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. You'll 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.
Have plenty of supplies
Don't make me say this twice-- you'll need LOTS of boxes--probably more boxes than you think, and having enough boxes will make your life easier!
Utilize wardrobe boxes
These tall boxes are perfect for bulky, lightweight items such as comforters, pillows, and blankets, as well as clothes that need to remain hanging. Call your mover to ask the width of the wardrobe boxes they'll be bringing. Then measure the clothes in your closets (including coat closets) to see how many wardrobe boxes you'll need. You can also use them for closet storage boxes, shoe boxes, and other bulky items such as fabric bolts, large baskets, or gift wrap tubes.
Don't make the boxes too heavy to lift, however. One mover told the story of someone who put a bowling ball in a wardrobe box! When the box was lifted off the truck the bottom gave way, sending the bowling ball on a wild ride down the ramp, across the street to the gutter, then down a hill where it finally came to rest in a roadside ditch. (Is that a strike or a spare?)
Strategize wardrobe box use
Moving companies will be happy to deliver boxes ahead of your moving day. Or if you're doing the move yourself, get things organized as early as possible.
A few days before your move, fill some sturdy handled shopping bags with bulky closet items such as shoes, sweaters, belts, and jeans. On moving day, fill the bottom of the wardrobe boxes with some of the shopping bags, then add your hanging clothing. Pack hanging items tightly so things won't move around and fall off of hangers. Finally, cover the shoulders of your clothes (a dry cleaning bag works well), then add a few purses or sweaters on top. You'll have fewer boxes, and closet items remain together. Also, the shopping bags will make it easier to retrieve your belongings from the bottoms of a tall wardrobe box.
Designate a color for each room in the new home, such as yellow for kitchen, orange for the 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 things 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 -- to keep picture hooks with pictures, shelf brackets with a bookcase, a special wrench, and bolts with the wall unit. Keep larger corresponding items (such as a cable TV cord) in resealable bags, and tape these to the underside or back of the item. As a backup, have a "Parts Box" open on the kitchen counter 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.