In the debate about whether to use a professional mover or go it alone, one of the things to consider is that the pros have an almost-magical ability to pack quickly, efficiently, and get the most out of the space available in the truck. It’s surprising how much they can load into a single truck, and how everything stays where it was put and comes out easily on the other end.

If you can’t afford to use the professionals, you can still learn from their example and get better and loading your own rental truck.

Get Everything You Need

Make sure you have all the things necessary to make moving easier. Get furniture pads, extra packing tape (you can never have enough tape) to secure loose items or padding, bungee cords or other straps to hold heavy items in place, and a dolly or two to help with the furniture and appliances. You can also cover the floor of the truck with a large tarp to help protect delicate items.

Important Things Ride in the Cab

Everything that you need to access quickly and easily should ride in the cab with you. This could include the papers for your new home, a change of clothes and toiletries in case you need to stop somewhere for the night, food and drinks, and whatever electronics you want to preserve. Also make sure you keep your wallet, keys, and phone with you or in the cab so you don’t have to go looking for them. Depending on how much room you have in the cab, you might also want a small box with cleaning supplies, so that you can give your new place a quick wipe-down if it’s needed before you move in all your belongings.

Use All Available Space

Unfortunately, you can’t just put everything in uniformly-sized or shapes boxes or plastic containers and stack them efficiently. Furniture and odd-shaped boxes will create open spaces. Try to fill these as much as possible, usually with boxes, pillows, whatever will fit and won’t cause damage. If your bookshelf has the shelves attached, put boxes in there (how about the boxes of your books?), if there’s an entertainment center on the side, can you stack items in the center unit? Maybe even the TV itself (carefully boxed or covered in a furniture pad).

Heaviest Items Go in First

There are two schools of thought about whether your heaviest furniture, appliances, and bulky items should go in first or last, but most professional movers prefer to load these things in first. This will distribute the weight to where the most suspension is, keep the back from dragging, and help you control the vehicle while traveling. It also give you a solid foundation for other boxes and things. Always keep your heavy items upright and the weight even between the sides. If you have durable items like shelves, entertainment centers, or tables and chairs, try to stack them on top of each other if you can. If you have empty spaces, remember to p

Now for the Rest of the Furniture

This is when you want to start filling in the sides with long, lighter furniture like bookshelves, couches, or mattresses and box springs.

Some furniture is easy to disassemble. Legs can come off tables, the back to some couches or chairs can be removed from the seats, and so on. As long as the reassembly process is not too involved, it’s a good idea to take apart what you can. This means you can maximize space and avoid the risk of something like a table leg breaking under the strain.

If you can’t take apart the furniture, remember the previous rule of filling up the open spaces. Not only does this helps you pack in more stuff, it can help support and brace those weak areas so they don’t break during transport.

Stack Boxes with Similar Boxes

This can be difficult sometimes, but if you’ve labeled your boxes properly, then it’s less important to keep things from the same rooms together as it is to stack efficiently. Put the larger and heavier boxes on the bottom layers, the medium-sized boxes on the next layer, and the smallest boxes on top. Try to make the stacks as high as you can, and work your way from the front to the back of the truck. Remember to pack the crevices between boxes with light items such as blankets, and if there’s any space left over, strap things down so it all holds together.

And remember, Gerber is always available to help with your moving and storage needs.