Moving: How to pack your home

This week is a bittersweet one for me. After six years in our amazing home, we are moving. I’m sad to say farewell to this place — we love our neighbors, we love the house, and this is my son’s first home. Unfortunately, the house isn’t configured for our needs. My son really needs his own bedroom (he’s been in a crib in our bedroom for the past 18 months), and we also want a dedicated office space since both my husband and I typically work from home.

We found a new place, which surprisingly has fewer square feet than our current house but has the exact room arrangements we need. Honestly, the new house is incredible and it’s going to greatly improve our quality of life, but packing up everything we own, moving across town, and selling our current home is very stressful in the short term.

I’ve moved fourteen times in my life, and I’ve learned a great deal from these experiences. Additionally, I’m learning even more on this fifteenth move. Over the next couple weeks as we personally go through the moving process, I’ll write posts sharing tips and tricks for each stage. Please feel welcome to jump into the comments and share advice you’ve garnered from the moves in your life. My hope is for these posts to become guides for anyone going through the moving process who wants the move to be as simple and organized as possible.

Packing

  • Wear shoes with good arch support and full-foot coverage. If weather permits, also wear long sleeves, jeans, and socks to help avoid injuries.
  • Gather supplies: boxes (small, medium, and large), packing tape, roll of bubble wrap for fragile pieces, permanent black markers, band-aids, ice packs, pain reliever, trash bags, a wardrobe box for each person in the house, a good sense of humor, and anything else you’ll need.
  • When acquiring boxes, make a stop at your local liquor or wine store to grab a few boxes with divided inserts. These boxes are perfect for safely transporting alcohol and other kitchen liquids like vinegar and olive oil. (If moving across state lines, check regulations for transporting alcohol and make certain to abide by these laws.)
  • Make a hotel reservation for the night you arrive at your new place. Your goal will be to get the best night’s sleep possible so you can start refreshed for your first day of unpacking. You’ll also want a shower after moving stuff all day, and it’s best to not have to worry about making sure these things can easily happen.
  • Clear floorspace in your home in four different locations and mark each area: Packed Boxes to Move, Charity Donations, Giveaway/Return, and Sell. These areas are where you will put these items until you’re finished packing your things. You will likely need at least a 10′ X 10′ area to hold the Packed Boxes to Move. Also, the area holding items you intend to sell should be easily accessible from the front door or in your garage so that potential buyers can see the product without having to climb over boxes and mess in your home.
  • If you have children under the age of five, see if a grandparent, friend, or babysitter can keep your child occupied while you work.
  • Your first act of packing should be a suitcase with two weeks of clothing and supplies. Be sure to include your toothbrush and toothpaste, a couple bath towels, soap, shampoo, hair dryer and anything else that is part of your daily hygiene routine.
  • Your second act of packing should be an essentials kit — but don’t tape it up! These will be the last items you take out of your current house and the first items you unpack in your new place. These will be things like cleaning supplies, two or more rolls of toilet paper, a frying pan, a few paper plates and plastic utensils, sheets for all the beds, and anything else you will need the first couple days in your new place.
  • Make large print signs for your new home with room names: Living Room, Family Room, Master Bedroom, Sally’s Room, Sally’s Bathroom, etc. These signs will make it easier on you and anyone helping you move boxes into your new place. Bring a roll of painter’s tape with you in your essentials kit and plan to hang the signs immediately upon getting access to your new place.
  • As you move throughout your home packing boxes, I recommend starting with the heaviest items that will form the base of your Packed Boxes to Move area. Books are almost always a good item for this. Use small boxes, and group similar types together (cookbooks with cookbooks, children’s books with children’s books).
  • Label the top and all four sides of a box with a short explanation of what is in the box (Toys) and what room the box should be placed in at the new house (Bobby’s Room). You want to label the top and sides so that the box can be facing in any direction and you can still know what is inside it and where to take it.
  • Try your best not to mix different types of things in boxes (your shoes shouldn’t be with your coffee mugs). If this is unavoidable, at the very least do not mix items that belong in different rooms. Only pack kitchen things with other kitchen things, bathroom things with other bathroom things, etc.
  • Sort and clean everything before packing it. If you never plan to use eight vases, put some of the vases in the Donate to Charity pile. The key is not to move ANYTHING you don’t want in your new home. Clear the clutter now so you don’t have to spend time and energy moving it.
  • Only use trash bags for trash. This will keep you from accidentally throwing something valuable away. If you want to use trash bags for transporting charity items, use differently colored bags (black for trash, white for charity) and write DONATION in big letters on the bag. Be sure to let the ink dry before using the bag.
  • Set packing goals the same way you set other goals in your life. Be as specific as possible: Pack the living room on Monday, the garage on Tuesday, or whatever systematic method works best for you.
  • Take breaks at least once an hour for five or ten minutes. Your sanity depends on it.

60 Comments for “Moving: How to pack your home”

  1. posted by writing all the time on

    Erin, congrats on the new home! And I feel your sadness at moving away from many wonderful memories.

    My comments about your list:
    Labeling 5 sides of a box takes way too long. Top and one or two sides, always in the same corner, are plenty.
    Make a Moving Binder if you have any paper work at all, and choose a bright colored one. It’s too easy to lose sight of a black or even dark blue one.
    Make a list of what goes into your overnight bag, and everyone else’s. Don’t forget to include cell phone chargers, reading glasses, medications, and an extra packet of checks.
    Before your movers arrive, put your overnight bags in your car. They won’t get lost in what seems like a million boxes.
    If you’re moving yourself, use the double thick contractors bags for large, light weight bedding – pillows, comforters, etc. Tape the top with colored tape if you need to, to make them stand out from trash or donation bags.
    You can also make signs that say “Sofa Here”, “Dresser Here”, etc, and put them on the appropriate wall or area. Saves on questions from your movers.
    Orient your moving team. If there are any items you’re not having them move, throw a sheet or tarp over those items, and tape a sign on them that says “DO NOT TOUCH!”

