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View from above of a person packing nicely folded clothes into a moving box. There is a pile of hats and a closed umbrella nearby.

How To Pack Clothes for a Move: 11 Hacks You Have To Try

Packing Tips and Hacks

by LB Gabriel Posted on October 30, 2023
Packing for a move is no easy feat. So much of your time is spent doing things like disassembling furniture, deciding what to do with large items, and prepping your fragile pieces for a safe trip. And spending all that time focused on those tasks often results in throwing more casual things — clothes, in particular — haphazardly in bags at the last minute.

While this isn’t the worst way to pack, it can waste a lot of space and time (later) — not to mention leave you with a wrinkled and damaged wardrobe. Instead, make the entire moving process easier on yourself in the long run by learning how to pack clothes for moving the best way with these 11 packing hacks for clothes.

1. Purge Your Closets.

One of the best things you can do when packing clothes for moving is get rid of clothing you no longer want or need. If you haven’t worn it in a year, there’s no reason to pack it. This may seem like obvious advice, but moving can be overwhelming, leaving little time to do extra work like sorting through closets and dressers. Taking the time on the front end, though, will save lots of unpacking time later.

Pro Tip: Need some purging tips? Use this decluttering checklist, and if you have the time — and energy — consider hosting a garage sale before you move. It’s a great way to get rid of a lot of stuff quickly and make a little extra moving money.

A white mesh laundry basket is leaned up against a dresser. The basket is overflowing with clothes that need to be washed before they’re packed away for a move.

2. Set Aside a Laundry Day.

Once your sell or donate pile is out the door, you’re left with the clothes that will be making the journey to your new home. If some of those clothes are dirty, wash them before packing. It can be tempting to take a laundry sack with you, but the last thing you’re going to feel like doing after unpacking is a load of laundry. Plus, stained, soiled clothes are only going to worsen after time spent in boxes and suitcases. Having everything fresh and clean before it’s packed makes unpacking much more pleasant.

3. Sort by Season.

When should you start packing clothes for moving? You can start as soon as you’ve put your house on the market or you’ve put your name on a new lease (unless you’re a believer in jinxing things). Chances are, you’re packing and moving during one season. That means you can pack up your out-of-season clothes without sacrificing your style.

If it’s summer, go ahead and box up those winter items. If it’s winter, you’re not going to need those bathing suits any time soon. And if you’re experiencing wild weather mood swings, pack the items you know you won’t need for months. You may think you’re going to unpack all of those boxes as soon as you get to your new home, but you’d be surprised how a few can escape for weeks — or even months — without being touched. Fun fact: Americans take an average of six months to finally unpack that last box, according to a recent study.

A close-up view of a vacuum attachment being used to seal clothing in vacuum bags before packing them for a move.

4. Compress Bulkier Items.

Unless you’re going to need all of those bulky winter jackets, ski bibs, and cold weather coveralls during your move, save space by putting those clothing items in compression bags. There are several vacuum storage bags on the market that are fairly inexpensive. And not only are the compression bags great for clothes, but they’re also perfect for pillows, comforters, and other large, soft home goods that can take up a significant amount of box space if left as-is.

5. Save Space With the Army Roll.

Is it okay to roll clothes for packing? It’s not only ok, it’s our preferred method. There are flat fold devotees, and we’re not knocking that option, but folding can take up more space and create creases and wrinkles.

We recommend the army roll because it maximizes space while minimizing wrinkles. Because a skill like this is best taught through visuals, here’s a video that walks you through the process:

 

Alternate idea: Not having any luck with the army roll? You can always use a more casual roll instead.

Q: What is the most space-efficient way to pack clothes?
A: If you’re wondering how to pack clothes without wrinkles, we suggest rolling the clothes rather than folding before putting them in suitcases or boxes. This typically takes up less space and creates fewer creases and wrinkles. Be sure to do a tidy roll, though, or you could do more harm than good. If you’re using space-saving vacuum bags, opt for folding instead of rolling. The air compression on rolled clothing items can create a lumpy mess.

6. Use Wardrobe Boxes.

If you’re pressed for time, and wondering how to pack clothes for a move in the fastest and most effective way, the answer is wardrobe boxes. This is also how to pack clothes on hangers, for those times when you want to carefully protect certain pieces of your wardrobe that won’t do well rolled in boxes or folded inside a dresser.

Take your hanging items, put them directly in a wardrobe box, and — boom! — you’re done. It’s a quick and easy method for packing hanging clothes. 

If you do have time, though, try not to rely too heavily on wardrobe boxes. They’re typically more expensive than regular packing boxes and take up a decent amount of space on a moving truck. If you’re already moving suitcases and dressers, that’s free space you can use for packing casual clothing like T-shirts, jeans, and undergarments. Use the wardrobe boxes for more delicate clothing items that either need more protection or are prone to excessive wrinkling.

