9 Tips For Packing Your Things For A Cross-Country Move Without Losing Your Mind

There's no rude awakening quite like thinking you don't have that many clothes and shoes like packing for a cross-country move. When the boxes come out and the clothing starts going in, you realize just how much stuff you didn't know you actually had. But don't panic — there are several hacks and tips for packing your things to move across the country that will make it a little more painless. You should be excited about your move, not dreading it!

I moved from the West Coast to New York City for graduate school a couple years ago, and if that experience taught me anything, it was that literally the worst form of punishment is having to pack up what feels like your entire life to move. You'd think that fresh out of college you wouldn't have accumulated that much stuff yet. But oh, you would be wrong. What feels like "just a few boxes," turns into a nightmare of gigantic piles of clothes, cartons of shoes, and probably several more boxes than you told the moving truck you'd actually be bringing. Oopsies?

There's no universe in which packing will ever be constituted as fun, but there are certainly ways to mitigate the pain a bit. Here are nine hacks for packing to move across the country, learned the hard way: from experience.

1. If You Don't Wear It, Toss It

Cindy Ord/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Getting rid of clothes/shoes is a struggle for real. I mean, what if that item comes back in fashion? What if you randomly want to wear that bright yellow tube top you wore all of one time on some upcoming beach vacation that you don't currently have planned? I know it's hard, but my rule is that if you haven't worn it, you probably aren't going to. Further, if you didn't even know you owned it, it goes in the donation pile. Every box you bring costs you more money, and they pile up fast, so pare down your stuff to what you actually and truly wear and need.

2. Space Bags Will Save Your Life

Space Saver, $26, Amazon

Space bags are your new BFF. They'll keep your clothes clean and protected, and you can suck the air out of them so it saves you space! Brilliant!

3. Keep Your Shoe Boxes

Do not throw shoes in a carton; it's always better to pack them in boxes. If you have the original shoe box and dust bag, that's the way to go. If you don't have the shoe box, just use another similarly sized smaller box, then you can just stack them up inside a carton. Pro tip: Always wrap a rubber band around the box or tape it.

4. Use Underwear & Socks As Fillers

Those shoe boxes above? They won't be full from one pair of shoes. Stick undies or socks inside your shoes and inside the box, ditto with any other boxes you have of dishes/trinkets/household items. Don't waste space formally packing socks and underwear. Bonus — if you have anything breakable, they act as a good cushion.

5. Not All Clothing Needs A Box

If you have a nightstand or dresser with clothing in it, you can usually just leave it as it is. The movers will wrap tape around it to make sure the drawers don't come out, and when you get to your destination, you won't even have to unpack those clothes! Voila!

6. Wrap Your Glass Bottles

Scotch, $13, Amazon

If you have any makeup or beauty products that are in glass bottles, you absolutely must wrap them in saran wrap or bubble wrap before placing them in a smaller box to go inside a carton. Don't just throw them all inside your beauty bag and call it a day — I learned this the hard way when a small bottle of tea tree oil cracked and spilled all over my makeup. And that's a smell you will not get out.

7. Use Wardrobe Boxes

UBOXES, $40, Amazon

If you have any delicate clothing or dresses, put them on hangers and zip them up inside a garment bag, then use a wardrobe box to hang them inside for the move. That way, they won't wrinkle.

8. Box By Room & Label Specifically

Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Packing can get chaotic, and it's tempting to just throw things at random in boxes, but try to be more methodical, because it will help with the unpacking process. When you get to your destination and you desperately need X item and you don't know what box it's in, you're going to have a meltdown, so box by room and item type.

Try to keep all your clothes together, shoes, etc., and label your boxes not only according to room, but according to specific items in them that you may need access to first, such as "gym shoes," but avoid labeling valuable things like "computer." Come up with a code for yourself (i.e., AC = apple computer), for something that expensive to avoid any break-in's in your box.

9. Pack Your Suitcase Smartly

Moving across country takes several weeks, and there can always be delays, so you're going to be without your stuff for a while. Make sure you leave the items with you that you know you'll need, and just plan on something going wrong. If there's something you can't be without for an extended period of time, keep it with you. Keep your super valuable jewelry, handbags, and other items with you (you never know what can happen). A good rule of thumb: Put the stuff on the truck that if you lost, you wouldn't hurt as much and keep the sentimental or valuable things in your suitcase.

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