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Whether you've spent four years or forty in your home, the process of packing up all your belongings and transporting them safely to a new place can be quite arduous. Here are some organization and safety tips to make the moving process as smooth as possible:

Pack Ahead, Pack Together and Write it Down

Before you pack even one box, develop a simple system for recording your belongings. Whether you type it out or just use a spiral notebook, you'll need to place a number on every box you pack and list the contents for that number on your master list. Be as specific as possible, and make sure to label the upper left or upper right side of the box, as labeling the top of the carton prevents you from seeing what you wrote once a couple of boxes are stacked on top of one another. Anything that can be packed in advance, whether that's loading up your summer clothes or paring down your cooking supplies to the bare essentials, should be to reduce the amount you have to do in the immediate days and hours prior to the move. Once you're ready to start packing more everyday use items, make sure you always try to keep items from one room together. You want to be able to empty those boxes as quickly as possible in your new home, and not have half-full boxes cluttering everything up.

Packing Supplies Abound

To prevent yourself from having to make countless return trips to the local store to fetch more boxes, at the outset you should get more boxes than you'll think you need. If you buy boxes from a moving company, you can always return unused boxes for a refund. Have ten or so boxes set aside for last minute items on moving day, such as bedding and cleaning supplies.

Pack Tightly and Plan Ahead

To ensure items don't break, limit the amount of dead space inside a box by wrapping newsprint and tissue paper around each item and crumpling them into spaces in between. That way, there won't be any room for items to crash into each other on the drive from your previous home to your new home. If you have furniture that comes apart, decide whether you want to leave it for the movers or do it yourself. If you take it apart, it will take the movers less time to complete the move, which can save you money, but you might want to incur that expense if you're unable to take something apart yourself. Some appliances, such as front-loading washing machines, require extra attention from a specialist, so you'll want to inquire with the store you purchased the machine from before your moving date. Other items, such as a swing set, can take more time and cost more money to take apart, move and put back together than the item is actually worth, so consider the attachment your family has to large-ticket items such as those.

What Not to Pack

Never pack bleach, ammonia, aerosol containers and gasoline. Food items should be given special consideration as well, and also determine how the outdoor temperature might impact your belongings. If it's winter for instance, foodstuffs packed glass could freeze and break.

Pack Last

If you'll need something immediately, such as clothes for work or school books for your children, pack those belongings in a luggage or duffle bag, which you'll be able to spot more easily among the many boxes. Also pack a box that's labeled open first and contains the necessities you need to begin living in your new home, such as a coffee pot, paper towels and soap, first-aid supplies and a small toolkit.

Protect Your Valuables

Keep important papers in a file folder with you, such as birth certificates, passports, school records, current bills and/or your closing papers for the new home transaction. It's also a good idea to keep your valuable possessions with you, such as silverware and antiques. If you have a long move and no room in your car, or if you are flying out, bury the items in a box labeled kitchen pantry or dining room hutch, where it will be obvious to you what it is but not obvious to anyone else. Make sure to understand how your homeowner's insurance applies to moves before you begin the process, to determine if you'll need to purchase additional insurance for protection from the movers.

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