There’s no question that when you move, you’ll pack up a lot of stuff. Clothing will most likely top the list as far as individual items go. From your dressers to what you’ve crammed into that one tiny closet, collared shirts to winter coats, packing clothes is serious business.
But, what’s the best way to get all your clothing items from your current home to your new place without everything coming out all wrinkled? And, how do you save space when you pack clothes and shoes for moving?
Among all the packing tips out there, taking special care with what you wear can save you time during the unpacking process, making it easier to stay organized while you empty out that moving truck. It will also enable you to transport clothes so they stay wrinkle-free and shoes so they keep their shape.
From your favorite pair of sneakers to high heels, from unmentionables to party dresses, here’s how to pack clothes for moving.
When should you start to pack clothes for moving?
Before you even begin to pack clothes up for your move, triage everything you’ve got. What do you no longer want to keep? Donate what you can or consider consigning anything unwanted.
Out of what you do keep, what’s currently not in season? What don’t you need, clothing-wise, for the next month? Since there’s a lot that you won’t need to wear leading up to your move, this is an easy place to start in the packing process.
Get serious about packing clothing about a month before you move. Do a little every week, saving only a few days worth of clothing on either side of your move. That’s what you should pack into a single suitcase you’ll carry with you during the transition to your new home.
What’s the easiest way to move clothes and shoes?
The easiest way to move clothes and shoes is in cardboard boxes. Even full, packing clothing in a box won’t actually get too heavy as long as the box isn’t too big. Small or medium cardboard boxes are great for clothing. Not only that, they’re really easy to find either for purchase or free.
Cardboard boxes are ideal for packing folded clothing and for keeping shoes safe even without their original boxes. There are also specialty boxes you can use to carry valuable clothing items, those with sentimental or monetary value and/or delicate clothing. We’re talking about how to transport hanging clothes and we mean wardrobe boxes. They’re their own thing and do come with an added cost.
In addition to moving boxes and dealing with hanging clothing, folded clothes and shoes go great in:
- Reusable plastic bins
- Garment bags
- An oversized duffel bag (or two)
As an added option for your clothes, try vacuum bags or compression bags.You should also consider grouping things together by type or season to make everything easier to unpack. Don’t forget to label each moving box, as well.
1. Packing folded clothes for moving
Regardless of what you use to pack your clothing for moving, it’s best to use a space-saving folding technique so you can fit as much as possible into a single box, suitcase or bin.
Though everyone has a preference in how they fold their own clothing, for a move, it’s worth it to modify your technique. This ensures you condense clothing items and fit the largest amount into each cardboard box, those duffel bags or even that vacuum bag.
The most famous space-saving clothing folder is Marie Kondo. She has tips on how to fold clothes of every kind. Checking out a video or her consolidated tips could end up saving you a lot of space when it comes to all the clothes you need to move.
Even before you decide how you’re getting your clothing from Point A to Point B, start packing by checking out some best practices for folding. Don’t forget to include those bulky winter clothes, as well, in your research.
2. Tackling the shirts
There are so many different types of shirts out there, but when you pack clothes for moving, it’s best to just fold all these up. And, while a rolled-up shirt saves a lot of space, if you’re working with moving boxes, you should consider the flat fold method. This will let you get a lot more shirts into the same box.
Start by separating shirts by type
To keep clothes organized, it’s often helpful to separate clothing by type. This is very true when it comes to shirts. This makes everything easier to pack.
Gather all your shirts together and separate them into at least these categories:
- Short sleeve T-shirts
- Long sleeve T-shirts
- Sleeveless shirts
- Dress shirts
- Casual shirts (the ones that aren’t cotton Ts)
All of these shirts should fit into the non-hanging clothes category, but if they don’t, put them back on hangers and we’ll worry about them later.
Now that you’ve got your groups, it’s time to fold.
Pack clothing items with the right fold
Working with clean clothes only, this fold allows you to create T-shirt stacks that easily slip into boxes or vacuum bags. The flat fold is a fast and easy way to prep your clothing items for moving day.
You know you’re doing this fold right when your shirts look like nice rectangles after you’re done.
