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Shipping Your Belongings When You Move

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In the process of packing up our things, there's always items we forget about. It could be that something has outgrown its usefulness, or maybe it fell behind the bookcase or behind the couch. This is just one reason you may find yourself having to ship certain things as part of the moving process. Another reason could be that you aren't moving enough stuff to hire a moving company. Maybe you plan to start over from scratch but want to bring along some sentimental items. In these cases, you'll want to ship your belongings when you move.

how to ship your belongings in a move

Items that you cannot ship

The United States Postal Service, being a federally operated organization, keeps citizens safe by laying out certain restrictions on what can be shipped. The distinction between what is deemed "mailable" and what is not is mostly one of common sense, but here are some examples of (in most cases) restricted items:

  • Firearms (assembled or dissembled)
  • Alcohol (other than mouthwash or cooking wine)
  • Controlled substances (drugs)
  • Anything emitting an obnoxious odor
  • Animal-fighting paraphernalia
  • Hazardous materials (chemicals)
  • Most animals except for some birds and smaller cold-blooded animals that are not snakes or turtles
  • Perishables that cannot reach their destination intact

Anything that can kill or injure another person or could harm others along the way is not mailable, including explosives, poisons and poisonous animals. No spiders of any kind may be shipped.

TIP: A good rule of thumb might be this: if it would get you in trouble at school or work, it probably isn't mailable.

Packaging items that you are mailing

If you are using boxes, remember that any kind you use will need to provide enough space for the item(s) and adequate cushioning.

  • Paperboard boxes are acceptable for loads of up to 10 pounds
  • Anything heavier will require metal-reinforced paperboard or corrugated cardboard
  • Wood and plastic boxes are acceptable for all loads, if they are sturdy enough for what's inside
  • Alternative methods of shipping include fiberboard tubes, shrink-wrap, cans/drums and bags

Try to find something that best fits the shape and protective needs of your item. If the package you have has been used before, cross out any old writing on it with a permanent marker, so you don't confuse the postal employees.

Protecting your items before shipping

Different types of packing materials have been created for specific moving situations. For example, file boxes are used for transporting documents in a neat and organized fashion. Bubble wrap and packing peanuts are more than just something for your kids to play with. Their original function is to protect items that are being shipped somewhere.

Before you cushion the box with protective layers, make sure there is enough room left in the box to cushion the items inside. Some items will need more packing material than others, especially if they are fragile or hold sentimental value.

TIP: If you are packaging multiple items together, protect them from each other as well as the outside world. Once you have padded the box, close it and give it a gentle shake or two. If you hear movement, add some more padding.

When it comes to closing and sealing up the package, clear cellophane packing tape is the only acceptable method. It's strong enough to keep your boxes sealed but easy enough to open when the time comes to unpack. Packing tape usually comes on a tape gun which makes it easy to apply without needing scissors nearby.

Your options for shipping belongings

You'll want to consider how quickly you want your items shipped and how much that's worth to you.

If you need something delivered by tomorrow, you have the option to overnight it. Depending on the size of your shipment, this can come with a hefty fee. If you only need it there in the next few days, there is express or expedited shipping. Other than that, choosing standard shipping means your belongings should get to you in a week or two.

TIP: If you opt for delivery confirmation, you can also choose to have it delivered under restricted delivery which means only specific people (which you designate) are allowed to sign for the package. The information becomes available online as well as through a toll-free number. If you'd prefer something tangible, you can request a return receipt that will be mailed back to you.

If what you are sending is of significant monetary value, you might consider adding insurance to your postage. Standard mail allows insurance of up to $5,000, while sending your package registered mail insures your items up to $25,000.

Shipping your belongings internationally

Internationally, there are a few ways to ship as well. As with domestic shipping, there are several expedited shipping options. There is an option that ensures your package's arrival in three days to over 190 countries!

Shipping services to certain countries may be restricted or non-existent depending on political turmoil and economic distress. Check with the post office or online to confirm that you can ship your items to where you need them.

TIP: Unfortunately, you may find shipping your item internationally is more than the value of the item itself. Conserve the money you spend on overall postage by packaging things together.

International shipments are also required to go through customs and may be subject to examination. The contents of your packages must be declared on the appropriate forms.

How to address the package you are shipping

If you plan on shipping things as part of your move, you know it's important to address everything properly. Save yourself the headache of trying to figure out how to send your belongings, by following these guidelines:

  • If you're handwriting the addresses, make sure you write legibly
  • Write a return address in the top left corner of the package
  • If you don't have a reliable address for yourself yet, choose someone you trust
  • The delivery address should be parallel to the longest side of the package
  • Include the full ZIP code
  • Packages with postage stamps must weigh 13 ounces or less

TIP: In some cases, you will receive a discount if you handle your postage online, so check it out before you drive to the post office.

If you are shipping domestically or internationally, consider the following:

  • The address should be written in English
  • Print the address in all capital letters to make it more legible.
  • The United States Postal Service suggests the following format:


  • The return address should include a full name and the country of origin. For example, shipping to Canada would follow this format:


TIP: It's a good idea to include a card inside the parcel that details the names and addresses of yourself (or the return address you are using) and the addressee.

Patrick Hanan  Posted by Patrick Hanan on December 18, 2018

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