    Good luck, I’m looking forward to seeing your posts.

  2. posted by Nancy on

    Congratulations on your new house! I wish you a bevy of kitchen drawers.

    I’d add kids’ stuff to the “last packed, first unpacked” list to make the transition easier. Then again boxes and bubble wrap can be endlessly entertaining.

  3. posted by lisa on

    Our moving company but a numbered label on every single box, part or whole piece of furniture, and had a master list of numbers. My sister checked off the number when each item came in the house. That did lots for my peace of mind in the next few weeks as I was unpacking and looking for things. I knew that every single box or item had come in the new house. We are a family of 5, and had been in our previous home for 17 years. We moved in the space of 3 weeks, and I packed it all myself while my husband was out of town on business. I had purged lots while packing, and sometimes it is hard to remember what got donated, and what got packed to come to the new house.

    Also leave out some disposable paint brushes, filler, and your cans of paint so you can fill and touch up all the holes in the wall for the new owners. Leave our your cleaning supplies, too, so you can do all the last minute cleaning needed, and any cleaning needed in the new house.

    Find someone else who will be moving soon after your moving date, so you can get them to come and get all your boxes and packing materials ASAP after you move. You will want them gone immediately, and they take up lots of space.

    A kind neighbour loaned us their basement room for stereo equipment, computers, mirrors, artwork, and other hard to pack fragile items. Over the few weeks after we moved, we made several trips to pick up these items, and we didn’t have to try and package them for moving. (We moved about a mile away from our old house).

  4. Profile photo of

    posted by trillie on

    * Have enough beverages (water during the move, maybe beer after!) available for everyone helping you move, and enough snacks and food as well

    * If there are any small items like screws or cross bracing that are vital for your furniture to be put back together at the new place, then by all means put them into a bag and tape them to that furniture

    * Oh, and don’t pack anything you don’t want to carry and unpack again :)

  5. posted by ninakk on

    Great list! I don’t know why I never thought of the wine-bottle dividers, but it’s an excellent tip. My dad is in the moving business but they move in a way too fancy way for me, so I’ll definitely bookmark this article series.

    For some it might work to colour code the boxes instead of naming them according to room; red boxes into red room for instance. Young kids for instance might be more helpful this way. I imagine a hotel room isn’t an option for many and then the overnight bag with toothbrush etc. is even more crucial.

    I might have overseen it but was there a tip on how to move with pets? My poor kitty was all stressed out last year when there was a huge commotion due to the moving help, after which we had to take the plane and put him through even more stress. Dogs might be easier to place with family or friends, but cats aren’t the simplest of creatures.

  6. posted by ninakk on

    Hit the submit button too soon. Big trash bags have worked wonders for clothing during my last few moves. It’s not pretty but they can be squeezed in between other stuff if space is limited.

    Last time I moved I tried numbering the boxes and the 20 first ones worked fine. I packed them in no rush and was able to keep the laptop nearby with an excel file open. Next time I’ll start even earlier and by then I won’t have as many useless things to move either so I’m sure it will work even better. Best tip there is to start with the things used the least frequently.

    This almost makes me want to move again soon!

  7. posted by Ruth on

    Erin:

    I use the blue recycle bags with handles for my charity donations. Keeps them separate from the trash and the handles make them easy to hang up while I’m filling them. I always have one in the laundry room for outgrown clothes.

  8. posted by Michele on

    I would also strongly recommend two things…plan to feed friends who help you move with something delicious and delivered, and don’t provide beer until the end of the day…

  9. posted by Philly on

    It’s not packing-related, but I’d urge anyone who is considering moving due to space limitations to consult an architect to find out your options for altering/expanding your current home. It may be the key to staying in a house you love, and an outside person who is trained to think creatively might see options you didn’t think of.

    In support of this, I’d point to Erin’s comment that her new house will be smaller than her current one.

    p.s. full disclosure–I’m an architect!

  10. Profile photo of

    posted by Ella on

    I have moved 23 times. Here are a few tips:

    From bad experience, I now know that it is essential to label the top and all four sides of your boxes. Color-code the labels for different rooms even if it’s just a swipe with a colored marker across a white label, then put a big swatch of that color on the respective room doors. Movers love this.

    Movers don’t read. Your “Fragile” and “This end up” labels will mean nothing to them. Pack those items as if they will been turned upside down, because they probably will!

    Use your bath towels to cushion bathroom items; same with your kitchen towels and kitchen wares. Whenever possible, use a pillow to cushion the bottom of the box, and another on top.

    Instead of packing lamps in cumbersome individual boxes, wrap them in bubblewrap and take them in your own car. Nest the lampshades in one large box.

    Two people should pack books together, for speed. Otherwise, one person working alone will inevitably start flipping pages and reading.

  11. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Philly — Our county denied our construction permits. We tried to do exactly what you suggested, and they went our of their way to keep us from doing it. This was SHOCKING to us as our home owner’s association (which is known for denying people’s home alteration plans) eagerly approved our changes. We fought the battle with the county for six months and finally hit our breaking point. Our son has to get his own bedroom. We can’t wait any longer.

    (It should also be noted that we were only trying to return our home to the exact way it was when it was originally built. We wanted to undo changes previous owners had made to the house.)

  12. posted by Rebecca on

    We have moved quite a few times with our cats. A few days before moving, get out the cat crates to refamiliarize them. I also try and plan out a room like a second bath, walk in closet or den which I can clean out and put the litter box, food, toys and a small hiding space in along with the crates. This gets the cats used to that room. the day before the move take everything but the cat items out of the room, and then the day of the move lock the cats in that room. Put a sign on the door so no one goes in. The cats have everything they need and are not underfoot. Plan a room in the new place in a similar way so when you take them over you have a place to keep them safe while you finish moving. Then when things quiet down, just pop the door open. They will come out and explore when they are ready.

