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Moving and Getting Organized - Tricks & Tips

Updated on April 27, 2012

I know from experience that whether you just move a block away (literally) or across countries, moving is a task that benefits from organization. This is true regardless if you have a moving company assisting with your move or if you are braving the experience on your own. And organization is key not only before you pack to move but also once you key into your new house and tackle the job of unpacking.

Our oldest son moves for the first time.  Can he beat his Mom's record of how many times she moved before the age of 40?
Our oldest son moves for the first time. Can he beat his Mom's record of how many times she moved before the age of 40? | Source

Moving and Organizing

I love the challenge of a move. I have moved a total of 15 times in my life, beginning at the age of 5. Some may argue I don't know any better. But I will argue that I am a chronic organizer and there is no better reason to organize than when you move.

As I see it, moving and organizing are a match made in heaven. And I learned firsthand with every move I made that there are many more layers to making the experience successful than appears on the surface. Organization is key throughout. You will remain in control of the process rather than the process controlling you. It is no wonder that moving often makes the top ten list of most stressful life experiences, among such other life changing events like bereavement, loss of a job and illness.

As a child, I was simply responsible for packing my carry-on for the plane along with picking out a favorite outfit for the trip. My parents managed all the rest. Now as a mother of three, the bulk of the work has shifted to me. Experience tells me that beyond the practical aspects of undoing life in one place and getting ready to say goodbye, lies the physical task of fitting everything into evenly shaped rectangular boxes. If only life was shaped so perfectly...

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Every time I finished packing a box, I turned around to find it unpacked and repacked with our son inside.  Yes, we would not forget you!
Every time I finished packing a box, I turned around to find it unpacked and repacked with our son inside. Yes, we would not forget you! | Source

Getting Organized Before Your Move

Of utmost importance before you start to pack is to purge your belongings. I do this by literally going room by room, one at a time, starting a couple of months in advance of the move date. Allowing yourself time to complete this crucial step will make it more enjoyable. As you know, moving does not mean the rest of your life gets to be put on hold, so it is more manageable to have the freedom to weed through your stuff at your leisure than under time pressure.

You will begin to collect items that can be removed from the packing list and moved into one of the other following categories. First, items which you have outgrown or are no longer needed make perfect donations. We have a shelter in our area that is thankful for any and all household items. Second, items that are bulkier and more valuable can be sold on craigslist or might accumulate to warrant a garage sale before you move. And third, personal items and mementos can be collected in boxes and basically prepped for storage (attic, garage, or otherwise).

With the excess household items cleared out of the way, I usually take the time to wash drapery, shower curtains, pillow covers and the like. Similarly, I clean items like kitchen gadgets or decorations which might have accumulated dust after a prolonged time without being used or touched. I find that anything above eye level is worth a closer look for build up of dust and dirt.

Sometimes it seems like my dishwasher and washing machine are running around the clock when it's moving time, but I know I will be thankful later when time is even more valuable. If necessary, I also recommend hiring a professional steam cleaner to help prep area rugs and upholstery before you move. Everything will be fresh and ready to use upon move-in and help you settle into your new home more quickly.

The kitchen deserves special attention because it is home, you guessed it, to food items both new and old. Begin by checking your pantry for expired items and dispose. Then take inventory of your food supply, including your freezer, and plan your meals accordingly. It will be nice not to waste the food when you move and save a few pennies during a time when expenses tend to run high.

Finally, consider creating a moving folder or binder to keep all documents related to your move. Receipts can be tucked away here safely. You will be thankful no later than April 15 of the following year when you can easily plug all your moving expenses into your tax return.

