Certain items are much easier to pack for a move than others. Books, children’s toys, kitchen accessories, and other small day-to-day items can easily be organized into a moving box with little to no thought required. Even certain pieces of furniture are low-maintenance when it comes to moving— simply wrap them in plastic and load them into your van or moving truck.
Clothes, on the other hand, are more complex. It’s easy to leave this necessity for the last minute or even forgo packing them altogether. After all, you still need to keep a few outfits accessible leading up to your moving day, and who wants to do tons of laundry when you’ve got so many other stressful tasks to check off of your list? Simply put: For many different reasons, moving clothes is not a task many people enjoy. However, a little organization and the right techniques will show you how to pack clothes for moving like a pro.
How to Pack Clothes for a Move: A Step-by-Step Guide
We’ve gathered some effective tips for packing clothes to move that will streamline your entire wardrobe-relocating process. In fact, some of these methods can even be done at the last minute— without damaging your clothes. Before your big move arrives, set aside some time to read this clothes packing guide and plan accordingly to save tons of time, energy, and sanity on moving day.
Step 1: Organize, declutter, and launder clothing
Before you pack your clothing, shoes, accessories, and other wardrobe items, you should be sure they are clean and free of stains. Wash all of your clothing and let each piece dry completely before folding, hanging, or tucking them into their respective moving totes. It’s also a good idea to resist the temptation to pack stained or damaged seasonal items without having them treated or repaired. You might tell yourself that you’ll address these issues once you get settled in your new home. However, now is the time to assess your entire closet and leave behind items that don’t make the cut.
Why should you wash all your clothes before moving?
Depending on how long your move will take, your clothes might stay packed up in boxes for a while. Washing all items will help ensure they stay as fresh and clean as possible throughout the entire moving process. When you get around to unpacking your clothing, you’ll know that all of your clothes can be worn right away. (Or at least right after a quick steam to get any wrinkles out!)
Step 2: Pack off-season clothing ahead of time
Once all your clothing is freshly washed, it’s time to get packing. The best place to start when determining how to pack clothes for a move is with seasonal items you aren’t currently using anyway. For example, if you’re moving in the wintertime, you can get a head start by packing away your swimsuits, summer sandals, and other warm-weather clothing that won’t be brought out for another few months. (A good rule of thumb here is to pack seasonal clothing you won’t be using within three months of your moving date.)
Label these boxes, so you know they don’t need to be unpacked immediately. If you plan to store them for longer than a couple of months in a basement, garage, or storage unit, make sure to protect the garments from moisture and unwanted pests.
Related: How to Store Clothes for Future Use
Step 3: Create a designated “moving week” of clothing
Packing your everyday, in-season clothes for a move is tricky. Of course, you’ll need to keep a certain number of items relatively accessible so your family can get dressed each morning as usual. That’s where a “moving week” wardrobe comes in.
After a long move, unpacking could take weeks (or even months!) to complete. Give yourself a cushion by packing clothing you can wear in your new house or apartment during that first week. Grab a suitcase, duffel bag, or box for each family member and set aside a few select outfits that will specifically be for your moving week. Be sure to include all of the essentials like undergarments, socks, pajamas, and comfortable clothes, plus any clothing you need for work, appointments, etc.
Temporarily living out of a suitcase can be hectic. But knowing exactly where your clothes are when everything else is packed in boxes can be a lifesaver when you need to be ready in a pinch.
Step 4: Pick the best packing method for moving clothing
The distance and amount of clothing involved in a move will help determine which clothes packing techniques will work best. If you’re traveling across the country in a move that spans multiple days, for example, it’s crucial to keep clothing sealed and protected. On the other hand, maybe you’re just moving one neighborhood over. In that case, zip tying hangers together and piling them on the back seat of a car would work just as well.
It may not be glamorous, but if you’re looking for the cheapest way to pack clothes for moving, zip ties, garbage bags, or even just piling your clothes into the car could be a viable solution.
