24 Jul


By / Emily Adams

What to Pack First When Moving: An Expert’s Guide

One of the most dreaded tasks when preparing for a move is packing together all your belongings. It can be unnerving. After all it’s not the same as putting together a bunch of clothes and some toiletries in a duffle bag for a weekend outing. Instead, you’re tasked with packing EVERYTHING you have to move.

The most important packing dilemma is what to pack first when moving. How and where does one even begin? And most importantly, what do you begin with? Do you start with the most fragile items like chinaware or your clothes? Or do you instead pack room-by-room? And if so, which room do you pack first? Should you start bundling up what’s in the basement first?

If you’re moving, ‘what to pack first’ is probably the perplexing question on your mind. But fret not. To make your move easier, we’ve compiled some easy tips to assist you in effectively packing all your items, so as to minimize damage and to pack in a way that makes unpacking a breeze. After all, it’s not fun to spend initial time at your new place, untangling the huge packing mess.

Let’s get started and by the end of this article, hopefully you will have a pretty good idea of what to pack first when moving houses.

Pack Room-by-Room

Cardboard boxes packed for moving. Boxes packed according to room, example, bedroom, living room, etc.

Packing room-by-room is the best way to pack all your belongings for two reasons. Firstly, packing one room at a time is much simpler and faster than going from room to room to gather stuff to pack. Secondly, if you pack room-wise, it’ll be a lot easier to unpack and get one room organized at a time at the new place.

Storage Rooms

The question that remains is: when packing to move, where to start? Quite simply, begin with the garage or basement, unless you’re using either of these as an office or studio. It’s best to start by packing belongings in all storage areas, including attics and any other room that has been converted into a storage area.

Since the storage areas contain the most forgotten items, you’re probably not going to need these until after you’ve completed the move and unpacked everything. To be safe, put aside items that you think you might need immediately after the move or on the moving day.

Packing stuff together in the storage areas will be the most time-consuming as these are typically loaded with unused stuff from over the years. It makes the most sense to pack the storage areas first, and at least 3-4 weeks before the move. This would ensure that you’re done with the most time-consuming task first, resulting in more energy in the days leading up to the move for other crucial tasks.

Guest Room

After packing all storage rooms, start packing the most unused room next. For instance, the guest room, if unoccupied at the time of packing, is likely to contain the least amount of items.

Living Room

After the guest room, start packing items in the living room. It may be tempting to save the living room for last, however, that might be a mistake. The living room is probably filled with decorative artifacts, artwork, and framed paintings, along with large pieces of furniture, which you definitely don’t want to reserve for last.


When you’re done with the living room, you may want to begin packing the most unused kitchen items and appliances that are stored in the top most cabinets first. However, be sure to set aside some cooking utensils, plates, crockery, and cutlery to use in the days leading up to the final move.

Bedroom & Bathrooms

It goes without saying that the bedroom and bathroom need to be packed last. The bedroom will give you space to unwind at the end of the day, which will be a blessing when you’re exhausted from all the packing and running around that is inevitable before a move.

As for the bathroom, you will need to use it every day until you move, so it makes sense to pack it the day prior or on the moving day itself. Most importantly when you’re packing your bedroom, kids’ room, and bathroom, set aside a few clothes and essential toiletries in a box that will ideally be loaded last into the storage moving container.

De-Clutter and Organize Each Room Before Packing

The easiest thing to do is to simply start packing everything that you can lay your hands on as you go from room to room. However, it’s important to de-clutter and take stock of the items in each room before you begin to pack. Grab a cup of coffee and a notepad and pen or simply use your smartphone to make an organized inventory list. De-clutter and trash or donate items that lie mostly unused, including outdated, damaged, and broken stuff that you probably should have discarded years ago. It would be most worthwhile to note that you will be saving a tremendous amount of money and effort by not packing items that will likely be unused anyway.

To de-clutter, set aside items in four different piles:

  • Discard: Items that you or anyone else may have no use for. These include all damaged, broken, and outdated items. For instance, old records that don’t function anymore or socks that have long been divorced from their mates are best discarded.
  • Donate: Items that you no longer use but are in an excellent or functional state can be donated to Goodwill or any other charity. These include old clothes, shoes, accessories, or furniture items that are in a good physical condition.
  • Sell: This category includes electrical gadgets, books, and other expensive items that can be sold online for a good price.
  • Pack: Items that you are going to need or those that have a huge sentimental value such as memorabilia are to be set aside for packing.

