What to Pack First When Moving

What to Pack First When Moving

How do you fit the contents of an entire house on a moving truck?

Learn what to pack first when moving for a faster, more efficient move.


Packing for a move can be a daunting task. After all, you’re faced with the task of putting the entire contents of your home into boxes…while also staying on top of your other responsibilities.

But did you know that the earlier you start, the easier packing is? Yes, really!

It’s always better to begin packing as soon as possible. Waiting until the last minute will have you trying to cram 10 years of life into a weekend’s worth of boxes. Read on to find out how to pack efficiently and what to pack first when moving (so you’re not rummaging through boxes to dig out that spatula you need). 

For a more detailed timeline that goes beyond packing, check out our Ultimate Checklist for all the information you need to have a stress-free move.



Before you can start packing, you need to set yourself up for success.

You will need boxes, of course. Lots and lots of boxes. However, you might already have plenty of “boxes” already. Laundry hampers, suitcases, and even your dresser drawers can be used to transport your stuff from one place to another. Just be sure to remove any fragile items from the drawer and remove the drawers before moving the dresser.

Gather up moving supplies before you pack.

Looking to leave less of a carbon footprint? You can rent sturdy plastic bins for moving; they will be delivered and picked up to save you the hassle of tracking them down.

You’ll also need to protect your valuables to prevent damage during transport. Bubble wrap, newspaper, and even old towels, sheets, and pillows can be used to add padding to your boxes. If you’ll be moving yourself (rather than hiring a moving company), you’ll also need some blankets and padding to protect your furniture while it’s on the truck.

Next, you’ll want to find a way to label your boxes so the moving crew (or friends) knows what goes where. (Sharpies are great for this.)

Lastly, you’ll need some strong packing tape to secure your boxes and a good pair of scissors to open the boxes when you’re done.

Once you’re set with these items you should be good to begin!


4-8 Weeks Out

Ideally moving preparations will begin far in advance. A general rule of thumb is about 4-8 weeks before your move. If you start too close to your move date, you’ll feel stressed, perhaps forget things, and may not have time to get everything done.

This is a good time to begin purging all of the items you don’t intend to take with you. Clean out closets and the garage to sell or donate what you don’t need or want. A garage sale is an awesome way to do this but if you don’t have time to set one up, list your items on buy, sell, trade sights such as ebay, Mercari, Offerup, and Facebook Marketplace.

Start by packing seasonal items, such as holiday decor and out-of-season clothing. Next, tackle mementos like Grandma’s porcelain doll collection and those awards from when you were a kid.

If you have items in storage that you are taking, this is the ideal time to pack these up too. If they’re not in use currently and you won’t need them before moving, it’s a great way to wrap up some loose ends (and save yourself on the storage rental fees).


3 Weeks Out

Three weeks before your move, take down decorative items and artwork and wrap properly for your movers. This is also a good time to break out your handy duster and give the frames a good cleaning. This will allow you to just hang them in your new special residence without bringing in dirt and grime!

What to pack first when moving

Next, pack up books and DVDs. Use streaming services like Netflix and ebooks to get your entertainment “fix” before moving day. That way you don’t feel as though you’re going without but you also get those tedious items packed.

Just about every kitchen has a collection of specialty items that you don’t use every day. Items such as baking dishes, pie pans, mixers, and roasters are some good examples. Make sure you have enough dishes to eat off of and cook with.


2 Weeks Out

At this point, you’ll want to think about bringing yourself down to just the bare minimum. 

If you haven’t used them as padding, start with your extra linens. Aim to wash them once you arrive at your new place to get rid of the dust and debris.

Next, start with any other extra toiletries (such as nail polish), jewelry, and other odds and ends you won’t need over the next couple of weeks.

If you have kids, now is a good time to start packing up their toys and decor. Leave them with a few key items to play with and pack the rest. 


1 Week Out

It’s crunch time!

With only one week left in your old place, the rest of the kitchen can be packed now. Go easy on yourself and invest in some frozen dinners and other easy prep meals. (Alternatively, you can add some meal prep to week 2 so you have some great meal options this week.)

With one week to go, you should be packing all but the bare essentials.

Focus on the kitchen, since wrapping individual plates, bowls, glasses, and other dishes takes a while. You don’t want to be doing it too close to your move date.

The rest of the family laundry should be packed this week. Keep enough to wear for the next 7-10 days and just commit to a bunch of laundry once you move in.


1 Day Prior to Move

Anything that you haven’t packed already should go into boxes now. 

You’ll want to put together an “essentials kit” for each member of the family (pets included!) with everything you’ll need for the next couple of days. This keeps the important things at your fingertips (no digging through boxes to find your toothbrush).

Your moving essentials should include necessary medications (including painkillers, just in case), toiletries, snacks, a couple changes of clothes, and cleaning supplies.

If you’re moving yourself, disassemble any furniture so it will fit better on the moving truck. If you’re using a moving company, you can skip this step, as they’ll take care of it for you.

Lastly, make sure you get a good night’s rest (even if you’re on an air mattress)!


Moving Day

If you’re reading this a month or two before moving day, you probably expect that you’ll have nothing to pack on moving day, but there are always a few last-minute things you might have forgotten about.

Do a quick run through the house to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind. Open up all cabinets, closets, and other storage spaces and don’t close them again until they are completely empty.

This includes your fridge and pantry, too! Pack any perishable items in a cooler with plenty of ice. Your mover is not permitted to put perishable food items on the moving truck, so make sure you have enough space in your own vehicle for it.

While the movers take care of the heavy lifting, you can cross the last few things off of your to-do list. Once the house is clean and empty, you’re ready to hit the road!



You may have some additional items that we haven’t listed, but this article should have given you a good idea for what to pack first when moving.

Start off by packing the things you use the least often, then work your way to the most essential (saving those for the day or two before).

If you need a bit more guidance, check out Cento’s Ultimate Moving Checklist for an in-depth guide. (We also have an office version if you’re moving a business.)

We know that moving can be stressful, but hopefully this guide helps shed some light on what to pack first and how to make it an efficient move.

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