Make a list.
Write everything down! You'll thank yourself later. Before you pack even one box, create a simple record keeping system. Create a computer-printed list of numbers with a space to write the contents. Or have a spiral-bound notebook for the job. You'll place a number on EVERY box you pack and list the contents on your list. Keep the list with your other moving resources such as labels, marking pens, box tape, and other supplies.
Have plenty of supplies.
You'll need LOTS of boxes--probably more boxes than you think, and having enough boxes will make your life easier! Have about 10 boxes set aside to use for last minute items on moving day, such as bedding, clothing, and cleaning supplies. You'll need strong plastic packing tape to close up the boxes securely. Use unprinted newsprint (newspaper can stain your items) or packing paper or bubble wrap to wrap and cushion household good. Save room by using towels and blankets to wrap fragile items. Again, you'll need lots more supplies than you think, so get extra so the packing can go smoothly. Return any unused supplies after the move is complete.
Utilize wardrobe boxes.
These tall boxes are perfect for bulky, lightweight items such as comforters, pillows, and blankets, as well as clothes that need to remain hanging. Measure the clothes in your closets (including coat closets) to see how many wardrobe boxes you'll need. Don't make the boxes too heavy, however as the bottom may give way under extreme weight. Avoid loading more than 50 pounds into one box. You can also use them for closet storage boxes, shoe boxes, and other bulky items such as fabric bolts, large baskets, or gift wrap tubes.On moving day, fill the bottom of the wardrobe boxes with some of the shopping bags, then add your hanging clothing. Pack hanging items tightly so things won't move around and fall off of hangers. Finally, cover the shoulders of your clothes (a dry cleaning bag works well), then add a few purses or sweaters on top. You'll have fewer boxes, and closet items remain together. Also, the shopping bags will make it easier to retrieve your belongings from the bottoms of a tall wardrobe box.
Keep things together.
Insist on keeping things together when you are packing boxes. Keep bookends with books, light bulbs with lamps, and extension cords with appliances. Small, loose parts can be attached to the item they belong to with tape or placed in small envelopes -- to keep picture hooks with pictures, shelf brackets with a bookcase, a special wrench and bolts with the wall unit. Keep larger corresponding items (such as a cable TV cord) in resealable bags, and tape these to the underside or back of the item. As a backup, have a "Parts Box" open on the kitchen counter and fill it with cables, cords, parts, pieces, brackets, or nails that are removed from any items of furniture. Keep this box with you, or mark it well so it can be easily located on move-in day.
Anything you can pack ahead will save you time on moving day. If it's summer, get your winter clothes out of the way. You don't really need 5 radios or TV's around your house for the last few days there. Box up your shampoo and extra toothpaste and live out of a travel cosmetic case for the last week or two. Pare down cooking utensils and food supplies to bare essentials. Wastebaskets can also be packed (put things in them!) while you switch to using plastic grocery bags (hang them on a cabinet door or door handle to collect trash.)
Consolidate cleaning supplies.
If you must clean your old place after moving out, put together a kit of basic cleaning supplies and rags. Clean anything possible ahead of time (the inside of kitchen cupboards, the oven, windows, etc.), and if possible, vacuum each room as movers empty it.
Use your luggage.
Fill luggage and duffle bags with clothing, sheets, towels, and paper goods. Even for local moves you'll be able to quickly spot your navy suitcase holding your favorite sweaters, whereas "Box #189" might remain elusive for days.
Safeguard valued items.
It's a good idea to keep valuable possessions, such as silverware, collections, or antiques, with you. If you have a long move and no room in your car, bury the items in a box titled "Misc. from kitchen pantry" or something of the like. Either way, check your homeowner's insurance to see how you are covered during the move.
Keep important papers with you.
Your list of "important" papers might include: birth certificates, school records, mover estimates, new job contacts, utility company numbers, recent bank records, current bills, phone lists, closing papers, realtor info, maps, and more. Don't leave these with the mover. Keep them with you!
Use brightly colored storage tote boxes, one for each person. Let each family member fill theirs with items they'll want 'right away' in the new home -- a set of sheets, a towel, a couple of extension cords, a phone, nightlights, address book, pens and paper, keys, kleenex, and travel cosmetic case, and so on.
Packing can appear to be an insurmountable task when viewed from the perspective of the entire house. Packing one room at a time (and staying with that room until it is fully packed) has the effect of dividing the overall task into several smaller and more manageable tasks. This approach also makes it possible to set realistic goals, i.e. pack the dining room today, the kitchen tomorrow, etc.
Canned Goods and Other Non-Frozen Food:
Pack upright with no more than 24-30 cans per carton. Don't attempt to move perishables. Wrap glass containers and boxed foods individually and pack in small cartons.
Drapes and Curtains:
Hang drapes over crossbars in wardrobe cartons, or pack folded in clean cartons. Remove curtains from rods, fold and pack in cartons or bureau drawers.
Flammables and Combustibles:
Flammable liquids and aerosol cans must not be packed. Changes in temperature and pressure can cause them to leak, or even explode. For your own protection, you should know that if you pack these items and they cause damage to your shipment or others, you, not your mover, may be held liable.
Personal Computers and Video Recorders:
Pack valuable electronic equipment in original cartons when available. Otherwise, use strong, corrugated cartons and place protective padding on the bottom of the carton. Wrap an old blanket or protective pad around the item and place it in its carton. Place additional padding between the carton and the computer or video recorder. Wrap cords separately; label to identify usage and place in a plastic bag away from delicate surfaces. Non-detachable cords should also be wrapped. Place cords between the padded computer or video recorder and the carton. Be sure your personal computer is "parked" and ready for transport.
Moving may not be the most fun you've ever had, but planning ahead will go a long way toward making the process bearable.