (some really nasty goobers get in there somehow).   2. Let it dry thoroughly.  This means leaving the door open overnight at a minimum.  3.  Take some old pantyhose, cut them into as many portions as you require (one for each separate section of the appliance) put in 3-4 pieces of normal (not the easy-light stuff) charcoal and tie the panty hose in place.  Sure, there may be a little charcoal dust to wipe off on the other side, but that’s nothing compared to scrubbing off a university-sized science project.

5. Invest in Ziploc-type Bags

These easy-seal bags are great for putting small things in such as dice, marbles, errant screws, game pieces, Legos, pens, and pencils.  Use them prior to the packing day as a quick organizing tool; use them during the pack out for all the little stuff that gets left on the floor in the movers’ wakes.  We even used them to keep track of the coins that came out of our kids’ piggy banks.

6. Carry Around a Permanent Marker

The packers will write highly descriptive terms like, “clothes: closet” on the boxes.  Do yourself a favor; add a few words that will help you know which clothes are in the box.  We found ourselves desperately looking for sheets after a long-day of unpacking once because the box containing them didn’t have ‘sheets’, ‘linens’, or anything remotely like that written on it.  In fact, if memory serves, I think we finally found them in a box labeled “garage”.  Having a marker handy also helps when it comes to kids’ stuff.  We would always let them write their name on some of the boxes of their things so that they knew exactly which boxes contained their treasured toys.

7. Give Your Kids a Break

Our kids always found pack-out days stressful.  Adults are constantly talking to movers and they can’t leave, so kids are stuck in a house that is rapidly becoming extremely un-home like.  It isn’t always possible, we know, to send your children to a friend’s house for a whole day (or 2 or 3) while packing, but even a little break can help.  We would also ask the packers to leave certain things, such as the computer or TV and game console until last.  This way, the kids had something to occupy them during the long day if they were home.

8. Create a “Miscellaneous” Box

Ask the packers to make up a box that you can put things in that you find along the way.  It never fails that small toys, TV remotes, and the like will get forgotten.  We also would sneak in the occasional candle or bag of loose change that wasn’t packed by the packers.

9. Protect Valuables & Be Assertive

If you have something that is important to you, watch the movers pack it or pack it yourself.  We’ve been lucky, we’ve only had a few items “disappear” on moves, but many of our friends have different stories.  Make your presence known while the packers are in your home.  Amend the inventory if they describe an antique as a “chest of drawers”.  They will mark every little scratch they find down to protect their jobs; make sure you notate anything you disagree with or damage they did while loading or unloading.  Take pictures if you feel they are describing damage incorrectly; it is always difficult to prove your case five hundred miles and three months later without the documentation.

10. Treat the Packers with Respect

The vast majority of packers and movers we’ve worked with have been hard-working folks trying to do a good job. Like we mentioned earlier, their goal is to pack your stuff and load it on a truck.  They are expected to do it quickly and well.  A smile from you and a calm demeanor will result in less frustration all around.  As a last note, we made a point of having coffee and/or cold sodas on hand and we always offered to get them a pizza or something similar for lunch.  Buying lunch for them also guaranteed we would take the time to eat – something that often got forgotten on pack-out days!

We know there are many other tips and tricks to moving out there; this list just scratches the surface.  Feel free to contribute your own if you have them.  As for us, tonight we will celebrate an emptier garage and remember with a laugh unpacking the garbage….and the mildewed bathing suit….and the dog’s dishes.