7 Packing tips for a move across the country


My son told me he would be packing and moving across the country to start a new job.  He would be leaving in 2 weeks.  Can you help Mom?  Long distant moves on a budget require a lot of planning before the packing begins.  Some of you may be moving for a job or for school.  Take a deep breath and relax.

If you are not hiring a moving company

This move involved selling anything and everything people were interested in buying.  Put your ads for the things you are selling on Kijiji or Craigslist.   Don’t forget about neighbourhood swap and selling sites on Facebook.  You may have multiple sites in your area and it makes scheduling pickups so much easier when you know that they are in your neighbourhood.  Don’t forget the most important source for your sales.  Tell your friends and family and ask them to tell their friends, family and co-workers.  One of my readers shared, “do an Internet Garage Sale where you made a list of items with prices, emailed it to everyone you know, and asked them to share it with others. We  were able to sell quite a few of our larger and more valuable items that way.” Don’t be shy.

Smaller items need to be sold too

You may need to sell clothing, jewelry or home decor items.  Take them to consignment stores. Leave the information for picking up the cash with a friend or relative. They can e-transfer it to you.

Determine what you will take, store and ship. 

Moving out

In this case, he was driving a car across the country.  He would be staying with relatives until he found an apartment.  He knew of a few people who would be flying out to see him in the next few months.  With this information, the packing began.  For each item, it had to be decided if it would be packed:

  • in the car
  • in a suitcase for someone to bring next month
  • in a suitcase for someone to bring the following month
  • in a suitcase for someone to bring later
  • in a box because there were items that he might want when he had an apartment
  • in a plastic bin and stored

Pick up used suitcases at a thrift store. When you fly you can leave the suitcase behind to be donated instead of bringing it back with you.

You never know what you might want to be shipped 

Knowing what is in every box makes it easy to find what you need

Knowing what is in every box makes it easy to find what you need

As boxes and bins were packed someone was in charge of keeping an inventory list of what went in each box and bin and labelling the container with a corresponding number to the list.  We used google docs so later in the week when more things were packed or removed from boxes the list could be changed and a new list doesn’t have to be emailed to anyone.  You don’t have to worry if you are using the most up to date list.  The reason to do an inventory is so you can find items that might be shipped later.  The hope is that the whole box will be shipped but more likely they will decide on certain items and they might be packed in a number of different boxes.


We started by going through the cupboards and anything that was unopened and not expired was donated to the food bank.  This can be done early in the packing session and it is an easy way to start.  No difficult decisions need to be made.  Some food can be used during the 2 weeks, some disposed of and then find a friend who will be happy to take your food.


Remember to donate items to charity and not to put them in the garbage.

Remember to donate items to charity and not to put them in the garbage.

As time moved on he found things he didn’t want or need, couldn’t sell or give away or give back to people.  Donate these items to charity.  It is easy to think no one wants them and start putting them in the garbage but most things can be donated.  It takes just as much time to put them in a garbage bag as in a box or bag to go to a charity.  You will probably be eating out so you can take them to the charity on the way to dinner.

You’re finally finished

You are probably tired and overwhelmed and overstressed.  Just take a big breath.  You did a great job, you are about to start a new adventure.  Focus on that.  Don’t focus on the stuff.  Enjoy the trip and the time off before the new job or school begins.


Here is a link to a moving guide, How to pack for a move: a complete checklist  It has checklists for pre-moving, packing list, packing the truck, questions to ask the mover,

What is your advice about moving across the country in a car, on a plane or on a train?

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Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

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  1. Stacey Agin Murray on August 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    I love your idea of going through the cupboards and donating food to a local food pantry. Most people think about packing clothes, photos, and furniture and forget about the food still in their kitchen!

    My tip: If you’re traveling by car to move–use your car’s cup holders to transport small breakables!

    • Julie Stobbe on August 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      That’s a great idea to use the cup holders for small items. There is also a small amount of space under the drivers seat and passengers seat for item. Towels, sheets, perhaps even specialized papers can be packed their during the drive.

