With our move to North Carolina a few weeks behind us now, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks that I’ve implemented to make the packing and unpacking process easier. This move was my eighth in the last decade, so I’ve learned a few things along the way! The biggest thing with managing a move, especially a big one, is preparing for it. Not only with things that actually need to be set up, like scheduling movers, but preparing emotionally and mentally, too. There are a lot of moving parts that go into changing where you live, even if you’re going down the street.
Tip #1: If you can afford it, hire movers.
There are two big home-related things that I will always opt to pay for instead of doing myself: moving and painting. Give me a new faucet to install or landscaping to be done and I’d gladly do it. Try to hand me a paintbrush or a moving box and I’ll hand over a $20 for you to do it for me 😉 I started hiring movers when I lived in Chicago and needed to move from a third-floor apartment with a freight elevator. I saved up extra money for months prior to the move, so that I could hire professionals to do it for me. Not only for the labor, but they just know what they’re doing (usually!). They know how to pack the truck well, not break everything, and are super efficient.
We hired movers for this last move from VA to NC and I’m so glad that we did. Not only because I wouldn’t have been much help with the manual labor being 7 months pregnant, but also because they packed our truck so well and we still had things we needed to put in an additional trailer. We also had guys unload in our new house, so I was able to just stay in the house and guide them on where things are supposed to go.
Tip #2: Allow plenty of time for packing.
I always start packing weeks before a move. With this last one, in particular, I think I started about 6 weeks before our moving date. We had accumulated quite a bit of stuff in our last house compared to our previous move, so I knew we had a lot to go through. As I’m packing things, I will also go through a purging process – getting rid of things in storage that we haven’t touched since our last move, donating decor and clothes that I don’t want anymore, etc. It’s a great way to go through everything you own and take a mental inventory of it. We made multiple trips to donation centers and sold quite a bit of old IKEA furniture on Facebook Marketplace. It felt great to get rid of some things that we were holding onto just because.
The other reason for allowing plenty of time for packing is because it just takes a long time! I’m methodical in my packing. I pack by the room or by category, like “kitchen” or “decorative items”. I like to have plenty of time to strategically pack the boxes like that, so that unpacking is exponentially easier. I make sure to carefully wrap any fragile items and pack the boxes in a way that I’m making the most use of the space in the box and protecting the items inside.
I always pack up the rooms or items that we use the least, like a guest room or things in storage, first. Then slowly work my way up to my office and closet the last few days before moving day.
Tip #3: Take apart whatever furniture you can and put the hardware in a safe place.
We had quite a few furniture pieces, like our dining table and my office furniture, that would be easily broken down into smaller pieces for the move. This allows more strategic packing in the truck, as well as lighter-weight items for transporting to and from the truck. I wouldn’t take apart something that’s super complicated or would take a long time, but if it’s as simple as undoing a couple of screws on an awkwardly-shaped or large item, I do it! As soon as I remove any hardware from the item, it goes in an individual bag with a label on it. All the individual bags of hardware get thrown into one large “hardware” bag, so that I know exactly where every screw and bolt is.
Tip #4: If moving with a partner/spouse, clearly communicate expectations before the packing & moving process begins.
Before we even started packing things up, Mike and I had a couple conversations about expectations for the whole process; who would be packing up what and when. We ended up splitting up the house by room and each being responsible for different areas. He knew exactly what rooms he was responsible for packing, just like I knew what rooms I had to take care of. Additionally, we split up responsibilities for things like hiring movers, turning off utilities, getting utilities set up in NC, etc. We had a shared list in the “Notes” app on our phones, so that we could each see who was taking care of what. It helped us a ton to see our list of to-do’s before the move written out, as well as who was going to take care of it.
Tip #5: Keep a box of essentials with you during the move.
I learned this a couple moves ago and it has made a huge difference! I pack a basket or box with toilet paper, a few household cleaning supplies, a couple basic tools, rags or dish towels, my hardware bag, and more, to have access to as soon as we walk into the new house. I travel with this box in the car (or wherever I am – just not in the moving truck amongst other boxes), so that I know exactly where it is at all times.
Tip #6: Keep your clothes on their hangers and protect them with garbage bags.
This was another thing I learned a few moves ago that is a game changer! I keep all of my hanging clothes on their hangers, group them into 15-20 or so, tape the top part of the hangers together, and tie a plastic bag around them. You save yourself a ton of time from removing clothes from hangers and putting them back up on hangers and you can simply reuse the garbage bags.
Tip #7: Add a description to the outside of your moving boxes.
I always label my boxes by room, like guest bathroom or office. On top of that, I’ll add a brief description to the box, like “decorative pieces”, “bar glasses”, or “printer and printer supplies”. Adding the little descriptor helps me in the unpacking process to be able to know which boxes I should start with, instead of having to open every single box and rifle through them to find the item that I’m looking for.
Tip #8: Pack a few days’ worth of clothes and toiletries in a carry-on suitcase or weekender bag.
This one may seem obvious, but even if it helps one of you not wear the same outfit 4 days in a row, I figured it was worth adding to the list! Think through a few days worth (including moving day/s) of clothes and toiletries that you will be using and pack them in a smaller bag. Once those are set aside, the entire rest of your closet, dresser, and bathroom can be packed up and ready to go for moving day!
Tip #9: Keep a list of “administrative” to-do’s…and start it early.
One thing you may overlook, especially in a big or stressful move, are all the little administrative tasks that need to be done. These tasks include forwarding your mail, changing your mailing address with any subscriptions or recurring shipments you receive, updating your billing address with your bank, credit cards, and other bills, scheduling the end of your utilities at your current residence and setting up new accounts with your new residence, and many more. As soon as we knew we were moving, I started making a list of these things in my phone. I’d be going about my day and be reminded of another thing I needed to make sure we did, so I’d just quickly add it to the list so that I wouldn’t forget.
Tip #10: Accept help when it is offered. Ask for help (when you need it), even if it isn’t offered.
This one goes out to all my Type A, control freaks like me. I see you and I know you. I know that you’d so much rather do things yourself because you do it the right way. Trust me, I’m the poster child for this way of thinking. With being about 7 months pregnant for this move, I knew I needed to ask for and accept any help that was offered to us. My parents, sister, and brother-in-law all stepped in and helped us a ton. It would’ve been an entirely more exhausting and less enjoyable process without them! My mom and sister had our entire kitchen unpacked within about 3 hours of us getting our moving boxes inside our new home — that would’ve taken me twice the amount of time! Delegating and giving them tasks that they could easily do allowed me to not only focus on things that I definitely wanted to do myself (like unpack and organize my bathroom and office), but it also decreased my stress level a ton and allowed me to enjoy the process more than I otherwise would have. There are a million things to do within the whole moving process, so don’t be afraid to see where you need help and ask for it!
Moving can be a very stressful and overwhelming time, but implementing some structure and strategy to manage the chaos can make a big difference! This last move was our biggest and most involved move, but with the help of these tips, it was totally manageable. Sure, we had to rent an extra trailer for me to tow behind our SUV because we couldn’t fit it all in the moving truck and we had a snowstorm forecast for our move-in day, but at the end of it all, we had a roof over our heads and we were all safe and healthy, which is what matters most.