A Real DITY Move: Loading

Loading is what most people envision when they think about moving. However, if you haven't properly done your packing, then loading really won't work at all. The first big event of loading was the arrival of the ABF moving truck. It was not a full-length semi trailer, but rather a shorter one that measured 28 feet in length. It was the same height and width as a full-sized semi trailer and seemed fully up to the task of hauling all of their goods. Thankfully, ABF would leave the trailer for several days, which allowed the loading to be done methodically over 4 days.

The trailer sat quite high off the ground, but ABF provided a very sturdy and workable ramp to enable loading and unloading. Setup was very simple once the driver explained how it worked. The surface of the ramp had excellent traction, but would be unpleasant to fall upon or try to navigate in bare feet. They quickly learned that using a dolly up the ramp worked well, but that the dolly should always be lower than the operator. If going down the ramp, the dolly should lead; if going up the ramp, the dolly should follow.

To secure the trailer at night, Aaron purchased a padlock with a long hasp that could fit through the latching mechanism on the trailer door. This particular trailer's door slid up into the ceiling like a garage door, leaving total access with no swinging doors to potentially catch the wind.

Loading was where Aaron made his first real mistake in this move. Having staged a large number of packed boxes in the garage, he and his helpers immediately started stacking them up in the front of the trailer. They were making great progress. Too great, in fact. The boxes were being loaded without giving adequate thought to their placement. Space was wasted in gaps, and the load was looking somewhat shabby. At this point, he had to call a stop to the loading and have things de-stacked. Then they started proceeding again at a more reasonable pace, giving careful thought to building a tightly-packed, stable load.

LESSON LEARNED: Ensuring that loading is done properly from the start, even if it entails a delay, makes best use of the trailer space and keeps the load as secure as possible.

Loading oddly-shaped items early would have helped the process greatly. While the staging of boxes in the garage was an excellent idea, it caused all of them to be loaded first. The problem with this approach is that it leaves very few boxes available to pack around the oddly shaped, non-boxed items that followed. This caused difficulty later on in the loading. Boxes are generally easy to fit together and can be loaded without much trouble at any stage of loading. Other items such as chairs, bicycles, lawnmowers, exercisemachines, etc. can present greater loading challenges. While it seems appealing to just jump in and get as much loaded as possible, consider that taking time to load the more difficult items from the very beginning might give more flexibility when trying to determine what can go where.

LESSON LEARNED: Don't leave the larger or otherwise more difficult to load items until the very end of loading. It will only make your job much more difficult when you have nothing but unweildy items to try to fit together into a stable load.

Ropes and bungee cords are very useful when loading but should not be the main method of stabilizing a load. One of the best uses for them is to hold items in place as the load is built. An example from this move was the use of a bungee cord to hold boxed pictures in place until the load built up around them. Loading them in an upright position was essential to minimizing the risk of damage to pictures, but that left them unstable until supported by surrounding objects. The bungee cord not only served to hold them in place while loading, but helped to avoid having them fall unexpectedly as the trailer was unloaded later on.

Loading to the very roof was a priority. Aware that they were paying for space in the trailer rather than the weight of their goods, Aaron did his very best to load to the top of the trailer. Every foot of trailer cost money, and the fewer feet they used, the less money they would have to pay. Stacking as high as possible was the best way to minimize the trailer footage used. To stack as high as possible, a ladder was a must. A willingness to step on the sturdier boxes and literally climb up to the top was also necessary. In the end, the trailer was filled up to the very top.

LESSON LEARNED: Loading to the top can save space and, by extension, money.

For children, moving can be both exciting and frightening. Aaron and Pam tried to ensure that their two children understood what was happening, at least to the extent that they could given their age. The kids were understandably curious about everything and wanted to check out the big trailer parked in the driveway. It was reassuring for them to see that their toys were included in the load and also to realize that, although the house was being emptied, everything was going into the trailer so that they could all move to Colorado together.