For this fold:
- Start with a single shirt facing down on a flat surface
- Smooth out the wrinkles
- Fold one side of the shirt to the middle
- Cross the sleeve over the fold
- Repeat the last two steps with the other side
- Fold the bottom of the shirt up to the top
- Smooth out any remaining wrinkles
Create a neat stack of these store-quality, folded shirts and place the entire bundle into a moving box. Even delicate items will stay safe using this folding method.
If the size of your shirts compared to the box won’t allow you to fill every nook and cranny, grab some socks or underwear to slip in the gaps and hold everything in place. When the box is full, top it off with some packing paper to create a layer of protection against when you cut the packing tape open later. Don’t forget to label the box, too, so you know there’s clothing inside.
3. Consolidating the pants
Pants take up a lot of space simply stacked on top of each other in a box or bag, and many fabrics can easily wrinkle (yes, even denim). An easy way to address packing pants for moving is with some kind of rolled fold.
Pants on a roll…
The military rolling method, also known as the Ranger Roll, works great when moving clothes of every kind. But for pants, it really lets you get a lot more pairs into a small space.
To roll pants right:
- Start by fastening any buttons and pulling up any zippers
- Lay the pants down flat, on a hard surface, so the waist is closest to you
- Smooth out any existing wrinkles
- Flip the waistband inside out to create a cuff that’s about four inches thick
- Fold pants in half across the waist so the legs line up
- Take the ankles of the pants together and fold up about one inch at a time until you’re able to tuck them into the cuff you created with the waist
This method keeps the roll secure no matter how you move it.
Once you roll all the pairs, tightly line them up in a box or suitcase, and you’re ready to go.
…Or, in a bundle
Pants also work as a great base for a clothing bundle. This is one method to pack clothes for moving that uses all different items. But you need to start with something heavy at the bottom, like your jeans.
Creating a clothing bundle is a fun trick since it also enables you to pack up your sheets. To get this packing method right:
- Spread a sheet out on a flat surface (flat sheets will work best)
- Lay maybe three to four pairs of pants in the center of the sheet
- Add increasingly lighter items on top, starting with shirts and maybe ending with socks
- When done, grab all four corners of the sheet and tie up the bundle
- Set all bundles in a box, top with packing paper and seal it up
Remember, a proper bundle always goes from large and heavy to small and light as you move up the clothing stack.
This is a great strategy with clothing you’ve grouped by season since it keeps everything together for faster unpacking.
4. Shrinking down sweaters and bulky items
While you could just pile all your winter clothes into a wardrobe box and be done with it, there’s a better way that will save you a lot of space.
Flatten it all down
Naturally taking up a lot of room, sweaters and other bulky pieces of clothing are best packed up within a storage bag you can compress. With the help of a vacuum, you can fill a normal-sized bag with clothes and suck all the air out, smooshing the bag down to about one-third of its original size.
To keep things compressed, use vacuum bags so you can close things up afterward and keep that air out.
Use as many of these bags as you need to keep clothes organized and then, pile them up in a box. With all the space this method saves, you can fit your entire winter wardrobe into a single, small box.
5. Caring for hanging clothes
For all your professional attire, fancy dresses and delicate materials that wrinkle easily (like silk), your best option is to keep it all hanging up. There’s really no reason for moving hanging clothes off their hangers, but make sure they’re secure when you move them.
Like garment bags, only less expensive, wardrobe boxes let you pack clothes for moving while still on their hangers thanks to a built-in hanger bar and hanger hooks. A wardrobe box may require a little assembly, but once it’s ready, you can put in at least eight pieces of clothing — more if your hangers aren’t too thick.
This lets you keep your special clothing in a separate box that’s easy to identify.
However, since you can’t put that many pieces of clothing into this special box, you really need to decide what can’t possibly come off its hanger. These boxes can get expensive, and you don’t want to have to buy a ton just to keep your closet completely intact.
Drawstring garbage bags
It’s not glamorous, but a garbage bag actually works great at securing your hanging items without having to ditch the hangers. Think of drawstring trash bags as garment bags you can throw away.