Here are a few more clothes packing tips to help get you started:
- Organize clothing by season and family members
- Create piles of similar items and match a moving box with the size of the pile
- Discard as much unused clothing as possible to avoid packing more than necessary
- Separate out seasonal clothing that you won’t need during the move
8 Clothes Packing Hacks to Try:
Planning a move in the near future? Currently in the process of packing up your closet? Wherever you are in the moving process, check out our best tips on how to pack and transport your clothes as quickly and efficiently as possible:
1. Use wardrobe boxes
If you don’t want to remove all of your items from their hangers but don’t want them exposed to the elements in transit, wardrobe boxes might be a great solution. Hanging clothing can be stored in these large enclosed boxes or garment racks when traveling a long distance in a moving truck. This is especially great for vintage pieces, family heirlooms, and high-end items like fancy dresses, gowns, and suits.
2. Leave clothes in dresser drawers when moving
For clothing within a dresser drawer, consider leaving all clothing in its place to make your life easier during the move. The key to making this work is to seal the drawers and doors so they don’t fly open during the moving process. This technique works best if you have professional movers used to moving heavy furniture. If it seems safer, remove the drawers, seal them with plastic, and move them individually.
Pro tip: Leaving folded clothing in your dresser drawers during a move is one of the most efficient ways to “pack.” Mostly because very little forethought is required!
3. Wrap hanging clothes
If you’re moving a short distance, hanging clothes can be left on their hangers and wrapped in plastic for an added protection element. Simply pile them onto a cart or drape them over a box. Just be sure to tie hangers together and move them in groupings of 5-15. Cover each grouping completely with garbage bags or sheets to protect from dust and dirt.
4. Vacuum seal off-season clothes
When packing away your off-season clothing for just a short period, consider vacuum sealing them in groups to save space while you’re packing and during the move. Note that this only works if the next season is quickly approaching or you plan to unpack pretty soon after you get settled. Clothing needs air circulation when being stored for a long period of time.
5. Pack delicates and shoes separately
It’s important to keep all your delicates and shoes separate from other clothing to prevent damage. Take extra care to wrap silk and other delicate fabrics in tissue paper to add a layer of protection.
6. Create clothing “bundles”
The clothing bundle packing method makes it easier to move clothes in and out of moving boxes in an organized way. Here’s how to create your own while packing:
- Lay one large item across a flat surface, like a jacket.
- On top of this item, layer a smaller piece.
- Then put an item smaller than that.
- Once the jacket is full, wrap it around the other clothing to create a bundle.
- Toss this and other bundles inside a cardboard box with the heaviest on the bottom.
7. Clothing is heavy, so use small boxes
It’s tempting to load up a large cardboard box with as much clothing as possible. But remember: Clothes can get very heavy very fast, making a move much harder on your body. Resist this urge and use smaller boxes or totes instead.
Is it OK to pack clothes in cardboard boxes?
The short answer to this is: It depends. If you’re packing clothes for a relatively quick move or short-term storage, cardboard boxes are an okay option. After all, they’re sturdy, inexpensive, and relatively easy to find, borrow, or buy.
On the other hand, if you’re planning on stowing these clothing-filled cardboard boxes in a storage unit, garage, or basement long-term, cardboard boxes are generally not recommended. Not only are they easily infiltrated by pests, but they also lock in moisture, leaving your clothing smelling of mildew. In cases like these, a sturdy plastic tote works best.
8. Use luggage to move your wardrobe
Think of how you pack a suitcase when you go on vacation. To help conserve precious space, you might roll clothing into small bundles. So why not use this technique while you’re moving, too? Read more about how to roll clothes to pack in this article, How to Roll Clothes for Packing.
Learn the Best Way to Pack Clothes for a Move
Whether you’re moving to a different state with your entire family or preparing to live alone for the first time, we hope these essential tips help you solidify how to pack clothes for a move. If you have any advice we didn’t cover, we’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us on social media to continue the conversation.
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage blog on 7/1/13 and was revised on 3/16/18 and 4/25/23.