When it comes to moving to a new home, everyone's different. For some people, packing up is sheer labor but unpacking at the new home fills them with a feeling of energy and opportunity. Many other people love the anticipation that comes with packing up the household, but they hate the drudgery of unpacking once the moving vans have dumped furniture and boxes at the new house. Whichever camp you're in, following a basic process makes the home stretch of your move as straight and smooth as possible.
Unpack With a System
Before jumping in and randomly opening boxes, know what it is you are unpacking. Make sure you have a copy of the inventory list—either the one that the moving company provided or an inventory you created to track your belongings before you moved. Ideally, packing up involved boxing up items according to usage or by room, so make sure to examine box labels or open them up and peer inside before you start emptying them out.
Start With the Necessities
Next, unpack the essentials box (or boxes). This should be one of the first boxes off the truck or the boxes that came with you in the car. These are the essential items you need to keep your home running in the short term. If you didn't designate a box or two for the essentials, quickly search for boxes that contain whatever you need to get by for at least a couple of nights. These essentials will normally include basic toiletries, medications, books, and paperwork containing key addresses and telephone numbers, and some basic food preparation items.
Get the Kitchen Done First
Now, unpack the kitchen items and put them away. If you’ve properly labeled the boxes, you should be able to locate what you need fairly easily. If you have time, it's a good idea to line the kitchen cupboards and cabinets first. If you don’t have time to completely finish the kitchen, unpack only what you need, including pots and pans. Get the major appliances hooked up, and plug in any small appliances that will make your life a little easier—such as the coffee pot and toaster. You can return to concentrate on completely organizing the kitchen after the rest of the house is unpacked.
Do the Bedrooms Next
After the kitchen, put the beds together and unpack the linens for each bedroom. Ideally, you may have set aside a single set of linens for each bed when you packed; if so, getting your beds ready for the first night should be fairly easy. Decide on furniture placement and closet organization before you unpack boxed items, if at all possible. Installing shelving and closet organizing units first will make unpacking more productive and save you future work.
Move on to the Bathrooms
Bathroom fixtures are basically functional already when you move in, provided the water is turned on, but you will quickly need to unpack towels, toiletries, and other bathroom items. Nothing makes a house feel like a home more than having a comfortable, fully stocked bathroom. Again, start by unpacking the most important items—medications, body-care products, the shower curtain, and towels. But complete bathroom unpacking should be among the first things you do.
Assemble and Arrange the Furniture
If you were fortunate enough to have floorplan sketches of your new home before you moved, then arranging furniture should be fairly straightforward. If you need to rearrange the furniture in the bedrooms, living room, and dining room, make a systematic plan so you only have to do it once. Large pieces that need mechanical assembly, such as bookcases or entertainment centers, should be put together only after you know where all the furniture will be placed. It is a waste of time to assemble large items that may need to be disassembled and moved.
Deal With Utility Areas Last
One of the last spaces to unpack is the garage, basement, and other utility rooms. Since most garage items aren’t essential, try to organize the space before you start to unpack. Make sure to unpack any tools and materials you'll need to keep your home functional. This can include utility shelving units and storage containers.
Items for the patio, deck, or landscape can be unpacked last and set up at your leisure. However, if you are moving in summer, it can be a good idea to set up the barbecue grill fairly early, so that you can cook while the kitchen is still being set up.
Tips for Efficient Unpacking
- Get the essentials unpacked first, then take your time with the rest of the house.
- Plan each room before you unpack too many boxes.
- Anticipate future needs. Rather than putting off work—such as lining cabinet shelves or installing closet organizers—do it now, when it is most efficient.
- Make the space your own. Hang pictures and place family photos around the house early in your unpacking. It will help to make the home feel familiar and comfortable and will build your family's enthusiasm.
- Let each member of the family unpack their own bedroom, as applicable. This allows kids to participate in the event.
- Try to take some time to enjoy your new space once you have the main essential unpacking completed. Perhaps schedule some fun family events. In the next weeks, set a few hours aside each day or on the weekends to ensure you'll gradually get the job completed.