Moving can be fun, but packing sucks. The lustre and optimism of a new home quickly diminishes when you’re busy shoving your stuff in boxes so it doesn’t break on the way. Here are some tips to make it all easier.
Full disclosure, I’m moving right now, so consider this a dose of “physician, heal thyself”, but these are some of the tricks that have helped me so far — and some things to remember for your next move as well.
9. Get an Early Start
It’s easy to say “don’t wait until the last minute” to start packing and planning for your move, but that’s not really enough. Instead, get an early start. When I started packing for this move, it was probably well over a month in advance and I don’t regret it one bit.
Starting early gives you the freedom to move boxes around your house so they’re not in your way, take your time and pace yourself, and above all, avoid that panicked crunch the week before (or even the night before) you move where you stay up until 4am packing, knowing the movers will show up at 9am, and you have a full, long day ahead of you. Surprisingly, the video above from Buzzfeed actually has some good tips in it too. Don’t do it to yourself.
8. Get Good Boxes, for Free or Otherwise
Don’t try to move all of your prized possessions in beat-up boxes that have already been through the system once on their way to you. You don’t have to pay for boxes — there are plenty of people looking to get rid of their boxes on Gumtree. You can score good, quality boxes from your office or from local businesses like supermarkets without paying a cent.
However, the downside to getting all of your boxes for free is that you don’t know what comes with them. All manner of pests love to hitch a ride on cardboard boxes and would be happy to make your belongings their new home, so if you are willing to pay, it may be worth it for your peace of mind. It’s more important that you get quality boxes than that you get free boxes.
7. Purge Before You Start Packing, and Purge As You Go
It’s never too early to start throwing away the crap you don’t want to move. Seriously — do it as soon as you know you’re going to move, and then don’t stop chucking the nonsense until the day the movers show up. As our own Thorin Klosowski noted when he moved across country, he had a lot of stuff, and the best thing you can do is throw it all away or sell it, and then recoup what you actually need on the other end.
You could even do what he did — have a going away garage sale/party and invite all your friends to come take or buy everything you want to get rid of. If you really wanted, you could even host your own estate sale and really clean house.
Don’t get caught up in the scarcity mindset. If you sell the used things you have and don’t want to take, you’ll have money to replace them — or at least the things you actually want — when you get to your destination. Best of all, if you start early, you don’t have to scrounge up boxes only to find out you’re short later. Before it goes into the box, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Should I come with me, or should I replace it later? Can I afford to replace it? Let the answers there guide you.
6. Clean While You Pack
The last thing you’ll want to do when you get to your beautiful new home is clean while you or your movers are bringing everything in. They will want to know where you want your bookshelves, and you’ll be busily trying to wipe off years’ old dust that you could have handled before you left your old place. Clean as you go, your future self will thank you past self when moving day shows up.
Besides, odds are you’ll be tired when you get to your destination, and you’ll be happier moving clean furniture into a new, clean space. Give yourself that treat, at least.
5. Label Everything and Keep Your Own Inventory
If you’re moving across town, or even across state, your movers may not keep an inventory of your belongings — they will just toss it on an empty truck and then empty that truck of all your things on the other end of your move. That’s fine, but you should still label all of your boxes and keep your own inventory (I’ve been using a spreadsheet, but I do like Home Inventory for this purpose too.) of what’s in them, for your own sake, and for the sake of any insurance or homeowner’s/renter’s insurance you have. If you’re hardcore, you can even use QR codes to manage your inventory and keep things digital and private so even the movers don’t know what’s in what box.
It’s even more important if you’re moving interstate and you’re trusting your movers to be above board (with luck, you’ve chosen wisely and picked good, trustworthy movers). They should keep and provide you with their own inventory of your belongings, but only you’ll know what’s in each box, and if one of them goes missing, you’ll be able to replace exactly what was lost, file a police report if it’s particularly valuable and of course, file an insurance claim for the value of the items inside.
4. Ship Stuff To Your New Home (If It’s Cheaper than Moving It)
You know what’s easier than hauling your own stuff down to the back of a van, then driving the van and then hauling it back up to your apartment? Paying someone to do all that lifting for you Especially if it turns out it’s cheaper to have someone haul your junk than for you to do it yourself, or even pay movers to do it for you.
Now, you’re not going to save a ton of money here if you have lots of books, and don’t expect to just offload everything to Australia Post or Toll and expect to turn the mail or courier service into your own low-rent movers, but for some things — even particularly important things — they may be better than letting movers handle it, or even trying to transport it yourself.
3. Pack Like You’re Going on Holiday
Once you start packing, there’s a point where you’ll go from “everything fits perfectly in these boxes” to “just toss it all in the box it’s gotta go”. That’s fine, but keep some basic packing tips in mind as you progress.
You’ll save space and time by packing everything like you’re going on holiday, and that means doing things like rolling your shirts and towels, using the bundle method to wrap things like shoes inside jackets and so on.
After all, you can probably get a week or two’s belongings into bags small enough you can carry them on an aeroplane. No one loves living out of a suitcase, but if there’s a time to do it, it’s when you’re moving.
You want the freedom to live comfortably while unpacking your things at your own pace. Plus, you won’t go scrambling around your apartment for that one box with that one thing you absolutely need in it that you swore you’d unpack as soon as you arrived — only to find it on the bottom of a stack of other boxes.
2. Save Your Important, Necessary Items for a “First Night” Box
In the same vein as packing like you’re going on holiday, save the items that you think are most delicate or that you’ll need sooner rather than later when you arrive in your new home, and put them in a “first night” box. This is a tip we’ve mentioned before, but it’s still really important and can’t be understated.
Whether it’s toiletries you don’t want to pack in a suitcase or carry-all, a toolkit for reassembling furniture or hanging art, or cooking essentials like your coffee maker, if you’ll want as soon as possible put it in that “first night” box. Oh and make sure to keep some toilet paper in your carry-all, or put that in the same box.
1. Sell or Donate Your Boxes — and Anything Else — Afterward
Once you’ve arrived at your wonderful new home and you’re unpacking, unwrapping all of your safely-transported everything and doing the endless loads of laundry that come with using clothes and blankets as packing material, you’ll have a lot of slightly used (and other more heavily beaten up) boxes you want to get rid of. You may even have some personal items you’re wondering why you bothered to move. Now’s a good time to get rid of all of it.
Seriously, right after a move is a great time to do yet another purge, this time selling your crap for cash that will help you recoup your moving expenses and live happier in your new home.
Either way, someone’s probably moving, and someone will pay you for your gently used boxes, even if you got them for free. Donating is great, but movers are expensive, you know. Once you’re all cleaned up and have a little money in your pocket, you can get down to the business of making yourself at home in your new home.