Somehow, in all the various things that we have to keep track of while moving, packing is one of the things most people don’t think of. Sure, it’s important, but most people just try to get boxes together and pack everything last-minute. Not thinking through the packing process can lead to wasted time, damage to your belongings, injuries while lifting or moving, and plenty of aggravation. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make while packing, and how to avoid them.

The Wrong Boxes

Most people don’t want to spend money on boxes or other packing materials, and so begins the time-honored tradition of borrowing boxes from friends or getting them from grocery, liquor, or other stores. While this is a cost-saving method, that means it’s possible to get boxes that are the wrong sizes, shapes, or aren’t in good shape. Boxes made of too-thin material, or that had been wet and warped, or just won’t fit your items. There’s a reason why professional movers and truck rental places have a few standard sizes for boxes. Book boxes, small boxes, and large boxes are usually in good condition and were designed with most household items in mind. You can also use plastic tubs and items like that to make sure the containers won’t fall apart on you while you’re moving.

Starting Too Late

It’s easy to put off packing and not scheduling enough time before a move. Not only will this lead to all kinds of other mistakes, such as not making sure you have enough boxes, but this will mean you’re up all night trying to find places to put things and are likely to miss important details. However long you think each room might take, triple your estimate. Try to start days, if not weeks in advance, so that you can sort through things to keep, donate, or get rid off. You can pack one room at a time this way so that you don’t miss things, or if you need new boxes or other ways to transport your belongings, you have time to work that out.

Mispacking and Packing Too Much

If you have mismatched boxes or you haven’t given yourself time to figure things out, you might try to shove items into boxes that are too small, the wrong shape, or not meant to carry that kind of thing. For example, putting bottles of soap and other cleansers in an oversized box with thin walls is an invitation for things to fall over, leak, and tear apart or soak into other boxes. Think through the needs for whatever it is you’re packing–such as containers for food or additional padding for glassware–you can save yourself time and trouble down the road. A similar problem is trying to put too many things in too few containers. Sure, a book box won’t hold much, but that’s the point. It’s easier and safer to move a box like that than trying to put half your library in a large box and straining to lift it off the ground. Think about what a box will weigh, and how much strain you’re putting on the cardboard.

Not Packing Essentials

Don’t forget to take special care in packing essentials. Having a box set aside for medicines, toiletries, clothes, or food can make the move itself better. You’ll also be saved the aggravation of trying to find those important documents, keys, or prescriptions on the trip or when you arrive. The essentials should be among the last boxes you pack, and should be put where you can reach them easily without having to unpack the entire moving truck or your vehicle.

No Plan

All of these things are tied to the number one biggest mistake most of us make: not planning out our move. It can seem like so much work, not to mention annoyingly nit-picky, to come up with lists and inventories, but they are invaluable resources. Know what you have, what you need to keep, and where things should go. While you’re coming up with that inventory, you can take notes on how things should be packed, what should be put into the truck first or held off until last, and where you want things to go in the new place. You can also use this plan to make sure you get enough of the right kinds of boxes, you’ve asked for the help you will need to get everything done, and to make sure you don’t forget little things like labeling boxes. Also, there’s something really satisfying about checking things off your plan.

And as always, if you want to ask for help with moving, packing, or storing your items, your friends at Gerber Moving & Storage are here for you.