Limit Your Packing and Moving Stress with 5 Tips

September 8, 2014 by Cat

packing and moving

So you’re moving- now what?  It went from, “Yay! We’re moving!” to you looking around the house at your possessions thinking, “Ugh. We’re moving.”  I went through that about a month and a half ago.  As my husband progressed to the next phase of his medical education we learned we’d be moving to Brooklyn… in two weeks’ time!  We were incredibly excited, but it didn’t take long for the stress to set in.  We were under such a time crunch and weren’t anywhere near New York to apartment hunt in person.  That’s another story.  Fast forward to the point in the story where we found an apartment and needed to move in the next week.  These five strategies helped to get us organized and limit my packing and moving stress.

1.   Start early

Even though we didn’t know where we were moving until two weeks before we had to be there, we knew in advance we’d be moving in early August.  Assuming it would be a hectic time, I started packing up some of our belongings in June.  Items I knew we’d want to take with us, but that weren’t used regularly, could be packed ahead of time without missing them too much.  Take a look through each room and in your storage spaces to see if there is anything that can be packed up early.  As moving day nears you’ll be thankful to have less to do.

2.   Know your options

There are a lot of different ways to move.  If you’re moving across town you may be able to gather up some trucks and make multiple trips.  If you’re moving to a new city or state, however,  you’ll have more logistics to consider.  Do your research.  You could hire a moving company to help you out. This solution is holistic and limits your stress. They show up and handle alll the challenges that moving brings. If you are more inclined towards the do-it-yourself route, you can rent a trailer to tow or rent a moving truck, both of which come in multiple sizes.  Numerous companies offer these services, three big ones being U-Haul, Penske, and Budget. .  One may be cheaper than the other depending on your starting point and final destination.  There are also storage containers that you can load up for someone else to transport to your new home.  This might be a good option for a family with children and pets if cramming everyone into a moving van for a cross country roadtrip isn’t your idea of fun.  PODS and U-Pack are two well known companies for this option. ou can also hire a moving company to do all the work for you.  They’ll pack your belongings, transport them, and meet you at your new home.  Let your budget and unique situation make your choice, but definitely know all the moving options you have.

Here’s a bonus tip: check with the moving companies for discounts.  If you have memberships like AAA or are a member of the military you can usually get a better price.

3.   Make a floor plan

Once you’ve signed on the dotted line for your new place, get out a measuring tape, and measure everything.  Measure the floor dimensions of each room, the windows, the ceiling height, the door widths, any sharp corners or steep stairs, etc.  Take pictures of each room from multiple angles.  The size of our new apartment dictated what we could bring, so we sketched a floor plan and measured all the furniture items we were considering bringing with us.  We were then able to accurately see what items would fit, and more importantly, what would not.  We didn’t mistakenly bring too much or wish we’d left something behind in storage, which I’m really grateful for.  It was also really helpful that on move in day I already had a good idea where furniture was going to go because I’d drawn it into the floor plan.

Remember when I said there are multiple sizes of moving trucks and trailers?  Our floor plan allowed us to pick the smallest and cheapest trailer that would accommodate everything we planned to bring.  Use the measurements of your largest furniture to determine how long and wide a truck or trailer needs to be.

4.   Pack by room and by priority

Whether you’re packing months ahead of time or you’re in the thick of it days before moving, take the time to pack right.  Pack one room per box.  In other words, don’t include bathroom stuff and kitchen stuff in the same box.  Unpacking will be quicker this way.  If you’re not taking (or you’re not sure at the time of packing) 100% of your belongings with you, pack by priority.  Start with the essentials that will go with you no matter what size of place you end up with.  Keep a notebook next to you, and write each item that goes into the box.  When the box is full tape the list to the box.  As you near moving day and know how much you’re able to take with you, you can select boxes based on the importance of their contents while any remaining boxes can go into storage.  Sorry, mom and dad!

Boxes can be unloaded into your new home according to their label and placed in the rooms where they will be unpacked.  If it takes you several days to unpack like it did us, it was great having a list on each box showing what was inside.  There were so many times I needed something specific, but I didn’t have to dig through unopened boxes not knowing where it was.

