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Packing for a move: Box it up room-by-room

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moving house packing boxes guide

In our first article on moving, we wrote about how to pack up your belongings in preparation for a house move whilst at the same time, avoiding going out of your mind with the stress of it all. We provided links to the places you can get your hands on free cardboard boxes in the UK and also, where to buy the best quality, most cost-effective ones if you prefer new ones. We also described how to pack in order to ensure your possessions don’t get damaged in transit, plus how to keep track of everything so you can sort yourself out as quickly as possible once you’ve arrived at your new pad.

In this article, we’re going to zero in on how to pack the main rooms of the house. We’re not going to focus on furniture and the larger, more cumbersome items like TVs, tables, beds and bookcases. Our business after all is boxes (we just can’t get enough of the things) so this is where we’ll focus.

First up, a list of golden rules for packing boxes whichever room you’re in: 

  • First and foremost, declutter, donate, recycle or throw away
  • Assemble your boxes: small, medium and large
  • Have your packing supplies to hand: paper, bubble wrap, tape, labels, marker pens
  • Take photos of any valuable items
  • Put together an essentials bag/box: keep aside
  • Pack least used items first
  • Generally, put heavy items in smaller boxes and smaller items in larger ones
  • Label each box with its contents, the room to which it belongs and which way up it should go

1: Tips for Packing the Kitchen

packing the kitchen - cardboard boxes being packed and labelled "kitchen"

We’ll start with what’s commonly referred to as the heart of the home, but is, unfortunately, a pain in the neck when it comes to moving: the kitchen.

The issue with most kitchens is that they’re jampacked full of items that are completely dissimilar in shape, size and sort. They fall into eclectic categories: edible, electrical, breakable, fragile and oddly and inconveniently shaped. Also, somewhat frustratingly when you’re trying to pack, kitchens need to be used till the very last minute.

Our advice – as with every room – is to declutter first. Get rid of anything that is broken or chipped and if you have, for example, two potato peelers, give one away. Use as much as you can from the freezer without replacing it and dispose of food that’s past its sell by date.

You’ll need a variety of boxes for the kitchen. Use larger ones for lightweight, hard to pack items, (plastic kitchenware, small appliances and baking tins). Medium boxes are perfect for heavier stuff (cookbooks, the contents of your pantry if you have one, pots, pans and cutlery). Reinforced, heavy-duty boxes are best for stemware, glasses and other fragile or delicate bits and pieces. As a general rule of thumb, pack things from the same cupboard in the same box.

For all boxes, heavier or little-used items should go at the bottom. Ensure stuff you know you’ll need straightaway is accessible by placing it on top. And don’t forget that most of the items you need to pack will need wrapping. Use plain paper or bubble wrap. Alternatively, get your tea towels or cloths to do the protecting for you. Be warned, though it can make great protective packaging, newspaper will leave print residue on cutlery or crockery and be a pain to wash off. 

Label everything, be specific. Account for the fact that, up till the morning you leave the house, you may still need to prepare meals and wash up. You’ll also probably want a box of cleaning products and other essentials (kitchen roll, washing up liquid, cloths, etc.) to hand when you get to your new house.

Extra tips for the kitchen:

  • Smaller items can be packed in pots, pans and Tupperware
  • Nestle cups inside bowls
  • Vertically packed plates are less likely to break then those laid horizontally
  • Uses boxes with dividers for glasses
  • Wrap up the utensil tray with the utensils still in it and lay flat 
  • Wrap knives in dishtowels and pack on their side (never facing upwards)
  • Keep liquids together and pack in plastic boxes

2: How to Pack the Dining Room and Living Room

Packing the dining and living rooms - dining table surrounded by cardboard boxes

We’ve grouped the dining room and the living room together because many houses nowadays are open plan. It could be that your eating area is in your kitchen. No matter.

A dining area is relatively easy to tackle as it usually contains fewer small items. However, those it does have can be more fragile (think light fittings, fine china, candlesticks, etc.). Pack breakable items first and have the ‘Fragile’ stickers handy. Of course, this applies to the living room as well – here we’re talking about knick-knacks, photo frames, vases, etc.

Place several layers of packaging material at the bottom of each box. Nest ornaments in bubble wrap and ensure pieces are tightly packed so they can’t move around. If you’re wrapping up mirrors, use masking tape rather than packing tape (which leaves residue). Photograph connections before disconnecting electronics so you can remember how to plug them in and label each connection so you don’t get confused. Coil cables before wrapping them.

For many of us, our bookcases live in our living rooms. Use small boxes for books, otherwise they become too heavy and you risk doing yourself - or your mover - a painful injury. Alternatively, spread books out between boxes, laying them spine to spine underneath other items. 

If you’re green-fingered and have plants to pack, cardboard boxes are the perfect mode of transportation: they’re breathable enabling moisture to stay in or go out as necessary yet solid, preventing exposure to harsh sunlight. To avoid water damage from damp or wet soil, line boxes with plastic sheeting and wrap pots in protective packaging. Either leave boxes open and unsealed, or if you do close them, make sure everyone knows they need to stay upright and contain living cargo. 

