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.


  • 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.

A year ago on Unclutterer




Ask Unclutterer: Receiving unwanted gifts

Reader Wendy submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

What do you do when you come from a culture where gifting is part of etiquette? For example, when my daughter turned one recently, my mother who happened to be visiting from our home country brought back TONS of clothing (whether the right size or not) and toys for my daughter. It was overwhelming. Most of the items are either not usable in the near future, or my daughter has no interest. I don’t have a problem going through and donating or re-gifting, but it takes so much of my time! Should I just talk to my mother although she may get upset? Thanks!

I know it can be frustrating to be bombarded with stuff you don’t need. And, the smaller your space, the larger that frustration can feel. As frustrated as you’re feeling, though, the last thing you should do is tell your mother that she can’t give your daughter gifts.

Showering grandchildren with gifts is one of the joys of being a grandparent. It is clear that your mother is thrilled to have your daughter in her life, and one of the ways she is expressing that is by giving her as many wonderful things as she can. As much as it feels to you like a burden, her generosity is a blessing. Not all kids have grandparents who show interest in them or give gifts or are alive.

Remember that it’s the act of gift giving that is important, not the gift itself. Tell your mother thank you for being so generous with your daughter. Accept the gifts, write her a note of appreciation (have your daughter do this when she learns to write), and then decide what you want to do with the items after your mom has returned home.

Keep the things your daughter wants or that you think she can use in the near future. Donate to charity clothing that won’t ever work for your daughter. Re-gift toys that weren’t a hit with her. If your mother purchased items in the states, see if you can return the unwanted items for ones your daughter can use. It does take time, but not more than a few hours, and it won’t damage your relationship with your mother.

Although you can’t tell your mother what to buy for her granddaughter, you can suggest to her what your daughter needs and wants. Two months before the next gift-giving holiday, let it slip into conversation if your daughter needs or wants specific items like a new bed or new shoes (and what size) or a membership to the local zoo or dance lessons. If she’s computer savvy, create an Amazon wishlist and let her know about it to help her brainstorm gift ideas.

Don’t pressure your mom into buying things your daughter needs or wants. Don’t give her a guilt trip or hint in any way that you have been disappointed with gifts she has given in the past. Just let her know what your daughter could use, and then let it go. Whatever your mother decides to give is up to her, and her act of gift giving should be sincerely appreciated — irrespective of if you keep the gift or not.

As a final note, I want to point out that some of my son’s favorite things are gifts generous friends and family members gave to him that I never would have purchased or thought my son would have loved. Conversely, some things we put on his wishlist that we thought he would love, turned out to be total duds.

Thank you, Wendy, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

Unitasker Wednesday: Mascara Protector

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

When reader Emily sent me information about this week’s unitasker, I had to do some research. I didn’t understand what the device did or why someone might want to use it.

After reading the product description, I learned that the item, the Tweezerman Mascara Protector, is supposed to protect your face from getting mascara on it when you’re applying mascara. I just wipe the errant mascara off with my finger or a damp cloth, so I didn’t realize my cheeks needed protection. However, the people at Tweezerman thought otherwise:

Apparently, those who did purchase the product, didn’t really love it. (That might be the understatement of the year.) The Tweezerman Mascara Protector has such “positive” reviews on Amazon as:

“This thing works fine I suppose.”


“works okay. kinda a pain to use and not really worth it in the end. but hey it works.”

The competing product, the Myrabelle Mascara Shield, has reviews such as “i dont use it at all … if youre trying to save money, dont buy it” and “Don’t waste your money. If zero stars had been a choice that’s what I would have chosen.”

There are even comments suggesting that it’s easy to poke into your eye if you don’t have a steady hand. In case the mascara wand wasn’t dangerous enough, you can get a second chance to poke your eye with the protector! Three cheers for temporary blindness! Commenters also note that it’s very difficult to hold with one hand while applying mascara with the other, because those of us who wear mascara needed the process to be harder. Lovely.

At the end of the day, I’ll be saving my money and continuing to use my finger to wipe off any unruly mascara — the finger that is free and already attached to my body.

A year ago on Unclutterer


  • O Magazine focuses on uncluttering
    The March 2010 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine just hit newsstands and it is dedicated to the theme “De-Clutter Your Life!” The uncluttering articles begin on page 142, but most of the content in the rest of the magazine is related to the topic.



Four common obstacles to completing chores

Chores are tasks you don’t want to do. If you wanted to do them, you wouldn’t call them chores. Rather, you would refer to them as opportunities or entertainment or fun.

Even though you don’t want to do chores, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them to help your life run more smoothly. If you’re someone who lets dirty laundry and dishes pile up, avoids mowing the yard until the neighbors complain, or hasn’t cleaned out your car since 2005, maybe it’s time to learn why and overcome these obstacles:

