Remember when you moved into your first apartment? You had your station wagon packed to the brim, towels stuffed into every extra space and your most important belongings contained to just a few boxes.
Over time, those few boxes have multiplied — maybe you married and your stuff doubled overnight, or maybe you’re known for your Amazon Prime impulse purchases. The point is, stuff piles up. It clutters your countertops, overfills your closets and pretty soon you can’t even move with a normal-sized U-Haul, let alone your old station wagon.
To avoid a mess in the new place, pare it down and be intentional before and as you pack. Take organizing your move to the next level with these tips (and a few people to help inspire).
Number Your Boxes and Have a Master List
True story: Burglars broke into a couple’s home and all their moving boxes were labeled with exactly what was inside — “Electronics,” “Record Collection,” “Antique Jewelry.” They might as well have had someone directing traffic at their front door yelling: “THIS WAY TO VALUABLE STUFF.” It made for ripe and easy pickings.
Instead of laying out a treasure map for possible intruders, mark your boxes so their contents are a little more mysterious (at least to them). Label with a number that corresponds back to a master list.
|1||Living Room||Record Collection|
|2||Office||iPads, iPods and Laptops|
With more room to write, you can be extra detailed on your sheet. As an additional benefit, you’ll also be able to easily identify if you’re missing any boxes.
Channel Your Inner Marie Kondo
In the best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo distills a few basic organization and decluttering principles. If it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. While you might take a lot of joy in tossing the tofu in your fridge and your water bill, she’s talking more about clothing that doesn’t fit right, books you’ll never read again and paperwork that you can easily scan and toss.
Use the “KonMari” method as you organize your home pre-move. Touch each item and put it into a trash or donate pile if it doesn’t spark joy. (Sorry to break it to you, but you still have to pay your water bill even if you toss it.)
If you’re following all the rules of Kondo’s technique, you won’t have distractions like music or the TV on while you organize, but if you’re up for creating your own rules, turn the house-cleansing project into a meditative experience with an app like Headspace or Calm.
Pack a Survival Box
You will have at least two nights (if you’re lucky) that you feel a little bit homeless. You won’t know where anything is and if you do, you won’t have the energy to split open and dig through boxes. Enter: The Survival Box, the last-to-pack, first-to-open, one-stop shop for everything you might need those nights when your life is all boxed up.
Some crucial items include in this box are:
- Roll of toilet paper
- Hand soap
- The phone number of the local pizza place
- Bedding (sheets, pillows, blankets)
- Phone chargers
- Medications and essential toiletries
- Coffee supplies (filters, coffee, press or percolator, mugs)
- All-purpose cleaner
- Paper towels
- A change of clothes
- A flashlight
Label this box with neon duct tape or crazy markers to identify it. Keep it away from the rest of the boxes as they get loaded onto the truck. This box should go in your front car seat so it’s easily accessible as soon as you need it.
Organizing Before a Move: Create “Shipping and Receiving”
Walk into any UPS or FedEx store and you’ll see collapsed boxes, tape, scissors, labels and Sharpies scattered about. You’ll hear the airy folds of assembling cardboard boxes and the screech and razor tear of strapping tape. These pro mailers aren’t messing around. They have packing down to a science — every item they might need in the process is within arm’s reach.
Create your own “pack and ship” area equipped with all your moving supplies. Make the station portable by placing all the supplies on a roller cart or in a carry caddy, or simply designate a corner of one room, so you always know where stuff is.
Your Packing Area Can Include:
- Packing Tape
- Ziplock bags
- Trash bags
- Zip ties
Organizing while you pack doesn’t mean you have to buy special boxes and bins. Be resourceful by using items you already have.
Use tube socks to pack your breakable or scratchable kitchenware — like utensils or glasses. Pillowcases can separate plates and platters. Put the rest of your linens to work to cushion dishes.
If you’re planning to move your bedside table or your dresser without packing up the contents of the drawers into boxes, cover the top of the drawers with Press ‘N’ Seal. This way, if the drawers open in transit, stuff won’t spill everywhere
While wardrobe boxes can be an organizer’s dream, they’re pricey and bulky. Achieve the same effect with zip ties and trashbags. Zip tie five to 15 hangers together. Cut a small hole in the bottom (center) of a large trash bag and stick the hangers through, then pull the bag down over the clothes.
Being MacGyver doesn’t mean you know how to do everything. It just means you’re resourceful and you ask for help when you need it. Recognize your limitations and always hire a real estate agent for the buying and selling process.
Take Photos Before Disassembly
Before you unplug your TV or disassemble that IKEA furniture that took you five hours to put together, take photos. Document the process of taking it all apart. When you go to re set up electronics and bookshelves, for example, you won’t have to guess where that washer or dowel goes or where you’re supposed to plug in the yellow cord.
Reserve a Day for Admin Tasks
Moving isn’t all boxes and packing tape, there’s also a fair amount of paperwork (yes, aside from the 200 pages you signed for your close of escrow). Set aside a few hours to do “housekeeping” tasks.
Before you move, plan recipes based on what’s left in your pantry and refrigerator. Say, for example, you’ve had a Costco-sized flat of canned corn in your cupboard for a while. They’re not expired but you can’t actually remember what you bought them for.
Mix up corn chowder for dinner! The more you use from your pantry and fridge, the less you have to pack and move.
If you’re more Chef Boyardee and less Julia Child in the kitchen, rely on the creativity of a site like My Fridge Food. Plug in the ingredients you have available and it’ll tell you what you can whip up.
Change of Address
Change your address with the post office and set up mail forwarding from your old address. You can do this online or in your local post office branch.
Update your address on credit cards and with your bank; enter your new billing and shipping information on sites you order from frequently, and revise your address with any magazines you receive. Magazine subscriptions forward to your new address for a shorter period of time than other mail will, so unless you want to treat the new residents to your subscription of “Us Weekly,” update ASAP!
Arrange for Donation Pickup
If you went through all your stuff Marie Kondo style, you undoubtedly have some donations for Salvation Army or your local charity. Many places will pick up your donations right from your house so you don’t have to load up your car and make the trek. Schedule a pickup online. It’s not just limited to clothes and books. These charities will pick up furniture and appliances too.
Header Image Source: (Alex Tan/ Death to the Stock Photo)