- Separate your hanging clothing items into small groups — about as much as you can comfortably drape over your arm
- Pull the trash bags up around each pile so the hangers are outside the drawstrings at the top
- Secure the hangers all together with a rubber band
- Tie the drawstrings around the base of the hangers so they’re all that’s exposed
This is a great way to move hanging clothes yourself, in your own car, where you can lie them out flat in the trunk or the backseat.
6. Pack shoes separately
If you can’t get all your shoes into their original shoe boxes the best way to get them moved is to separate them from the rest of your clothing. While there are a variety of tips for packing shoes, always start by cleaning your shoes. Dirt and debris can damage shoes during a move, and mixing dirty shoes with other clean clothing just gets everything dirty.
Next, stuff each pair of shoes with socks or tissue paper so they keep their shape during transit. This makes it easier to pack your socks as well as protects your shoes.
When packing, try to keep shoes separate from anything fragile or delicate, whether that means wrapping them in packing paper, putting each pair in proper shoe bags or clear, plastic shoe boxes.
Packing paper is often your best bet if you don’t have the actual shoe boxes because the paper lets air still get to your shoes. This can prevent mold or mildew from forming if the box accidentally gets wet. Only use clean packing paper and avoid newspaper since the ink can rub off on white shoes.
Using plastic shoe boxes is a great solution to packing up a lot of shoes. They can also make unpacking a breeze since you can just put these boxes directly into your closet and store shoes with them indefinitely. Just don’t forget to label each box so you can easily find whatever pair you’re looking for.
Pro tips for perfect shoe packing
Even with the right container and plenty of padding, there are still a few other ways to make packing shoes even better. Consider these bonus tips as you ready your shoes for a move.
- For shoes that lace up, tie them before you pack them and stuff the bow into the shoe
- You can also tie pairs of shoes together with their own laces
- Use a shoe tree to prevent boots from losing their shape in transit
- Protect the heel of your heels by wrapping them in bubble wrap
- Put rubber bands around flip-flops to keep pairs together
Also, remember to always pack shoes from heaviest to lightest. Those clunky boots belong on the bottom of the box, followed by sneakers and topped off with sandals or slippers.
7. Working your way through everything else
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the types of clothing you have. You may already wonder what about shorts, sweats, workout clothes, undergarments and comfy PJs. All of these fit into a clothing category that’s a little more casual in how you pack them. You can deal with wrinkled sweats and most workout clothes don’t wrinkle at all.
You should put the least amount of time into packing up these clothing items.
Use your own furniture
If you’re using movers who are OK with it, keep all of these clothes folded up in your dresser drawers. Movers need to know you’re doing this in advance so they can secure the furniture before moving it onto the truck, but if they’re OK with it, go for it.
To prevent the drawers from sliding open, wrap the whole piece in plastic wrap. Your movers should have an oversized role for just this purpose. If you’re moving yourself, you may need to invest in a few rolls from the store or check a moving supply store.
The only thing to remember when using this packing strategy is the weight. Dressers are already heavy, and when full of clothes, even more so. You don’t want to make the piece too heavy overall, especially if the dresser has to travel down a few flights of stairs to get out the door.
8. If you have a specialty item
While this isn’t a common issue when moving clothes, sometimes, there’s that specialty clothing item you’re not sure how to move. It could be something that’s heavy and huge, like a wedding dress, or even a perfectly shaped hat.
To manage these items, first search for a garment box that fits the item. Hat boxes exist for sure.
For something like a big pouffy dress you won’t wear for a long time, consider having your dry cleaner heirloom pack it for you. This secures the item in a box all its own, preventing any potential for damage and keeping it out of any natural light, which can fade fabrics.
If you need the dress sooner rather than later, the best bet is to move it on your own in a garment bag.
When moving, what is the best way to pack clothes and shoes?
Preparing to pack clothes and shoes for a move requires managing a lot of moving parts. Moving is a very involved thing with so much to take care of. But, among all the fragile items and bubble wrap, your clothing is ready to go straight into boxes of its own. All you need to do is map out the best way to fold it all and seal it up for delivery to your new home.