How to Prep Your Home for Professional Packers
Whenever I tell people we have a move coming up, the most common response I get is “Oh, but the military does everything for you, right?” Well…yes. Kind of. The military does indeed hire professional moving companies to pack our boxes, load the moving truck, drive the truck to a new location (and reverse the process on the other side). But that doesn’t at all mean I get to sit on the couch watching television while the packers pull our entire home apart. Not only are there very specific rules about what professional packers will and will not do, but we’ve learned (the hard way) that how everything goes into boxes directly influences how it all comes out. As such, there is a ton of pre-packing necessary to ensure a professional pack out goes as smoothly as possible AND everything arrives in good condition. If you’ve decided to use professional packers for your next move, here are some very important things you should do before the packers arrive!
The Pros and Cons of Using Professional Packers for a Move
There are some really obvious benefits to using professional packers for a move:
- I don’t personally know how to wrap plates or our television or my sewing machine so that they arrive in perfect condition. Packers, however, are trained on how to properly wrap, box, and load a wide variety of items so they arrive safely.
- When items are packed by professional movers, the company is usually financially responsible for any damage incurred (check your contract!) But when you pack items, you are financially responsible if items break. Letting packers do the work can ensure replacement in the case of damage.
- Professional packers arrive with all the boxes, tape, packing paper, tools, blankets, wrap, rubber bands (and people!) needed to get everything packed up, which can save you big on a moving budget.
- A professional crew will be able to pack and load your boxes much more efficiently than you can. Whether it’s because they know exactly what they are doing and/or they have a team of 5 people, the overall pack up process will be much faster (which means less overall disruption to you).
- And finally – hiring a crew means you don’t have to pack each and every item, take apart furniture, or load heavy things.
Without a doubt, hiring professional movers IS easier than packing everything yourself. But relinquishing these tasks does come with some risks:
- Packers do not really consider what should be packed together beyond how it fits into a box. So you can easily end up with kitchen items alongside toys alongside office supplies (unless you pre-organize).
- Packers do not know what items should and shouldn’t be packed. In general, they will assume everything needs to be boxed up and taken out. If items are in view, they will get packed (unless designated otherwise), including trash, your donation pile, dirty laundry, and any items that should remain with the house.
- Packers often box items as is. They don’t remove cases from pillows, trash from trash cans, rings from curtains, and sometimes even shades off lamps. They move quickly and will have as minimal contact with items as possible.
- You don’t really get to decide how items are packed up. Sure, you can alway asked for something to be re-boxed if you’re uncomfortable with how it’s done. But more often than not, they will be moving quicker than you can catch things and speak up.
- Packers do not inventory boxes in a way that is truly helpful. They are not nearly as familiar with your belongings as you are, so your box will usually say something simple like “Lamp, Books” even though it might also contain some movies, craft supplies, etc. You will rarely (if ever) get precise details of what is in every single box, which can make unpacking and/or finding specific things a nightmare.
- And lastly, hiring strangers to touch every last item you own comes with risk. Unfortunately, in a big house with lots of packers and activity, items (especially valuable ones) can disappear unbeknownst to you.
Why Pre-Pack When Using Professional Movers?
Pre-packing for professional movers is essentially your best way to mitigate all these Cons. By spending a little (or, let’s be real…a lot) of time getting your home organized, prepped, catalogued, and sorted before moving day, you will increase the likelihood that:
- Items won’t be packed up accidentally.
- Like/logical items will be boxed together.
- Items will land in the right location on the other side.
- Items will have less damage.
- Items will be less likely to go missing.
All good things right? But this doesn’t happen by luck or chance without some work on your part. So let me share what I absolutely recommend doing before professional movers even arrive in your home to ensure the best possible outcomes for your items (and your sanity!) during any relocation.
Things You Should Do Before Professional Packers Arrive At Your Home
Stage for the Next Home
Remember: how items are boxed up is how they are unboxed. Packers don’t know where items will go coming off the truck. All they know is where items are located currently…so they will be packed and labeled as such.
If you know certain rooms are getting combined or specific items will be together in the next home…stage them together so they are boxed (and therefor unboxed) together.
Our linen closet is getting combined with our laundry room, so everything has been moved into the same location to be boxed together.
Anything that is not “room specific” should be consolidated (from around the home) whenever possible. Items like cords, pillows, assembly hardware, and even books, toys, and games will be easier to locate if they are all together.
I’m not sure what pillows will go where in our next home, so having them staged and boxed together will help me find my options quicker on the other side!
Remember, packers will box/load things as they encounter them. They will not empty your baskets (even your hamper!) or fold up your organizers. So that any bins, boxes, baskets, or organizers don’t arrive crushed or warped, I always recommend emptying and collapsing them down (when possible). In the case of foldable organizers, get them as flat as possible…
and anything that nests or stacks should go together so they will better hold their form.
TIP! Also be sure to remove any protruding labels, tags, or other accessories, as they will likely catch, tear, or warp during the moving process.
Bag It Up
If there is one key point you take away from this entire post, please let it be this one: bag up anything and everything you can into Ziplock bags.
Our junk drawer bagged up and ready to be boxed.
Lego bricks and creations collected up from AAAAAALL around the house and boxed and bagged together.
Remember, packers will just place things into boxes, not caring how they come out. If collections of small items are not contained in some way, they can and WILL get tossed around throughout the moving process.
Our entire playroom bagged up into large Ziplocks, including these huge versions that can hold full baskets of toys at once!
This means you can open a box to find silverware, puzzles, or even tacks and paperclips scattered throughout. Invest in zip-able bags in all sizes, and bag up any small, loose collections inside drawers, baskets, and shelves. Not only will your moving boxes stay tidier, but unpacking is as quick and easy as dumping each bag’s contents back into the drawer or organizer they came from!
