Moving can be as stressful as a firing or a breakup, so why make it worse with a sloppy process? Following a few simple organizational principles can make your move as quick and efficient as possible.
Packing for a move can take you through a whole spectrum of emotions, from anxiety at the looming deadline, to shame and puzzlement at all the stuff you’ve accumulated, to existential despair at how, no matter how many rooms you pack up, there always seems to be one more. In fact, studies have shown that moving can be as stressful as losing your job, or going through a divorce, a finding that probably isn’t surprising to anyone who’s ever moved. To make matters worse, experts suggest putting aside eight weeks to pack and move, but most people try to do the job in half or a quarter of that time.
The truth is, there’s no easy way to move (aside from paying for professional packers and movers to do it for you), but there are ways to make this difficult experience a lot more manageable. Here’s a blueprint to make your move as fast, efficient, and painless as possible!
Designate a Packing Area
While it may be tempting to distribute boxes and tape to every room of the house, it’s actually much more efficient to designate one room as your "packing room." Why? A big part of moving is winnowing down unwanted belongings, and forcing you to take your items to the packing room will make you evaluate each item before you carry it across the house. One system to use is to put everything into three piles: keep, donate, and throw out. If you haven’t used it in over a year, put it in one of the latter two piles.
Thinning down your belongings before taking them to the packing room instead of indiscriminately packing up everything can mean packing, and moving, 50% less stuff. That’s a huge reduction in stress and labor.
Don’t Empty Dressers, Closets and Cupboards
Moving and packing isn’t just about managing the organization of your stuff; it’s also about managing your stress and anxiety levels. Taking out all your stuff before you pack isn’t just inefficient, it can make your stress levels spike through the roof. A 2016 study from Cornell University found that visual clutter can induce a spike in stress hormones like cortisol, which can make you feel helpless and out of control, and can lead to self-destructive behaviors like short-term thinking and overconsumption.
So taking all your clothes out of the closet and spreading them all over the bedroom may seem like a logical first step, but in reality, the sight of all that stuff scattered everywhere is going to make your heart pound, your stress hormones skyrocket, and the next thing you know, you’ve decided to take a "short break" to watch a movie and eat an entire pizza. Fast forward a few hours, and not only have you wasted a big chunk of the day, but all that stuff still needs to be dealt with. And when you walk into that cluttered room, the cycle just starts all over again.
The bottom line is, waiting to empty dressers and closet until you’re ready to pack those items is not only the more efficient way to do things, it also keeps a lid on the negative emotions that can derail your move.
Organize and Label
We’ve all been there; during a frantic pack-and-move, you tell yourself you’ll remember that your toothbrush is in the smallish cardboard box, and that your contact lens solution is in the medium-sized cardboard box, and when you get to your new home, you end up tearing open every single box to find one essential item. A little organization and labeling now can save you a lot of trouble later.
Start your move by packing away things you don’t use often; kitchen accessories, out-of-season clothes, and books are all good places to start. As you pack, use a permanent marker to note the contents of each box, and what room it’s in. You can also color code boxes from different rooms, so they stay together; for example, red for bedrooms, green for kitchen, blue for bathrooms. This system will save you a huge amount of work when it’s time to unpack.
And finally, designate one bag for all your toiletries, medications, phone chargers, and other necessities, so you’ll have them close at hand.
Sell Unwanted Belongings Online
If you decide to leave behind stuff with resale value like electronics or furniture, take the time to sell it online. Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace are reliable, heavily-trafficked sites where you can quickly sell your belongings for cash (Some people even use Craigslist to sell their houses). While it may be tempting to just walk away from the stuff you don’t want anymore, keep in mind that reselling your belongings online could make up the cost of moving supplies and maybe even professional moving help.
When it comes to stuff you don’t want, but can’t resell, like used clothing, there are many charities that will pick donations up at your home for no charge.
And if you end up with bags and piles of discarded stuff, there are services that will pick up your junk and take it to the dump for you; just keep in mind that this service usually comes with a per-pound fee.
Plan Out Moving Day
The first step in a good plan for the big day is, well, having a plan. Some basic strategy and preparation can shave hours off your move. Coordinate with your agent to make sure you’re out of the house before the home buyer needs to move in
Determine when, exactly, your moving truck will arrive, and start preparing your stuff a couple hours ahead of time. Move larger objects like furniture to the driveway or moving dock, and group your labeled and color-coded boxes together to keep them organized. If you’re doing all the moving yourself, consider getting a dolly ahead of time, so you can transport multiple boxes in one trip. Also consider contacting friends and family ahead of time, and asking them to help you move. (Free pizza can be very persuasive.)