  2. Janet Barclay on August 18, 2016 at 5:38 am

    I’ve never been involved in a cross-country move, but we had to pare down our belongings significantly to move from a house to an apartment. Back then we didn’t know about Kijiji and Craig’s List (not even sure if they were around) but we had an “Internet Garage Sale” where we made a list of items with prices, emailed it to everyone we knew, and asked them to share it with others. We were able to sell quite a few of our larger and more valuable items that way.

    • Julie Stobbe on August 18, 2016 at 6:45 am

      I love the idea of an Internet Garage Sale. Can I use it to write a blog post?

      • Janet Barclay on August 27, 2016 at 5:57 am

        Sure! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

  3. Seana Turner on October 7, 2019 at 8:25 am

    We’ve just been through this with our daughter. She graduated from school in Virginia, came home for the summer, and then moved to Arizona. I completely agree that a lot of stuff can be either sold or dumped. When we calculated what it was going to cost to move her (not so great) dorm furniture, we decided to sell it to the girl who would next be living in her room. In the end, she took mostly clothing and personal items she needed. We were able to upgrade to business class so we could check 2 bags each at no cost, and then took on a rollerboard and backpack. We shipped a couple of boxes, but I will say it cost a lot. I have another back I am filling to bring to her at Thanksgiving. We even ended up buying her car in Arizona, rather than shipping her old/dying car. You really need to think through the whole cost/benefit thing for sure. I like the idea of putting the inventory in google docs so you can access it anywhere!

    • Julie Stobbe on October 7, 2019 at 9:06 pm

      I find more and more people are selling their stuff then moving and buying items from Kijij, Facebook when they know where they will be living and what they need. Obe of my children almost always rents a furnished place.

  4. Linda Samuels on October 7, 2019 at 10:32 am

    What great moving advice! Moving is up there as one of the most stressful things to do. I’m impressed that with only two weeks to move, your son had time to sell items. That can often take a lot of time to get posts listed and communicate with potential buyers. But it sounds like in his case, the selling of things went quickly. I love the idea of using Google docs to inventory and easily share information. I’ve often created moving lists and inventories for clients but have gone old school.

    • Julie Stobbe on October 7, 2019 at 9:01 pm

      With one client I went really old school and used cabon paper. It gave a list of everything in the box to tape onto the box and gave me a copy of the list. It worked well. I didn’t have to bring a laptop or printer with me.

  5. Nancy Haworth on October 7, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    These are very helpful tips to preapre for a cross country move. I like your tips for having an internet garage sale and donating to the food pantry and charities. The last time I did a long-distance move was in 2003. A week before the move, I held a “packing party”. Friends help with some packing, but I was also able to give away things to them that I did not want to bring with me.

    • Julie Stobbe on October 7, 2019 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks for your suggestion of a packing party. It is another great way to get people into your home to look at items your no longer need.

  6. Sabrina Quairoli on August 10, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Some years ago, I had a client move to AZ from the east coast. Instead of taking all the stuff at once, she started to pack up only the stuff she wanted to take and shipped them to her new home, where there was someone there to help bring the items in. It was easier than bringing them all at once because she didn’t have the storage in the older house to place the boxes. And, it was actually cheaper to send it over time than all at once when they moved there permanently. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    • Julie Stobbe on August 10, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story. Moving is difficult and there are so many ways to do it.

  7. Melanie on August 10, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    I moved across the country when I was 25. I made it my mission to declutter everything down to what I could fit in my truck. It was quite an adventure and made me really think about what was worth having in my life. Moving with a family and kids might he be a different story! This post has everything you need to know including a well deserved pat on the back at the finish line.

    • Julie Stobbe on August 10, 2020 at 5:43 pm

      There are some stages in life that decluttering everything so it will fit in the truck is easier. I hope you enjoyed your adventure.

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