Packing Supplies

Phew! Organizing and de-cluttering is half the battle won. Pat yourself on the back for having saved on time, space, and money by discarding and setting aside items to donate. But you’re obviously not done as you haven’t even started packing yet!

Before you begin to pack items, make sure you have all the required packing supplies, such as identically sized cardboard boxes and tape (among other supplies). It’s not recommended to use old boxes for packing as these are likely to give up under the strain and tear. Items must be carefully wrapped, if possible, before being packing into cardboard boxes. Additionally, ensure that the boxes are well sealed to avoid dust from settling in, as they may lie unpacked for a long time, probably until a few days after the move.

Items to Pack First

At last, here comes the packing part! Excited to begin? Here’s a list of things that need to be packed first:

  • Artwork – Art work makes your place aesthetically pleasing, so you don’t want to leave it behind! Be sure to carefully wrap and pack it for the move so it arrives in one piece to elevate the beauty of your new place. Your delicate but expensive decorative items must be wrapped with care, preferably with bubble wrap or even linen to avoid breakage or damage in transit. These include all souvenirs, artifacts, paintings, figurines, vases, framed pictures, and holiday decorations, among others.
  • Collectibles – Like artwork, collectibles are another set of valuable stuff that has no practicality but is equally important. However, in all probability, you won’t be requiring any of these items until moving day or later. These include memorabilia, toy trains, model airplanes, coin sets, or any other card sets that children like to make a collection of, and other similar stuff.

Appliances – Pack all appliances that you don’t use every day like the barbeque grill and any other electrical appliances. You need to be extra careful with wrapping and packing these as you want to make sure they still function after the move!

*Pro Tip: We recommend making sure appliances that use water, like your refrigerator and washer, fully dry out and are drained. Washers tend to hold on to water and can leak in the container or create moisture in the container. We recommend drying them out for a minimum of two days.

  • Clothes and Shoes – This is one category that will take time and effort to pack. As tempting as it may be to simply bundle up all your clothes and shoes at the last minute, doing so may result in crumpling them, making them un-wearable. Take the time to sort and pack your clothes properly. But remember to set aside a few clothes and shoes for the days leading up to the move. In addition, pack extra linen, towels, and bedding along with the clothes.
  • Sports Equipment – Sports or gym equipment like golf clubs, dumbbells, and others need to be packed carefully. It’s unlikely that you will be playing golf in the last few days before your move! Additionally, pack all sporting gear and accessories in a box marked ‘Sports’.
  • Books and Magazines –Pack all books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, and games as you possibly won’t find time to read until after you’ve not only made the move but also unpacked. Pack these items carefully as you won’t be unpacking these for a long time. Be careful though that you don’t pack sturdy books in cardboard boxes as they’ll likely tear down under the weight. You can use your gym bag for the smaller books and a suitcase for the larger ones.
  • Kitchenware All silver and steel cutlery, chinaware, crystal glasses, cookie cutters, glassware, and other similar items (non-edible of course) that you don’t use on a day-to-day basis, need to be among the first things to be packed. Again, most of these items being fragile need to be wrapped and boxed carefully.

Pack in Cool Box Portable Storage Units

Beginning to pack at least a month in advance will help relieve the stress that comes with moving. To keep your moving experience from becoming a headache, use Cool Box Portable Storage containers. Portable storage containers offer significant advantages, like insulation to protect your belongings from harsh climates, easy maneuverability, and an easy fit in parking spaces. Check out our blog on “Types of Moving Storage Containers” for more information regarding portable storage.

Most importantly, unlike alternate moving companies, we offer easy, upfront pricing with no hidden charges. We even beat our competitors’ prices for comparable quotes!

Fill out our ‘Instant Online Quote Form’ to get started on pricing out your portable storage container. If you have any questions, simply contact us to talk to one of our moving and relocation specialists.

**Moving soon? Check out our Checklist to Moving page to stay even more organized! 

Emily Adams