  13. posted by Jen on

    The last packed, first unpacked philosophy was my basis for our last move. It was just me and my boyfriend in a one bedroom apartment, so it wasn’t too difficult to pack everything up and keep track of it. I had a pretty detailed schedule / checklist of what needed to be done the night and morning of the move.
    One thing I would have liked to do before I got there was give the kitchen a good cleaning, especially the cupboards, so I could have quickly unpacked all the kitchen stuff and put it away, or at least out of the way. Once the kitchen is taken care of, everything else seems much easier to tackle.
    Also, the shower curtain has been a consistent pain in my butt. Make sure you have your curtain rings and at least a liner. I always seem to be missing one or the other.

  14. posted by momoboys on

    Your move sounds like a bummer on a couple of different levels (reading your comment to @Philly). Hope the new place is a fresh start. I hate moving, so one of the things that really helps me is just saying that I hate it. From personal experience, I can say all the tips are great! I would add that if you have a cat or dog, move them FIRST and then contain them in wherever the litter box is going to be, OR move them LAST and give them plenty of time to sniff around. Moving is stressful on pets and humans alike.

    To new beginnings for the Doland clan */*

  15. posted by Vanessa H. on

    Erin, this line of yours particularly rings true for me, “Clear the clutter now so you don’t have to spend time and energy moving it.”

    On my previous move, I had lived there for eight years, and had cleared-out a lot of clutter. However, there was still some clutter that I just couldn’t deal with during the move. I later wished I had taken the time to make a decision and take a trip to a donation spot, because even though I eventually donated the rest of it, I still had to house it somewhere in the meantime.

    Movers, take my advice and find the time to get rid of what you don’t want before you have to move it, store it, and then sort it!

  16. posted by chacha1 on

    Re: how to code boxes for movers who don’t read. I was responsible for planning an office move of a small law firm. We used simple color coding, with large circular labels placed on boxes and on furniture. Green = Bill’s office. Blue = Sam’s office. Red = Fred’s office. Yellow = file room.

    Same could work for a residence. You don’t even need a “key” for the movers; just tell them to find the room with the same color label on the door. You can slap a label on five sides of a box MUCH faster than writing anything.

  17. posted by Joanne on

    I moved from a larger to smaller home last time (2100 – 1700 sq ft).Fortunately I had purged a lot in the months before, but I still had a boatload of stuff. Luckily the storage was much more efficient than the previous home, and the number of kitchen cabinets was the same. Lots of built in shelving and closet organizers, too. Four years later I am doing a major purge and I’m finding that most of it is stuff I had moved!

    I also used color coded labels and visualized where everything was going as I packed it. I really didn’t have to move many boxes from room to room. When I did a rolling office chair made a great dolly!

    I find moving to a new home very exciting – I hope you get there too.

  18. posted by Judith on

    Have a box for important documents and small important things that you guard like a hawk and transport yourself.

    In this box also goes the screws and other bits belonging to various furniture. You should NOT tape those to the furniture parts themselves; they make everything awkward to pack in a moving van and tend to tear off and get lost. Have individual zip-lock bags (that you label) for each set of screws etc. and put them in a bigger container.

    Do not use packing tape for anything other than boxes. It’s almost impossible to take off completely and leaves bad residue on everything it touches for longer than an hour. It also takes off paint, and the laminate on IKEA furniture. Use painters tape instead. It’s not as strong, so you need a bit more, but it won’t ruin your stuff.

    Don’t pack all of your tools! You’ll need hammer and nails, screwdrivers, (portable) electric drill etc. just as much as your other basics when you try to put everything together at the new place.

    Get not just bubble wrap, but also that very thin packing paper. You don’t want to bubble wrap every single plate, but also can’t stack them without anything between them. Newspaper is no good, it leaves colour and dirt on things if you’re unlucky.

    Also: don’t fill boxes up with books (unless you get extra small boxes). You won’t be able to lift them or at least hurt yourself after a while, and if they aren’t very sturdy they’ll tear at the handles. You can fill about the bottom third, the rest needs to be filled with clothing and other big-volumed stuff.

  19. posted by Firesheep67 on

    When you move into your new home…be sure you familiarize yourself with any and all “trouble” spots. Just after we moved into our apartment, my DH took the trash out and slid all the way down the back stairs. Turned out they were very slippery and he was fortunate not to have broken anything. He still has a huge goose egg and gigantic bruise on his butt, but is otherwise ok. Property manager just recommends we apply “safety walk” tape and won’t do anything to improve stair safety, as they claim this would then imply that they’re liable for subsequent falls.

  20. posted by Marjory on

    Hubby and I are in “home” 10. A few things I’ve learned, especially after a “only 2 days before you can move in” became “we hope the house closing will be in 2 months” and closed in 4 months – we lived in a resort condo with 2 young children and a beagle for 4 months:
    1) Get it clean BEFORE you pack it. This is incredibly important if it will be packed longer than 2 days. No, Febreeze won’t solve the problem – clean it. The undiscovered baby cereal on the underside of the high chair turned to green concrete after 4 months in Orlando heat.
    2) Be prepared to paint and clean the new place BEFORE you let anything come in. You’ll be cleaning again after everything’s in place, but you’ll know it started out clean. I discovered 3 drains didn’t work at one place.
    3) If you are just moving within 2 hours, and someone has a van, don’t pack the hanging stuff. Either hang it in the van or just lie it across the back, still in the hangers. I do this all the time for friends and college students – spread a quilt, lay the clothing, wrap the sides of the quilt, travel, arrive, unwrap, and hang.
    4) If you have to move in a huge hurry, take the drawers (with the clothing) out. Move the item into the van. Put the drawers (still packed) in the item. Reverse procedure when you arrive. This makes many items much lighter when carrying them (and safer).
    5) Leave sheets on the mattresses – helps keep them clean.
    6) If opened food boxes will be packed for more than a week, it’s probably better to not pack it – things like cereal, flour. You are asking for spills, bugs, mice, mildew. Plan to get new later.
    7) Take the washing machine outside and let the drain hose down for a few minutes; there may be some water in the system. Same thing for the fridge with the waterline.
    8) If you have custom window coverings to suit the room, leave them. They most likely will NOT fit the new place. I hauled drapes to 4 more houses before I realized this. Just list the window coverings as additions in the contract.
    9) I don’t bother to take down towel dispensers, child-safe cabinet knob covers, pencil sharpeners, long door mirrors, and such. It just wastes my time, since these things get lost in moves and probably won’t be exactly what is needed in the new place.
    10) If you pack utensils for breakfast (pans, bowls, plates, forks, coffee pot, toaster), you can survive easily for MANY days.