5.   Don’t forget the toilet paper and wine

All you’ll need your first night is toilet paper and wine.  Get take-out or repay your volunteers with pizza and beer.  Have a glass (or more- no judgment) of wine from a plastic cup.  Unpacking can wait until the next day.

What helpful tips do you have for packing and moving?

Photo courtesy of Mark Moz.

15 thoughts on “Limit Your Packing and Moving Stress with 5 Tips”

  1. Great tips! I would also add to plan your last minute boxes and suitcases first, i.e. the things you can’t live without and need to find ASAP. Once you have those planned and set aside, the rest can be dealt with over time. I speak from experience after one of our moves, it took me hours of looking through boxes to find tampons. Definitely should have prioritized those in the move process. 🙂

    1. Yikes! Not something you want to be frantically looking for. Making sure your most necessary items get unpacked first is a great tip.

  2. Oh you’re giving me moving PTSD ;)! Mr. FW and I have moved 4 times in the last 8 years and it’s such a headache every time. But, you are totally right about starting early and being organized. I actually make a spreadsheet of every box we pack. I number the boxes and title them with their destination spot in the new home (not their origin spot since it often changes).

    I then list the contents of each box on the spreadsheet with the corresponding box number. This way, we know almost exactly where everything is. I know it sounds a little overboard on the organization (which it probably is), but I like this level of detail. And, since Mr. FW’s company paid for us to move, we had movers and I wanted to know where everything was. My system was validated when we realized 3 boxes were missing (I was checking them off the spreadsheet as they came in the house) and, sure enough, the movers were able to locate them mixed in with someone else’s stuff.

    1. I like your style! I wouldn’t put it beyond me to go to those lengths as well. I love when something we feel might be a little extreme gets validated though. Had you not done all that work, it would have been harder to recognize how many boxes were missing and what was in them. Boxes all start to look the same after a while, so I relied on my list of contents, too.

  3. I really don’t know how you guys did it. Two weeks would probably make me insane! Haha!

    We will be moving again in the next 2 years, and I’m already not looking forward to it. It can be such a stressful time.

    1. We did it with a lot of help from friends and family! I don’t think I was the most fun person to be around at the time. I don’t look forward to the next move either, but I think it could always be worse. I can’t imagine being established in a big residence for many years and then moving. When you haven’t had the chance to accumulate a ton of stuff, I think it’s a little easier.

  4. The last time we moved, our company paid for the movers and the packing service. BIG mistake to use the packing service, in my opinion. When I pack us for moves, I wrap breakables in clothes and towels and socks. Yep, that means I have some laundry spread out, but in order to find a towel, I’m pretty sure I can look in the kitchen boxes. It saves space, which saves weight. Also, the way the nearly-illiterate packers labelled my boxes was at best funny (borad = board) and at worst, very confusing. My coffee POT was not in the box marked coffee maker – only the part that plugged in was in there. As a non-wine drinking, I hold my coffee pot in great esteem for getting through the day. I tore apart the kitchen looking for that thing…

    1. I’m sorry you had such a rotten experience! That sounds awful. Were you stuck with the packing service the company chose? I’d like to think there are good packing services out there that could be sorted through on Yelp or something.

  5. Erin @ Journey to Saving

    Ugh, I totally feel your pain. We moved back in April and also only had about two weeks notice. And the moving truck broke down on us on the way. So my best advice is to simply be prepared for the worst as anything can happen! While packing is really annoying, it’s so important to get right, as it definitely makes life easier when you go to find things and unpack.

    1. You’re not the only person I’ve heard of having a rental break down on them! I’m sorry you had to experience that. I really considered “preparing for the worst/give yourself more time than you think you’ll need” as a tip, but toilet paper and wine won out in the end.

  6. Just found your blog! I’m dying — the name is so adorable.

    I just moved 2 months ago and I’m sad to say it was a gong show. The worst part is I totally know better, I was just lazy/busy and failed all over the place.

    … except for this part: “All you’ll need your first night is toilet paper and wine.” Nailed it.

    1. Thanks!!

      We all do that in some area though. We have the best intentions with something and then it just falls apart when motivation wanes. At least you remembered the last point! I hope your first night in the new place was successful =)

    1. Time is definitely your friend during a move. I’ve only misplaced an item or two in the transition, and it was nothing super important.

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