Tips to Help You Pack

Assuming you are doing the bulk of the work (if not all) by yourself, a few things need to be in place before you roll up your sleeves and get moving. At your disposal, you should have (I usually purchase mine at a local U-Haul store):

  1. Boxes (assume roughly 100 for a sparsely furnished 3 bedroom house) - in a pinch, boxes such as those used to package printer/copier paper will do, too; or, you can check with your local stores to see if they have any shipping boxes ready for recycling
  2. Heavy duty tape guns (one for you and one for 'your helper')
  3. Packing paper (the more the merrier; it can be recycled once used)
  4. Permanent markers (for easy to read labeling of your packed boxes)
  5. Mattress bags (as the name suggests, makes moving your mattress a cinch)

With these tools in hand, you are ready to start. Begin by packing those items which you use most infrequently. Doing a little each day will get you a long way. Resist the temptation to fill every box to the top, keeping in mind the weight that is accumulating inside. And, avoid mixing items from different rooms into the same box. You will be thankful later when you unpack. Label each and every box according to the contents and the room that they will be moved into. Repeat this labeling step on both the top and one of the sides of each box as you cannot anticipate which side will be showing when they are piled up to the ceiling.

Also, remember to separate your valuables such as jewelry and important documents and consider personally moving these to your new home. Similarly, I have found that remote controls tend to 'disappear' during moves and we have made it a priority to keep them safe by moving them with our most personal belongings.

I have always appreciated packing a special box with a set of sheets, PJs, toothbrushes and other such essentials. Nothing beats the feeling of making your bed and being able to crawl in it even if the rest of the house is in shambles.

Getting Organized in Your New Home

If there is one room in the new house that deserves special preparation, it is the kitchen (followed closely by the bathrooms and closets). Otherwise it becomes more difficult to navigate your new space and settle into your new home. Of top priority before anything is unpacked is to clean the inside of kitchen cabinets and line the shelves, if necessary. This way, once the kitchen boxes are ready to be unpacked, you can quickly organize your belongings and will avoid having them pile up on the counter tops.

Organizing your kitchen to best suit your needs requires a little time and thinking. It is important to consider and develop an easy flow between your sink, fridge and stove and then place items accordingly. For instance, I find there is no better place for the coffee maker than next to the sink so that you can easily fill up the garafe with water and avoid criss-crossing the kitchen. The same is true for the coffee grounds which should find their home in a cabinet above the coffee maker. Sugar, teas and honey make a nice compliment for the space. Apply similar thinking to the rest of your kitchen.

Almost done:  moving boxes doubling as a toy.  Are we having fun yet?
Almost done: moving boxes doubling as a toy. Are we having fun yet? | Source

Tips to Help You Unpack

Do make use of movers (or friends) to help you lift and bring your belongings into the house. Dollies and hand carts come in very handy here and will save your back for unpacking, a task not to be underestimated in terms of energy spent. Be sure to direct people at the front door exactly to where furniture and other heavy pieces should be placed. The same is true for each and every box because only you can properly decipher the labeling of your boxes and know where they should be 'dropped'.

Once the furniture and all boxes are safely tucked inside the house, and bulky packaging material is removed, I would highly recommend that you unpack the rest by yourself. Time and time again I have found that too much help with unpacking actually creates more work. With box cutters in hand, movers/helpers try to undo as many boxes as possible and finish the job without particular care to placement. If not properly managed, you will end up having to repack and unpack again before you are finally done.

How Do You Pace Yourself When You Move?

This is a question still open for debate, at least in our family. On my side of the family, we tend to be unstoppable. My father-in-law once called my Mom and I the 'iron ladies'. Along with my husband and the rest of his family, they do not see the need to rush. But at a minimum, I feel that the kitchen, bathrooms and closets should be unpacked within a couple of days. This will deliver not only a wonderful sense of progress and accomplishment, but allow you to live with the rest of the chaos until you slowly find the time to get the job done.

I often say, now at the age of 40 and happily adjusting to our new home of just under one year, that I have arrived at my final destination. But every once in a while, I have to admit that I feel the itch to move again. I don't think I'll ever be able to shake this feeling entirely.

In the meanwhile, I am driving my husband crazy by redecorating. Daily.

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