  21. posted by EngineerMom on

    We moved into our first house a year ago.

    I agree with most of the recommendations, especially about getting someone to keep young kids occupied. My in-laws and father helped us move out of our 1-bedroom apartment, and my mother-in-law was invaluable in distracting our then-15-month-old son.

    I would add packing paper to the list of supplies. Any that is left over can be used for gift wrap (stamp it, color on it, and/or tie it with nice ribbon to dress it up) and for planning wall decorations (cut out panels of paper the same size as paintings/mirrors, hang the paper to get a feel for the plan before committing to nails in the wall).

    Liquor stores may not have boxes, but wine stores will frequently have mesh sleeves – these work just as well for keeping glass bottles of liquid from knocking together.

    If you can’t rent a hotel that first night, make getting beds set up a priority on moving-in day. Everything else can wait, but you will need a place to sleep immediately.

    When moving with kids, don’t wash the sheets on their beds right before moving day. Having pillows, sheets, and blankets that smell like home can go a long way toward helping kids settle in. Also, do NOT buy new bedroom furniture for children right away. Let them get adjusted to the new space before changing anything else!

    For any pets: keep them confined to a single room during the “moving out” phase, and keep that room locked and labeled so no one goes in. Alternatively, kennel them with a familiar person or kennel during the moving process. At the new place, keep them confined to a crate if crate trained, or to a small room for a couple of days to give the cat or dog a chance to establish a “safe” home base. Most animals are NOT happy exploring a brand new house without a known safe place to retreat to. Do not let dogs roam in the backyard until you’ve lived in the house for at least a week to help avoid runaways trying to return “home”.

  22. posted by DairyStateMom on

    Best wishes on the new place, Erin! It’s tough and debilitating to move but it sounds like it’ll be well worth it for you.

    Excellent suggestions all around, to which I would add: If you have fine china, crystal, glassware, or anything that’s fragile (frankly, even not-so-fine), have the movers pack it. Then any breakage is on their dime, not yours.

    If you aren’t using a commercial mover and thus must pack your own plates, etc., get newsprint (blank newsprint) and bubble wrap at U-Haul or similar stores. It’s relatively cheap if you buy a big chunk, it won’t stain anything, and the sheets are the right size to wrap stuff properly.

    Some friends of ours let their small child watch the box of toys go onto the moving truck so the kiddo was reassured that the toys really were traveling with them.

    And on cats: By far the best experience for me has been to cloister the cat in one room in the old place until all the furniture and boxes are out; move the cat in the carrier in the car with me, and then cloister in the new place until we’re done opening and closing the door. Have the litter box and the food and water dishes laid out where they’ll be permanently before you let Kitteh out of the cloister.

    Oh, and second the motion on labelling all sides of the box. You don’t know how it’s going to wind up stacked in the room. Print numbered labels ahead of time and use a key — a steno notebook worked great for me and I didn’t have to turn the computer on to get it done, but the last time was five years ago and I’d probably use Mr. Excel this time. A little forethought and you can use colored labels (blue = living rooom, nos. 1-100, red = master bedroom, nos. 200-300, and so on. Not that you’ll have 100 boxes in each room, but just so that you’ll have plenty of numbers.)

  23. posted by Sandra J on

    Lots of great tips above!
    Definitely put shower curtain & rings, soap, shampoo and a few towels in your necessities box to have on hand the first few days ’cause there’s nothing like a hot shower to wash away the exhaustion, confusion & stress of unpacking!
    The heavier the item(s) – the smaller the box!
    Buy a box of blank newspaper for packing. It’s not very expensive, it’s recyclable (unlike bubble wrap) or (like bubble wrap) can be smoothed out, folded up and put away for the next move. I’ve used the same crinkled paper for four moves over 12 years – works like a charm!
    Good luck!

  24. posted by Another Deb on

    Digital photography has been a help in recent moves. I can take many pictures of the new place to help figure out if something I am packing would match or fit a new space. Will the moving van fit under the canopy or is that bush too tall, things like that. I also take pics of the open packed boxes or the pile of things that was going into the box to check what I have put in them.

    I number my boxes on all sides and keep a list on a simple Word table. K-1 means kitchen box #1, etc. As I had to store all my classroom materials in a garage for several months, it was really helpful that I could go to the list and find the right box for the materials I needed.

    Don’t forget batteries and a flashlight,tape measure, fire extinguishers, label maker(for fuse boxes,etc),and something to cover the windows so you won’t feel exposed to the world when night falls and your indoor lights are on. (I just tape some packing papers onto the windows, who has time to hang curtains the first night?. I carry a little notepad in my pocket so I can write the essential info or to-do list down on the fly.

    Leave the old phone book for the new residents.

    One thing I wish I had done last time is take a paint sample from my surplus so I could match a favorite color in the new home, especially since the upholstery went with it so well.

    I would beware of moving a dog first into the empty home. The howling of a distressed dog won’t endear you to your new neighbors!

    Re, advice from EngineerMom above on outdoor pets. We made the mistake of putting our sweet Doberman on his regular chain at the new house, but the very first night he broke out of it and disappeared forever. Update their collar tags immediately!

  25. posted by Celeste on

    Next time we move, I’m taking ninakk’s idea to color code the boxes by room. I think the way I’ll do it is to buy rolls of colored masking tape, so I can run a line of it all the way around the box, making it obvious at a distance to anyone. I think I would then make a colored X of tape on a sheet of paper and tape that up on each room or door.

