On the list of milestones that allow you, force you even, to reflect back on your life, moving is right up near the top, at least it has been for me. I’ve moved with my family twice in the past five years and each time it’s been one big trip down Memory Lane, littered with potholes and detours. The things we accumulate say a lot about who we are, or remind us of who we were at various points in time. The decision to leave them behind or carry them forward can be either emotionally fraught or gloriously freeing. You may be the kind of person who loves to purge and revels in the opportunity, or you may be the sort who finds a special memory imbued in each piece of furniture and every little knickknack. You may find that the process of moving turns you from one kind of person to the other, possibly from day to day.
I’m still in the midst of this latest move and the boxes and bins and suitcases that I’m living out of after nearly a month at the new place are proof that the tactics offered below for efficient packing and moving go only so far. Our work schedules don’t slow down, the kids still need to go off to school each day. There are dinners to make and laundry to wash and those boxes in the basement or garage might just have to wait . . . and wait.
Best Packing Practices
That leads me to my very first, absolute-must rule for smart packing: Label everything! If it goes in a box or a bag or a bin or a suitcase, label it. Label a box on the top and all four sides. Then, even if it takes a while before you unpack, you’ll know what each box contains.
Have your supplies in order. If you’ve hired someone to do the packing for you, it may not be as critical. In addition to the obvious boxes, I suggest bubble wrap, foam wrap, stretch plastic wrap, lots of old newspaper, packing tape with a good dispenser, and Sharpies. Clear plastic bins with lids that you can reuse to stay organized in your new place are a good investment, and extra-large heavy-duty reusable moving totes with handles are excellent for soft items like linens, towels, bedding, throw pillows, and oddly shaped things that just can’t be squeezed into a box. They fold flat when you’re done. Also essential: Ziploc bags in every size from very small for jewelry (find them at the Sag Harbor Variety Store) to very, very large for pillows and the like.
When packing, keep like with like, and all things for a given room close together, labeling boxes with the room they’ll go in. This works to a point, but in the end you may just have boxes that say “RANDOM STUFF, GIRLS ROOM” or “CRAZY ODDS AND ENDS.” When you unload at the new place, keep like with like again. Unload all the boxes for the kitchen or the bathroom or your bedroom into the same area or room where they belong.
Start with the small stuff, and try to organize and purge as you go, selling or donating things you decide you don’t want. If you’re organized as you pack, you’ll be organized as you unpack, reducing the chaos factor. Organizing the little things, going through clothes and books, and getting all the kids’ sports equipment in order takes a lot more time than dealing with the big stuff.
Think as you do when you’re going on a trip: What clothing, toiletries, medicine, pantry items do you absolutely need for two weeks? Set aside a few bags, suitcases, bins with those things and pack everything else.
If you can, hire a moving company to deal with all the big stuff, and even most of the boxes. Your body will thank you. There’s the PODS option, if you want to pace yourself as you move all your things yourself, if you want a portable storage unit, or if you won’t be able to move things immediately into the new place.
On moving day, try to first load the things you’ll need first. They’ll be the last to come out of a moving truck, van, or the back of your friend’s pickup or S.U.V. and will therefore be the most accessible at your destination.
Be okay with takeout. This is not the time to get started with Whole30 or follow through on a New Year’s resolution to get in shape. Moving is exhausting, cooking takes you away from the task. When your friends or family ask how they can help, tell them they can bring you a meal — with paper plates.