How to Pack and Unpack Your Dishes



Today’s post is written by Jackie Heath, for Allied Van Lines. If you are thinking of packing your own kitchen for a move, here is some great advice on how to do it.

No room is more time consuming and harder to pack than the kitchen. Nowhere is it as important to get the packing right. Otherwise, you may get to your new house and find your boxes are full of chipped or broken dishes. You’ll need several medium boxes, plenty of padding, and several small to medium boxes. It should go without saying that dishes should be clean and dry before you start packing.


Clean foam wrap or blank newsprint are two of the best choices for packing dishes. You can also use bubble wrap, but we find it takes up more room than the thin foam sheets. If you use newspapers, you may need to wash black streaks off when you get to your new home. You can also buy a package of disposable Styrofoam plates to use between plates. There are a lot of recommendations out there to use towels, sheets and clothes as padding for your dishes, but we don’t recommend this, because it causes problems as you unpack.

First, place a layer of padding to the bottom of your boxes – a couple sheets of crumpled paper, or a layer of foam or bubble wrap. Then start with the largest dishes – serving plates and dinner plates. Wrap completely with two to three sheets of paper, foam or bubble wrap, and tape closed. If you place a Styrofoam plate between your dinner plates, you still need to wrap them to prevent chipping. Stack the plates, being sure to tuck extra padding into the corners. Once your large plates are finished, move on to the next size, continuing to stack.

More Wrapping

Once all the plates are wrapped and stacked, move on to items like cups, mugs, and saucers. As you wrap your cups and mugs, be sure to fill the insides with padding. Smaller items like cups and mugs can be fit into the empty space above large plates and around the smaller plates.

Bowls should be completely wrapped and taped, then stacked. Start your wrapping with large serving bowls, again padding your boxes and tucking padding around the bowls. Then wrap smaller soup, cereal and ice cream bowls and stack them inside the large serving bowls. Again filling empty nooks and crannies with padding materials.


Fill your dish boxes to about a quarter of an inch from the top, then fill the remaining space with paper, bubble wrap, foam or dish towels. You don’t want them so full that the box top isn’t flat. But you don’t want any empty space that can collapse when other boxes get set on top. Give the box a couple of shakes, and if you feel the contents shift, take the time to add more padding around the sides of the box.  The tighter and more securely your dishes are packed, the less likely they are to break.  Seal and label boxes, including detailed information like “dinner plates, box one of three” in the labeling. This will make unpacking easier.

No room is more time consuming and harder to pack than the kitchen, and nowhere is it as important to get the packing right. Click To Tweet


When it comes time to unpack, decide what goes where before you start unpacking. Take the time to think about how you’ll use the kitchen, so that mugs are near the coffee maker, glasses are near the water, and the items you use every day are easiest to reach. Unpack as close to where items will live as possible. Try to keep counters clear so you have space to work.  It’s best to get all like items unwrapped before putting them in cabinets, because then it’s easier to see how much space all items take up.

Keep a large box to throw packing materials into as you unwrap items, so it’s all easily contained, and flatten boxes as you unpack them. Here’s where using clean packing materials, instead of newspaper or recycled material pays off. Your dishes shouldn’t need to be washed, Although you may want to wipe dust or paper lint off with a towel as you put them away.

This is where the idea of using clothes, towels and sheets to pack dishes is revealed as inefficient. In addition to unpacking the dishes, you have to fold the clothes and sheets. Rather than simply tossing the packing materials, you have to carry them into other rooms, where you may not have a good place to put them yet.

With a lot of padding, enough boxes, and some advanced planning, packing and unpacking the dishes can go smoothly.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Sabrina Quairoli on June 10, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I like the sheets between the plates as well. I have also wrapped each layer using hand towels, washcloths, or dishcloths. Packing them into a clear plastic container and marking it “open right away – Kitchen” works nicely as well.

    • Janet Schiesl on June 10, 2019 at 9:46 am

      Thank Sabrina. We pack a lot of clients and also use any available linens to cushion the boxes when packing breakables.

  2. Linda Samuels on June 10, 2019 at 9:51 am

    These are excellent tips for packing breakables. The other thing I do is to number the boxes and create a master sheet which describes what is in each and which room it came from and which room it will be going to after the move. Packing dishes well is time-consuming, but it makes all the difference between having them arrive in good condition.

    • Janet Schiesl on June 10, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      Yes Linda. I agree. Usually when we pack a client someone is assigned the kitchen and it take them all day and in the end they get help from the rest of the crew to finish. We use box labels to insure that everything gets moved into the room where it belongs.

  3. Nancy Haworth on June 10, 2019 at 11:12 am

    These are wonderful tips, and I will be sharing this with my followers. Your point about using clean packing materials for better effiency is great. I also love the tip to clearly label each box and include details such as “dinner plates, box 1 of 3”, this really makes unpacking so much easier!

    • Janet Schiesl on June 10, 2019 at 3:55 pm

      Thank Nancy. Yes the details help be more efficient when unpacking.

  4. Seana Turner on June 10, 2019 at 11:32 am

    This is one of those “worth doing right” kind of tasks. What a disappointment to open your box only to discover that your dishes are all broken. I was interested to see the advice on plates. I’ve heard some people suggest they go in on their sides, rather than stacked. I keep learning every day:)

  5. Janet Barclay on June 10, 2019 at 11:58 am

    One time I was unpacking after a move and couldn’t figure out why I’d placed a folded sheet of tissue down the side of the box. I had wrapped a glass platter and tucked it (safely, or so I thought) down the side, but it just disintegrated!

    • Janet Schiesl on June 10, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      Oh my Janet. That must have been disappointing.

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