    Highly recommend the kitchen survival box, and disposable cups/plates/bowls/utensils. You can live on sammies, cereal, canned soups etc. for days if you prefer to avoid takeout/dining out in this time. The kitchen box should have a pot, a pan, hotpad/gloves, ladle, spatula, hand towel, paper towels, can opener, knives, cutting board, and either dish soap/sponge or dishwasher detergent bagged up within.

  26. posted by JustGail on

    I wish I had seen some of these ideas before our last move. It was only the 2nd time, but it was after living in the same house for 25 years.

    Regarding pets – not only update collar tags, but don’t forget to update the microchip information if they have those. Make sure you have some recent good photos just in case they do go AWOL. The safe place with familiar items is a must. I had no idea cats could hyperventilate. He started out sniffing, then doing the open mouth sniffing, and then full-out hyper-ventilating. We grabbed him and stuffed him under the covers on a bed. After a few hours there, he was OK. Should we ever need to move again, we’ll be getting kitty tranquilizers ahead of time.

  27. posted by Mary on

    I bought a house last year (10 minutes from my old duplex), and decided to pay rent for one month extra, so I’d have that time overlap. If it’s financially possible I highly recommend it. I moved the “fragiles” myself during that time, and did some painting, flooring, and other tasks before the move.

    I also scheduled the moving day several days before I had to vacate the old place. This gave me more time to do final cleaning tasks at the old place.

    I gained a guest room at the new place, and since I hadn’t furnished it yet, I used it as a staging area for all my fragile items, including framed artwork, lamps, and tabletop decor (AKA tchotchkes). Since I lived close by, I moved those things myself – didn’t trust the movers. Then that room was closed off and the movers didn’t even go in there. Peace of mind, you know?

    I used a spiral notebook for all moving-related info. I took notes when talking to cable, utilities, flooring people with estimates, radon dude, etc., including the date and the name of the customer service rep. Each entity got a new page. I was so glad I’d done this — I referred to it many times, and it came in handy during a dispute with the cable people (a “they said/I said” thing).

    Finally, I designated a small tote bag to hold that notebook, and took it with me when going to the new place to meet service people, and also when shopping for new stuff. It was handy to hold paint chips, flooring samples, retractable tape measure, etc. All that “stuff” in one place – I knew just where to go for all my moving essentials.

    Having said all this, I still underestimated my time needed to pack, clean, etc., and was caught short at the end. I wished I’d moved a week before giving up the apartment, instead of two days. I thought that would be enough time to do what was needed, but I had no idea how exhausted I’d be after the movers left.

    Good luck, Erin!

  28. posted by Mary on

    Meant to say, regarding the moving notebook I mentioned above: I also used those little write-on post-it things on each page, sticking out on the side of the notebook as dividers. I wrote “Radon,” “gas co.,” “movers,” etc., so I didn’t have to leaf through all the pages to find what I needed.

  29. posted by Heidi on

    These are great tips. My best moving tip is to practice safe lifting techniques and ask for help. You’ll need to save that back for all of the unpacking. I am always tempted to lift and twist as I move things. Big no-no for the back!

  30. posted by Fry on

    Having grown up military and now married into the State Dept, I’ve done my fair of moving. If you are getting the luxury of movers, remember that they are getting paid to pack and not paid to think. Get rid of the stuff in garbage cans if you don’t want a nasty mess on the other side (and if it spent 6 months in a boat, nasty doesn’t *begin* to cover it). Suitcases, cleaning supplies, important documents, etc., is stuff I put into a bathroom and close off with tape. It’s easier to have one spot that they don’t have to worry about (and it’s a good repository for a place to stick things you’d forgotten to keep out of the movers’ way until you see them).

  31. posted by Jago on

    We’re packing at the moment and ive been writing where the contents of each box is ‘from’ in our current house eg “Under stairs cupboard”. If I’m looking for something later all I have to do is remember where it is in our current house and I should be able to track it down. I’ve put a brief description on the top of the box and a number on the top and all sides – these are also listed in a text document on my iPad as an index….hopefully this will make it easy to find everything when we move into the new house ( after a two month stay at my inlaws :-/ )

  32. posted by Bibliovore on

    These tips are fantastic. I’ve bookmarked them for our next move, which I hope won’t be for many years. Erin, I’m sorry you had so much hassle with trying to remodel your old place — what a sad, sorry headache! May your new home and neighborhood be at least as splendid for you as the old one.

    A few more moving suggestions from my own experience, in case anyone’s still reading:

    * For our last move, I printed a rough floor plan of the new place to use as box labels, with room to write a short list of box contents. It was easy to mark the destination room, and movers had built-in directions to find it.

    * Bookstores often have terrific boxes for moving — sturdy, uniform, clean, and free. Call ahead and ask if they can spare you some.

    * Make sure to have sufficient padding for furniture, either durable blankets/sheets of your own or standard moving blankets, to minimize bumps, scratches, and worry.

    * If (enough) friends are helping with the move itself, try a “bucket brigade,” especially if you have stairs — line people up and pass things along the line, rather than each person having to do a lot of walking and climbing with/between items. It’s easier and faster.

    * My thoughts on moving cats: For in-town moves, moving the cats first into a staging room in the new place is ideal — preferably where you’ll keep their litter box anyhow. Set up food, water, litter, a preferred toy or two, and a favorite blanket/towel/bed (or a towel that smells like their favorite person), shut the door, and put a sign on it (ours said “ANGRY CAT! KEEP DOOR CLOSED!”). Once you’re all moved, you can let the cats come out and explore, and move their food and water to wherever you plan to keep it. If your cats normally go outside, keep them in for at least a week, until they’re used to the new place being home. For out-of-town moves, sequester the cat similarly at the old place and pack/move them last. I’ve heard it suggested to put butter on the backs of their paws when they arrive at the new place — by the time they’re done licking it off, they’ll be a lot more calm.

