How to Pack Ornaments for Moving

How to Pack Ornaments for Moving

Most holiday ornaments are fragile—some more than others. Those that aren’t fragile might hold sentimental value (and fragile memories). And, of course, the more established your holiday traditions, the more likely ornaments are to be irreplaceable.

So you don’t want to pack these valuable possessions for moving without some planning. The right supplies and packing techniques can be critical with many ornaments.

One benefit to packing ornaments for a move is that you will have packed them for off-season storage as well, no matter which holiday(s) you celebrate.

Without the move—and the accompanying need for proper packing, many folks (yes, we’re guilty of this too) will just pile their ornaments haphazardly into a box and place it in the basement or attic, hoping nobody will disturb it.

But when you pack ornaments for moving and subsequent storage, you’re ensuring that your holiday ornaments are protected as well as can be for years to come. So let’s find out what this entails—starting with the various types of ornaments and decorations you might be packing.

Table of Contents

Types of Holiday Ornaments

Ornaments and decorations have to be one of the most exciting parts of most holidays. Every year, when we unbox these items for display, they flood our memories with experiences from years past, including any celebrations we experienced visiting another culture.

As we grow older, symbolic objects like Christmas trees, the Passover seder, and Eid al-Fitr remind us of tradition and family. Here, we look at some of the tangible symbols seen during these and other holidays Americans celebrate.

Glass Ornaments

Glass Ornaments

Not surprisingly, glass ornaments are the most easily broken of all holiday ornaments. Show us someone who has never had to sweep up the glass shards of a shattered hollow (blown) glass ornament, and we’ll show you someone who has never taken holiday decorations out of the box they came in.

There are two basic types of hollow glass ornaments: traditional shiny balls—which are easy to replace if they break—and fancy ones shaped like snowmen and women Santa Clauses and elaborately decorated balls. The latter can be expensive, with most costing between $10-30 (or more), so be sure to handle them with extreme care.

Solid glass ornaments are somewhat sturdier for packing (though still fragile).

These could be anything from twisted glass candy canes to flat glass with an etched image. Solid glass ornaments can’t be too heavy if they hang on a Christmas tree. They’re likely to fall and break or weigh the branches down, causing other ornaments to drop.

Homemade Ornaments

Homemade ornaments can be made in any shape, using potentially any material, and bearing their makers’ unique (and memorable) “signature.”

For example, kids make painted dough ornaments for their parents and teachers to cherish. Hobbyists sometimes make lightweight ornaments from balsa wood. And let’s not forget winter’s many paper snowflake cutouts.

These unique ornaments range from an amateur look to minutely detailed craftsmanship. Each one is unique, though.

Collectible and Commemorative Ornaments

These hanging pieces celebrate places (e.g., Disney World), events (e.g., The Olympics), or the years of observing a particular holiday. Be sure to pack and store these ornament collections together. After all, wouldn’t it be sad to lose one or more of them?

Shelf and Tabletop Ornaments

Hanukkah Menorah

Those celebrating Christmas love to extend their decorations beyond just the tree, often putting holiday candles out. And with U.S. faiths that do not celebrate Christmas, many ornaments are displayed on flat surfaces around the home.

For example, “the Hanukkah menorah is meant to spread light to others and is traditionally placed in a window, on a table or outside your door.” 

Holiday Lights

Holiday string lights and individual or replacement bulbs need careful packing if, for no other reason, because they inevitably end up getting tangled. And the bulbs can break—though not as easily as certain ornaments.

Of course, all items discussed here need careful packing for moving and storage—especially the heirloom and other one-of-a-kind ornaments. But, first, you need to sort your decorations by type and material.

How to Sort and Pack Ornaments for Packing

Since each ornament type has certain packing recommendations, it’s important to store and pack those together.

For example, imagine what would happen during a move if you packed hollow glass ornaments in the same box as metal candleholders or a heavy ceramic figurine. No amount of buffering could keep these items from bumping and likely crushing each other.

Plan for any special containers or cushioning they will need—for example, divided boxes or lots of bubble wrap.

When packing ornaments for moving, don’t think of it as you would packing them for storage, where they’re mainly left undisturbed for long periods. Instead, pack them considering stacked boxes, bumps and jolts while being carried or in the moving truck, and even an accidentally dropped box.

Yes, you’ll need a lot of “fragile” labels. It also might help to imagine one of your packed ornament boxes being inadvertently placed underneath a box with heavier contents. In fact, if you have a collection of highly fragile ornaments, consider taking them separately in your personal vehicle.

Outer Layers for Packing Ornaments

Heavy cardboard boxes are fine for packing ornaments, provided what’s inside is in smaller containers and appropriately cushioned in the larger one.

Still, a reusable plastic bin is better for a few reasons. It’s reusable; it has rigid, waterproof outer walls; and it has a removable lid and can support more weight on top. Some are transparent, too, should you want to see what’s inside.

Internal Boxes for Packing Ornaments

Christmas Ornaments in Box

Ideally packing ornaments in their original boxes is the best way to go. Having said that we would like to qualify that it must be a sturdy box, not one made of flimsy paperboard that’s easily bent and crushed.

To us, an “original box” means one box for one ornament, adequately padded, and with a heavy cardboard exterior. So you do get what you pay for—including the box.

If you have no useable original box, though, go to plan B: the best substitute you can find. For example, Styrofoam or molded paper egg cartons work well for packing small, fragile ornaments. Using a box with dividers, similar to what you would use to pack glassware, could work well too.

Our favorites, though, are the plastic “clamshell” boxes that hold fresh apples. The indentations are just the right size and shape to accommodate most holiday glass balls. Plus, you’ll be recycling plastic!

Packing Flat Ornaments

Flat ornaments can be made of anything from paper to pressed tin or aluminum to balsa wood—any of which is easy to damage. You need to place these individually between two hard surfaces.

Possible ways to pack flat ornaments:

  • Between heavy pieces of cardboard
  • Between covers from old, unwanted hardcover books
  • In an envelope taped to the underside of a plastic bin’s lid
  • In a folder, “filed” with other flat ornaments, in a portable file box

Be creative—and don’t forget to add padding where and as needed.

Packing Tiny Ornaments

We would suggest using plastic zipper bags for these and packing them in padded envelopes, especially those made of blown glass.

Packing Light Strings

The usual strategy for packing holiday lights is to fold a piece of cardboard in half for each string and wrap that string around it. Also, consider including information with the respective strands, such as color, indoor vs. outdoor, etc. Doing so could save you time when hanging them.

All Packed Up and Ready to Move

Your holiday ornaments no doubt hold a great deal of sentimental value for you and your family. So be sure you handle them with care—especially while moving. One benefit of packing ornaments for moving is that you will have learned some new packing techniques that you can refer to annually when packing your ornaments for storage.

Get the whole family involved in packing your holiday ornaments, even if you’re moving in the middle of summer. There’s something about all the memories they evoke that can brighten people’s spirits.

You may be leaving one home for a new one and feel a little sad, but you’ll have some of your fondest memories with you—to enjoy unpacking in your new home.


I've been a college coach for going on 20 years now and that career has led Jen and I on quite the journey. We've lived in 7 different states and have moved a dozen different times. We've learned A LOT over the course of all those moves and we want to pass on our knowledge to help others going through the moving process.

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