New house: YAAAAY! Moving out of the old one: BOOOOO. Packing up, moving, and then unpacking an entire house is the worst.
Moving may never be a great time, but it is possible to cut down on the aggravation, effort, and anxiety and get back to the excitement of your new home.
We combed the internet and asked two professional organizers — Maria White, founder of the website “Enuff with the Stuff,” and Donna Smallin Kuper, author of “How to Declutter and Make Money Now” — to give up their secrets.
#1 Do a Pre-Pack Photo Shoot
Among the most mind-numbing hours of unpacking is trying to remember where all those cords behind the TV went and how you had that bookshelf so tidily arranged.
Save your fatigued short-term memory the grief by taking some pre-packing photos (of everything) so you’ll know exactly where it all goes when it’s time to empty those moving boxes. With photos in hand, you’ll be able to recreate it all in record time.
#2 Follow the $20 in 20 Minutes Rule
You know you have too much stuff. But when packing, who has the energy to make purging decisions?
Smallin Kuper, who’s moved 11 times herself, warns that hauling along things you don’t love or need is the bigger waste. And the toss-or-keep decision can be easy when you apply Kuper’s formula: $20 in 20 minutes. “For smaller items, ask yourself if you were to need it again in the future, could you find it for under $20 in under 20 minutes. If yes, let it go.”
#3 Corral Cords With Toilet Paper Rolls
Once you’ve moved, you need extension cords. You know you have them, but where are they? And especially that heavy duty one you need for the drill so you can finally hang your pictures. Except where is it?!?!
One way to cut down on the jumbled mess of extension cords is to wind each cord up in a 6-inch coil, and insert each into its own toilet paper roll. You’ll have lots more room in the box, and no tangled mess to unpack later. Just remember to clearly label the box!
#4 Create a "Moving Toolbox"
Moving day can easily turn into moving week when you spend as much time looking for the packing tape and Sharpie as you do filling the boxes.
Pack more efficiently with a “moving toolbox” where you keep your box cutter, tape, labeling markers, and other packing supplies in one carry-all that you can take from room to room. It’s easy to misplace small and essential items like these when your house is full of boxes and in disarray.
For smaller items, ask yourself if you were to need it again in the future, could you find it for under $20 in under 20 minutes. If yes, let it go.
Donna Smallin Kuper, moving expert
#5 Tape Appliance Cords to Their Homes
You could be scoping out the new neighborhood, but, instead, you’re running from appliance to appliance desperately trying to match them with the right power cord.
Skip the electronic guessing games by taping the plug right to the appliance to which it belongs. And go check out that taqueria on the corner with your reclaimed time.
#6 Use Your Towels, Blankets as Packing Materials
Another way moving day gets frustratingly extended? Your third trip to the store to buy more bubble wrap.
Kudos on treating your breakables with care, but Smallin Kuper says you don’t need the store-bought stuff. Pot holders, oven mitts, and even those old paper and plastic grocery bags you were planning to recycle make great packing materials. Also consider towels, pillows, blankets, the kids’ stuffed animals — whatever’s soft!
#7 Color-Code Boxes
If you’re paying movers, really get your money’s worth by making it easy for them to deposit every box in the right room.
Assign a color to each room, then mark that color on the outside of each box. Before movers arrive, add the correct color label to each room’s door. They’ll love the simplicity, and you’ll love not having to haul everything that was supposed to go in the office out of the playroom.
#8 Keep Your Clothes in Their Drawers
Another way to cut down on boxes and the awful chore of unpacking: Don’t pack the clothes in your drawers. They’re already in a box!
Simply wrap the whole drawer in plastic wrap, and your drawer becomes the box. The same trick can work for hanging shoe racks, utensil organizers, and other container-type items.
#9 Use Garbage Bags to Move Clothes on Hangers
You’ve got hangers in one box, clothes in another, and it’ll take hours pairing them all back up again in your new closet.
Nope. Get all that time back by clustering groups of clothing together, then pulling plastic garbage bags up from the bottom and tying them at the top — twist ties work great for this. Layer these clusters together for the move and hang up as soon as you arrive.
#10 Give Liquids a Plastic Wrap
You spent all that time packing up your cleaning supplies box just to have the window cleaner spill during the move, destroying the box, soaking clothes in the neighboring one, and causing a huge mess in the middle of an already stressful day.
To prevent spills mid-move, uncap all household liquids — everything from toiletries to cleaning supplies — then cover the top with clear plastic wrap, and tightly reseal the cap.
#11 Cut Handles in Boxes
“This one isn’t heavy, it’s just awkward” is a phrase you’ll be tired of hearing by the time you’re settled into your new home.
Cut out the awkwardness (literally) with a box cutter. Cut holes into the sides of cardboard boxes to create handles that’ll simplify lifting and carrying. Be sure not to make holes too close to the top, or on too-heavy boxes, or they could rip.
#12 Pack Boxes in Layers
No one in your family besides you knows the difference between a baking tool and a cooking tool, but that doesn’t mean unpacking the kitchen must fall to you.
“When packing the contents of desk or kitchen drawers, pack the box in layers of items from one drawer at a time,” says White. Put a piece of cardboard or other packing material between each layer to keep things from each drawer separate and ready to unpack.
#13 Keep Little Parts Together
Good luck going into Ikea and asking for all the parts to reassemble a bookshelf they discontinued three years ago. You know you’ll just end up walking out with a new one.
Storing all the hardware — including the specialty Allen keys required to work them — in sandwich bags and tape them directly to the item.
#14 Use Your Rolling Luggage as Boxes
Woe to the person who gets stuck carrying the boxes of books — or to you if your movers charge for extra heavy items.
Save your back or your wallet by repurposing rolling luggage to move heavy, sturdy items. And (bonus!) you won’t have to worry about packing the luggage itself.