  33. Profile photo of

    posted by Lori Paximadis on

    As soon as you arrive at the new place, make sure the water heater is on and turned up. Speaking from experience, it sucks to find out at 1 a.m., after an entire sweaty, dirty day moving and fixing and unpacking, that there’s no hot water for that much anticipated hot shower.

  34. posted by Karen on

    It’s a bit more expensive than getting free boxes from stores, but you can order boxes online and get them delivered to your door. It saves you from having to make multiple trips to pick up boxes (especially if you have a small car and can’t fit many boxes – even flattened – in your trunk or back seat). The boxes are also all the same size and so they stack much better than a mixture of sizes.

  35. posted by Melissa on

    This post could not have come at a better time. I’m in the midst of getting our home ready for the market (and can truly sympathize with you, Erin … we love our home and don’t want to leave, but a new job offer for my husband is too good of an opportunity for all of us.)

    Thanks so much for all of these great tips!

  36. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    This seems so basic, but make sure you have toilet paper, soap, paper towels and trash bags when you first arrive. These are things that are often needed and not available right away!
    Bernice

  37. posted by Firesheep67 on

    One more tip – I recently discovered that I could have obtained boxes for free from the moving company that is contracted with my employer to handle employee relocations. I would have had to pick the boxes up from the main warehouse, but free is free. It doesn’t hurt to ask :)

  38. posted by Jenny on

    For my last move I used out of season clothes to cushion breakables. Worked like a charm. Plus nothing to buy or store/recycle after the move was done :)

  39. posted by Mera on

    I collect mugs and teacups. If you’re not moving far, using the wine/liquor boxes is also good for these items. I used shredding (which I’d been doing a lot of before moving) to pack down around each item and in between them.

    Actually shredding is a good alternative to bubble wrap. It can seem a little messy but easily vacuums up. I even got permission to use some of shredding from work and then bagged it all up and brought it back for disposal – with some of mine! ;)

  40. posted by Anne on

    One more tip from a veteran mover:

    FOOD. Ask friends nearby to bring you lunch and/or supper on your most intense packing and moving-in days.

    We moved from one house to another in the same city in 1998. Our kids were in elementary school. Unpacking was a killer. Then — bless them — good friends of ours showed up around suppertime with three pizzas from the local takeout joint. And sodas. At that moment, hot yummy food was more welcome than gold.

  41. posted by the other Tammy on

    I’m just gonna rant…

    Don’t ask your friends to help you move if you are not prepared! We went to help our friends move. (This was not a sudden move, they had purchased their first house.) We were expecting to help load packed boxes and move furniture, but we spent the WHOLE day packing up STUFF because NOTHING was packed or cleaned in their apartment beforehand. Very little got accomplished. It was one of the most frustrating days of my life!

    My other advice is to choose the day of your move carefully. Watch the weather. Moving in 8 inches of fresh snow is not fun…the inside of those moving vans are slippery!

    Good luck and happy unpacking!

  42. posted by OogieM on

    Regarding moving with pets, if you are going across state lines be sure to check the state regulations of your final destination for importing animals and obey all laws regarding vaccinations, health certificates etc that may be required. All states require a health certificate but some states will require additional stuff for some species. Be aware that some states will prohibit some pets. Ferrets, some tropical fish and reptiles being the most common ones to be denied entry in new states. If your pet is illegal in the state you are moving to, best to find out now when you can find it a new home, rather than be forced to give it up at the border. Be sure to stop at the border and have the health certificate stamped.

  43. posted by Jools on

    Some things I did on the last move that went well:

    1. Had my movers pack for me – don’t know if they typically do this in other countries (I’m in the UK) but the extra cost wasn’t much more than I’d have spent on packing materials anyway. They were INSANELY efficient, and packed and moved a two bedroom flat in about 8 hours total without a SINGLE breakage, then a week later collected all the materials to be reused on the next job. I cannot reccommend this highly enough if you have the option!

    2. Had my cat put in the cattery the two days either side of the move – much less stressful for both of us, and when she came back we pretty much had a functional home up and running.

    3. Had an essentials box with me throughout 90% of the move (more on that in a sec) with items like notepad and pen, mobile phone charger, screwdriver (for last-minute assembling/disassembling), gaffer tape, masking tape (for writing on and using as cheap low-tack labels).

    4. Clingfilmed underwear drawers so they didn’t need to be packed/unpacked – just removed the clingfilm and put them back in the chest at the other end.

    5. Made sandwiches the night before so nobody went hungry.

    And some things I didn’t do but will next time:

    1. Signed up to a cashback website BEFORE the move. (We have Quidco and others in the UK, not sure what you have.) I changed the supplier of my power, telephone, cable TV, broadband, insurance, you name it within the week either side of the move. I reckon I could have got exactly the same deals and made at least £300 cashback if I’d signed up before.

    2. Made it absolutely unambiguous that my essentials box WAS NOT TO BE LOADED onto the lorry! (Two of the movers arrived part-way through the job and they didn’t know.) As it happens it was one of the last things on and one of the first things off, so no big deal, but a little stressful anyway and could have been avoided.

  44. posted by Mary on

    Love all of these tips! We are living in a fully furnished rental while building (6 miles from the new house)and have planned to have at least a week of overlap between closing and moving out of the rental. I think that is what will save our sanity. We will move as much out of storage the first few days on our own and won’t actually spend a night in the new house until the end of that week. It will give us the opportunity to get the major stuff put away before we have to start “living” in the new house.

    I really like the tip of turning on the water heater!

  45. posted by Another Deb on

    And make sure the refrigerator is running and down to temp before you move in the food.

    I once moved into an apartment and had to get the electricity turned on. The previous tenent had the electricity turned off. These two dates overlapped the WRONG way! But I was unaware because I had left for the weekend immediately afterward and didn’t find out until the spoiled meat in the fridge made itself known upon my return!

  46. posted by Marie Holzer on

    Thanks so much for this post. We too will be moving in the next 8 weeks or so, which means we’re already starting to pack what we can. We use this special packing tape that labels the boxes for us called Smart Tape that saves a lot of hassle.

