Make a List
Write everything down! You'll thank yourself later. Before you pack even one box, create a simple record keeping system.
Create a computer-printed list of numbers with a space to write the contents. Or have a spiral-bound notebook for the job. Then place a number on EVERY box you pack and list the contents on your list. Don't put the list down unless it's in a place you'll call Packing Central. This is where you'll find your labels, marking pens, box tape, and other supplies. When describing the box contents, be specific: "Files A-C" is better than "files", and "silverware" rather than "kitchen".
Have Plenty Of Supplies
You'll need LOTS of boxes; more boxes than you think, and having enough boxes will make your packing much easier.
The more boxes you have, the better off you'll be. If you buy your boxes from a moving company, you can always return unused boxes for a refund. If you got them free from the grocery store, just recycle any leftovers.
Have about 10 boxes set aside to use for last minute items on moving day, such as bedding, clothing, and cleaning supplies. You'll need strong plastic packing tape to close up the boxes securely. Use unprinted newsprint (newspaper can stain your items) or packing paper or bubble wrap to wrap and cushion household good.
Again, you'll need more supplies than you think, so get extra and the packing will go smoothly. Return any unused supplies after the truck is packed.
Don't Over-Pack Your Boxes
Boxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure to use the right size box for all of your items.
When packing, keep in mind the following rule: the heavier the items, the smaller the box. For items such as clothing or bedding large boxes will work just fine. For heavier items such as books or dishes, it would be wise to keep the box size to no larger than standard file box. This will save your back on moving day, and it will prevent some boxes from crushing others should you accidentally stack the heavier items on top of the lighter ones.
It is also important to keep in mind that if your items are too heavy, stability of the box will be compromised and you may end up with those items on your toes come moving day.
For every room use a different color.
Designate a color for each room in the new home, such as yellow for kitchen, orange for dining room, etc. Apply colored stickers on the box near the box number. In your new home, put a matching sticker on the door to each room. The movers will know where to put everything when they arrive at the destination. It's also helpful to post a big sign on the wall in the room where you want boxes stacked, "Boxes here please" to keep them out of furniture and traffic areas.
Keep It Together
Insist on keeping things together when you or the movers are packing boxes.
Keep bookends with books, light bulbs with lamps, and extension cords with appliances. Small, loose parts can be attached to the item they belong to with tape or placed in small envelopes. Keep larger corresponding items (such as a cable TV cord) in Ziplock bags, and tape these to the underside or back of the item.
As a backup, have a "Parts Box" open and fill it with cables, cords, parts, pieces, brackets, or nails that are removed from any items of furniture. Keep this box with you, or mark it well with a rainbow of colored stickers so it can be easily located on move-in day.
Use Your Luggage
Fill luggage and duffel bags with clothing, sheets, towels and paper goods.
Even for local moves you'll be able to quickly spot your navy suitcase holding your favorite sweaters, whereas "Box #189" might remain elusive for days. Don't forget to place the color coded label on any of your luggage so you or the movers know which room to place it in.
Use brightly colored storage tote boxes, one for each person. Let each family member fill theirs with items they'll want 'right away' in the new home: a set of sheets, a towel, a couple of extension cords, a phone, night lights, address book, pens and paper, keys, kleenex, toiletries, a couple of sets of extra clothing, etc.