Extra tips for the living room and dining room:

  • Double tape the bottom of cardboard boxes
  • Don’t forget to remove lightbulbs from lamps
  • Treat lampshades carefully; they can be squashed and easily damaged
  • Shoe box sized boxes work well for CDs
  • Pack vinyl in smaller boxes and pack vertically
  • Small-wheeled suitcases make a great option for transporting books easily and safely

3: Tips for Packing the Bedroom

Packing the bedroom - a large bed surrounded by cardboard boxes

When packing bedrooms, tackle the guest rooms or spare rooms first. In these rooms, it might be an idea to leave the contents of drawers intact, especially if they provide storage for items that aren’t regularly used. Just ensure there’s nothing that’s going to rattle around when a particular piece of furniture is moved.

When it comes to your own bedroom, sort out your seasonal items initially. As regards the rest of your wardrobe, make sure everything is clean and dry. Also, get used to rolling - you’ll have fewer things to iron at the other end. T-shirts make perfect padding, as do blankets, bed sheets and other bedding materials.

Some people hold onto their shoe and hat boxes, which comes in handy when you’re moving, as these can be tricky to pack and risk being bent and squashed out of shape if put at the bottom of larger boxes. If you no longer have said boxes, stuff the crowns of hats and the toes of shoes with paper and make sure they stay at the top.

Extra tips for bedrooms:

  • Consider using specialised wardrobe boxes for longer pieces of clothing, like winter coats or evening gowns
  • If you hang up your jewellery normally, egg boxes make a good option for transporting necklaces during a relocation
  • Wrap perfume bottles in socks
  • Boxes designed to transport wine bottles work equally well for shoes

4: Packing Childrens' Bedrooms

packing kids bedroom - image of child placing toys into a cardboard box

When it comes to children’s bedrooms, keep posters and unframed prints in good condition by transporting them in tubes and making sure any blue tack is removed before they’re rolled up.

Lots of people might like to take the opportunity to clean toys before a house move. If this is you (and we won’t judge you if it isn’t), warm, soapy water does the trick, but make sure everything has a chance to dry out and drain well before it’s put in boxes.

Disassemble both toys that come apart and those that are delicate and then wrap them in bubble wrap or packing paper. Where possible, place pieces or parts that belong together in the same box. Additionally, think about how you’re going to organise categories of toys at your new house and group those items accordingly (e.g., jigsaws, puzzles, games in one box, Lego, building blocks, etc. in another). 

Ziploc bags are incredibly useful for small bits and pieces (Barbie’s shoes, her accessories, her handbags, Ken - just joking - etc.) and where appropriate, use the toy storage you already have, e.g., toy trunks or chests. Just make sure that items won’t slide around (this is where stuffed or soft toys can come into their own as handy space fillers, providing buffering and cushioning). If you have a household full of budding artists, check that paint bottles and craft supplies are sealed firmly and won’t leak. 

Extra tips for children’s bedrooms:

  • Remove batteries from electrical toys to prevent them going off inside boxes and scaring you half to death as well as avoiding corrosive leaks
  • Ask your children to pack a backpack of toys each to keep them occupied throughout the days running up to the move and the move itself
  • Ensure bottles of paint and glue are packed upright and put a layer of tape around lids
  • Toys can be packed last, but it’s a good idea to unpack them first

5: Packing the Bathroom and Utility Room

packing the bathroom - a photo of a modern bathroom

As with the kitchen, pack necessities last and don’t forget to keep daily or essential medicines (including paracetamol, Calpol, Nurofen, etc.) with you.

In bathrooms and utility rooms, there’s lots of opportunity for things to spill, squirt or ooze. Put bottles and tubes in Ziploc bags (other brands are available), Tupperware containers or small plastic bins and get the tape out again to go reinforce lids. Line boxes with towels and pack like with like, e.g. bathmats/shower curtain/bath towels, beauty products, cleaning products. Remember that toiletries and detergents make boxes heavy relatively quickly (and they can also leak), so try and use up as much as you can before you move.

Above all, to avoid mould and mildew, make sure anything that is packed is dry.

Extra tips for Bathrooms / Utility rooms

  • Don’t neglect to wrap decorative items and fragile pieces (ceramic toilet brush holders, soap dishes, etc.) in bubble wrap or use flannels and hand towels
  • Double check that bathroom toys have been drained of water
  • Similarly, empty any water from your iron
  • Laundry hampers, buckets and waste baskets make great box alternatives and unused space can be stuffed with rags, cloths or flannels 
  • Don’t pack all the loo roll

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So there you have it. Our guide to packing boxes for a house move. Hopefully reading this has made things a bit easier in terms of tackling your relocation a room at a time. If all else fails, remember what Confucius said: Wherever you go, go with all your heart and The Packaging Club’s cardboard boxes. Okay, he didn’t say the last bit. But he would have done, if he’d seen them.

Call The Packaging Club today and let us help you move.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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