Moving? Nine Things You Must Have

As I write this (March/April 2014), my daughter and son-in-law and family are moving to a larger house. They are delighted to be getting the extra space, but the process of moving there is somewhat less than a joyful work.

They have packed once before, in anticipation of a move that didn’t happen, but this move is on for real. They close on the new house tomorrow. I’ve become quite accustomed to moving, having spent twenty years in the Air Force, and have learned a few things along the way about what are some good things to have on hand to make any move easier.

Here are some of the things you might want to stock up on, and some notes on how to make most effective use of them.


Sure, everyone knows you need boxes to move, but not everyone knows what size is best, or where to get them.

Here are some sizes and sources I’ve found to be useful in the past.

The first mistake many people moving for the first time make is getting boxes that are too large. There are several inherent dangers in this.

First, too much weight in the box could rip the thing open, spilling the contents (your STUFF!) all over creation.

Second, a box that’s too heavy is not only hard to lift, it’s dangerous. imagine how much moving you’ll get done if you sprain your back or blow yourself a hernia.

Don’t do it.

The largest box you should get should be one you can carry comfortably and still see over – maybe a two-foot cube?

Boxes of this maximum size should be used only for lighter-weight contents, such as towels or folded clothes.

For heavier things, particularly books, paper files, and dishes, you should always use smaller boxes, perhaps an 18″ cube, or even smaller.

Sure, these smaller boxes mean you’ll have to have more boxes, and you’ll have to make more trips to carry them, but the added safety, both for you and your goods, is definitely worth it.

You can purchase new boxes from any moving supply store, and if you simply must have brand new boxes to contain all your valuable possessions, by all means go buy them.

However, if you’re like most of us, and are willing to put up with used boxes and save some money, there are several places you can get them.

Liquor store stock boxes are excellent for moving. Many of them are double-thickness for extra strength, and most come with built-in cardboard dividers for keeping the contents of the box from banging into each other.

Of course, the drawback is that if you’re worried about appearances, your neighbors might think you’re a souse.

If you get boxes from behind a grocery store, be very careful they’re not smeared with spoiled food, or that they don’t have inappropriate holes in strange places. These are dangers of boxes from grocery stores.

One of my favorite places to get moving boxes is from people just moving into a house. These boxes are perfect for moving, and many times will come with plenty of packing newsprint paper, cutting down on that expense as well. Simply watch for moving vans unloading at a house, then approach the new residents and tell them you’ll be moving soon yourself, and would they mind giving their moving boxes to you when they’re done?

2. TAPE.

Box Sealing Tape
Granddaughter Phoebe holding paper box sealing tape

Again, everyone knows you need tape to seal your moving boxes.

However, most people wind up getting whatever “package tape” or “box sealing tape” their local store has on the shelves.

I’ve found something much better.

Go to your local U-Haul store and buy the brown paper package sealing tape. It costs (as of today) less than $4 for a good-sized roll (you probably need two) and has these advantages over all other kinds of tape:

First, you can easily tear it with your fingers. No more scissors or knives (or TEETH) to separate the strip of tape you need, and no more of those frustrating tape guns that never work the way you think they should.

Next, you can easily write on the tape with a felt-tip marker or ball pen.

Finally, they do a great job of sticking boxes shut and keeping them shut.¬† (Note: if you put a box taped shut with this tape into an attic for eight or ten years, don’t be surprised if the adhesive releases.)

I’ve used many types of box sealing tape over my decades of moving experience, and this is by far the best I’ve used.


This is not something everyone thinks of, yet is one of the most essential supplies you can have on hand. You should probably lay in a supply of at least three fat-point felt-tip markers.

I use black, but you can use whatever color suits your fancy. Just be sure you can easily read what you write on a box from across the room. In other words, a yellow highlighter-type marker on a brown cardboard box probably isn’t going to work very well.

Room Designator
Adding the ROOM DESIGNATOR to a box label.

On each box, either as you’re packing it or immediately on sealing it, you should write the ROOM where you want this box put in your new house, then either circle the room or draw a box around it. Believe it or not, this makes a huge difference in your ability to identify any box at a glance.

Then, beside the room designator, summarize the contents of the box. For example, the room designator could be KIT (for kitchen, of course), and the contents summary could say “Spice Cabinet.”

Labeling a box
Labeling a box from the L.R. (living room) – contents are books and toys.

Write both these designators on the top of the box AND on the end of the box. You want to be able to find the box when there are a bunch of them stacked up, and you want to be able to see what’s in it when it’s on the floor at your feet, ready to be opened.

