I'm moving cross-country at the end of this week after living in the same city-and the same apartment no less-for ten years. The last time I moved, and every time prior, all my belongings fit in a couple suitcases, and I've accumulated way, way more stuff in the meantime. The past few days have flown by in a frenzy of activity: tearing up closets, filling trash bags, trips to Goodwill, shredding old files until my paper shredder overheated and died, and packing up box after box after box. No matter what, it was bound to be a maddening and exhausting process, but I did a bunch of research beforehand, and I've learned a ton about packing in just a couple days. Here are some of the most useful packing tricks I've discovered that have helped keep me from going completely insane:
Small boxes are a godsend. Large boxes become too heavy and unwieldy fast. It's a lot easier to deal with lots of small boxes rather than fewer big ones that are too heavy to lift. As a rule, try to keep all boxes under 50 pounds to make sure they're manageable.
Keep all pairs or parts together. Curtain rod hangers, furniture screws, mirror bolts, and other little hardware should be bagged and taped to the underside of the piece with which they belong. Cords that go with any electrical items should be coiled and taped to the device too.
Take inventory. Label boxes clearly and carefully, using a permanent marker to write down the contents on top top and side of each box so they're easy to identify. Consider creating a spreadsheet with more detailed notes on what each box holds, so post-move if you're frantic for a measuring cup, say, you'll know exactly where to find it.
Fabric is your friend. To cut back on the amount of bubble wrap you have to buy, use textiles like socks, towels, and bedsheets to fill excess space in boxes.
Fill boxes in layers. Put the heavy stuff on the bottom, medium weight next, and the lightest items up top. Use crushed paper or pieces of cardboard between the layers as dividers.
Start with the old. After you're done weeding out what you don't need, pack the out of season stuff first. Next, go with the stuff you don't use very often, and leave the things that you use all the time for last.
Spring for the heavy duty garbage bags. Regular garbage bags rip easily the minute you start filling them with linens and clothes. Thicker, heavier bags make all the difference to avoid tearing.
Go room by room. To stay organized, and to make it easier to unpack, pack boxes systematically, room by room. I actually assigned each room a color, and used color-coded stickers on each box to help me keep track of what goes where later. It's also helpful to pack similar items together-mixing teacups with a cast iron skillet is a bad idea.
Keep items in their proper place. When packing silverware for example, keep the flatware in its tray and wrap the whole thing with bubble wrap to keep it secure. It's going to make things a heck of a lot easier to sort and unpack post-move.
Designate the essentials. Mark a few "load last, unload first" boxes filled with key items-stuff you're going to want in the first 24 hours. Some of these things vary from person to person but mine will include things like: box cutter, toilet paper, garbage bags, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner, tools for reassembling furniture, coffee machine, towels, toaster oven, shower curtain, and a stereo (since good music makes any chore-even moving-feel like less of a drag).