How to pack clothes for your apartment or dorm move-in, according to the experts

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cardboard boxes in an empty apartment with a fireplace
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The new place you've found? Perfect. The moving process? Eh, not-so-perfect — especially when it comes to your ever-evolving wardrobe. 

Fortunately, we've rounded up expert-backed ways to pack clothes before venturing to your studio apartment or dorm room. Though the process might seem tedious, we'll be sure to help make it as painless as possible.

But don't fold a single sweater or hang a maxi skirt without reading our apartment moving tips and creating a moving-in checklist first!

1. Purge your wardrobe

Moving is part packing, part purging. Find those underutilized items that haven't seen the light of day and help them find a new home. 

"Giving away things to someone that could use them will save you space in your new place as well as help someone else out that could be in need," says Taskrabbit tasker Aaron S.

That's decluttering motivation you can feel good about! Plus, it's a way to make your OOTD selections a bit more manageable in your new abode. 

"Use this wonderful opportunity to up-level your style," suggests Jean Prominski, a certified professional organizer and the founder of Seattle Sparkle. "Get rid of anything that you don’t feel 100% great about, whether it be the fit, the color, the style, or the material."

2. Clean before you go

It may seem obvious, but a little heavy lifting before the move will pay off in the long run. Take that trip to the laundromat before the moving trucks arrive — your new closet will thank you. 

"Make sure everything is washed and dried completely before packing," Prominski says.

You'll be too busy taking in those closet organization tips to worry about cleaning sweaters and avoiding odors post-move.

3. Pack a suitcase

Make sure a suitcase with your essentials is in safekeeping. That way, when things start piling up, you'll be able to access the garments you need without having to sift through cardboard boxes. 

"Pack a few days to a week’s worth of clothes in a separate bag so you can easily access the clothes you’ll need right away," Prominski notes.

4. Pack by type 

Don't be hasty with packing — make sure there's a method to your madness. 

"The right packing products protect your clothes from wrinkles, dust, and damage during the move, making unpacking smoother and ensuring your wardrobe arrives in good condition," says Airtasker Howard F. "Remember to place heavy items at the bottom of boxes and lighter items on top."

But don't get boxed into one method, either. (See what we did there?) Certain types of packing products might be more suitable for some items rather than others.

Wardrobe Boxes and Garment Bags

Long dresses? Raincoats? We have a spot for 'em. 

"Wardrobe boxes are great if you want to keep your clothes on hangers," Prominski says. "This makes the packing and unpacking process quicker, and the best method for resisting wrinkles."

If you only have a few items worthy of Joy Mangano's best, garment bags "are an alternative and are especially nice because they come in different lengths."

Vacuum Bags

"Vacuum bags are best used for bulky items like big jackets, snow gear, or sweaters," Prominski says. "If you’re on a shoestring budget, using quality black trash bags (the drawstring kind, not the contractor kind) is a quick and easy low-cost solution."

Cardboard Boxes

An oldie but a goodie, cardboard boxes are go-to's for folded clothing, according to Howard while Prominski insists they're the best use of space. 

5. Be mindful of the seasons

"If you are moving during a season change, pack the clothing items you won't need in the upcoming season first," Howard adds. "This will allow you to access the clothes you'll be wearing immediately after the move more easily."

(Psst: Here's how to store your winter wardrobe for the next chilly season, which we hope is far away.) 

6. Remember the actual *moving* part

Let's say you're skipping out on movers and your brother and his best friend from middle school are unable to help the day of. Make sure you have a way to lift all of those heavy boxes and bags you've packed.

"A dolly or hand truck will make moving your boxes, as well as furniture, easier to move around while taking the stresses of physical labor off of you as much as possible," Aaron says.

Now that you've mastered the hard part, it's time for the fun. Have a look at these adorable studio apartment ideas and dorm room ideas that will make your new space feel like home in no time.

Danielle Valente
Content Editor

Pleasure to meet you! I'm Danielle, a content editor at Real Homes who loves scoping out interior trends. I've specialized in lifestyle writing and editing for 10 years with a focus on events, food, and books, among other areas. When I'm not working, I'm usually cooking, reading, or searching for a new project for my apartment.