    Here’s to our 10th move in 11 years and your 15th move! May it be uncluttered, stress-free and organized.

  47. posted by April on

    Most of my moves are unconventional, so many of my tips don’t apply. I’ve had a college-to-first-apartment move (hardly any stuff), an across-state-lines-to-site-unseen-apartment (checked out by a relative already in that area), and several international moves where all we could take with us were two suitcases, a carry-on, and a backpack per person.

    That said, one thing that I found vital in every single move was a moving notebook. This can be a binder, a lined notebook, a sketch pad… whatever you find the most convenient (I like to make sure that whatever it is, it can hold a pen in a pocket or its spiral binding). A computer isn’t as helpful because you can’t take it everywhere, and you’re stuck if your battery dies and you have no where to plug it in.

    A couple of others above have mentioned this book: It’s absolutely necessary. ONE SPOT to keep ALL of your moving information. Everything from to-dos, packing lists, dates, phone numbers, check lists, addresses, paint chips, fabric swatches, measurements, reminders, ideas, etc.

    Anything that you can think of that has to do with your move should be kept here. So helpful to find everything in one place, to be able to look up important info instantly, etc. Always have this on you, from the moment you know you’ll move until you have finished moving and unpacking (and have it easily accessible for a little while after, just in case).

    My only other tip is to not list descriptions on the box. “Kitchen” is fine, color coding is recommended, but you don’t want to say: “bowls, plates, cups, silverware” etc.

    Some movers—professionals or otherwise—cannot be trusted. Sometimes even friends (which is the most disappointing). Simply number the box, and then list these descriptions with the numbers in your moving notebook. Or take a picture if that’s easier, but keep the camera on your person as well.

    I know too many people who have had valuables come up “missing” during a move. Yes, valuables should be with you in your car, not with movers, but don’t make theft even more tempting by labeling box contents on the container.

  48. posted by Emma on

    I can’t believe noone has said this yet… Don’t forget to have a stanley knife, scissors or similar in your “important items” box for OPENING all the boxes at the other end :) nothing worse than than trying to rip packing tape with your bare hands or car keys.

    Good luck. We just moved to New Zealand from the UK and that had so many added complications like cleaning shoes and camping gear for biohazard risk, oy vay.

  49. posted by Karen on

    Another idea with regard to labeling boxes, no matter which room.
    A, B, C. This idea helps on the unpacking end of the move.

    A boxes hold the things you’ll want to unpack right away.
    B. boxes hold things that you might want soon but are a lower priority.
    C. boxes are things that you do want, otherwise you wouldn’t have moved them…. but if you don’t get the box open for a while it’s okay.

    Although this system takes a bit more effort on the packing end-not being able to just pack everything in a drawer or on a shelf at once, it pays for itself on the other end it letting you unpack boxes on a priority basis.

  50. posted by tba on

    Can’t believe you all let the “pack only one kind of thing in a box”-advice pass. Have none of you ever grumbled and sworn when they had to carry boxes full of books, tapes or records, files or papers?

    may advice would be the exact opposite: Start each box with a layer of heavy stuff. heavy stuff goes on the bottom so the boxes won’t fall over. When the box is half-packed, do try and lift it and ask yourself whether it would be okay for you to carry it around for one or two minutes. remember that two minutes can be a long time and a short walk from car to house can feel really long.

    When you think the box weighs enough, fill it up with light stuff such as clothes you will not use immediately or towels.

    never forget those poor people who will have tp carry your boxes! Mind the back!

  51. posted by Megan on

    Love all the great suggestions!

    Mine is a somewhat silly one: if you can, put on workout music or other entertainment in the background to help keep momentum up.

    I did my last inter-state move during the UEFA Cup soccer tournament. I kept the games on and loud while I was working: the constant energy of the crowd noise (thankfully vuvuzelas weren’t a hit yet) and the announcers helped me keep moving. When I finished up a box I allowed myself a short “booooooxxxx!” moment and then went on to the next!

  52. posted by Toni on

    I have bookmarked this post and will be re-reading this on a regular basis. After 8 year, I am moving from a 1 bd apartment to another 1 bd or possibly a (gulp!) a studio. I’m trying to declutter and get organized for the move in June. Lots of great tips here. Thanks!

  53. posted by Izzi on

    I laughed at “Fry”‘s comment about not leaving an active trash can out, because it might be packed up by movers– as former military and active State Department, I’ve heard of this, too. In the case of military, State Dept, or overseas moving, you often won’t have the luxury of packing up your own boxes or even labeling them. Our last movers didn’t speak English, and although they were incredibly efficient (fasting for Ramadan, no less), they were so spread out over the house that I couldn’t keep up with the labeling– besides, they were better at securely wrapping things than me. Here’s what I do recommend to make the day go faster if you’re in a situation where liability laws means you can’t touch the packing boxes:

    Pre-pack as much as possible before you even think about moving boxes!

    1. Save all the cardboard boxes for appliances and pre-pack these before the movers arrive. The boxes are bulky, but they’re light and you’ll save hours on moving day if you don’t have to disassemble the TV, stereo, the Wii, the KitchenAid, etc.

    2. Put clothes that belong together into plastic bags before movers arrive. That way Jimmy’s and Jane’s underwear won’t get mixed together. It also helps keep out dust & bugs for long-haul moves.

    3. Set aside a stack of essentials (like others have said), and put them into plastic bags. Watch the movers pack these up and label them. Take your binder of essentials that you will hand-carry (passports, plane tickets, medical records, laptops) and put them in your car, or somewhere else that is CLEARLY marked as a no-pack zone. I usually empty one room out myself before the movers arrive, and tape a big “X” on the door, and lock it. I don’t know how many of my colleagues have chased moving vans down the hill, containing their passport and other vitals.

    4. Before movers arrive, I walk around the house with masking tape and label items “To go”, “To stay” (some of our posts are furnished), and any other applicable labels. This helps movers who are in different rooms than me.

