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TIPS FOR PACKING BELONGINGS
TO MAKE THE MOVE SMOOTH

Moving to a new home is stressful enough without having to worry about whether your possessions will survive the trip intact. Though the process can seem overwhelming, it will go smoothly if you plan well in advance and have plenty of essential supplies on hand. Here are some guidelines for your next move.

First steps

If you decide to hire a moving company, ask friends, neighbors and real-estate agents for recommendations. Get several estimates, and be sure you understand all of the charges and terms of the contract -- including which tasks the movers will be responsible for and which ones you'll be expected to do yourself.

Even with full-service movers, you will have to make some preparations. Several weeks before the move, sort through your belongings and give away, donate or organize a tag sale for items you will not take with you.

Tools of the trade

Salvage grocery-store cartons for packing small, light items; sturdy, new cardboard boxes are best for fragile objects. You'll also need natural or white tissue paper, blank newsprint, brown wrapping (kraft) paper, flexible corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, 2-inch-wide packing tape, permanent markers, a box cutter and scissors. You can purchase these supplies from moving companies and packaging-supply stores.

Packing up

Most people entrust their fragile items to movers, since many companies will accept liability only for things they have packed themselves -- but you can pack everything else. Use small boxes for heavy items, large boxes for light ones; each box should weigh no more than 50 pounds.

Label each box with your name, its general contents (keep a more specific list with you), the room in which the box belongs, arrows indicating which side is up, and "Fragile," if necessary.

Pack a box or two with items you'll need right away. This might include a few plates, glasses, flatware, napkins, paper towels, snacks, bed linens, towels, toiletries, a change of clothes for each family member, a telephone, light bulbs, trash bags, basic tools (include a hammer, screwdriver, pliers and a utility knife), cleaning supplies and favorite toys. Label those boxes "Last On/First Off Truck."

Carry valuables such as jewelry and important documents with you.

Here are some tips for packing fragile items:

Plates: Pad cardboard box bottom with a thick cushion of wadded paper. Cover each plate with a single sheet of tissue paper, then newsprint or bubble wrap. Arrange plates standing vertically in the box, using sturdy cardboard pieces to separate each plate; a horizontal pile puts too much weight on the bottom pieces.

Bowls: Wrap each bowl in newsprint. Nest two or three bowls together, then wrap the bundle in more newsprint.

Stemware: Place crumpled tissue paper inside each glass. Roll glass in another sheet of tissue, then in a sheet of newsprint. Cut bubble wrap or flexible corrugated cardboard for one final layer around each item.

Teapots: Fragile objects with handles or other protruding parts should have enough tissue wound around them to appear to be uniformly round.

Knives: Roll up a knife in one or two turns of newsprint. Lay another knife in the opposite direction and continue rolling. Mark sharp items clearly to prevent mishaps.

Mirrors: Purchase special cardboard mirror boxes, which are wide and flat and come in two pieces. Use masking tape to make a crisscross pattern across the glass: If the mirror breaks, the shards will be held together. Cover the glass with crumpled newsprint, then wrap the mirror in kraft paper, taping it down as you go. Make the bundle as flat as you can. Place into a mirror box, fit the two pieces together, and tape securely. Artwork and framed prints can be packed in the same manner.

Lamps: Remove the shade, bulb and harp. Wrap the harp in newsprint, and label it. Secure the cord with a piece of tape. Lay the lamp on its side, and fill any space under the base with tissue paper. Roll the lamp in newsprint, and place it base-down in a box with crumpled paper. Wrap lampshade in newsprint and pack separately.

Houseplants: A long journey in the back of a moving van or car can be traumatic for houseplants. Many moving companies will not handle plants, and some states have regulations against bringing them over the border. (Contact the department of agriculture in the state you're moving to for more information.)

If your move is a long one, consider giving your houseplants to friends. For short distances, you can try moving plants yourself. First, stake any tall, wobbly stems. Wrap the plants in kraft paper to contain the leaves. Then place them in cardboard boxes, with crumpled paper supporting the pots. Transport them in the back seat of your car, rather than the trunk, and unpack them as soon as you arrive at your new home.

Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by e-mail: mstewart@marthastewart.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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