With an impending move on the horizon, it’s easy to push off packing.
You have so many other things on your mind, like saying goodbye to your neighborhood and anticipating the new one where you’ll be settling.
If you’re moving to a new city or state, there are the farewell parties, tying up loose ends at your job and making camp and school plans for your kids. No matter how long you avoid it, the packing has to get done or there will be no move.
“The longer you wait to begin unpacking, the less motivation and energy you’ll have, so don’t put it off,” advises Carolyn McKibbon of MyMove.com. “Your mood will improve if you keep telling yourself that each empty box brings you closer to making your new house a home.”
Making a Plan and Getting Started
This may seem obvious, but don’t assume you have a true move date before you have booked a moving company. Many clients wait until the week of their desired move date to sign a contract with a mover, which can increase moving costs, corner you into hiring packers or even force you to push back your move date. Once you have a definite date for your move, make a packing plan that will allow you to create an inventory of what you own, determine which items you want to move and which you want to sell or give away and alleviate some of the packing pressure by spreading it out over many weeks.
As You Sort and Pack, Take Inventory
Depending on the coverage plan you purchase with your movers, you will be required to present an inventory list in the event of damage or theft. Without an actual inventory, it’s also unlikely you’ll remember everything you own.
Also, knowing what you own is beneficial if you ever need to make good on homeowners insurance. Another perk: with a clear idea of what you have, you can best decide how to organize your new home.
Several apps, such as MyStuff2 and Delicious Library, can make the process simple. If you aren’t a techie, pen and paper will do just fine (when you’re done, put it in a fireproof box where you keep important papers).
Assess All Your Stored Items
About six weeks before your move, there is some prep work that will make your final week before moving much easier.
Do you keep storage stowed away in your garage or a shed in the backyard, in bins under the bed, stacked in boxes in the basement or attic, even putting your overage in a paid storage unit? Six weeks before you move, review every single item that is stored and decide what to keep, sell, give away and throw away.
“Only pack what you really want to take with you,” says certified professional organizer Amy Trager. “It wastes time and energy to pack and unpack something that you won’t even continue to use or enjoy in your new space. Moving is a great time to weed out items you don’t want or need anymore and moving also unearths treasured items that you’ll want to bring out in your new home.”
Moving is a great time to weed out items you don’t want or need anymore and also unearths treasured items that you’ll want to bring out in your new home. “See how many items you can cull from storage to sell in a garage sale or on Craigslist or Amazon,” advises professional organizer Allison Flinn.
The earlier you get started editing these unwanted items out of your life — from clothing and furniture to the remains of your expired hobbies (read: water ski circa 1982, archery equipment, loom) — the more you’ll actually be able to sell. Dedicate yourself to marketing your garage sale and diligently post and mail out Internet sales and you could finance much of your move. You’ll be surprised how much that box of books from grad school is worth to Amazon shoppers.
Shop for Moving Boxes
Instead of splurging on new boxes, rustle up used ones. They are friendlier to the environment and significantly less expensive, sometimes even free. Call your local liquor store to ask if they’ll save boxes the day of their next shipment or shop at stores like Eco Box in Texas or Georgia Green Box, where you’ll discover a huge supply of used boxes in every size, as well as packing materials.
Another option is reusable moving boxes, such as Recopacks from RentAGreenBox.com, which are delivered to your door.
Need a special, hard-to-find box? “A good mover will be able to provide you with specific boxes if needed as well,” says Al Ponchack, director of operations at Holman Moving Systems.
Pack Decorative Items First
When you’re done sifting through storage, next on your packing list is artworks, framed photos, paintings and other decorative items that exist mainly to be looked at rather than used (as opposed to functional art). Wrap all frames and delicate items in bubble wrap as these are easy to break or scratch. (Note: If you save every piece of bubble wrap that comes into your house, you seriously cut down on the amount you’ll need to buy.)
Place decorative pieces in medium-sized boxes so they aren’t too heavy and so the weight of too many top pieces doesn’t crush the bottom ones. “Be conscious of the cost of packing materials — you could easily spend $14.50 on packing a $3 vase,” warns lifestyle expert Denise Baron.
