Monday, July 15, 2013

How to Fit Your Life Into Your Car

I'm not sure if I'm bragging, or confessing, to be an expert on this.

I spent the majority of my weekend packing again. And watching a "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" marathon on Amazon Prime . Most people only have to figure out how to do fit everything they own into a vehicle once, maybe twice. I've now done this 4 times and may end up doing it a 5th. I've learned a thing or two about how to do this as easy as possible. If you're planning a life change, like heading off to college or national service, this might be helpful to you.

1. Purge: This one is obvious. I won't even get into it. Don't need it? Donate it. Saving it because of a memory attached to it, but you don't really like it? Take a picture, give it a kiss, and give it to someone who will appreciate beyond the sentimental value. Recycle and trash if needed, but mostly, donate. Don't forget to prioritize when it comes down to the wire. In the past, I've prioritized my sewing machine over a cheap vacuum. Let's be real, I used one WAY more than the other.

2. Use rubber bands and garbage bags to pack your clothes: I learned this when packing to go to college all those years ago. You can leave clothes on the hanger and group with with a rubber band. Tear or cut a small hole in the center of the solid side of the bag. Put the hanger loops through the hole and tie the bag at the bottom a la a less classy garment bag. This way, when you get to your destination, all you have to do is remove the bag and untie the rubber band. Unpacked! Easier to unpack, takes up less space, easier to fit into random spaces or lay flat, AND reduces wrinkles. Just do it.

3. Use bags: Garbage bags and shopping bags should be just as valuable to you as boxes. Your clothes in drawers? Use a separate bag for socks, scarves, unmentionables...however you decide to separate them.  Extra linens, bag 'em. Towels, bag 'em. Also, try to push any extra air out before tying it. I would not recommend using this method for anything that's not soft or has corners though, as it would be easy to tear open the bag.

4. Use your stuff to pack your stuff: Your t-shirt collection is impressive and you hate to loose any of it. Also, your collection of Calico Kitten figurines is on the DO NOT PURGE list... Using the t's to wrap the figurines lets you save room for both. I use t's and towels or blankets to wrap dishes and other glassware. Another example is belts. If I can belt together a group of like items that don't need the protection of a box, I do it. These wire shelves have been all over the country with me since they pack down easily but set up sturdily (is that a word?). Also, baskets. Fill 'em and tie a bag around them.

5. Pack a suitcase: You're probably thinking "I can't pack anything yet because I still need most of this stuff." Then you wait to the last minute and start panicking. A big way around this it to take a suitcase and pack up a selection of outfits, shoes, accessories, and toiletries you're going to need. It will make the the packing time a lot easier, plus you will already have necessities when you get to the new place and won't have to feel pressured to unpack right everything immediately. Another way to help with this issue is...

6. Pack the same room, not the same stuff: When I'm packing a room, I start with the things I use least often. Instead of all pots and pans in one box, all utensils in another, etc. I go backwards in order of everyday usefulness. Then I unpack in opposite number order so I can take my time putting things away rather than search through for everything I need to make 1 meal. How do I know which box is the last box?...

7. Keep lists: I'm a chronic lister in general but it especially works when it comes moving time. In a notebook, I label a room, then the number of the box, and a general summary of the contents. Not every tiny thing, but the "Greatest Hits" of the box, if you will. Maybe you won't find this necessary, but to me it cuts way down on the chaos of locating everything once you're in your new place.

8. Suitcases in general: If you have more than one suitcase available, don't waste it to pack more clothes! Clothes are light and can easily be stored otherwise (see above). Use that extra suitcase for the heaviest things you're moving, like books. They're much more solid, less awkward to carry, and you'll probably be able to roll it at least part of the way. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

9. Keep out extra blankets: If you haven't used blankets as a padding or wrapping device as described earlier, don't worry about packing them up. Keep them out and lay them over top of everything once the car is all packed up. Makes it a bit harder to see all the stuff when you stop at rest stops along the way and helps protect from heat and sun damage.

10. Get a roof top bag: This is one moving investment that I have used frequently and never regretted buying. Mine is from here. It's great because you don't need a roof rack to put it on, and this one just happens to be soft so I can roll it up and stow it in my trunk between moves. I went through a horrible rainstorm in Wyoming with this on my roof. My stuff never got wet inside the bag. A tiny bit of water did come into my car, but I think that was user error of over-tightening the straps.  And the few drops weren't bad in comparison to the crazy storm. It did effect my mileage slightly in windy areas like Kansas where there were no trees to cut the gusts but I didn't notice a big difference on less open interstates. I haven't put boxes in it (because I'm small and lifting boxes on top of my car is hard) but I would imagine they would be fine. Also bought the non-slip mat to go underneath the bag since I didn't have a roof rack. I think that made a big difference.

All packed up and ready to go (in 2011) after I give my big sis a big hug :) See the bag up there?

There you have it! It does take a bit longer to pack this way, but it saves a ton of space and makes unpacking go twice as quickly. I play a serious game of Tetris when packing up the car and don't waste space, but it's also important to make sure you're driving safely. Do your best not to block your site lines. Also, I have very limited furniture. My wire shelves and suitcase coffee table are about the only things that come with me usually, and they both pack down or fit more stuff inside. If you're not going to a furnished place, an air mattress would also be smart to include.

Hopefully this helps someone, somewhere! Any adventures planned? Any packing tips of your own you'd like to share? I'd love to know :)



  1. Great post, Sheila! Definitely helpful for national service members!

    1. Thanks! I actually gave a print out to my VISTAs as they're finishing service. You're welcome to do the same if you think it would be beneficial.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! Had plenty of opportunities for trial and error :) haha

  3. I packed up everything in my car and moved cross country from Oregon to Virginia. The best advice I ever got was to buy vacuum storage bags. I could fit blankets and pillows and comforters and puffy winter jackets into them making them almost unnoticeable. I am getting ready for a cross country move now from Virginia back to California and I have been looking into roof racks, but this car top bag for the bare roof is about to CHANGE. MY. LIFE. Thank you for this!!!

    1. The tips about vacuum bags is a great one! I hope the roof top bag worked well for your move! I still have mine after all these years.


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