Labeling your boxes properly is quite an inconvenience when you’re doing it, but it’s vastly more inconvenience if your boxes aren’t labeled properly.



Taking a page of clean newsprint out of the box.

This is another essential for packing properly. Newsprint paper, or more properly, the wadded folds you put into it when you crinkle it as you wrap your stuff, provides cushioning and padding inside your packing boxes that keeps your delicate and breakable items from getting damaged.

I’ve tried using actual newspapers for this, and it does work. However, the wadding and wrapping process left my hands filthy, and the paper’s ink also got on lots of my possessions. All in all, it was more trouble than it was worth to save the cost of buying the clean stuff.

Whether or not you get “free” packing paper by recycling boxes from someone else’s move, you will probably need to buy at least one box of newsprint packing paper. You can probably get this from any moving supplies store.

I bought ours this week at a U-Haul store. The cost was about $13 for an 800-sheet box. I think we needed  about three of these boxes to move a 3-bedroom house of stuff.


I just learned about this from my son-in-law. Go to your local superstore or big box store and get the giant package of cling-wrap or stretch-wrap.

Stretch wrap
Granddaughter Naomi holding stretch wrap.

This is one of the very best ways to wrap and secure unbreakable loose items.

Here are some of the things we wrapped with this stuff:

A knife block. The knives were loose but safe in their wood block. Rather than try to wrap each knife individually – and risk cuts from the task – we simply wrapped the entire thing, knives and block together, with stretch wrap. It will keep them together and safe until they get to their new home.

Kids wooden puzzles. The stretch wrap keeps all the puzzle pieces in place for transport.

Flatware in the drawer container. I put some crinkled newsprint on top of each batch of forks, spoons, etc. to keep them from rattling too much, then wrapped the whole thing with stretch wrap.

A sterling silver antique tea service. We used newsprint to wrap each piece, put it back on the tray, then wrapped the whole thing with shrink wrap to keep it all together.

The great uses for this in packing for a move are limited only by your imagination.


The large, lawn-size bags are great for large, bulky, lightweight items. My daughter plans to put all her out-of-season clothes in these bags.

First, get the non-tear kind if you can afford them.

Second, test the weight of the bag periodically as you pack. It’s okay to quit when the bag is half full if you think it’s heavy enough.

Do NOT overstuff these bags, especially don’t let them get too heavy.

Once they are full enough, twist the top closed and take a turn around the neck of the bag with the paper box sealing tape.

Next, write the contents of the bag on another piece of tape and stick it to the outside of the bag.

The 13-gallon drawstring bags are great for packing clothes on hangers.

To do this, gather clothes on hangers into batches heavy enough to be carried easily, then use an old twist-tie to bind the group of hangers together.

Next, poke a hole in the center of the bottom seam of a 13-gallon bag. If you have the tear-resistant kind of bags, use a pair of scissors to cut the hole.

Pass the hanger-hook part of the hangers through this hole and pull the bag over the clothes like putting on a sweater. Pull the drawstring to close the bottom of the bag and protect your clothes.

You might want to consider using unscented bags for this, unless you don’t mind your clothes all smelling like the scent of the bag.


This can be a furniture dolly or just a regular heavy-item-transport dolly. But if you’re going to move anything heavy, any appliances, you’ll need one of these. They are also very handy for moving four or five regular packing boxes at once.


How many of these and what kind you need will depend totally on how much “stuff” you need to move. If you need to save some money, then keep out all your blankets and towels, especially old ones, and use those where you can. You might consider borrowing some of these from friends. To get additional pads, rent them from a place where you can rent moving trucks.


You will absolutely need these to secure your goods inside the moving vehicle.

I always have both cargo straps and a good length of rope available. There are situations where you absolutely need the one and the other just won’t do.

With the rope, you need to be pretty good with knots. That may need to be the subject of another post.

The main purpose of both of these is to keep your boxes and other household goods from sliding around inside the moving vehicle.

I recommend you approach this like the military approaches war: you don’t prepare for what will probably happen – you prepare for what’s possible to happen. It’s possible the van driver will have to slam on the brakes, or swerve suddenly. It’s possible another truck will run into the back of your vehicle, or that it will suffer some other unforeseen acceleration.

It’s better to be too secure, right?

There are plenty of other things you can use at moving time, but these are the things we’ve found to be most useful. I hope this helps you have a better moving experience.

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