  1. Temptation. When a comfortable couch and favorite television show are calling your name, it can be hard to ignore these temptations. You want to participate in the short-term benefits of watching tv, instead of holding out for the long-term benefits of doing chores. Find a way to reduce or delay the immediate distraction (like getting a DVR and recording your favorite show), so you can focus on the long-term benefits first and the short-term benefits when you’re done with your chores.
  2. Associated stressor. You may not be putting off a chore because you don’t want to do it, but rather because you don’t want to do something tangentially related to the chore. For instance, if you know you haven’t recently balanced your checkbook, you might put off paying your bills. Consider scheduling a regular coffee date with your friend where the two of you meet, hang out for awhile, but then vow to balance your checkbooks before you can go home. Being accountable to someone else often helps you overcome this obstacle.
  3. On the road. Working long hours can often mean you don’t have much time at home to take care of chores like laundry, dusting, and scrubbing your toilet. The upside is that you don’t have much time to mess up your home, but the downside is that some chores still need to be completed (like laundry). If this sounds like you, outsourcing some of these chores might work best for you. Take advantage of a fluff-n-fold that will do your laundry, start using a dry cleaner that picks up clothes instead of requiring drop offs, have a cleaning service come in twice a month to scrub your floors, countertops, and bathrooms, and hire a professional errand runner to do other odds and ends.
  4. Inertia. Humans are creatures of habit. If you haven’t been great at doing your chores in the past, it’s unlikely you’re going to wake up one morning a changed man. Overcome this obstacle by creating a schedule of the things you need to do and when you need to do them. Then, try your best to stick to the schedule. When your system falls to pieces, start again the next day. Consider hiring a professional nagger (there really are such things) or asking a friend to help encourage you. Simply acknowledging that inertia has the upper hand often can be all you need to get moving.

Looking at this list, I see myself in a lot of these obstacles (especially inertia). What strategies do you use to overcome these four obstacles?

A presidential schedule

In honor of Presidents’ Day in the U.S., I thought it might interest our readers to see what a typical day can be like for a president. The schedule full of meetings, appointments, conferences, and responsibilities is extensive.

For example, on Friday, June 20, 1947, President Harry Truman had 13 meetings and spoke to more than 100 people. On Thursday, June 20, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower had a 12-hour day that also included meeting with close to 100 people.

Eisenhower’s schedule:

Unfortunately, not all former presidents have their daily appointment schedules online. However, it’s fun to check out Truman’s and
Eishenhower’s. See what happened on your birthday, the day you graduated high school, or the day your parents were married. Could you handle continuous meetings, appointments, conferences, and the responsibilities of a presidential schedule for four years or eight?

A year ago on Unclutterer



  • Collapsible funnel
    Please forgive my relatively high level of excitement for such a bland product, but sometimes it is the smallest things that make life better.


  • Going paperless
    According to the New York Times article Pushing Paper Out the Door, a paperless future is coming quicker than a lot of us may think.

Ask Unclutterer: Pesky plastic bags

Reader Robert submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

When I get back from shopping I keep getting plastic bags for every little thing I buy … I know, I know, I should be bring my own bag, but I tend to forget to take one with me when I go out.

The problem now is that I’ve got a nice collection of plastic bags and I’m wondering what to with them. Throwing them away in the trash seems the obvious answer, but I was hoping you might come up with alternatives.

I’m like you — I have a vast collection of reusable bags, yet I often forget to take them with me to the grocery store. I doubt we’re alone in our forgetfulness.

I keep the plastic bags and reuse them in numerous ways — to line small wastebaskets, as gloves when I have to pick up something yucky, to line the kitty litter box, to wrap around shoes in luggage, and to use as, well, bags. The point of recycling is to use a product more than once, so I definitely recommend going that route.

To store plastic bags before you reuse them, you can store them in a manufactured bag holder. You can also make your own holder, if you feel inclined. Storing them in an organized manner can help to keep your frustrations to a minimum about your growing collection.

In addition to the small handful of re-use suggestions I listed above, be sure to check the comments for even more ideas from our readers. If we’re lucky, all of us working together will find ways to help you reuse your plastic bags — and ours.

Thank you, Robert, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

Workspace of the Week: Creative desktop storage solutions

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Ron Ron’s ingenious workspace:

When I came upon Ron Ron’s office, I knew I had to feature it the same week we had a banana-themed unitasker. If you look at his headphones, you’ll see that they’re stored on a Banana Hanger. Genius! The banana hanger does a marvelous job at keeping the headphones from cluttering up the desk. Additionally, I really like the Arc Stand doc for the laptop and how it frees up even more desk space. The shelving unit above the desk is from Ikea and can be adjusted with whatever kind of shelving you might need, which is also a convenient addition to this workspace. Thank you, Ron Ron, for your wonderful submission to our Flickr group.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Storing bed sheets

If your linen closet is cluttered and overflowing with bed sheets, it might be time to unclutter and organize your collection.

Start by sorting through your sheets and pulling out any that don’t match, are stained, damaged, or shouldn’t be in circulation. I live in a four-season climate, so my goal is to only have two warm weather sets of cotton sheets and two cold weather sets of flannel sheets. The idea is that there are two sets in circulation for six months of the year, with one of the sets being on the mattress and the other set ready to go when you want to change the sheets. (Sheets you wish to purge from your collection usually can be donated to a local animal shelter. Be sure to give the shelter a call before dropping off your donation to make sure they have a current need.)

Once the number of linens for each bed is down to a manageable amount, you’ll need to decide where to store the sheets. I’m of the opinion that bed sheets should be stored in the room where they are used. (Store it where you use it.) If your home has a linen closet located near all of the bedrooms, you might choose to go ahead and use it if bedroom closet space is limited.

After you have identified where you want to store your sheets, you’ll then have to decide how you want to store them. If you live in a constant climate and only need two sets of sheets, you won’t have much issue with simply keeping your sheets on a shelf. I like Martha Stewart’s recommendation to store the top and bottom sheets and one pillow case inside the second pillow case. This method keeps everything together and doesn’t make a mess of your closet.

If you’re like me and prefer four sets of sheets, you’ll want to have a box with a lid to hold the two sets not in circulation. This will keep the sheets from collecting dust and make sure they’re ready to use when temperatures change. I use a clear plastic storage box made for sweaters, but any protective container could work.

And, if you’re struggling with folding sheets, check out our post on how to fold a fitted sheet.