    5. Send your pets to a boarders for the day. I buy cheap pet supplies, keep it after the movers have left, and then throw away/donate the ragged old dog beds or $10 litter box just before getting on the plane. I order replacements on Amazon and have them shipped to my hotel in whatever country I’m ending up in. I call ahead to notify the hotel desk, and just pick them up first thing and get the beasts organized before I touch anything else. Once they’re quiet and napping, it’s much easier to unpack. Be sure to check new houses for hidey holes, open vents, or unfinished rooms– we lost our cat for 24 hours once, and it was scary.

    7. Take a photo inventory of all your belongings and back it up electronically off-site (I like the software “Bento”). I also do a video walk-though of the house, talking through the value of important items.

    8. Tip your movers early and well. I make a big breakfast, keep lots of drinks on hand, buy them lunch, and usually send them home with a bottle of their liquor of choice.

    9. Disguise valuables. I put my jewelry in an unmarked, opaque bag and pre-pack it in something like gym bag or thrown in with pots and pans. Lately, my movers have been very honest, but I had one crew take all the kids’ movies.

    I’m only 26 and I’ve moved 25+ times. What I’ve learned: every move is different. It usually gets easier. Until the time the movers lose or break something treasured. Less stuff = less worry. Also, insurance helps :)

  54. posted by Jay on

    Have extra cash on your person.

    It takes up little room, and you never know when you might need it. You will likely tip the movers, and you might need to pay someone to help you with some unforeseen problem on either end of the move.

  55. posted by cv on

    I was just about to post what Emma said! Make sure you pack a knife or pair of scissors somewhere easy to get to – preferably in something that’s traveling with you and not in the van, but at the very least in an outside pocket of a backpack or suitcase or something. Realizing everything you own that could be used to open boxes is buried somewhere in the boxes labeled “kitchen” and “garage/tools” is no fun!

    When I’m unpacking, I really like focusing on the boxes that I can make go away quickly. Books, a box with a couple of large blankets in it, and boxes that will all go into one or two kitchen cabinets give a great feeling of progress and quickly reduce the amount of stuff sitting in a big pile in the middle of the room. Sure, it might not make the most logical sense to unpack the two large boxes containing winter coats and sweaters when it’s mid-August, but getting that stuff in the closet and out from underfoot makes me feel more settled quickly. That makes it easier to go through the boxes that require more thought.

  56. posted by gypsy packer on

    Use up the refrigerator contents, as much as possible, in the month prior to the move. If you have cereals and grains, repack them in ziploc bags and pack them into odd-shaped spaces.
    Wrap fragile, valuable items in heavy winter clothing, label the winter clothing box as fragile, with one side up. Pack underthings and small gowns around your glassware, inside those liquor store dividers, to keep shock down. Use Space Bags or the equivalent, inside boxes, to keep moving space down, if you are moving yourself or having a friend do it. I pack current wardrobe inside the dresser case, and then use the dresser drawers as additional boxes.

  57. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    Make sure you have a kettle and your favourite beverage (coffee / tea) in your 1st open box so you can keep yourself going during the day. Better yet, pack a picnic basket and, if you’re driving to your new place, keep it in the car so you have plastic plates & cutlery to eat from while you’re unpacking your kitchen items.

    From bitter experience, I say choose your movers carefully – make sure they insure for damage THEY cause. And unless they have this insurance, DO NOT pay them to pack! On our 2nd last move, we paid the removalists to pack (all packing materials supplied – ha!). They were meant to come the day before the truck but turned up that morning. They didn’t pack a drawer of teatowels and then threw glass dishes with no packing into the same box as our telephones and other assorted items! (We had had to drive up to the new city a few days before.)

    And then they refused to take calls from us and never answered our letters of complaint. Do you think I recommend them to any of my friends who are moving?! I could go on at length but I’ll stop the rant here.

    I pack my own glassware because I know how to do it in a way that makes sure it doesn’t get broken. One of the tricks is to pack the box tight so things inside can’t move against one another and break each other.

    Through all my moves I’ve only ever had one item that I’ve packed break and that was a terracotta look bowl that was brought back from the UK. I’m rather proud that on that same trip the fine china tea set got here safely – I used my quilting material to stuff the insides of the teapot and cups; so I used one set of things to be moved to move the other.

  58. posted by Space Savers Correspondent on

    Good luck on your upcoming move. It sounds like you’re prepared and ready to go! Just wanted to thank “gypsy packer” for recommending Space Bags as an essential moving supply. Space Bag products compress bulky items and also protect their contents from dirt, water and pests. Feel free to view other advice for moving day at Space Bag’s online community for fans, Space Savers. Here’s a link to our article on how to save space and destress a move: http://spacesaverscommunity.co.....nized.aspx. Congratulations on your new home!

    Best wishes,
    Space Savers community correspondent

  59. posted by Teresa on

    Your suggestion on labeling boxes gave me an idea. Buy large mailing labels. Doing this online early in the process will likely save quite a bit of money over going to the local office supply store to get them.

    Create labels for each room, either on your computer and print them out or with a permanent marker. Make a goodly number of them ahead of time. (if using a printer make large easily read fonts – you can even try different colors to make the differences easy to spot without actually reading the label). On packing day, put the sheets out first in each room so they are ready to go.

    Then once the box is packed, you can just peel and stick the labels on the surfaces instead of spending time writing on each side and maybe even digging around to find the marker because it got buried under “stuff”.

    Happy moving.

  60. posted by Liz on

    We got this great tape last time we moved – it was a multi-roll pack with coloured tape labelled for each room. ie, the yellow roll said KITCHEN on it, the green roll said BATHROOM, the blue roll said BEDROOM 1, etc. It was brilliant, saved labeling, and organized the boxes with no extra effort. Of course, there were some miscellaneous boxes that didn’t fit the labels, but it worked for the most part. And, we only used about 1/2 of each roll, so we gave them away with the moving boxes once we’d unpacked and we were able to pass on the easy brilliance to someone else! :)

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