So my friend called me last week in a bit of a panic. Without really meaning to, she and her husband sold their house and bought a new one. I’d tell you the whole story about how someone randomly showed up on their doorstep putting in an offer on their house that wasn’t for sale, but that’s not why she was panicking.
We’re going to stay with my parents for a whole week while we get the new house sorted out.
I sat on the other end of the phone confused.
Huh? I asked. Why would you do that?
Oh, you know, she said, we don’t want to live amidst the boxes and chaos.
I chuckled then realized oh wait…not everyone moves every 1.5 years. For most normal people moving is hugely stressful. The Great Unknown. It’s ranked right on up there with divorce and death of a loved one as one of life’s great stressors. Lucky for this friend (and for you, dear blog readers), I’m a right old pro.
Jonathan and I have moved five times in the last 6.5 years. We’ve got this thing down to a science. Buckle up, friends. This is going to be a long one. Go ahead and bookmark it and pin it, you’ll want to hold on to it for when life throws a move your direction.
The Great Purge.
The first thing you should do when you find out that you’re moving is a great purge. Go through your belongings room by room. Sort everything into keep, toss, donate piles. This is a great time to pull out that book everyone lost their shit about a few years ago The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Or, if you’re like me, you can just decide in the moment whether it’s really worth lugging your old high school papers around with you from house to house. Moving as frequently as we do, you start to lose attachment to unimportant things. We are far cry from living simplistically, but we’re probably one move away from not having anything left.
Keep Rooms Together.
When we moved from Athens to Charlotte, I stupidly packed all like items together. Meaning: all the bedding from our guest room and master bedroom got packed together. All the pillows from every room went into the same box. Every book we owned got put in the same box despite the room it lived in. That meant that I had items from literally all over the house in random boxes. DON’T DO THAT!
INSTEAD: PACK ONE ROOM AT A TIME AND KEEP THAT ROOM TOGETHER. Don’t worry about what makes sense to pack together. It’s okay to put the books from your nightstand in the same box as your master bedroom TV remotes. Obviously, take proper precautions. Wrap your fragile belongings and pack smart (don’t overload boxes), but stop thinking that all your books from all over the house need to be packed together.
I’m the crazy person who basically writes a novel on each box. But hey, I’ve never suffered through a move without knowing exactly where my coffeepot or my underwear is. In HUGE BOLD LETTERS write which room the box belongs to. Think ahead: will every room translate exactly? For instance, we had a loft in our Charlotte house but we weren’t going to have a loft in the Buies Creek house we were moving to. So instead of LOFT, I labeled that box FRONT LIVING ROOM. I’ll explain this further in a few minutes.
Underneath the room label, jot down a list of the most important items in that box. If you know that you can’t go to sleep at night without Netflix on, make sure you label which box your TV remotes, Roku, and TV cables are in. I tend to have a “must have” box for each room. That lets me know all my crucial can’t-live-without items are inside and if I don’t accomplish anything else, that box needs to be unpacked.
Keep your clothes on the hangers.
Especially if your move is local, keeping your clothes on the hangers will make a huge difference in your unpacking process. To do this, wrap a large trash bag (the big black ones fit the most) around the base of the clothes while they’re hanging. Pull the drawstring tight over top the triangular part of the hanger and tie it. When you get to the new house, simply hang the bag full of clothes up and remove the bag! “Unpacked” in seconds!
Keep your stuff in the drawers.
So you all know that your furniture will be lighter and easier to move if you remove the drawers. It wasn’t until my third move that it dawned on me. Why pack up the contents of the drawers if I’m taking the drawers out to move the furniture anyway? Remove the drawers, move the furniture onto the truck, replace the drawers, tape them shut. When you get to the new house, remove the drawers, move the furniture into the desired room, replace the drawers. Boom. Unpacked.
There is no science to loading the truck. It’s a real life game of Tetris. Go with it.
Your type-A hyper organized brain is going to tell you that all those boxes from your bedroom need to go on the truck in order. Stop. Breathe. Let go. Your shit needs to get on that truck in whatever way it fits. I don’t participate in this process. We either enlist the help of our burly man friends, or we hire movers. Either way, your stuff will get on the truck on way or another. If your husband is telling you to back off and let them work, back off and let them work. If you WANT to participate, more power to you. Pack it on carefully and strategically. It WILL fit one way or another. Don’t get precious about it.
Unloading the truck: put each box &/or piece of furniture into the room it belongs immediately.
I know logically you’re thinking okay let’s just get this shit off the truck so we can return it. Those U-hauls aren’t cheap, I get it. But you’re just making more work for yourself and prolonging the process. If you’re carrying a box that says guest bedroom, bring the box to the guest bedroom. It takes just a few extra seconds, but it saves you time in the end. Trust me. As for the furniture, make quick but sound decisions. Have an idea how you want the furniture laid out ahead of time and put the furniture where it belongs. Instantly, that empty house will start to feel more like home.
Assemble & dress the beds as they come off the truck.
I learned this trick from professional movers. As your bed comes off the truck, stop what you’re doing. Grab the box that you carefully labeled “Master Bedding” because you’re so smart, and dress the bed as they’re assembling it. The first thing I ever do in a new house is make sure the master bed is made up. Whether I get to anything else at that point isn’t important…I have a bed to sleep in.
Assign roles: divide & conquer.
Chances are, you aren’t doing this move alone. My husband and his buddies (or the movers) are responsible for unloading the truck. While they handle that, I tackle the unpacking. This is where your labeling will come into play. Because the boxes will already be in the room where they live, and because you so carefully labeled them, you can unpack quicker. I make sure to handle the master bedroom (clothes, mostly), the master bathroom, and part of the kitchen if nothing else. In the kitchen, focus on your must have items first (coffee pot, silverware, plates and cups). For the record, your plates & cups will likely go straight into the dishwasher–so it’s wise to know where your dishwashing detergent is.
You’ll be surprised how quickly the house starts to feel like home with the master bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen mostly unpacked. With each box in the room it belongs, when you have a free second here or there, quickly unpack a box. Put out your picture frames and redress the bookshelves.
Okay. I’m sure I’m leaving some things out, but you definitely know more about packing smart now than you did before reading this post. That means I’ve done my job here. Happy packing, friends!