It all seems so simple when you're staring at the inside of an empty moving truck. How could anyone ever mess this up? All you have to do is neatly stack the boxes, put the furniture in, pull the door closed, and you're ready to go. You can do this. After all, you've played Tetris many, many times.
And then it happens. You start loading, and everything goes pear-shaped. And you're starting to remember all those times the Tetris blocks stacked up too high and you died on Level Three.
This is Level Three, folks: The boxes are stacking up, there are too many open spaces, and you're not going to win -- that is, unless you have a plan. And the time to execute it, of course.
"There is nothing worse than rushing," says Joe Devost, regional manager of You Move Me. "Having the time to properly pack items can reduce a lot of the stress associated with a move."
1. Stick to regular moving boxes
A couple of weeks before you move, get your moving boxes together. Ideally, you should have plenty of boxes in a similar size (it will make stacking the truck much, much easier).
If you can, skip any "creative" packing moves like filling laundry baskets and trash cans with stuff you want to put on the moving truck. Another surprise tip: Don't use plastic storage bins (sorry, Container Store lovers). The unusual size and lightweight material won't work well in the moving truck, according to Devost. But they are great for transporting odd-shaped or fragile items in the car.
And as you're packing, organize boxes into three piles by weight: heaviest, average, and lightest. (More on this later.)
2. Know what to load into the moving truck first
Most of us start loading a moving truck with boxes. After all, if the boxes are in the back, you can easily stack them and then add your remaining items in the extra space. But that's counterproductive, Devost says.
"Load heavy furnishings such as dressers, desks, and trunks first," he says. "These items will serve as the base and foundation of your truck load."
Since the heaviest items are the least likely to move around, you won't have to worry much about things shifting and breaking in the truck. But you'll still need to strategize about where to place them to make the truck easy to drive.
"Potentially an overloaded or unbalanced load in your truck can create safety concerns for everyone on the road," Devost says.
If furniture is likely to bang against each other or the sides of the truck, wrap pieces in plastic dropcloths or furniture pads to prevent damage while you're driving.
(Make sure in advance that your rental truck comes with straps -- most do -- if not, you can rent or buy straps from the moving truck company or third-party retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's.)
3. Strategize how to load the moving boxes
Once your furniture is loaded, focus on the boxes. It won't be the best part of your day, but if you slow down and take your time while you're loading boxes, you'll save yourself a ton of space (and potentially a second trip).
Ideally, boxes should be neatly stacked from floor to ceiling; but to avoid damage, you'll need to take an extra step.
"To prevent your load from shifting, place your items side to side, floor to ceiling, and heaviest to lightest," Devost says. (If you arranged your boxes by weight as we mentioned in Step 1, this shouldn't be difficult.)
If you have plenty of space left in the truck after all the boxes are packed in, you might want to secure the stacked boxes with straps to keep things from shifting.
4. Save lighter and odd-shaped items for last
No surprise here: "Lighter items such as chairs, luggage, and rugs should go last," Devost says. This will keep the truck balanced and keep everything from getting broken. (This is a good time to remind you to wrap up those fragile items.)
Odd-shaped items are tricky, but draw on those Tetris skills and organize things as well as possible. Ideally, you shouldn't have much space between the ceiling and front of the truck when you are done loading.
Once everything is in, push on a few items to test how securely they're packed. If the stacks start to rattle or move around, secure everything with straps.
5. Don't put everything on the moving truck
Most professional movers won't transport anything hazardous, and you shouldn't either, if you can avoid it. But even if something isn't necessarily a hazard, you might want to consider leaving it off the truck.
"Anything liquid, combustible, poisonous, or perishable should not be loaded onto a moving truck," Devost says. Even if they're packed properly, you run the risk of spills, stains, and other nightmares.
Fragile items such as your favorite canvas art or antique table lamps might go best in the car, but remember to wrap them carefully (or risk being distracted the whole time you're driving).
6. Lock up the truck (yes, really)
Seems like silly advice? Maybe. But moving-truck theft happens, and you don't want to be one of those poor souls chasing your throw pillows down the side of the highway.