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If you're one of the millions who will be moving this summer, you know it can be a stressful time for the whole family. One of the things you don't want to have to worry about is your belongings remaining intact. With proper packing techniques, you can ensure your belongings stay safe.

Some 43 million U.S. residents -- 16 percent of the population -- moved to a new residence during the period from March 1999 to March 2000, the period in which most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures are available.

“Research tells us that moving is usually one of the most stressful events in a person's life, ranked as high as the death of a loved one or divorce,” said Joe Harrison, president of the American Moving and Storage Association. “But with the right kind of planning and care, you can make your move a lot less stressful.”

To begin, make sure you have the following items on hand: strong packing boxes, bubble wrap for packing fragile items, tissue and ink-free packing paper, scissors, knife for opening boxes, several broad-tip markers to label boxes, and rolls of packing tape.

Whether you're handling the move on your own, or are hiring a company to handle the actual move but are still doing your own packing, you should keep the following in mind:

  • Pack one room at a time and try to keep similar items together. Mark the room name on the outside of the box.
  • Pack boxes firmly to prevent shifting.
  • Don't pack flammable goods or heat-sensitive items.
  • Wrap items individually and place a layer of crushed paper or bubble wrap in the bottom of the box for cushioning.
  • Place heavier items on the bottom and lighter ones on the top.
  • Put heavy items in smaller boxes so they're easier to carry.
  • Set aside a box devoted to things you'll need right away (change of clothes, telephone, toys, toiletries, etc.)
  • Use towels and linens to pad boxes filled with fragile items. Mark these boxes “fragile.”
  • Drain fluids from power and yard tools so they don't leak.
  • Try not to exceed 50 pounds in each box.
  • Keep an inventory of all your boxes. This is most easily done by numbering your boxes and keeping a master list of what is in each box. Once the boxes are unloaded, mark off all the boxes that are moved into the house.

    Most importantly, don't leave the feelings and needs of your kids and pets until the last minute. They should be your first priority.

    If you have kids, the U.S. Postal Service recommends giving them extra love and attention during the packing process as they struggle with their fears about leaving familiar friends and surroundings. Pack their rooms last so the break in their routine is as minimal as possible and be sure you try to talk to them about the myriad feelings they're experiencing. Let them write their names on the boxes containing their belongings and let them pick out a toy or two to carry with them.

    Pets are also susceptible to stress during a move.

    The USPS recommends a pre-move visit with your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam, making sure all vaccinations are current, especially the rabies vaccination. While at your veterinarian's office, get copies of your pets' records and check to see if s/he can recommend another veterinarian at your new location. You can also call the American Animal Hospital Association at (800) 883-6301 for the names of AAHA veterinarians near your new home.

    Also, each state has their own set of laws and regulations regarding the importation of animals and some counties and municipalities have their own ordinances. Check with a veterinarian in your new neighborhood. You should get this taken care of several weeks before your move to allow time for all paperwork to be completed.

    Also, temperature extremes should be avoided. In most cases, it's best to transport your animal in a sturdy, insulated carrier to help regulate the changing temperature. Never leave a pet in a hot car during the summer time or a cold car in the winter.

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