How to Load a Moving Van

Anyone who has ever loaded a moving van or helped friends load a truck knows that there are countless approaches to this necessary task — and everyone has their preferred method. If you are facing the unique challenges associated with this three dimensional game of Tetris for the first time, you may be confused about which approach to take and worried that if you choose poorly, you will find your belongings scratched, cracked, and even broken at your new home.

Rest assured if you pack properly and load carefully, it doesn’t matter which of the methods you use, as long as you follow the general principles:

  1. Keep weight properly distributed
  2. Protect fragile items
  3. Use space efficiently

Weight Is King

There are two reasons to pay attention to the weight distribution in the moving van. First is that you don’t want your favorite items crushed, broken, or in any way adversely affected. Heavy boxes can fall over and onto other items. Large furniture or appliances can slide around and crush lighter things between them. Second, when you are driving the truck, especially turning corners or climbing hills, you want the weight to be even throughout the back of the vehicle or you will encounter some serious steering, tipping, and related problems.

Make sure that whatever moving plan you follow evenly distributes weight through the truck, especially between the left and right sides. This is usually accomplished by putting the heaviest items against the sides and front of the truck. Make sure you are balancing the weight so that both sides have equal weight rather than putting all the appliances down one side and nothing on the other side. Use straps to secure the items so that they stay put during transport.

When it comes to stacking boxes and even smaller furniture, always, always, ALWAYS put the heaviest boxes on the bottom and make each level going up lighter. It doesn’t matter if you are stacking your boxes against the back wall of the truck, placing them in the middle of the floor, or putting them on top of tables, shelves, etc. Heavy nearest the floor and then less weight closest to the ceiling.

Fragile Means Fragile

It is not enough to pack fragile items with bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or other cushioning if you place them in the truck in a haphazard manner. A common example is mirrors and artwork in glass frames. Once they are padded, wrapped, and even if they are secured in specialty boxes, they are still vulnerable in a moving truck. Never put them on top of furniture or stacks of boxes. They could easily slide around and fall. The best place for these items is wedged between mattresses (and you know that mattresses should be loaded on their sides, not flat, right?). Securely strap the mattresses so there is no way for the glass items to slide out from between them or for the mattresses to fall over.

Smaller fragile items should be placed in boxes that can be secured inside cabinets or on shelves. This keeps them away from the big stacks of heavy stuff. If you are really worried about something, consider carrying it with you in the cab of the truck or in your car.

Remember that even large items, like furniture, may have delicate surfaces or fragile parts. Deconstruct tables, and even chairs when necessary, to protect the legs. Same with lamps. Make use of blankets and furniture covers to protect from scratches and dings. Also, be sure to load metal items away from upholstered items or softwood furnishings. Some metal edges are sharp enough to cut through padding and scratch or tear your belongings.

Use All the Space

The biggest mistake first-time movers make is wasting space inside the truck. They pick a size using the company’s guidelines and then find that their stuff doesn’t fit. This is usually because they haven’t loaded efficiently.

Here are a few tips for saving space when loading:

  • Put couches, futon frames, etc., on their end.
  • Put small boxes on bookshelves or inside cabinets
  • Take apart anything that can be deconstructed and it will take less space
  • Trash cans, laundry hampers, etc., can be loaded with lightweight items
  • Bedding and linens that aren’t being used as furniture protection/padding can be put into garbage bags and tossed on top of everything else once the truck is loaded

The actual placement of objects in the moving truck is completely up to you. Just make sure you have a general plan and that everyone loading the truck knows what the rules are. The last thing you want is to find yourself unloading and reloading the truck multiple times because something went in the wrong place.

Make a plan. Pack carefully. Follow the plan. That’s what it takes to have a successful move!

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