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Packing for a Move? The #1 Most Important Thing You Can Do (and other useful tips)

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

If you've decided to move but you're overwhelmed with the process of packing everything up, read on for my top tips to make the process - on both ends - easier and less stressful. I have been there and I've got you!

Do the same mysterious boxes keep showing up in your basement or spare closet each time you move? You don't know what these boxes contain. You are scared to open them. It's easier to just leave them be and tell yourself "I'll get to it later." The boxes keep multiplying, too. "Out-of-sight" is not really "out-of-mind" because it still weighs on you.Many of the same principles for organizing a home also apply to packing up a house, or unpacking when you arrive at your new place.

The number one thing you can do to prevent this scenario is to DECLUTTER before you move. Don't keep moving things you don't need or haven't used in years. Say "no" to the clutter now. Do not wait until the movers come to pack everything up. Decluttering may sound like a lot of work, but it can be simplified into easy, manageable steps. You can do one step per week or every 3 days, etc...depending on how much time you have. To download my FREE "Moving Guide/Checklist", click HERE.

Read on for more details...

  1. Start with a decluttering walk-through. Take this one room at a time. Do NOT attempt this all at once! In this step, look for obvious things that need to go: a) Trash b) Donations. Look for small things you can easily lift (leave the furniture for step 3. Look for things that have no sentimental value and don't require much thought - like linens, bath items, laundry items, etc... I recommend going through your clothing, but you can save it for step 5 if it's difficult. Fill a box or a bag in each room and take it straight to your car. Are you feeling any lighter yet? Success!

  2. Shop your house to figure out what furniture will most likely fit into the new home. This is the fun part! For each room in the new place, begin to plan what furniture you will need. Unless you are remodeling or starting over with a new interior design, this can be really simple. Place a label (masking tape & sharpie will do) on each piece of furniture designating its room destination in the new home. Measure if you can, only guess if you must. Take notes on what you will need to buy as well. Example: If that sofa is too big for the new house, you can start shopping for a right-sized one now.

  3. Donate/Sell Large Items like furniture. This step is especially important if you are downsizing. Look at everything that you did not "shop" and decide if you want to move it to the new place "just in case" or if you can donate it. Place a bright colored sticker or masking tape label on the items you will donate. In most towns, you can arrange for the charity of your choice to come and pick up all of these large items (and small items at the same time!) They will be able to quickly go through your home and identify the "donate" items because you have labeled them. If you want to see, take pictures and post them on Facebook Marketplace (for example) right away and give yourself a short deadline. If it doesn't sell, then donate.

  4. Tackle your storage areas. Do you have camping gear but don't go camping anymore? Was there a hobby you used to enjoy but don't anymore yet you still have all the tools? Be honest with yourself - will you EVER use these things again? If the answer is "probably not" then donate them. You can purchase again if you ever get that urge again. But chances are you will actually feel less pressure once you have let go. If you have boxes that have not been opened in a long time, now is the time. At the very least, take a peek inside. Do you really need all these things? Is there someone else in your family that needs them? Have you even missed these items? Once you've decided what stays with you, tape up the boxes with detailed labels (also mark for "storage") so you will always know how to find what you are looking for. Now the storage area is ready to go!

  5. Consolidate & Declutter More. You may have kitchen utensils located both in the kitchen and the wet bar, coats in 2 different closets, books and movies in the living room and the loft, extra toiletries & cleaning supplies in the guest bath... You get it. Gather like-with-like together. Now you will actually see in one glance if items have been duplicated or not used at all. Let go of all the items you would not purchase for the new place. (This is a good time to go through your clothing, too.)

  6. Start packing early. (I talk about this in a Redfin Article, too) Now that you've already sorted your things and consolidated, this part will be easier than you think. Pack everything you can live without until move day. Pack like-with-like as much as possible, and label boxes for the rooms they will live in. (Note: for liquids, use waterproof containers such as see-through plastic bins). Try packing 5-10 boxes per day until it's finished. It's OK to live with a lot of stacked boxes in your home for a few weeks if needed. Nothing is worse than having to sort through boxes that have been thrown into the new home with no plan. You can still pay movers to pick up the boxes, transport the furniture, and roll up the rugs, etc... Make sure you instruct them to only unload items into the rooms where they belong.

  7. Sentimental items can be the toughest to go through. I'm not going to tell you to let go of all of it, nor do you need to keep all of it. There are creative ways to hold onto memories without storing so much "stuff." For example, Companies like Legacy Box or Southtree can scan photos, negatives, tapes, children's artwork, etc and give them back to you on disc or flash drive, or you can use an app like Google Scan to DIY. This can save from having to store bulky items that have been in hiding all this time. Plus you will now have easier access to those memories. Another note: it's okay to break apart sets (think Grandma's china). Sure, keep that candy dish or that special tea set or the cast iron pan. And then plan to use them or display them. Enjoy them rather than leaving them packed away in a box. Check out a company like Replacements LTD who may purchase the rest of the old china from you.

  8. Food. By now, you are very close to move day. Slow down the grocery shopping and try to use up as much food as possible... especially the frozen and refridgerated foods. You can get take-out for the last few days and eat from paper plates, etc. You will only need to pack up the shelf foods to take with you, now. Remember to pack liquids and oils in waterproof containers. If you have any breakage, the mess will be contained.

  9. Pack a suitcase for each person, including clothing, toiletries, personal items, as if you are traveling for a week or two. Pack the rest into boxes.

  10. Pack an Open-This-First Box for general needs upon arrival at your new home. Include plates, utensils, paper towels, toilet paper, basic surface cleaner, Microfiber cloths, box cutters, tape, charging cords, notepad, pens, basic tool kit, first aid kit and some easy-to-cook meal kits. Oh, and don't forget your pet's needs!


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