Figuring out how to pack a moving truck is like a playing a game of furniture Tetris, the aim being to make your valuables fit inside with the least amount of stress. Of course there are strategies that can make you more likely to win — and by win we mean making it to your new home or storage unit without breaking all your stuff, and with your sanity intact.
To help, Public Storage created a new video on how to pack a moving truck, based on our 44 years of experience helping customers who turn to storage when they relocate. We also asked professional movers for tips on how to pack well.
Start with a Plan for How to Pack a Moving Truck
“How well the move goes depends on how well-prepared and packed up a client is,” said Jeremiah Hartzell, who started Mission Movers in Southern California in 2010. “If clients are meticulous and careful, things will stack and organize nicer in the truck.”
If you take twice as long to set up the truck, for example, it will pay off and take half the time to unload on the other end, he said. And things will be less likely to break.
A trick used by many professional movers is to split an empty moving truck up into three horizontal layers–top, middle and bottom. They layer in stages, starting with the heavy stuff at the back, sides and bottom of the truck, tying down sections as they go.
“You have to pack the truck correctly or else you’ll find stuff broken and bleeding out of boxes when you get where you’re going,” said Gibson Lopez, a Mission Mover who has worked for the company for more than three years.
On a recent hot Sunday afternoon he was helping a client in Huntington Beach, Calif. before driving the truck more than 400 miles to Sacramento.
“The tighter everything is (packed), the less it’s going to shift around,” he said.
Build a Strong Base in Your Moving Truck with Boxes or Furniture
In order to stack high and maximize your truck space, you need to make sure you have a strong base, which can be boxes or heavy furniture.
“The base could be anything solid so you can store more stuff on top,” said Anata Bunkley, a College Hunks Moving Junk and Moving team leader based out of Tampa, Fla.
Hartzell said he usually builds the back base out of boxes.
“Build a foundation of square items at the bottom and leave an open layer for loose, random stuff on top,” he said.
The loose stuff is what industry professionals call “chowder,” at least back when Hartzell learned the term from his grandfather, who owned a trucking company.
“If you pack everything perfect in the beginning, you’ll have a lot of chowder left over,” Hartzell said.
Just make sure your chowder doesn’t consist of anything fragile because there’s a good chance it could shift around while you drive.
Bunkley recommends building the base as high as your shoulders then filling the top space with chowder items like pillows, towels or rugs — before repeating the process in a different portion of the truck.
Use Stretch Wrap and Straps to Protect Your Stuff During a Move
The last thing you want to see while unpacking is a scratch on your expensive dresser or a hole in your leather recliner. That’s why moving professionals swear by stretch wrap.
Hartzell recommends covering furniture with moving blankets before applying stretch wrap, for extra security.
“It’s going to keep your furniture safe and protected,” he said. “It also makes packing neater and helps keep dust off your items.”
Bunkley also recommends strapping everything to the sides of the moving truck. When you have to suddenly brake, straps will keep your stuff secure, he said.
Nylon rope is a cheap way to strap everything to the walls of the truck to help protect it during the drive.
“Keeping things safe and secure is always going to be the most important thing when you pack a truck,” Hartzell said.
Protect Your Mattress During Your Move and Use it for Protection
It’s important to take extra measures to protect your mattresses and box springs, because they will in turn become padding inside the moving truck.
“Mattresses and box springs should be put in mattress bags so they stay nice and clean,” Bunkley said.
If they’re in a bag, you can also drag them to the truck if they’re too heavy for you to lift, he added. You should strap the mattresses in tight towards the front of the truck, at the side. By doing this, they become a protection barrier for everything behind, and in between.
Movers recommend protecting large mirrors, pictures and paintings by sliding them between your mattress and box spring on the wall.
Rent a Big Enough Moving Truck or Storage Unit
Hartzell said one of the most common mistakes amateur movers make is to choose a truck or storage unit that isn’t big enough for all their stuff.
“People pick out too–small storage units all the time,” he said. To avoid that fate, you can check out our website for the latest Public Storage video tips on how to choose a storage space.
And even though a smaller truck will be cheaper, it will cost extra in the long run if you have to take two or three trips.
“The less stacking you have to do, the better,” Hartzell said. “Don’t be afraid to go bigger than you think.”