How To Effectively Pack A Moving Container

Moving from one home to another can be an exciting event. However, for those who have gone through this process or are currently involved with it, it can also be incredibly stressful. There is so much to coordinate, from packing your belongings and getting them onto the truck to changing services over and updating personal information.

However, there are ways to make this process less difficult, mainly by preparing. Of course, it's impossible to prepare away the stresses of moving altogether. Still, there are things you can do, and learning about how to best pack your moving container is a simple way to reduce the difficulty of moving and get you to your new place more quickly.

In this article, you will find all the information you need to know about packing a moving container, from what you should put in it to how you should pack it. After reading, you should have a detailed plan for how to pack, which is one less thing to worry about as you move.

Step 1: Get Your Moving Container and Make a Plan

The process starts with selecting the right container and making a plan.

When it comes to a container, the most critical decision you need to make is which size you want. In general, moving containers come in three sizes:

  • 7' – These smaller, nearly square moving containers are good for those living in a space that is 500 square feet or smaller. Weight limits are usually around 5,000 pounds.
  • 12' – A bit longer than the 7' container but the same height and width, these containers are perfect for those moving 2-3 rooms, or 500-800 square feet of stuff. Because they're a bit longer, weight limits are usually a bit lower. They are typically around 4,700 pounds
  • 16' – About the size of what would fit on a tractor-trailer, these containers are designed for those moving at least 3-4 rooms or 1,200 square feet worth of stuff. Weight limits tend to be around 4,000 pounds.
  • If you're moving from a house with more than four rooms or bigger than 1,200 square feet, you may need to get more than one container. Also, it's important to remember these are estimates. If you have lots of stuff, or large, bulky furniture, you may find that the container you get is too small.

Take some time to think about which size you might need, but the best thing to do is to allow for some flexibility. Most moving companies will let you leave the container on your property for some time. Get it well in advance of your move, and start loading some of the bigger stuff early on so that you can see if you're going to have enough room. Don't wait until the last minute when you may not be able to order another container that better suits your needs.

It's also a good idea to start packing non-essential stuff as early as possible. Getting all of your things into boxes and into the moving container will take some time, and leaving it all for the end could be somewhat overwhelming. Plus, seeing the boxes pile up over time will help make everything feel a bit less stressful, which always helps when you're moving house.

Step 2: Equip Yourself

Once you've ordered the right moving container for you, the next step is to gather the tools and materials to help make your move easier. What you will exactly need will depend on the nature of your move, but here are a few things you should definitely pick up before you even really start thinking about the move:

Boxes, Boxes, and More Boxes

It is impossible to have too many boxes when you are packing. So, whatever you have in mind regarding how many you need, double or triple it, at least.

The best thing to do is to start collecting boxes months before your move. This way, when the time comes, you will have as many as you need. However, this isn't always possible, especially when you make a quick decision to move. In these instances, you should be able to buy boxes from your local hardware or home improvement store or order some online.

In general, it's best to have boxes that are the same size so that they are easier to stack on top of one another. It's also good to have boxes that will fit large items, such as TVs and other electronics. Ideally, you've saved these from when you made the initial purchase, but you may be able to find them at recycling centers or even at stores where these items are sold.

If not, then you'll need to rely on other methods for securing these items while you move, which we'll discuss in a little bit.

Dollies and Carts

The expression "work smarter, not harder" is one that is especially true when moving. Part of the reason for this is that it can be really easy to hurt yourself lifting heavy items when moving.

The solution to this is to make sure you have dollies and carts. Dollies, or hand trucks, are great for moving boxes and other rectangular items. Carts that can be placed underneath large items such as appliances and furniture are also useful as they allow you to move things of irregular shape.

Lifting straps could also be handy, especially if you're going to be moving awkward items that won't fit on carts or that need to be moved through tight spaces or up and down stairs. These straps fit around your shoulders and allow you to lift things without putting stress on your back. They're what professional movers use all the time, so if you want to do this yourself, you should seriously consider adding these straps to your inventory.

Loading Straps

Loading straps are going to be useful for your move since they will allow you to secure items within the container so that they don't move around and get damaged. They should have hooks on each end to secure the item to the floor. More importantly, they should also have a ratchet system that allows you to clamp the straps down and fully secure the item in question.

It's essential to have this system because things will move while in transit. You might be able to get away with regular rope or even bungee cords in some cases, but for larger items you really can't afford to damage, loading straps are going to be the ideal solution.

Pads and Wraps

Another thing you can't have enough of are pads and wraps. Moving pads are essentially blankets (which you can use instead if you want) that you place on top of fragile items and secure with loading straps so that nothing gets damaged while packed inside the container.

Plastic wrap is another good thing to have as it will allow you to protect softer items, such as sofas and mattresses, from being scratched or torn while you're traveling. Shrinkwrap, bubble wrap, and brown paper can also be useful to have on hand.

Lots and Lots of Hands

Lastly, you'll want to prepare for your move by making sure to reach out to as many close friends and family as possible (well in advance) to see if they will help you move. Many hands make light work, and this is especially true when moving.

Of course, asking someone to help you move is a big request; supplying pizza and beer to your helpers goes a long way towards showing appreciation.

