How to Pack an Apartment: 16 Tips for Stress-Free Packing

There’s no getting around it: moving sucks. While finding the right movers or renting a U-Haul is a pain, packing for a move is often the most frustrating part. Even if you know how to pack an apartment effectively, it can feel like an endless job. One minute you’ve finished packing your bedroom and are feeling good about your progress, and the next you stumble upon a cluttered closet you thought was empty!

Luckily, there are packing apartment tips that can help make this massive undertaking quick, efficient, and — believe it or not — fun. When done right, packing can actually feel quite satisfying. Not to mention, it’s also a great time to clear out the stuff you don’t need. These tips can help you learn how to pack quickly and have an awesome moving experience.


16 Tips on How to Pack an Apartment

If you’re like most people, you dread packing. If you put it off till the last minute, chances are you’re feeling rushed and need to pack quickly. Here are 16 helpful tips to get you started.

1. Create an essentials box

There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of packing and realizing you don’t have the things you need to continue. Every move, no matter how big or small, requires basic essentials. This list includes things like boxes, packing tape, protective wrappings, rubber bands, and cleaning supplies. So if you want to learn how to move quickly, your first step should be creating a box filled with all of your moving must-haves. Make sure you label this box so it is easy to identify. Ideally, the box or bin you put these things in shouldn’t look like your other moving boxes.

Another must-have that usually isn’t the first thing to come to mind is essential paperwork. You’ll want to create a folder that makes it easy to find important details for your move, including your new lease, rental equipment, certificate of insurance, and any other required papers.

2. Color coding for the win

One fool-proof strategy for how to pack to move an apartment is to grab a stack of rainbow colored sticky notes. Use one color for essentials, and then choose a separate color for each part/room of your apartment. This will make it easier for whoever is helping you move and easier for you when it’s time to unpack at your new apartment.

3. Stock up on moving supplies early

Moving supplies can be expensive, so check out your neighborhood supermarkets and package stores to grab free boxes. You can also try going online and checking sites like Craigslist and NextDoor. Small boxes tend to be better for heavy items like books, while larger boxes are great for towels and sheets. Try to have these on hand to make your move go smoothly:

  • Zip ties
  • Garbage bags
  • Black permanent markers
  • Scissors
  • Plastic baggies, like Ziplocs
  • Packing tape
  • Masking tape
  • Folders for loose papers and photos on the fridge, bulletin board, etc.


4. Start by packing non-essentials

You might love your books, knickknacks, and pictures, but you probably don’t use these items every day. Starting with non-essentials is best if you’re figuring out how to pack for a move ahead of time. This can help cut the stress and chaos of last-minute packing. It also helps you prepare mentally for the move. Pro-tip: pack books and non-fragile items while you watch TV. It makes the process much more enjoyable.

5. Use small boxes for heavy items

A huge box of books might be more efficient to move, but it can damage your back (or the mover’s) if it’s too heavy to lift. Grab smaller boxes for heavier items and larger boxes for items that weigh less.

6. Plan out placement of moving boxes

Clear a wall in your apartment and start lining up boxes there. The items you use least will be closest to the wall and the last to go into the moving truck. They’ll also be the first to head into your new apartment and probably the last things you’ll unpack.

If you’re using this strategy, keep in mind that these boxes will be bearing some serious weight even if you only need to know how to pack and move in one day. Stacking works great for boxes of books, but many other less-essential keepsakes are fragile. Make sure you do a thorough job of packing delicate items. Use a permanent black marker to show which boxes contain fragile items as you pack and stack.

7. How to pack an apartment closet

Closets tend to be one of the areas we dread the most. Luckily, you can pack your closet in a snap with this quick trick. Grab a handful of rubber bands and group 5-8 hangers with a rubber band or zip tie. Next, grab a box of drawstring garbage bags, and cut a small slit in the bottom of each one. Drape one garbage bag over each group of hangers, then tie at the bottom. Put these tidy packages into boxes or plastic containers to speed up your closet packing and ensure that no rogue shirts or dresses slip off your hangers and go missing.

8. Label as you go

It may seem like a hassle to label each and every box, especially if you’re making a quick move and only need to know how to move in 1 day. But when you get to your new apartment and need a specific kitchen item for making dinner, your future self will thank you. Write clearly on the top and two sides of every box. It can also help to write a general overview of what ended up in each box. While some boxes are room-specific, as packing continues, it’s easy to start throwing random items in boxes the way you might with the junk drawer in the kitchen.

9. Use linens to protect fragile items

Glassware, dishes, and other fragile items often require a layer of packing material for protection. However, finding old newspapers and bubble wrap can be more challenging than we think. Instead, wrap your breakables in sleepwear, t-shirts, hand towels, and other linen items instead. This also helps save time rewashing dishes once you’re in your new apartment and cuts down on the amount of waste you produce.

10. Declutter as you pack

Have a box or bag ready to set aside items you plan to donate or throw away before your move. Even if you know how to quickly pack for a move, there’s no need to move items you know you don’t want. Make it easy to organize unwanted items as you pack.

11. Don’t forget about furniture assembly

Keep in mind that some furniture may need to be taken apart. As you disassemble bed frames, desks, or tables, be sure to put all of the hardware such as screws, washers, or special tools, together. Grab a clear plastic bag and a Sharpie and label the bag, then tape it to that piece of furniture so you don’t lose it. This makes sure everything stays together and is easy to reassemble when you get to your new home.

12. Bring a suitcase for your move

Moving can get hectic and confusing, and chances are you won’t watch to unpack as soon as you get to your new place. Pack a suitcase with essentials like your toiletries, charging cords, pajamas and a few sets of clothing for the next day or two. A to-go bag will help you make sure that you have what you need to get dressed and ready no matter what happens on moving day. We also recommend including any important things like passports or financial papers in the suitcase for security.

13. Fill every container

Using every bit of available space is one of the best methods for how to pack up your house fast. You’ll waste valuable packing space if you pack pots, dressers, and other containers while they’re empty. The kitchen is full of small items like spices, measuring spoons, and more, so drop these into your empty pots to make sure everything makes it to the new place in the least amount of boxes.

14. Tape your mirrors and frames

Mirrors and glass in picture frames are easy to break, so do a little damage control. Run a line of masking tape diagonally on the surface of every mirror and picture frame. This can help avoid cracking. Even if the glass does break, this tip can help keep glass shards from getting everywhere and prevent cuts from happening while unpacking.

15. Label wired electronics

If you have complex wiring systems for your TV, internet, or gaming systems, be sure to take clear pictures and label cords with colored tape before moving. A picture alone is helpful, but one wrong cord can be a major source of frustration and could keep a whole system from working. Cord labeling may seem like too much time or effort, but packing apartment tips like this can save hours of stress and hassle!

16. Pack bedding last

The only thing you really need on your first night in a new apartment is a place to crash. Whether you stuff your bedding into your car or clearly label bedding for your movers, make sure that it will be easy to find on your first night at your new apartment.

Simplify Your Move with Jubel

Nothing makes a move easier than help from professionals. If you’re looking for expert movers in San Francisco, get in touch with Jubel Moving & Storage. With over seven years of experience, we can make your move stress-free. With a dedication to excellent customer service and the belief that attention to even the smallest detail is paramount, you can rely on us to treat your items with the utmost care. 

Reach out today for a free estimate from Juel Moving & Storage, the number one local movers in the San Francisco Bay Area.