To load their barbecue grill, they used a method that involves building a bridge over items to keep direct weight off of them. They removed the handles and other parts that might be subject to damage, wrapped them in paper and placed them inside the grill. They then set about the task of loading it so that it would travel with the least chance of damage. Their particular grill had plastic wheels that stood a real chance of breaking under the weight of items stacked on top, and the top of the grill might have been damaged as well. To avoid this damage, they used three planks of wood to create a bridge between items on either side. As long as they didn't stack items on the bridge that would crush the items supporting the ends of the planks, the grill would have no additional weight placed upon it. Some padding was placed on top of the tall dresser supporting one end of the bridge to avoid scuffs or scratches during travel.

RESULTS: The grill came through in great shape, with no damage. By avoiding too much weight on the bridge and ensuring they were padded, the items supporting the bridge did not sustain any damage either.

Up until loading day, the main focus was on smaller items. Once loading day arrived, it was time to start dealing with the heaviest and most difficult items to handle. This could be reasonably hazardous, especially where stairs were involved. To minimize risk of injury, they took the time to plan the movement of each difficult item and then took things purposefully slowly. Everyone agreed on the plan before actually starting any movement to ensure that they acted as a coordinated team. This not only helped to avoid injury, but also avoided damage to the items being moved and the house itself. RESULTS: Nobody was injured in spite of moving some fairly difficult and heavy items down the stairs. The items themselves suffered no damage.

Some items, while not overly heavy, proved very difficult to move due to the difficulty grasping them. A prime example of this was mattresses. They were wrapped in mattress bags to protect them from dirt and dust during the move, which proved very effective. However, it was nearly impossible to move them around without tearing the protective bag. The solution came in the form of packing blankets, which served very well as an aid to carry mattresses. The blankets were easy to grip, offered easy carrying, and just happened to be on hand. LESSON LEARNED: Being creative during a Dity Move is essential to easing the workload and difficulty.

The last 6 feet of the trailer was the hardest to load. Having already loaded over 20 feet of the trailer with things that packed well, most of the remaining items were oddly-shaped items that did not fit well together. This really slowed the loading process. Had an attempt been made to load difficult items along with easier items from the beginning, the back end of the trailer might not have been so difficult to pack. Even given this slight misstep, the use of multiple bungee cords and rope allowed the load to be finished successfully, although it looked somewhat untidy. RESULTS: The trailer load was finished, but loading the last six feet took over a day due to the conundrums encountered. Some slight scuffing on some unprotected shelves was caused by nearby items rubbing against them in this area.

After completing the loading, the last step was to install the bulkhead, put the ramp behind the bulkhead in the trailer, and secure the trailer. Note that the main purpose of the bulkhead is to separate a U-Pack load from the unused portion of the trailer. It is not capable of supporting the items loaded in front of it. Aaron had to ensure that his loading job was securely supported and not dependent on the bulkhead for support. Since they had loaded to the very back of the trailer, there was no room for the ramp behind the bulkhead. That was not a problem: the friendly ABF folks worked out a solution to pick up the ramp separately.

Getting the trailer picked up after loading was no problem. Aaron phoned the local ABF terminal and arranged to have a driver come out to retrieve the load. Since Aaron and Pam had many things to do before they left, they could even arrange to have the trailer picked up while they were gone. They had to make sure that their personal lock was not on the trailer and that they signed the Bill of Lading and left it in the trailer. When they came back from an errand, the trailer was gone. They didn't worry about it again until it showed up at their new home in Colorado!


  1. You should not load alone! It is a LOT of work. The help of friends and coworkers is invaluable. Consider the safety aspect of having others nearby in case of injury. Being trapped under something heavy is never fun.
  2. You can never have too many blankets! Much of the trouble encountered loading the oddly-shaped objects at the end of the trailer might have been avoided with more blankets. They also proved invaluable to put between bicycles and other items with lots of sharp edges that might otherwise gouge surrounding items.
  3. You'll get more help if you treat your helpers well. Get them good food and keep them hydrated.
  4. Loading entails more than physical exertion. If you don't think carefully about what you're doing, your load is likely to be poorly stacked and may use up expensive space or even cause damage.