Moving? Learn how to pack like a boss

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1. Pre-move planning

By now, you have probably decided to put your house on the market and you may or may not have found the house you are going to move to, and set your move-in date. That’s OK, there is still a LOT  you can do at this stage that will make things ten times easier when you get down to moving day.

This is a great time to start decluttering your house. This will make for fewer items to move and also make your house look 10 times better during the “for sale” period when strangers are traipsing through your home.

Besides some really thorough decluttering, one thing we did that was really brilliant was to rent one of those pod things and put it in the driveway. That was wonderful because we could pack up a few boxes each night and just haul them out to the pod.

When we were ready to move, they picked the pod up, set it down in the driveway of our new house, and not one thing was broken! And it was surprisingly inexpensive – maybe $75-$100/month – about what you’d pay for a good-sized storage place.

Another thing to do is to start making a plan. Mentally divide your belonging into three categories – low priority, medium priority, and high priority.

LOW-PRIORITY Stuff – Books, CD’s or movies you won’t be needing for a while, out-of-season clothes, holiday decorations, special occasion dishes, etc. – anything you think you can safely manage without for the next 3-4 months. These things will be packed first (in clearly labeled boxes) and placed in the far rear area of your Pod or storage space.

MEDIUM-PRIORITY Stuff – Out-of-season clothes, bank statements and old tax records, extra sets of towels and sheets – basically anything you could do without for a month or so without significant hardship. The medium-priority items are the ones you are going to start packing up after you have sold your house, but haven’t had the final closing. You have a move date set, but it’s a few weeks off yet.

HIGH PRIORITY Stuff – Everyday dishes, toiletries, your day-to-day clothes, food, microwave, and other small appliances.  Obviously, the high priority items are the ones you will need down to the last few days before the move, and will likely be the first things you’ll need to unpack in the new house.  Be sure to mark these boxes accordingly.

2.  Supplies

The preplanning time is when you are going to purchase your supplies to keep your move organized. Don’t wait until the last minute or you’ll pay a lot more.  You will need a set of several Sharpie markers, some color-coded labels (a lot of them) – I like these pre-printed labels, and you’ll start accumulating newspaper or bubble wrap, and cardboard boxes.  If you can find identically sized boxes they will stack easily.

My best tip for boxes – scout around your neighborhood for someone who has recently moved in and ask if you can have their empty boxes. They will likely be delighted to have someone to haul them away.

Second-best tip – haunt the produce section of your local grocery store – the produce boxes are sturdy and plentiful. You just have to catch them before they go into the trash compactor.

My Third-best tip – Look at these cool MOVING STRAPS.  They make everything you lift seem 66% lighter by using natural leverage.

3.  Logistics

At this point, you are also going to figure out your actual move strategy. Are you going to use professional movers, or long-suffering friends? My suggestion is a little bit of both. I use my friends for the easy stuff – boxes, plants, clothes, etc. Then I use a professional mover for anything large, heavy, expensive, or delicate. In our last move, the professional movers damaged our big screen TV and a few other items. I documented the damage and was able to get a claim paid for several hundred dollars. I would rather have had my stuff not be damaged in the first place, but if it had just been a friend, I would have just been out of luck. If you do decide to use movers, start checking around for prices and recommendations from friends.

Movers appreciate a steady supply of snacks and drinks, plus a cash tip! Click To Tweet

If you have little kids or pets, this is a great time to get them out from underfoot. Have a grandparent or a friend take them somewhere else for the day. Particularly with cats, they get frightened with all the noise and confusion and may try to run off or hide somewhere. Board them for the day if you have to, but don’t depend on isolating them in a room with a note on the door because sure as anything, someone is going to open that door at some point and let them out. We’ve done that and it wasn’t fun trying to coax our terrified cat out of the heater vent!

With your helpers, be cheerful and appreciative – play upbeat music and keep a handy supply of drinks, bagels, and pizza on hand to keep them happy and motivated. Same thing with your professional movers – take the time to learn all their names.  Having a supply of snacks and a generous cash tip ready at the end of the day means you are likely to get much better service.

Set up a clear game plan – explain your color system to them and put post-it notes on each room to let your helpers know which is bedroom 1, 2, 3, etc.

If you have enough helpers, a “bucket brigade” system is very helpful, especially if you have stairs. Station someone at the top with a pile of boxes and then hand them down the chain of helpers to the bottom. Saves a lot of wear and tear on everyone’s feet.

In the new location, ask them to stack boxes and items neatly around the edges of the rooms to make room for the beds and the other large furniture. Even if you can’t put your couch or all unit exactly where you want it, you will at least be able to get it in the room and then shift things around on your own time. It helps also if you have a clear floor plan of approximately where you are going to place the larger pieces of furniture. I would even draw the outlines on the floor with some masking tape so people know – the piano goes HERE – don’t put boxes in this area.

Next up – it’s time to actually START PACKING.  Hopefully my tips will save you a bit of time in the long run and maybe some money as well.

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  1. Here is another great resource I found for moving. These are some great tips – with photos.

  2. Thank you for these tips. We are getting ready to move soon and I love the idea of bringing in a POD for the driveway. It’s always difficult when boxes are under foot. Stopping by from SITS.

  3. Great post! We are moving a few states away in a couple months and I was looking for ways to make it a little easier, or at least not so overwhelming! I struggle with organization so this list of tips really helps!

  4. Yea I’ve pinned this for future reference. Moving was such a pain and we didn’t realize how much stuff we had. We did this move ourselves but any future moves I would want a crew.

    • We did it ourselves for years, but honestly, we are just getting too OLD for this nonsense. We thought about moving a while back and even thinking about it was just exhausting. We’ll probably just go straight from here right into the nursing home – ha!

  5. I bookmarked this post for future reference. We are buying a house in the next twelve months, so these would be great tips to remember! Thanks for sharing your tips at Inspire Me Mondays!

    • Moving is such a pain, I’m glad tips like these help people. I just sent it to a couple of friends of mine who are planning a move to Montana. Thanks for having me on Inspire Me Mondays.

  6. These tips are fantastic and right on time! We are moving within the next 2 weeks! Our moves always seem to be in a rush. We will literally have less than two weeks to move…long story. The boxes are a big thing. We also have rented a storage space. We hope to get things down to the bare minimum very soon. Labeling and color coding will definitely help us keep everything straight. And I already have started a pile for donating! A LOT of toys!

  7. Wow – you are a professional! The only suggestion I would have is when you put tape on the floor to mark furniture, consider using painter’s tape because it won’t damage any finishes. I’m going to share this out since it so full of great tips:)

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