Clothes, Toys and Sporting Equipment
Clothes that are out of season can be packed six weeks ahead. Wardrobe boxes are easiest to pack because all you have to do is places clothes on hangers on the inside bar, just like a closet. If you hold on to wire hangers from the dry cleaners, you can put most of your shirts, pants and dresses in wardrobe boxes. Any folded clothes should be placed in a plastic trash bag before they are boxed up, in case the boxes get wet in transit.
Usually kids go through phases with toys. They get into something for a while and then it shifts to the back burner while another toy gets a lot of play.
“Children often have a hard time accepting a move, especially if they are leaving the house they lived in since birth or one that’s in a neighborhood where their close friends live,” says Anna Van de Pol, who has made more than five moves with kids. “Involving them in the packing process can help them understand and accept the reality of the move, and, in the process, they’ll rediscover toys they’ve forgotten about. They’ll be eager to take these out again in their new home. Any toys that aren’t in heavy rotation can be packed a month (or more) ahead and so can sports equipment that’s out of season.”
Have a Packing Party
Closer to your move date, the packing gets much more intense. Most of your free time is dedicated to packing. Since so many personal items are involved, you’ll do much of it yourself. But packing parties can be fun too, especially in the kitchen where you’re unlikely to come across lace panties or a private letter. Check with your friends to see when they are available for an afternoon or evening a week or two before your move and invite them over to help, even if it’s for an hour or two.
Buy a few bottles of wine and cue your favorite tunes. When half the kitchen is packed, order delivery of the best pizza in town and share memories of moments you’ve had together in the house. If your packing party can double as a cathartic experience for you and the ones you love, it helps ease the stress of your move. Packing is practical, but moving is emotional and is listed among the top stressors a person can go through in life. Most of us don’t have time to skip a beat before, during or after a move, so it’s smart to build stress relief into the moving process wherever you can.
During the packing process, you are reintroduced to all your stuff and get to know it again on an even-more familiar level than before.
You consider each item from several angles: How useful is it? Has it worn out its welcome? Do I anticipate it being a meaningful part of my household in the future? What memories does it conjure up? Will I really feel all that guilty if I get rid of it? Can someone else make better use of it?
Scrutinizing your belongings is a great technique to inch away from any slight hoarding tendencies and it also makes packing easier. When a stranger hired to pack your things fills a box, the label must detail its contents. For you, a simple label of “bedroom” or “bathroom” will suffice.
Professional organizer Katherine Trezise suggests labeling boxes according to the room the items will be placed in your new home, which may be different from your current home.
Another great tip from Trezise: Before you pack everything away, create a “first-night” box to carry with you. It should contain house keys, cell phone and charger, medicines, snacks, sheets, towels, soap, toilet paper and anything else you’ll need to unpack and use upon your arrival.
Here are some more tips to help you pack efficiently for each room of the home:
Because the kitchen is full of items that are regularly used, not much needs to be thrown away. Little packing time is spent deciding what to keep, so the kitchen is one of the fastest and easiest to pack. “My favorite packing secret is to pack dishes, trays and the like vertically, not horizontally, in boxes,” says certified professional organizer Amy Trager. “The less pressure of stacked boxes on the surface of the dishes means it’s less likely to crack and break in transit.”
Boxes: Use smaller boxes since dishes and utensils are heavy.
Packing Materials: As for packing materials, thin plastic foam sheets between plates will do for every day dinnerware, but china and other breakables fare better in bubble packaging material. Cloth napkins, dish towels and table clothes are also useful. On the other hand, newspaper is an enormous hassle because of the ink marks it leaves behind — having to wash every dish in your new home will not be your favorite way to settle in.
You’d be smart to save the original packaging for small countertop appliances such as coffee makers and blenders. Nothing protects them better than the boxes designed to contain them. But if you tossed them, use a box slightly larger than the appliance and wrap the appliance in bubble packaging material to be sure it doesn’t break. It might be small, but that $400 juicer is expensive to replace.
