I'd like to say that life is finally starting to settle down after our big move last month, but nope – it's not. The thing is, life keeps on going while you're in the middle of a major life change. Kids get sick, homework is still due, and lunches still have to be made. It would be nice if we could pause the everyday craziness while something like a move is happening, wouldn't it?
That being said, I'm finally finding the time to sit down and write down my thoughts on what is hopefully our last move for a very long time 😉 . We've moved three times in four years (four times if you count our few month stint with my in-laws after we moved to Mississippi in 2013), so I've definitely learned the ins and outs of the process. I'm not going to say these tips will make your move stress free, but hopefully they can make the process a little bit easier for you!
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Start off with a big purge. After 3 moves in 4 years, I finally realized that there is absolutely no point in packing up a ton of things that you're never going to use. It's a waste of your time, space, and energy. So, the first thing I recommend doing when you're moving (about 6-8 weeks before you move) is having a big purge.
Go through your house and be relentless. Take a big outdoor garbage bag and make a goal to fill it up. I can usually fill 2-3 bags every time I do one of these (I try to get one done at least once a year). Of course, if you can donate it for someone else to use or sell it, go for it…but that needs to be done very soon if you're planning on doing it. The goal is to have these things out of your house by the time you move. (Need ideas on what to purge? Click here!)
Then, dedicate each week until you move to packing one zone of the house. I'm a big fan of dividing the house into zones and conquering. In Journey to Clean, I have four really clear zones of the house that make my monthly cleaning a breeze. So, naturally, I used these four zones for packing as well. They are…
- Kitchen/Dining Room
- Living Areas (Living Room, Office, Playroom, Foyer, Halls)
- Bedrooms and Outside Areas
- Bathrooms and Closets
However, I didn't go in this order. This is going to be a little different for everyone, but I went from least needed areas to most needed. For us, this was living areas (week 1), bedrooms/outside areas (week 2), bathrooms and closets (week 3), and kitchen/dining room (week 4). That way, the things we needed the most weren't packed up when we needed them.
Start saving newspaper and disposable grocery bags for padding. We honestly had very little need for bubble wrap (and were very lucky to have a friend that had just moved who gifted us what we did need). For a few months before moving, instead of recycling the newspaper and plastic bags we acquired, they went in the moving supply pile. Those bags are great for wrapping glass for the kitchen or small decor items!
Hit up the liquor stores for boxes. My husband is so smart…he figured out that liquor stores have the best boxes because they're designed to properly cushion glass bottles, so they're usually the most durable and padded. I definitely found this to be true with the boxes we used. They also have those handy dandy little dividers that are great for packing glasses. If you see that your local liquor store is throwing out boxes, ask to take them off their hands…the best part is they're usually free!
Don't waste money with shipping tape. I learned early on that, while shipping packing tape is most definitely more durable, packing tape costs a little bit less and (as long as your boxes aren't going through any major moving or shifting) works perfectly for moving. Don't waste your money if it isn't necessary.
Let kids keep one box of toys each. I started with the living areas because most of these things were non-essential…lots of decor, books, toys, etc.). But, one thing that is somewhat essential when you have small children are toys. Sorry, we just couldn't survive for a month without something to entertain our kids. So, I let each child pack one storage bin of toys that they were allowed to keep out in the house for the next month…the rest were packed away.
Use industrial saran wrap to pack drawers, open boxes, clothing, and toys that might come open in the move. One of my absolute favorite items to use for moving is this big roll of industrial saran wrap (the kind they use in restaurants). They make a kind for moving (found here) that makes packing any kind of open box, drawer, etc. so easy. Just wrap tightly and it stays put…no need to rebox it! I also use this to wrap hanging clothing so there's no need to take it off of its hanger.
As you're unpacking cabinets and drawers, use the sticky note system. Once I had packed a cabinet or a drawer, I put a sticky note on it. That way, I didn't have to open it to confirm that everything from the drawer was packed. As I cleaned that cabinet on moving day, I took the sticky note off to confirm it was good to go. Easy way to keep from opening and closing the same cabinet a hundred times!
Label the room and contents on every single box. It might sound like overkill to make sure the room is labeled on every single box, but I've found that unpacking/organizing is so much easier if the room is right there and apparent. Even for things that have obvious rooms (like plates, food, or bath toiletries), it's so easy just to glance at a box and not have to process what is in it to decide where it goes. I've read before about color-coding boxes for rooms/zones of the house, but that seemed like too much work for the outcome to me (you have to familiarize yourself with a color chart, buy extra stickers/labels, etc)…just writing the room on each box worked just fine for us!
Use suitcases, empty bags, and other hidden storage to pack. I used our nested suitcase set to pack basically all of the folded clothing for the four of us. Those are free boxes and held a ton of things and saved room in cardboard boxes for other items. I also had a reusable shopping bag in each room to collect the miscellaneous items that just didn't get packed in the first go-round. Look around – you probably have a lot of boxes/containers in your home that can be used instead of having to get extra boxes!
Pack cleaning supplies, tools, and food last. These were the last three things to go in boxes for us. You'll need tools to take apart furniture and remove hanging items; cleaning supplies to do those last-minute touch-ups on the old house; and food to survive. 😉 I recommend doing a freezer/fridge clean-out right for a couple of weeks before moving – there's no point in taking food with you if you can just use it up!
Designate a drop zone and a supply area (in both the new house and an old house). Once we had a box packed, we had an area of the house (for us, it was an empty corner of our kitchen) where we put as many boxes as possible. That just kept them out of the way, so we didn't feel like we were swimming in boxes throughout the house. We also had a separate area for supplies (boxes, tape, Sharpies, stretch wrap)…it's much easier to keep empty boxes separate from full boxes so you don't have to sort through to determine which is which each time.
In the new house, we designated our dining room for unpacked boxes since our dining room table hadn't been delivered yet. Again, this way each room wasn't cluttered up and we could grab a few boxes to unpack as we got the chance. I did get essentials unpacked immediately (namely the kitchen), but the rest was done a few at a time. We tried to organize the boxes into sections as we brought them into the dining room…that way, if we knew we wanted to unpack items for the living room, it was easy to find a few.
Don't feel like the whole house has to be unpacked immediately. Let me tell you (from experience)…trying to unpack your whole house in the first week/weekend is a bad idea. You will be exhausted (after an already physically/mentally exhausting experience) and completely burn yourself out. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint! We're one month out from moving now and I still have a few boxes to unpack…and that's ok. I paced myself and enjoyed the experience much more.
Have a slush fund for moving. There are so many unexpected expenses during the moving experience…you're going to spend money. I guarantee it. I recommend saving a little bit each month for 4-6 months before moving to cover all of those expenses. We probably needed $500-600 to cover all of the miscellaneous expenses for our move (not counting movers and the U-Haul).
And, if you're moving soon, let me just tell you I'm praying for you. 😉 It's definitely not an easy chapter of life, but it's one that can be super exciting and doesn't have to be overwhelming! Best of luck to you!