Tips on a (Somewhat) Organized Move

by Alicia Hutchinson

In the past three and a half years we have moved four times. Twice across the country, once down the street, and once into a temporary space while we waited for our new home to finalize. Our moving-frenzy has given me some experience on a—somewhat—organized move. I’m not sure if there’s really such a thing as a really organized move. At some point everything feels crazy and your house looks like an unorganized Goodwill store, but there are a few things you can do to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
Here are nine tips to moving in a somewhat organized fashion that might help you on your next venture to a new home:

  1. Have a “moving” file. Before you start throwing things in boxes, first things first. Things start to get very messy when you start packing and cleaning and purging. When we move, I always like to have a folder or file for important moving papers. I will keep all those sticky notes with information on them, receipts, quotes, and other important items associated with the upcoming events. This file is sacred. I keep it with me all the time during a move and it comes with me in the car, not in a box! Keep this folder near your purse or your phone . . . things you know don’t get accidentally packed.
  2. Finalize logistics. It’s easy to just start packing, but before you get ahead of yourself, finalize the logistics and then move on to packing. These are the things that take up time and interrupt packing and organizing your things when you start packing. Find your method of moving truck and book them. Make sure they have your dates correct and ask them to call a week ahead of time to confirm. Hire movers if you are using them. If you are lucky enough to have friends and family helping you, make sure you’ve got them lined up for the day of loading. Plan on ordering food that can be delivered for them as a thank you for helping. Hire movers on the “unpacking” end as well. If you’re using a truck company where you pack your own truck, you will need movers to help you unpack it as well, so don’t forget that step.
  3. Gather all packing supplies early. As soon as you have these other steps in place, gather your packing materials. Craigslist is a great place to look for free boxes. You may be able to go pick up all the boxes you will need in one stop. If this isn’t an option, another idea is ordering your materials. It can be spendy, but it sure beats having to drive all around town looking for boxes.Many moving company websites offer packing supply bundles, where you can get everything you need from boxes to tape to box cutters to markers in one bundle. It will be delivered to your door, most of the time with free shipping. We have ordered packing supplies several times just because of the time-saving aspect. You will appreciate the initial work you did to gather materials when you are down to the last room and the last bit of things to pack and you have plenty of boxes and tape there for you. Running to the store for these things takes precious time, so plan ahead and have plenty of supplies on hand.
  4. Pack in order of use. When we start packing, we always start with the seasonal items we aren’t using. Things like winter boots and Christmas décor are not used often, so pack those first. Keep moving backwards to the things used most often. The order of packing could look something like this depending on the time of year you are moving:
    1. Holiday décor
    2. Seasonal clothing
    3. Photos and pictures on the walls
    4. Kids’ toys and closets (leave a few things out to keep them busy)
    5. Parents’ closets
    6. Dining room
    7. Living room
    8. Garage
    9. Kids’ rooms
    10. Parents’ rooms
    11. Bathrooms (leave essentials out to pack your overnight bag)
    12. Kitchen
  5. Create two piles: Goodwill and New House. As you are packing, you will be purging and getting rid of things. Don’t pack anything you don’t use or that is broken. (Kids are notorious for wanting to keep broken toys . . . maybe it’s just my kids.) Have some boxes labeled “Goodwill” that can be dropped off before the move. Beware of the “purging bug” though. Pack the things that you can. Throwing out things like garbage cans, shower curtains, and plungers may seem like disposable items that can be replaced at your next destination, but keep in mind all the dollars you will already be spending when you move into your new place. Things that can be cleaned and packed, should be. You’ll thank yourself later when you make your first Target run when you move into your new house and you can spend your money on fun items like new curtains instead of things you could have brought with you, like trash cans that seem to add up very quickly during a move.
  6. Label. Label. This is so very important when you are moving. Labeling a box “Kids’ Room” isn’t enough. Which kid’s room? What’s inside? Is it an essential that needs to be unpacked the day you move in? Or is it ok to save that box for later? When I’m labeling the boxes I’m packing, I like to label it like this: DINING ROOM: bird pictures, large clock, and Grandma’s mirror. Believe me, it makes finding things much easier and you can immediately reach for the things that you will need right away . . . like bedsheets and bath towels…not so much Grandma’s mirror.
  7. Be smart about loading. Pack the truck like you packed your boxes, least important towards the back. This will make unloading the truck much easier, which brings me to my next point:
  8. Be smart about unloading. Your beds should be the last thing on the truck so they can be the first thing off the truck. A friend told me a long time ago that whenever they moved, they set up their kids’ rooms first. I loved that advice. Your kids will be fine, but it is an adjustment for them. Set up their rooms first. They will instantly feel familiar and the new place will start feeling more like home. Before the movers start unpacking the truck, have an idea where you want furniture to go. This will save you from having to rearrange later when you don’t have the help of movers. Also, don’t have them unload boxes into the garage. Have them take the nicely labeled boxes into the rooms where they belong. Not having to shuffle boxes from the garage to their appointed rooms will save you time and backaches.
  9. Realistic unpacking. I didn’t all get packed in a day, and it won’t all be unpacked in a day. Set goals for yourself, but don’t overdo it. As I said, set up beds first and right away. You’ll be glad you started there when you collapse into bed at 1 a.m. Set up your bed, make it, and do the same for your family. Move on to the bathrooms. Unpack towels and essentials. If your truck was packed well, you should be able to start doing this right away . . . or at least set up the beds while you wait for the movers to unload the furniture and move onto the boxes. The furniture should be set up where you’ve directed your movers, then move onto the boxes. After your bathrooms are set, move onto the kitchen. Unpack the coffeemaker (duh) and utensils first. Then move onto pans and other essentials. When you’ve unpacked the things you’ll be using every day, you can rest. Next, work on unpacking the storage items, the garage items, and the pretty décor. Get to know your new space before you start hanging things up. Chances are you will move them if you are too hasty.

Enjoy your new home—you’ve worked hard to get there. Put your feet up and start praying you won’t have to move again for a very long time!
Alicia Hutchinson is called “Mama” by four kiddos; two boys and two girls. They have been homeschooling for seven years, and history and good literature are their favorite subjects. Alicia can be found blogging at where she talks about making a home, current projects, creating, reading, teaching, and enjoying the little things that come with being a mom/wife/teacher.

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