All the contents of my Craft Room drawers bagged up and consolidated into a single tote so they are packed (and therefor unpacked) all together!
TIP! Plastic bags aren’t just for collections of small toys, office supplies, or crafts. Consider placing sheets, pillows, curtains, and other fabric items into plastic bags to protect them from the inevitable dirt and dust of cardboard boxes and tape.
Re-Box items in Original Packaging
I get rid of product packaging in almost all scenarios. The one exception is expensive and/or large electronics. We keep the boxes (with their original packaging) for items like TVs, computers, printers, speakers, and my Cricut machines. Re-boxing items before the packers arrive will not only ensure each machine ends up in safe, sturdy packaging, but it will also save packers time and materials from having to build custom boxes.
Empty Reusable Canisters
Most moving companies have a policy that they will not move foods, liquids, flammable items, or hazardous materials. You don’t necessarily need to put these things off to the side, because the packers literally won’t even touch them when they come across them. However, this becomes problematic if the canisters holding the prohibited items need to be packed.
I like to decant our pantry staples (e.g., sugar, flour, rice) and our cleaning liquids into reusable containers. In order for these containers to be boxed up, they must be empty (and ideally dry of any moisture). Emptying, washing, and rinsing out all these containers can be time consuming, so be sure to leave time for it. And don’t forget to look all around the house too. Leftovers containers in the refrigerator and freezer also need to be emptied so they can be packed, as do any decorative bottles or jars you may have in bathrooms.
TIP! Although not quite the same, be sure you also check your appliances (e.g., washer, dryer, dishwasher), hampers, and all trash cans for anything that needs to be emptied/put away before the packers show.
Take Everything Off the Walls
Taking items off the walls is not hard; however, most moving companies have a policy that they won’t do it. Therefore, if you want your frames, art, curtain rods, shelves, mounted light fixtures, mounted TVs (and more) packed, you need to take them down ahead of time.
Likewise, most moving companies will not pack up anything that is still plugged in (this can get really tricky since you likely want your TV and/or computer up until the very last minute). Typically, you’ll need to make the rounds throughout the house and unplug anything before the movers show up.
TIP! Although a little annoying, this actually gives you a great opportunity to consolidate power cords and label them accordingly so you can ensure none get lost in the chaos.
Empty Trash & Debris
Again…packers will pack items as they are, so you want to ensure anything that can be emptied…is. Otherwise, you run the risk of any small debris making a mess of the inside of your packing boxes. This includes items such as vacuums (and other mechanical cleaners), sewing machines, wood working tools, lawn equipment, and even small things like pencil sharpeners and paper hole punches.
Inventory Your High Value Items
Professional movers are technically “required” to inventory anything you deem “High Value.” Additionally, these items are “supposed” to go in special boxes with special seals.
However, we’ve had professional packers skip this step, and everything is boxed too quickly for us to catch it. A High Value Inventory is one of the only ways to ensure you can make claims if valuable items go missing, so consider assembling your list long before the professional packers ever arrive. Be sure your inventory includes model and serial numbers so you can get equivalent replacements if needed.
TIP! Assembling a High Value Inventory can be really tedious when you’re trying to do so much before movers arrive. I recommend creating a log (either on paper or virtually) that you can keep updated on a regular basis. Then, you can simply print it out and hand it over to the packers before each move.
Take Pictures (Or Video) Of Everything
As mentioned above, professional packers do not typically provide a very detailed box inventory. Line items will often say “Bedroom, Shoes” and “Office, Books.” If your shipment were to get lost or damaged, this inventory would prove essentially useless when trying to claim or replace specific items within the boxes.
Since there is no practical way to inventory every item alongside professional packers, your next best option is to photograph (or video) everything before it is packed up. When possible, show items in working condition and capture as much as you can from every angle. (This is where all my blog photos sure come in handy!)
Save the images to a folder on your device so they can serve as proof of the contents of your household shipment should you ever need it.
Set Up a No Pack Zone(s)
Finally, the best way to ensure everything that should be packed is, and conversely anything you don’t want packed isn’t, is to create a No Pack Zone. This can be a closet, room, bathroom, basement, your car, or even a taped off area that is designated for items you don’t want packed for one reason or another.
Things to put in your No Pack Zone:
- Anything you need between homes or the first night in your new home (checkout my Moving Essentials Box recommendations).
- Valuables or important documents such as birth certificates, passports, and jewelry.
- Anything needed for pets (e.g., kennel, food) or kids (e.g., pac’n’play, sippy cups)
- Items belonging to the house (e.g., fire extinguisher, keys/garage door openers, etc)
You can use one area or several (especially if you need items accessible in certain spots of the house). Just be sure they are VERY clearly closed off from packers with VERY clear “No Pack” signs.
TIP! If you can’t or don’t want to move specific items to a designated zone, still take the time to label everything clearly so packers understand not to box them up too early. Post-It Notes are a great solution here.
If you don’t do any of these things, will everything in your home still get boxed up? Yes. But will these tips and tricks ensure that items come out of boxes on the other end more organized, clean, and in better condition? You bet. And will this eventually lead to a smoother, more efficient move in? Absolutely.
Working with professional packers is indeed an excellent way to save serious time and hassle throughout the moving process. But it doesn’t let you off the hook completely! As I hope this post outlines, there is indeed a lot of preparations that should happen before movers ever step foot in your home. Yes, it IS a ton of work to sort, stage, clean, and bag up every last item…but I promise you, it is oh so worth it!