Q: What is the cheapest way to pack clothes for moving?
A: Make use of space you already have by putting clothing in suitcases, duffel bags, and even your dresser drawers (be sure to secure them with plastic wrap before transit). You’ll still need some boxes, though, so make sure you’re getting a good deal on supplies and not paying a premium for shipping. When you purchase moving materials on PODSboxes.com, you’ll not only find a variety of moving boxes and packing supplies to suit any relocation, but you’ll also receive free and fast delivery right to your door. 

A happy young mother packs stuffed animals away in moving boxes as her toddler son looks on.

7. Pack Boxes Heavy to Light.

It’s tempting to load up a big box with lots of shirts and pants. But you’ll be surprised how quickly this will weigh the box down. When packing clothes for moving, use small- to medium-sized boxes instead of large ones. And to create a sturdy base, load the box with heavy items first — like jeans, sweaters, and jackets — then move to your lighter ones — like T-shirts, socks, and underwear.

8. Know Which Box to Use When.

Speaking of boxes, we’ve shared a few tips for how to pack clothes for moving that mention regular moving boxes, wardrobe boxes, suitcases, dressers, vacuum bags, and more. If you’re left confused on what container to use when, here’s a shortcut that lists your options and recommended usage:

Standard Moving Box

Use this when packing clothes that are typically non-hanging and can withstand being folded or rolled.

Wardrobe Box

Use this when you’re in a hurry or have clothing items that are high value and need to stay on their hangers. This type of box is the best for protecting clothes, but it takes up a lot of room, so use sparingly.

Vacuum-Sealed Bag

If you look up tips for how to pack clothes to save space, vacuum-sealed bags will be high on all lists. Use these when you have bulky clothing items and the like that could benefit from compression. Think heavy jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, ski pants, and even comforters and pillows.

Suitcases and Duffel Bags

Your suitcases and other pieces of luggage have to be moved, too. Put non-hanging clothing inside of them to maximize the storage space.

Dressers

Put non-hanging clothing inside dresser drawers, then wrap the dresser with plastic moving wrap when you’re done. If you have an overly heavy dresser, though, you may not want to load it full of clothing. It may make the piece too difficult to move. Light, assembled dressers won’t make sturdy moving pieces, either, as they may give way with the extra weight inside.

Garbage Bags

Many people recommend putting hanging clothing in trash bags because it’s cheap, convenient, and fast. Keeping the clothes on their hangers, you put the clothes in the bag upright and tie the top around the hangers. While this is a great pack hack, if you have clothing items of high value, this method may not give your wardrobe enough protection from the elements.

A young mother and her son are going through his clothes and packing them neatly in plastic bins for their upcoming move. There are two plastic bins on the floor that are mostly full.

Plastic Containers

Lots of people store their out-of-season clothing in plastic containers, so why can’t you just take those containers straight from the attic to the moving truck? While this isn’t a clear “don’t,” there’s a reason why moving boxes are made of cardboard instead of plastic. The containers, when stacked, put their entire weight on the container sitting below it, which can cause caving or cracking. Moving boxes, on the other hand, are made from double-walled corrugated cardboard, which works better for traveling and transporting.

Q: Is it okay to pack clothes in cardboard boxes?
A: Yes! While plastic containers are sturdier and reusable, cardboard boxes are more affordable, come in a variety of sizes, and keep down the overall weight of your moving items. Your clothes should be fine left inside a cardboard box for the duration of your move, but if you’re packing something extremely valuable, like a fur coat, you may want to take extra precautions when preparing the item and placing it securely inside the box.

9. Stuff Your Shoes.

Throwing shoes in boxes with your clothes will likely cause creasing and possibly even damage. This may be fine for tennis shoes and flats, but nicer pairs should be left in their shoe boxes or a similar style of container. If that’s not an option, or if that’s going to take up too much space, you can purchase shoe bags. 

Be sure to stuff the insides of the shoes with tissue paper (or even socks!) so they’ll keep their shapes. Also, like your clothes, this is the perfect time to give those shoes a proper cleaning before they’re packed away. Don’t bring dirt into your new closet.

Pro Tip: Looking for a cheaper option for boxing up your shoes? Wine boxes with dividers make great shoe caddies. You can probably find some free ones outside your local wine store.

A close-up view of a jewelry box with pearls and various pieces of gold jewelry.

10. Pack Accessories Separately.

It’s always a good idea to keep valuable items close to you during the move. Insurance only covers so much, and sometimes the unexpected happens. If there’s jewelry you can’t replace, put it in a small pouch, pair it with other important possessions, and keep it with you while you drive or fly to your destination.

11. Have a Moving-Day Suitcase.

Once you get to your new home, the last thing you’ll want to do is sort through boxes trying to find your pajamas. Pack a duffel bag or suitcase with the essential items you’ll need to get you through the first two or three days (not just the clothing). And don’t forget the coffee mugs!

Want more packing tips? Visit the PODS Blog for additional packing hacks, packing advice straight from the pros, and more!

LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter, and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS Blog contributor, she's a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she's not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.


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