Packing 101 for Dummies

Start with out-of-season items. Next, pack things used infrequently. Leave until last the things you’ll need until moving day.

Empty drawers of breakables, spillables, items not recommended for inclusion in your shipment and anything that would puncture or damage other items. However, blankets, sweaters, lingerie, bath towels and similar soft, lightweight goods may be left in drawers.

Pack similar items together. For example, do not pack a delicate china figurine in the same carton with cast-iron frying pans.

Keep all parts or pairs of things together. For example, curtain rod hangers, mirror bolts and other small hardware items should be placed in plastic or cloth bags (which can be purchased from your United agent) and taped or tied securely to the article to which they belong.

Wind electrical cords, fastening them so they do not dangle.

Wrap items individually in clean paper; use tissue paper, paper towels or even facial tissue for fine china, crystal and delicate items. Use a double layer of newspaper for a good outer wrapping.

Place a two- or three-inch layer of crushed paper in the bottom of a carton for cushioning.

Build up in layers, with heaviest things on the bottom, medium weight next and lightest on top.

As each layer is completed, fill in empty spaces firmly with crushed paper. It is also a good idea to add more crushed paper to make a level base for the next layer or use sheets or cardboard cut from cartons as dividers.

Cushion well with crushed paper; towels and lightweight blankets also may be used for padding and cushioning. The more fragile the item, the more cushioning needed. Be sure no sharp points, edges or rims are left uncovered.

Pack small, fragile, individually wrapped items separately or a few together in small boxes, cushioning with crushed or shredded paper.

Place small boxes in a single large box, filling in spaces with crushed paper.

Avoid overloading cartons, but strive for a firm pack that will prevent items from shifting. The cover should close easily without force, but should not bend inward.

Seal cartons tightly with tape except for those containing items listed on United’s High-Value Inventory Form. These must be left open for the van operator’s inspection.

As you finish with each carton, list the contents on the side of the carton (for easy viewing while cartons are stacked) and in a special notebook. You might want to number and/or code the cartons as well.

Indicate your name and the room to which each carton should be delivered at destination on the label. Tape a sign on the door of each room at destination corresponding to the carton labels so movers can get the cartons into the proper rooms quickly.

Put a special mark on cartons you want to unpack first at destination.

Obtaining a Moving Estimate

Reputable moving companies will comply with federal regulation requiring an in-home estimate.  A representative will want to visit your home or facility in order to survey your goods and provide an estimate of cost. Be sure to schedule at least two visits so you have confidence in the estimates you receive.

Beware of estimates given over the phone or internet without a visual survey. The way you describe your belongings and the way a moving company views them could differ, leading to changes in pricing. A face-to-face meeting will clarify these points and help to ensure accurate pricing from the beginning.

During the estimate, take time to show the representative every item you wish to have moved. It is easy to overlook items in the basement, attic or in storage. The mover should be asking you probing questions so they can price the job accurately and adequately prepare for the move. You should feel free to ask any questions to assure your confidence in the company.

Inquire about “valuation” options. The valuation option you choose determines the mover’s maximum liability for loss or damage caused by their handling and transportation. The liability of a mover for loss or damage is based upon the mover’s tariffs, as well as federal laws and regulations, and has certain limitations and exclusions.

How to Find a Mover

Moving doesn’t need to be stressful. The first step is finding a trusted mover for your move to/from California. Here are some steps:

  1. Talk to Friends
    A good moving company is going to have happy customers eager to share an opinion. Look to social media or ask friends if they have had positive experiences with any moving companies.
  2. Find a Trusted Advisor
    Talk to local real estate agents or home improvement contractors who work with movers every day. They can offer a professional perspective.
  3. Dust off the Yellow Pages
    It is important to recognize that not all moving company websites represent legitimate moving companies. Your local phone book can help you find established moving companies with actual physical addresses and real brick and mortar offices.
  4. Check Business Credentials
    Once you’ve made a list of prospective movers, contact each company and get their full legal name and ‘doing business as’ (DBA) names, the number of years in business, DOT and MC license numbers. With credentials in hand, you can reference FMCSA resources like or to see if a mover is federally licensed.

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