How to Plan, Purge, and Pack for Your Next Move

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This article is the fourth part in a series about moving:
Part 1 |
14 Tips for Finding the Best Neighborhood
Part 2 |
How to Find a Quality House to Rent
Part 3 |
Find a Low-Cost Mover without Getting Scammed
Part 5 |
The Ultimate Moving Checklist for Families

Here are some essential elements of getting ready for moving house, so that you feel organized, ready, and excited for a new beginning.

Grand Central:  Your Moving Folder

Keep everything related to the move in one file.  I love those two-pocket school folders.  You can slip things in when you’re in a rush, or place them in the pockets when you have more time.  Staple on business cards, jot down important numbers, and stuff in brochures.

Keep a digital folder of move-related files on your computer and in your email program.

Organize Your Furniture Needs with a Floor Plan

Identifying furniture gaps and surpluses ahead of time can help you redirect some of that moving anxiety, as well as lighten your load on the other end.

If you can’t find an official floor plan of your new place (often available online if you are moving into an apartment building), take photos and measurements of all the rooms, including windows and ceiling heights, and draw up your own blueprint.

You may find this totally obsessive-compulsive, but when we moved to New York, I had the apartment’s floor plan blown up as large as possible at an office supply store. After gluing it to foam board, I measured all the furniture in our house and made cut-outs with colored paper.   The furniture cut-outs were of course in scale with my floor plan (for example, 1 foot real life = 3/4 inch floor plan).

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My mother (who suggested this kind of pre-planning) and I had fun moving stuff around without breaking a sweat.  Before we even set foot in the apartment, we were able to figure out:

  1. What I could take
  2. What I had to give away or sell
  3. What I needed to buy and the approximate size
  4. Where to tell the movers to put stuff on moving-in day

Knowing we would have no car for picking up new or donating old furniture, this kind of anal planning prevented a lot of headaches (and backaches).

While I find old-fashioned pen and paper to ultimately be easier, I recommend Homestyler if you want to do it on the computer.  Here is the floor plan I created for our Syracuse rental house, with advice from How to Draw a Floor Plan to Scale.
HowToMakeAFloorPlan2

Purge, Purge, Purge

Now is the perfect time to go through your stuff and ask those often excruciating questions: do I really need this?

I was especially motivated when we moved to an apartment in New York City, but I did go through every room and closet in our house and mercilessly donated, sold on Craigslist, freecycled and chucked.

Moving provides a great incentive to clean house and, even if you’ll be going to a place with more space, streamlining can make a fresh start.

Pare down first, as a separate process from packing boxes. You’ll be able to find better homes for your stuff if you are not rushed with the stress of boxes piling up everywhere.

Once all these difficult decisions are made and extraneous stuff is farmed out, packing will be faster and easier.

Use What You Have

Several months before the move, you can start going on a shopping diet, which will help your wallet as well as your peace of mind.  If you’re like me, you have stockpiled a lot of personal care products, household staples, and pantry items.

Now is the perfect time to figure out how to use that can of black-eyed peas, the lotion your mother-in-law gave you, or the tubes of strawberry toothpaste you bought on sale.

Find out your mover’s policy on plants, food, and cleaning products. If you can’t use up all your food and laundry detergent, make arrangements to donate them to a friend who can.

If You Are Packing Your Own Boxes

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Pack first the things you use the least, such as knick-knacks, paintings, books, and out-of-season clothing.  As the time gets closer, work up to the most used things. See also my article at Parentables: 11 Best Places to Find Free Moving Boxes.

Label boxes with a number (on every side of the box) and the room they will be going into.

Keep a running list of the box numbers and contents. That way if you need a certain item, you know which box to look for, instead of having to read over the contents of every box.  Plus, it will help you to make sure nothing is missing (and if so, to know what went missing).

To make things quick for you and the movers, consider color coding each box according to the room it will go to, with paint, markers or colored dot stickers.

Create a Last-On, First-Off Box

There are some essentials that you’ll either want to bring with you in the car or have the movers load last and unload first.

