What to Pack First When Moving

Boxing up your household is a complicated task. Start with the wrong items and you’ll wind up unpacking everything in order to find something you need. Fortunately, the process has its own internal logic that will help guide you through. Begin with the items you use least. End with the items you use most. That way you’ll be able to prepare for your move without wasting time or creating too much disruption. If you don’t know what to pack first when moving, here’s a quick guide to help you get started.

Couple playfully moving a couch


Before you can box up your belongings, you have to know what needs boxing up in the first place. Once you’ve scheduled your move, set aside some time to tally all the items in your house. Most homeowners have a surprising amount of stuff they never touch. In some cases, they have items tucked away they don’t even remember buying!

After you’ve finished inventorying your home, sit down and decide what you want to take with you and what you’d rather leave behind. Remember, moving companies charge based on weight and volume, so the more stuff you have, the more it will cost you. Donating, discarding, or recycling unwanted items is one of the easiest ways to reduce your moving expenses.

Storage Items

The least used room in your house is always the best place to start, and also the hardest to pack. Because many of the items in the attic, basement, or garage are already in boxes, people often assume they’re good to go. But unless you know what’s in each container, you don’t know whether it can be transported safely.

Go through each storage area, open the boxes, and sort through what you find. Some of it may be valuable. Some of it may be junk. Some can be donated to charity. Even the stuff you want to take with you isn’t always in good shape. It might be jumbled, tangled, or stored in worn out boxes. Re-organizing takes a bit of effort, but it ensures everything will arrive in good condition.


Beautiful items are often delicate. In most cases, they take extra time and material to pack safely. And because they’re not essential, they're some of the best items to start with. Bare walls are dull, but you can get by with them for a few weeks. It’s surprisingly easy to overlook a picture you’ve seen a thousand times, so check each room thoroughly before moving on to the next.

Fine China

Anything used for special occasions won’t be needed in the weeks before your move. Get it packed and make sure the boxes are marked “FRAGILE.” In the process, you can box some of your other dishes and glassware as well, anything you’re certain you won’t need until after moving day.

Specialty Cooking Equipment

Kitchens are one of the hardest rooms to pack. Preparing food can require numerous tools and appliances, many of which only get brought out a few times a year. Plan your menus. Once you know what you’ll be eating, you’ll know which items to leave out and which to pack away. To save time, focus on simple meals so you can box up as much as possible before moving day.

Out of Season Clothes

Depending on the time of year, there is probably a whole drawerful of clothes you’re not wearing right now. Sweaters, scarves, galoshes, flannels, overcoats, swimsuits, shorts, and tank tops ‒ anything you don’t need right now can be packed away. Keep only what’s appropriate and essential for the next 6-8 weeks.

Shoes and Jewelry

Unless you’re planning a night out soon, put away all your jewelry. Extra shoes (high heels, hiking boots, etc.) won’t be needed either. Decide which pairs you need for work and the move. The rest go in a box.

Toys and Games

It's unlikely you'll throw many parties in the weeks leading up to your move, so you won’t need any of the board games lying around your home. If you have small children, you’ve probably got toys scattered around the house as well. Sort them into boxes as soon as you can. Since kids will need something to keep them entertained, ask them which ones are their favorites and save those for last.


Box up anything you’re not currently reading. Keep in mind that books are heavy, so use small boxes rather than big ones. Packing all your books in a large box either makes it too heavy to lift or increases the likelihood it will tear.

Spare Bedding

Empty out the linen closet. Blankets, towels, and sheets can either be packed away in their own boxes or used as padding for other items. However, your own bed should be left until the very end, in order to create a sense of normalcy and help you cope with the stress of moving.

Trinkets and Collectibles

Everyone has sentimental items around their home. They look nice, but you don’t need them to run your home. What’s more, it usually takes a long time to box them up, which makes them one of the best things to pack first when moving.

Help Packing with North American

North American is a full service moving company. We don’t just drive the truck, we help you pack as well. Whether it’s whole rooms or a few fragile items, our movers know how to handle your belongings with the care they deserve, so nothing gets broken or mislaid. Contact us today for a free quote!