Finding a new place to live is no easy task, but getting all your stuff there can seem just as daunting. Moving is one of life’s most stressful transitions, but here are a few tips that will make the process easier.

Plan Ahead

There’s no reason not to start booking equipment and services as soon as you know your move-in date. The first thing you ought to decide is whether you will do it yourself or hire professional movers.

Even if this is your first big move, doing it yourself is perfectly manageable as long as you have a few hearty friends willing to help. However, if you lack manpower or are willing to pay for convenience, professional movers can help simplify your day. You can find movers using websites such as easymovinglabor.com and emove.com, or even the Yellow Pages if you’re feeling old-fashioned. Some movers offer full service from packing to loading to driving to unloading, so all you have to do is book the service and let them take care of the rest.

If you decide to do it yourself, though, your next step is booking a moving truck, usually through services like U-Haul, Penske or Budget Truck Rentals. Each vehicle size usually has approximations for how many rooms it can accommodate, but it’s always safer to overestimate the amount of space you’ll need, unless you are able to make multiple trips with your truck.

Don’t let the task of driving a truck scare you away, either; all it takes is a little extra awareness. Be mindful of your overhead clearance and take your turns more widely than you would in your car. Always have a friend help you when backing up, too.

Pack Wisely

Materials you will need for packing include boxes, packing tape, markers for labeling and bubble wrap or other packing materials. You can usually purchase these at the same place you get your truck, or even at a store like Lowe’s or Home Depot. The boxes often have usage recommendations printed on them, and it’s not a bad idea to overestimate how many you will need.

Boxing as much as you possibly can is good because boxes are easier to carry and pack onto a truck than loose items. Be sure to protect your breakables with bubble wrap, and always try to fill boxes completely or stuff the extra space with newspapers—filling the box ensures that items stay put during transit and also provides more support for stacking.

For items that are too large to box but still require protection (wooden furniture, large mirrors, glass tabletops), you can rent moving pads and either tape or shrink wrap (blankets will also work in a pinch) them around the item. Mattress bags are also available, but only necessary if you’re expecting bad weather.

Load to the Top

When loading your truck, use every inch of space available. Many trucks have an extension that hangs over the cab (referred to as Mom’s Attic on U-Haul trucks); the best strategy is to fill this space with boxes and then secure them by standing tall items like mattresses or bookshelves against them. You will also need ropes or tie-down straps for this process, but objects packed tightly against one another won’t have any room to shift or fall.

Boxes are especially good for stacking, but they are not your only stackable items. Don’t be afraid to stack things like furniture and appliances — remember to protect scratchable surfaces with moving pads and secure them in place with ropes if necessary. Fill in open spaces at the top of stacks with stuffable items like couch cushions, pillows or travel bags.

It also helps to be creative when loading a moving truck. Standing a sofa vertically is your best bet to maximize space rather than loading it in the conventional sitting position—just put a moving pad on the floor first to protect the fabric. Stacking furniture upside-down or on its sides is also a good strategy, as long as everything is packed tightly and securely.

It may be tempting to slide large thin items like those mirrors wrapped in blankets mentioned earlier or tables with their legs removed in the small space at the top of a stack, but these items are actually best stored wedged between other standing items. Sliding thin items between a standing mattress and box spring is a good method because they provide natural protection.

Unpack

The rest is quite simple, really. There aren’t any tricks to unloading a truck; just be sure that removing an item doesn’t cause other items it may have been supporting to fall. Additional equipment such as appliance dollies and flat dollies may be useful and can be rented along with the trucks, but sometimes it’s simply easier to carry the items as long as they aren’t too heavy for you.

Unloading is when labeling comes in most handy. You shouldn’t only label the contents of each box; you should also label its destination. Labeling the rooms in your new home is also a good idea.

When the truck is unloaded and you’re ready to start unpacking and settling in, don’t forget about your helpers. If you hired movers and were pleased with their service, tipping is appropriate. If you simply recruited a couple of friends, treating them to a meal is often a good way to show gratitude.

The entire process takes a lot of time, and you’ll almost certainly be surprised at how much stuff you’ve accumulated once you have to handle it all at once, but don’t let it discourage you. After all, the next step after moving is the fun part: starting a new chapter of your life in your new home.

Good luck!