Except for the sheets and blankets on the bed and outfits you wear regularly, most of the bedroom can be packed a month before your move. This gives you time to decide if there are any items you want to let go of. For larger items that don’t sell, remember that the Salvation Army will pick them up if you call in advance to schedule with them. Call the local branch a few days before your desired pick-up date.
Boxes: Wardrobe boxes are the best. Wardrobe boxes are easiest to pack because all you have to do is places clothes on hangers on the inside bar, just like a closet. If you hold on to wire hangers from the dry cleaners, you can put most of your shirts, pants and dresses in wardrobe boxes. Medium-sized boxes are ideal for folded clothes, because clothing is relatively light (compared to countertop appliances and books).
Packing Materials: Any folded clothes should be placed in a large plastic bag before they are boxed up in case the boxes get wet in transit.
Living Room/Media Room
If you’ve gotten a head start on the living room by packing decorative items, books and other objects that aren’t used daily, it will be the fastest room in the house to pack. The movers will handle most of its contents, because furniture dominates this room. DVDs, board games, CDs and smaller A/V equipment are all evenly sized, which makes them a snap to pack.
Boxes: Save the box for your flat screen because nothing protects your TV the way the original box does. Moving pros say that flat-screen televisions are more likely to break in transit if they are in a generic box as opposed to the original.
Use small boxes for CDs and other living room items. The weight adds up fast. “Pack heavier items toward the bottom of the box and lighter items toward the top,” says Kerri Hart of Atlas Van Lines. “Don’t exceed 50 pounds per box; it makes moving them a lot easier.”
If your office is at all disorganized, packing can be difficult, unless you want to stack papers and files in boxes indiscriminately. This is one room where detailed labels can really be helpful later on as you unpack.
“If there’s a space in the home that only one person uses, like the office, have them either do the packing or, at least, assist with packing,” Trager says. “They are the ideal person to pack their items in a manner that makes sense for how they will use the space.”
Wait until the day before your move to pack your desktop computer — you’d be surprised how many files you want to access right up to the move. Laptops can go with you in the car, so there’s no need to pack them in anything but their case.
Root through every toiletry in your cabinets and discard those that are mostly used, never used or otherwise undesirable. What is left can be packed into small boxes lined with garbage bags, as toiletries can easily leak.
Keep an empty box on your bathroom counter for the items you use every day. You’ll be using them for your last shower or bath in the house and it’s easiest to have a box set aside for just that purpose. Also, keep a laundry bag on hand for the few dirty clothes that were worn the previous day when you finished packing.
Many movers will not transport your plants long distances for you, so if you have large potted plants that will be difficult to move yourself, come up with a plan. Will you trailer them behind your own vehicle to your final destination? Will you give them away?
If you’re a plant person and you love your plants, you’ll feel horrible leaving them behind to die, so make sure you’ve arranged for a good home for them, whether that be in your new house or that of a fellow plant lover.
Many of us make the mistake of waiting to pack the closets until the very last minute, only to find monstrous amounts of things hidden in the back. Reverse the trend and sort through your closets in advance of the main rooms. Getting a jump on your nooks and crannies will save you a lot of hassle in the end.
Your pets will come with you in your vehicle when you move. If you have cats or dogs, you’ll notice that the moving process has probably upset them a bit. They may be confused and irritated. Be sure you keep a close eye on them, especially indoor/outdoor cats, as they may go into hiding and not be around the house when the movers come.
Dogs are sentimental, so there is a benefit to walking your pup around the house and yard for a last goodbye and taking one more walk around the neighborhood before setting off. Keep their favorite pet food in the car to feed them on the way. With all these changes, they might not love eating strange pet food from convenience stores as you travel.
By creating a plan ahead of time, you’ll make the packing — and moving — process simple for you and your family. The less stress you face in this phase means an enjoyable transition to your new home.
Sarah Kinbar is a writer and editor with a passion for design and images. She was the editor of Garden Design magazine, curating coverage of residential gardens around the globe. As the editor of American Photo, Kinbar worked with photographers of every genre to create a magazine that told the story of the photographer’s journey.
She has been writing about architecture, landscape design and new-home construction for NewHomeSource since 2012. During that time, she founded Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides content for website redesigns, blogs, inbound marketing campaigns and eNewsletters.