Organize Your Move and Don't Go Crazy in the Process

Moving boxes surrounding family relaxing in living room
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Everyone could probably use some moving tips, especially if you are packing up your whole life and headed for a new home. You are in good company among the millions of people who have moved their family. It can be a stressful time, but the process does not have to be frustrating. There are lots of ways to help make your household have a smooth and easy move. Learn more about how you can get your life and possessions organized.

Make a List

Write everything down; you will thank yourself later. Before you pack even one box, create a simple record-keeping system. Create a numbered list that specifically names the contents in each numbered box. You can designate a spiral-bound notebook for the job or generate the list on a computer. Make sure you put a number on every box you pack. When describing the box contents, be specific—"A-D files" is better than "files" and "tulip dishes" rather than "kitchen." Never put the list down unless it's in your "packing central" location. This location is where you store your labels, marking pens, box tape, and other packing supplies. In the midst of activity, you can always find what you need.

Shipping boxes and packing supplies
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Have Plenty of Supplies

You will need lots of boxes—​probably more boxes than you think and having enough boxes will make your life easier. If you buy your boxes from a moving company, you can always return unused boxes for a refund. If you got them free from a grocery store, flatten and recycle the leftovers. Leave about 10 boxes set aside to use for last-minute items on moving day, such as bedding, clothing, and cleaning supplies.

You will need strong plastic packing tape to close up the boxes securely. Use unprinted newsprint paper (newspaper ink can stain some items), packing paper, or bubble wrap to wrap and cushion household goods. You will need a lot more supplies than you think, so get extra. Return any unused supplies after the truck is packed.

Utilize Wardrobe Boxes

These tall boxes are perfect for bulky, lightweight items such as comforters, pillows, and blankets, as well as clothes that need to remain hanging. Call your mover to ask the width of the wardrobe boxes they'll be bringing. Then measure the clothes in your closets (including coat closets) to see how many extra wardrobe boxes you will need. You can also use them for closet storage boxes, shoe boxes, and other bulky items such as fabric bolts, large baskets, or gift wrap tubes.

Don't make the boxes too heavy to lift. One mover told the story of someone who put a bowling ball in a wardrobe box. When the box was lifted off the truck, the bottom gave way, sending the bowling ball on a wild ride down the ramp, across the street to the gutter, then down a hill where it finally came to rest in a roadside ditch.

Strategize Wardrobe Box Use

Moving companies will be happy to deliver boxes ahead of your moving day. Or if you are doing the move yourself, get things organized as early as possible. A few days before your move, fill some sturdy handled shopping bags with bulky closet items such as shoes, sweaters, belts, and jeans.

On moving day, fill the bottom of the wardrobe boxes with some of the shopping bags, then add your hanging clothing. Pack hanging items tightly so things won't move around and fall off of hangers.

Finally, cover the shoulders of your clothes (a dry cleaning bag works well), then add a few purses or sweaters on top. You'll have fewer boxes, and closet items remain together. Also, the shopping bags will make it easier to retrieve your belongings from the bottoms of a tall wardrobe box.

Color Coordinate

Designate a color for each room in the new home, such as yellow for the kitchen, orange for the dining room, and so on. Apply colored stickers on the box near the box number. In your new home, put a matching sticker on the door to each room. The movers will know where to put everything when they arrive at the destination. It's also helpful to post a big sign on the wall in the room where you want boxes stacked, such as "Boxes here please" to keep them out of furniture and traffic areas.

Keep Things Together

Insist on keeping things together when you or the movers are packing boxes. Keep bookends with books, light bulbs with lamps, and extension cords with appliances. Small, loose parts can be attached to the item they belong to with tape or placed in small envelopes. Keep picture hooks with pictures, shelf brackets with the bookcase, and a special wrench and bolts with the wall unit. Keep larger corresponding items (such as a cable TV cord) in resealable bags, and tape these to the underside or back of the item.

As a backup, have a "Parts Box" open on the kitchen counter and fill it with cables, cords, parts, pieces, brackets, or nails that are removed from any items of furniture. Keep this box with you, or mark it well with a rainbow of colored stickers so it can be easily located on move-in day.

Pack Ahead and Use Your Containers

Anything you can pack ahead will save you time on moving day. If it's summer, get your winter clothes out of the way. You do not need five radios or TVs around your house for the last few days there. Box up your shampoo and extra toothpaste and use items out of a travel cosmetic case for the last week or two. Pare down cooking utensils and food supplies to the bare essentials.

Wastebaskets can also be packed (put things in them) while you switch to using plastic grocery bags for trash collection. You can hang the bags on a cabinet door or door handle to collect trash.

Fill luggage and duffle bags with clothing, sheets, towels, and paper goods. Even for local moves, you'll be able to quickly spot your suitcase holding your favorite sweaters, whereas "Box No. 189" might remain elusive for days.

Assess your cleaning supplies
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Consolidate Cleaning Supplies

If you must clean your old place after moving out, put together a kit of basic cleaning supplies and rags. Clean ahead of moving day, such as the inside of kitchen cupboards, the oven, windows. Leave the vacuuming for moving day—vacuum each room as the movers empty it.

Safeguard Valued Items

It's a good idea to keep valuable possessions, such as silverware, collections, or antiques, with you. If you have a long move and no room in your car, bury the items in an intentionally mislabeled box "Misc. kitchen pantry."

Check your homeowner's insurance to see how you are covered during the move, and if you need additional insurance from the mover. Also, find out what paperwork (receipts, appraisals, and photos) you might need to file a claim in case of loss.

Keep important papers with you. Your list of "important" papers might include birth certificates, school records, mover estimates, new job contacts, utility company numbers, recent bank records, current bills, phone lists, closing papers, realtor info, maps, and more. Don't leave these with the mover. Keep them with you.

Personal Boxes

Use brightly colored storage tote boxes, one for each person. Let each family member fill theirs with items that they want right away in the new home—a set of sheets, a towel, a couple of extension cords, a phone, nightlights, pens and paper, keys, tissues, and travel cosmetic case, and so on.

Moving may not be fun, but planning ahead will go a long way toward making the process bearable.