Step 3: Prepare Fragile and Important Items

It's vital you take the proper steps to protect your fragile and otherwise valuable possessions. Here is everything you need to do to ensure it all makes it from your old house to the new without so much as a scratch:

Cushion Fragile Items

Any breakable items – vases, lamps, decorations, etc. – need to be adequately cushioned before they are packed away into a box and later the moving container. Some tips:

  • Consider using towels or sheets whenever possible –They work well, and then there is one less thing to worry about packing.
  • Individually wrap all plates and bowls – Yes, this would be a real pain, but it's worth it. The wrong bump on the road can create just enough force to chip or break something. One thing you can do is cut cardboard and put it between each plate. If you do this, just make sure to put something next to the plates to ensure they don't move from side to side while in transit.
  • Protect corners and edges – These are the most vulnerable parts of many different types of furniture. Consider getting some foam that you can fold over and tape onto the corner to reduce the risk of catching it on something and causing damage.
  • Wrap or cover upholstery and wood – Prevent damage from items placed on top of and next to furniture by wrapping each item in plastic or another protective material. Make sure these wraps are secured using straps or tape to prevent the cover from slipping off during the move and exposing furniture to scratches, dents, and tears.
  • Use bubble wrap and packing peanuts – These materials are both relatively cheap and highly effective. Bubble wrap will help keep fragile items safe and secure, whether they're in a box or out in the container. Packing peanuts are great for filling up boxes so that items don't move around during the move. Alternatively, some scrunched-up brown paper or newspaper works well.

Protect Against Light Exposure

If your moving container is translucent, meaning it allows light to shine through, some items may need protection from light exposure. Anything made out of wood and anything that has been painted or dyed should be protected from light. Even just a small dose of sunlight can cause these colors to fade.

The best way to do this is to place these items in a box that can close and block out the light, but for larger items, you may need to cover them, either with cloth or cardboard.

If you're not moving far and aren't going to leave your container full for very long, you may not need to worry about this. But if light-sensitive items will be in the container for more than a few days, it's a good idea to protect them against exposure.

Keep Items Stable

As you're packing up your stuff, your primary goal should be to store things in the moving container so that they move as little as possible while on the road, or at sea. For all your smaller stuff, this simply means making sure it fits snugly into boxes.

You can help improve stability by storing softer things such as clothes, sheets, towels, cushions, etc., with bulkier items.

Another way to do this is to ensure that boxes are as full as possible before closing them up. In instances where you can't fill a box completely, use packing peanuts or brown paper to fill the gaps.

Stability is the primary goal when packing a container. Try to have a plan for how you're going to occupy the entire space. It's a real-life game of Tetris, except there's no rush.

Secure Everything with a Lock

While it's essential to make sure your items don't get damaged, it's even more important none of them get stolen out of your moving container. None of us want to think this can happen, but it most certainly could. It's most common when moving containers are left out in front of the house for extended periods.

The simple solution is to make sure you get a moving container with some sort of a lock, or at the very least a latch that can be secured with a lock. You also need to be sure to actually lock it as soon as you've finished packing for the day, easily forgotten if you're tired from a day of lifting and moving boxes.

You may not be in the habit of doing something like this, but a moving container can make you a target, so it's important you get into the habit if you're going to have the container for more than a few days.

Take Your Most Valuable Stuff With You

Although it's unlikely anything will happen to your stuff, some things are too valuable to risk being damaged or lost. Family heirlooms, expensive jewelry, identity documents, titles, deeds, etc., are all things that are either difficult or impossible to replace. The best thing to do is put these things in a few small boxes and take them with you in the car you plan to drive, leaving no opportunity for anything to happen to them.

Step 4: Start Packing

Once you've got your valuables and other fragile and delicate items packed into boxes and protected from any damage, it's time to start packing. Take your time with this and try to come up with some sort of plan so you don't have to move things once they've been placed into the container.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you pack up your things:

  • Distribute weight evenly around the moving container – To do this, place the heaviest items around the container's edges. Then, fill in the middle spaces with the rest of your items. This should help keep everything balanced.
  • Fill Empty Spaces with Smaller Items – In the gaps between furniture, things like clothes, bags, towels, and other smaller items. This will reduce vibrations and movement during the move, keeping your stuff safe.
  • Put Necessities Up Front – Ideally, you'll be able to take as much time to unpack as you did to pack, but this might not be the case. Put essentials and items like your dollies up front where they're easily and quickly accessible.

Once you've got the container fully loaded up, half of the move is done – arguably the hardest part of it. But before you go off and get started with this process, here are a few other things you should keep in mind to help make packing as easy as possible:

  • Don't Overload – Don't fill boxes so much that they might break, and don't overload the container. Make sure you get enough of the right size boxes and don't overfill them.
  • Strengthen Boxes with Tape – Cover over the seams on the bottom of boxes with packing tape to prevent them from breaking open.
  • Use Labels – Put something on the box that lets you know what's inside. You can either write directly on it with a permanent marker or make a label. This can be a bit tedious, but it will make unpacking infinitely easier as you'll know exactly where each box needs to go.
  • Make an Inventory – It's also often useful to write down where you've packed different things. This is especially good when you have more than one moving container.
  • Protect Your Body – Moving is a physically demanding endeavor, and if you're not careful, you could seriously injure yourself. Don't try to lift more than you can. Always ask for help if you need it, bend at the knees, not the back, and use things such as dollies, carts, or moving straps to distribute the weight of heavy items more evenly and protect you from injury.
  • Take Your Time – The more thoughtful you can be while packing, the smoother the whole process will go. Give yourself time to adequately protect and secure everything and then load it onto the container strategically. Most moving container rental companies will let you keep the container for several weeks, so there's no reason to rush.

Start the Unpacking Process

After the container is packed, the only thing left is to move it - then unpack it, of course! This can be its own ordeal, but hopefully, if you've packed sensibly, everything will have arrived safely, and you know where it is. Make a plan and execute it, and moving will hopefully be a stress-free process that gets your life in your new home started on the right foot.