In Simplifying the Big Move, Martha Stewart recommends these day-to-day essentials:

  • bedding
  • bath and hand towels
  • toiletries, including soap
  • toilet paper
  • basic tools
  • cleaning supplies
  • medications
  • camera and charger
  • snacks
  • a few dishes and utensils, and
  • a coffeepot — plus coffee and mugs

Simple Mom also has a detailed list of essentials for Day 1 of moving, which reminded me of:

  • curtains for the kids room (if you have light sleepers), and
  • lightbulbs

I would also add:

  • your moving folder
  • cell phone charger and/or a phone you can hook up the first day
  • laptop, cord, and carrying case
  • checkbook
  • favorite toys and storybooks
  • paper towels
  • garbage bags, and
  • a shower liner and rings

If Movers are Packing Your Stuff

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Admittedly not the most frugal option but — since moving always seems to coincide with having a baby — we have done it before and I have to tell you, it was the best money I’ve ever spent.

The first time we tried it, from Italy to Cincinnati, they only charged us $200.  I couldn’t sign on the dotted line fast enough!  For our move from New York City to Syracuse when I was almost 9 months pregnant, we paid about $1000 for packing, one fifth of our total move cost.  For the same price, the movers also disassembled and reassembled all of our fine Swedish furniture.

I rarely pay someone to do things I can do myself, but sometimes in life, it’s just makes sense. If you go with this option, here are my tips:

1.  Purging ahead of time is essential.

Try to get rid of the most expensive unneeded items first. You’ll have more time and energy to deal with selling or finding good homes for them.

2.  Organize your things according to your new house.

Movers will just throw stuff in boxes and mark it with the name of the room (if you’re lucky, they’ll also scribble one word about contents).  So if you have fall clothes in the basement, the attic, and your child’s room, that’s where they will end up in your new house and you might not find what you need for months.  Group like items together in your current house to increase the likelihood you’ll find them sooner in your new house.

3.  Agree on a no-pack zone.

Designate a spot — like the bathtub — where you put anything you want with you, not on the moving truck.  This could include suitcases packed with your overnight essentials, diversions for the car trip, your first-out-last-in box, pet supplies, and your move folder.

My husband and I still laugh about our move to New York City, when he was driving our rental (we had sold both our cars) in flip-flops. It was Sunday and he was to start his new job on Monday morning. Half-way to New York, he looks at me and says, “Where are my shoes?” We realized they were on the moving van, and since our apartment wouldn’t be ready for days, they would soon be in a storage warehouse somewhere in Queens.

He had set them aside and thought he would tell the movers not to pack them, but things got busy and boxed up they went.  (We stopped at an outlet mall on the highway so he didn’t have to show up his first day on the job in a suit and flip-flops.)

4. What do you need the most?

Don’t be shy to ask the movers for things like a crib or a box of toys to be loaded last, and unloaded first.

And finally, see my Ultimate Moving Checklist for Families for more on arranging move-out cleans and travel accommodations, plus all sorts of other stuff you won’t want to forget.

This article is the fourth part in a series about moving:
Part 1 |
14 Tips for Finding the Best Neighborhood
Part 2 |
How to Find a Quality House to Rent
Part 3 |
Find a Low-Cost Mover without Getting Scammed
Part 5 |
The Ultimate Moving Checklist for Families

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9 comments

  • movers Nebraska May 23, 2013, 2:32 am

    I have always heard that moving out is not at all easy so I have always hoped that I will not get into such situation. However, here I am packing up all out stuff to move out to the city. Indeed, this is not easy but I found something positive about this process. I get to purge out all unnecessary items that should have been disposed or given away years ago. We are still in the packing process and I am thrilled to know that we are to transfer fewer items because several things are to be sent out for donation. It is always great to find positive things in situations that seem to be all negative.

    Reply
  • Redman Van May 14, 2013, 7:45 pm

    Oh my goodness! This is a very comprehensive checklist! I will definitely be using this the next time I move! I inevitably end up unorganized and stressed when I move and this will be a huge help!

    Reply
  • Nadia February 18, 2013, 10:06 am

    Very useful tips!)
    Nadia´s last post ..Wood for wardrobe?

    Reply
  • Mike @ Removals January 16, 2012, 9:17 pm

    This is a very informative and practical read. Great tips. It’s making “moving-out” simple, fast and easy.

    Reply

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