About six weeks ago, our family moved to a new home. My husband accepted a new job as a pastor at the cutest little country church, so we packed up our family and hauled our lives to a new town.
Now, we’ve been a military family for 14 years (!), and I have to admit that I have gotten a little spoiled with military moves. When the Army moves you, the moving company pulls up, packs your dishes right out of the cabinet, takes it to your new location, and unpacks it right into your new cabinet. You literally don’t have to touch a box if you don’t want to. (Though I usually did, because I like unpacking.)
This time, however, we had to do it all on our own. It was quite a different experience. I came up with some systems that really streamlined the process and made the whole thing very organized!
Here is how we did it:
1. Borrow/rent enclosed trailers, and fill it a little bit at a time.
This is especially helpful if your house is on the market, because it allows for instant decluttering. We were fortunate enough to find 2 trailers that we could borrow for free, and we had the ability to pack and fill it as we found time.
2. Letter-code all of your belongings.
I made a chart of moving codes, and assigned each zone in our new house a letter. I tried to make some of them common sense — like C, L, S, and F are our kids’ initials, so those corresponded to their rooms. K for kitchen, G for garage, etc. As each item went onto the trailer, it was labeled with a letter. For boxes, I write directly on the box. For furniture, I used extra-wide masking tape.
This is a huge time saver in many ways.
- Writing “living room” 100 times really does add up, when you could just write “A”.
- People helping you move don’t know where “Connor’s Room” is anyway, so having the codes help direct traffic.
I had the advantage of helping my dad move a few months before us, so I got to see in action a disorganized move. People were constantly asking “Where do you want this?” or “Where does this go?” In the end, my poor dad and stepmom had piles and piles of mixed up boxes, and months later they were still not unpacked.
We had about 5-8 people helping us load & unload on moving day, and we were able to move everything we owned in about 8 hours. And I don’t remember people asking me even once where to put something.
To direct traffic in the new house, I put signs in every room (generally 2 signs for each zone, one on the door and one in direct eyeline of entering the room). It took me about 3 minutes to hang the signs, as I already had them printed and organized by floor. I had signs by the front and back doors to let people know where to find the various zones — signs that said “Main Floor: ADGHKLPQV”, “Upstairs: CMUSF”, “Basement: WRB”.
3. Go crazy with the ziploc baggies.
I went to the dollar store and bought 10-12 boxes of plastic bags in various sizes. It’s super easy to pack up the school stuff if you open a drawer, put everything in the drawer inside a bag, zip up the bag, throw it in a box, then tape the drawer shut to denote that it is cleared. This works for any area of the house: bathrooms, school supplies, kitchen, tool box, etc.
On the other end, all you need to do is open the bag, dump it out and do a little arranging, and you are unpacked. Easy!
4. The Hardware Box
This is a tip I picked up from the military movers: put all of your hardware in one box. Every time you take a piece of furniture apart, put the hardware in a plastic bag, label it with a sharpie (don’t forget that part!!), and put it in the hardware box. Also put into this box any tools you used in disassembly. Leave this box open and make it one of the priority items to get moved. It went on the passenger seat of my minivan to ensure it wouldn’t get lost.
On the other end, open the box and leave it in the living room. Any time you need to reassemble a piece of furniture, you know right where to find all of the supplies!
5. First Box
This box became sort of a joke in our house. I labeled it “First Box” because it was to be the first and most important box to be unpacked. The kids mentioned that my name for it made it seem Presidential, so they drew the seal and flag to make it very official: the First Box.
This box contained things we needed on moving day to make the move go smoothly. It included things like: toilet paper and soap for the bathrooms, trash bags, a small broom and dustpan, a few tools, phone chargers, protein bars for the moving helpers, and anything else important. This box sat open on the kitchen counter during the moving process, and also got an important seat on moving day!
6. Unpack by zone.
Once you have everything unloaded into the new place, it can be very tempting to run around like a chicken with your head cut off, feeling like there are a million things to do. (Because there are!)
Instead, focus on one zone at a time. Start with something small but important (like bathrooms). I put the kids’ beds together myself and then made them do most of the unpacking in their bedrooms. In the kitchen, I put away the things that I knew where I wanted them (like silverware), and then stacked other items on the counter/tables until I could get a bigger picture of what I had and where I wanted it.
I’m one of those people that gets incredibly stressed by being surrounded by boxes, so it’s amazingly helpful for me to have a few rooms unpacked right away, where I can go and take a break from the unpacking.
Moving week, we closed on our house at 10am Monday morning, and began unloading the trailers at 11:30. We had everything unloaded by dinnertime (and that includes several trips back and forth from the old town to the new one). That evening, the only furniture we put together was kids’ beds.
Then thanks to all the boxes already being in the right rooms, I was completely unpacked by the weekend, with the exception of a few garage boxes (because it got COLD).
Let me know what moving hacks/tips YOU have used to make your moves smoother!
And just because I like you, here’s a little bonus: take a video tour of our new house! (This was filmed the weekend after we moved in, so you can see how unpacked we were in just a few days!)
As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope that my experience gives you a little bit of inspiration for your own move!