Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Boxes, Boxes, Everywhere (Moving)

I was asked (somewhat recently) about how to pack for a move.

It's shameful, really, because I think the customer who asked me has already completed her move. Still, I'm going to share a few thoughts, because it seems the housing market is getting back on track and people are moving. At least, I am seeing more real estate signage in my neighborhood than I have in a long time.

My disclaimer: I have only moved twice in my post-preschool life, not counting college. The first time I was too young to really help and the second time was to my current "married" home. However, I spent nearly a decade working with senior citizens downsizing to a retirement community, so I have watched a lot of moving decisions taking place.

In no particular order, here is my advice:

Toss, Sell or Donate
This one is a no-brainer. There are some things that are simply not worth the work of packing and moving. There is no better time than the present to Freecycle, have a yard sale (if you have the energy), list things on eBay or Craigslist, or leave them at the curb. However, do not toss old linens until after the move; you can use them as free packing material.

Least to Most Used
Begin by packing the things you use least often, but still need at the new house. This includes holiday decorations, fancy dishes, infrequently used kitchen appliances, out-of-season clothing, spare linens, or guest room items.

Deplete Supplies
Once you have a settlement date nailed down, start working down supplies of pantry items, frozen food, toiletries, paper products, etc. It will be less to pack and less to arrange in the new home. Plus, it will give you time to establish a workflow in your new kitchen or bath before you commit to an exact place for everything.

Hit Up Your Family
Yes, you may want their help on moving day, but perhaps you can borrow a corner of their basement or garage to store some things for a few months. This will cut down on the work of moving day and will get some boxes out of the way so you aren't tripping over them while you are still trying to live your life.

If possible, try to obtain a floor plan of your new home. If that's not possible, sketch one on graph paper or somehow get the rough dimensions of your rooms. This will help you map out furniture placement and give you a rough sense of what will need to go where. A general idea is helpful; planning this out to the square inch is not a good use of your time. It's unrealistic to think you can know exactly where you will want things from day one.

Set Aside Essentials
Pack a suitcase for each family member. The suitcases should contain clothing, toiletries, towels, bedding, medication, toys/games, etc. that will be needed in the first 24-72 hours at the new house. This will eliminate scanning dozens of boxes when you are so tired you can't see straight.

Likewise, plan simple meals or arrange to order takeout for the first few days. You may even want to freeze meals ahead of time so you can just pop something in the oven for dinner. Don't forget to have beverages (and snacks!) on hand; all the extra trips up and down, in and out, will make everyone thirsty.

Label and Date
Of course you will label the boxes by room, so that the movers can put the boxes in the right rooms. May I suggest buying some shipping labels and printing them out with large, clearly legible text? Put them in the same general location on the box (or both top and side) for quick reference. Have a box with really important items that you'll need almost immediately? Mark that with a star, yellow dot, etc. so that you can quickly distinguish it's important.

Also, I'd like to challenge you to put a date on each box. Yes, they will all have approximately the same date as your moving day. But, if you happen to stumble across one of those boxes--still unpacked--three years from now, you WILL think twice about whether you really need the items inside.

Create a Staging Area
This is not always possible, but if you have a large garage, entryway or enclosed porch, use it as a staging area. The movers should still take furniture to designated rooms, but the rest comes to the staging area first. This way, you have a bit more control over the influx of items. This is a great place to leave some of the decor items that you will want to decide on long after the first day. 

Go through your current home one final time. Snap pictures of the family out front if you want a sentimental photo. Keep your eyes open; it's almost inevitable that something will have been missed in packing or moving. When my family moved during my elementary school years, the movers had somehow missed an ENTIRE ROOM of furniture. Glad my Dad checked that before signing off. And, you won't hear the end of it if a favorite stuffed animal somehow gets left behind.

If you are buying from someone who is downsizing, while you are upsizing, see if you can buy any furniture from the seller. It will be a win-win situation.

Do any remodeling, painting, cleaning, or appliance installation possible before you move in.

If you really need some extra time, talk to your bank about a bridge or swing loan. This type of financing fronts you money to settle on your new home before settling on your current home. It affords you a time overlap and cuts down on stress.

Readers, and more experienced movers, have I missed anything?

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