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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 Moving: 15 Hacks You Have To Try

Packing Tips and Hacks

by LB Gabriel Posted on April 18, 2024
Figuring out how to pack clothes for moving is no easy feat. So much time is spent disassembling furniture, deciding what to do with large items, and prepping fragile pieces for a safe trip that you often find yourself forgetting about those smaller pieces — clothes, in particular — and throwing them 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 with these 15 tips on the best way to move clothes.

1. Purge Your Closets.

What is the best way to pack clothes for moving? While there are plenty of ways to roll, fold, and stack clothes, the one constant piece of advice is that you have to get started on the right foot, and that means getting 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.

Try to launder as many clothes as possible before moving day.

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 your name on a new lease (unless you’re a believer in jinxing things). It takes around 50 hours to pack a four-bedroom house, so keep that number in mind when factoring packing time into your moving timeline.

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 182 days to unpack that last box finally.

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

Vacuum bags work well for condensing bulkier items like sweaters, coats, blankets, and comforters.

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, like these from Amazon. 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, we think it’s the best way to pack clothes for moving! There are flat-fold devotees, and we’re not knocking that option, but folding can take up more space and create creases and wrinkles, especially if your clothes need to be stored for a longer period of time.

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 explains how to roll clothes for packing:


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

Q: How do you pack clothes for a long time when moving?
If you’re wondering how to pack clothes for moving and are preparing to store them for a significant amount of time (a month or longer), we suggest rolling the clothes rather than folding them before putting them in suitcases or boxes. This typically takes up less space and creates fewer creases and wrinkles. 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 hanging clothes for moving in the fastest and most effective way, the answer is wardrobe boxes. This is also the best way to pack clothes that are high-quality, valuable, etc., as it prevents them from being folded or rolled inside bags and boxes.

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, you have free space to pack casual clothing like T-shirts, jeans, and undergarments. Use the wardrobe boxes for delicate items that need more protection or are prone to excessive wrinkling.

Q: What is the cheapest way to pack clothes for moving?
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.

Using a large packing box? A good rule of thumb is to fill it with lighter items.

7. Pack Boxes Heavy to Light.

It’s tempting to load up a big box with lots of shirts and pants. But this isn’t the best way to pack for moving because you’ll quickly 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.

Should I put clothes in boxes or bags when moving? The short answer: You can use both. You’ve probably noticed that we’ve shared a few tips for how to pack clothes for moving that mention several packing and storage options, from regular moving boxes and wardrobe boxes to suitcases, dressers, vacuum bags, and more. How do you know which ones to use when? Here’s a shortcut that lists your options and recommended usage:

Standard Cardboard Moving Box

Is it OK to pack clothes in cardboard boxes? Packing clothes in boxes is fine, but you probably shouldn’t use them for every article in your wardrobe. Use cardboard boxes primarily when packing clothes that don’t require hanging and can withstand being folded or rolled. Also, if you’re considering how to pack clothes for moving cross country, keep in mind that there are more durable options than cardboard.

Wardrobe Box

Use this when you’re in a hurry or have high-value clothing items that need to stay on their hangers. These boxes are the best for packing hanging clothes for moving, but they take up a lot of room, so use them 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.


Can I leave clothes in drawers for movers? Yes, as long as you have the right type of dresser! 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 work well for shorter-distance moves, but they may crack under the pressure (literally) of a cross-country one.

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?
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.

Have valuable jewelry? Keep it with you, if possible, during the move.

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 to find your pajamas. Pack a duffel bag or suitcase with the essential items to get you through the first two or three days (not just the clothing). And don’t forget the coffee mugs!

12. Use Tissue Paper for Delicate Items.

If you have gloves, belts, or scarves that need some extra protection, wrap them in acid-free tissue paper before loading them into a box with similar items. This shields them from possible dust and moisture damage.

13. Develop a Labeling System.

You may think you know the contents of each box, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you forget once the neverending moving day to-do list competes for valuable memory space. Label your boxes with the room but also add a quick note about the contents so you know which ones need to be unpacked first. For bonus points, create a master inventory that lists boxes and their contents with a number or color system.

14. Keep a Dirty Laundry Basket.

Moving week is going to be busy, even under the best of circumstances! Despite the chaos, though, you and your family will still be dirtying clothes and requiring fresh ones. Have one designated laundry basket for the week leading up to your move, so you can either run one last load or transport the basket to your new house. While it’s advisable only to bring clean clothing into your new home, sometimes ongoing chores are unavoidable!

15. Don’t Forget the Hangers.

You’ve rolled your clothes like a pro and loaded your boxes, but now you’re left with a large mound of clothing hangers. What do you do with them? It’s tempting to toss them in a box of your own, but this is going to create a tangled mess. Instead, take a handful of hangers and tape or rubber band them together, then place them inside a box or garbage bag.

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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