7 Tips for Packing for a Big Move

You got the new job, found an apartment to rent, and even have a few friends awaiting you when you move to a new city. But in the meantime, you’ve got an apartment of stuff to get from here to there. Here’s some advice to streamline the process.

1. Pack your things according to your transportation method and living situation.

Much of your packing strategy depends on how far away you’re going, whether or not you own a car (and if comes with you!), and the living situation that awaits you. First decide whether to fly or drive to your new home. If you already own large furniture and household investment pieces you love, a moving van rental could be most economical. But if, like most young professionals, you are just establishing your household, you may be better off flying.

You might choose to sell most of your things and your car, fly to your new city with two checked bags, and purchase the furnishings you need upon arrival. But if you own a car and your new place is less than a couple days’ drive away, why not load up what you can and reduce the need to shop on day one? Bonus: bribe a friend to make the drive with you — road trip!

If you’re moving into a group house to live with others, odds are you’ll need to bring less stuff. Check with your new roommates to see what’s there already. Group houses often maintain a magical eternal supply of pots and pans and furniture from tenants past. No need to drag along your low-quality futon from college if your house already has a worn-in couch. You may even be able to arrange a deal with your room’s prior tenant to buy off their stuff (i.e. a bedframe, mattress, dresser) — which could offer one less thing for you each to deal with while moving.

2. Get rid of it, don’t pack it.

Many people make the mistake of moving everything they own to their new city, regardless of its utility. A move is a great time to get rid of things that don’t suit you. Eliminate your non-essentials before you move, not after. Set aside the weeks before you move to take stock of what you actually want to keep. Your early 20s can be a wash of fast-fashion clothes and cheap dorm furnishings you don’t need at your new home. Cleanse your items now and gradually invest in better furniture and clothes.

3. Get the right supplies and make space.

There’s packing, and then there’s “putting things in boxes arbitrarily and quickly.” The latter is not proper packing. Take time to get organized before you move and you’ll thank yourself later. Allot more time than you think you need to pack up your current life and sell or donate unnecessary items. There are a whole range of non-profits who can use whatever you want to discard.

To pack properly, you’ll need basics such as cardboard boxes, bubble wrap for breakables, labels, and permanent markers. Post offices and office supply stores will have what you need; or consult your local U-Haul rental outlet. Grocery stores and bulk purchase stores such as Costco are great for obtaining free cardboard boxes. You’ll also probably want a staging area for your stuff, so clear a spot to keep yourself organized.

4. Pack in the way you want to unpack.

As you pack, organize your belongings by type, category, or room (i.e., kitchen items, toiletries, camping gear), even if they weren’t already in those groups. Picture yourself at your new home, setting up your belongings room by room or area by area. Label boxes so that you can find what you need quickly and easily.

5. Create an essentials box for your first night in your new home.

Imagine yourself in your first night in your new home: it’s been a long day of moving and all you want is to drink some tea, read a book, brush your teeth, put on some PJs, and crawl into bed. Make this process easier by putting those things all in one box. Let’s call it your “essentials box.”

This is the one part of packing that breaks the categorical packing rules I just mentioned. If all you need for your first 24 hours in your new home is in one place, you avoid rummaging between boxes to find what you need. Examples for the essentials box include: sheets and bedding, your phone charger, pajamas and toiletries, medication, a towel, snacks, coffee and basic breakfast foods, your laptop and a book, and clothes for the next day.

6. Hire moving help.

Moving your stuff alone takes time and with large items, might be impossible. In my college days I roped my family into helping me move in and out of my dorm. Now consider cutting the cord, sparing your dad’s back, and outsourcing the process to professionals. I’ve had plenty of friends help me move in exchange for beers and pizza, too, so that’s a good choice if movers are out of budget. Streamline the process by having everything 110% ready to go for when your help comes.

7. Plan a fun reward once you arrive at your new home.

It is tempting to immediately start unpacking your boxes until your new room looks like a bomb went off. But in my opinion, it’s worse to wake up to a room of half-opened boxes on your first day home. So don’t. Go slow and settle yourself before you start unpacking. Take a pause to arrive, congratulate yourself for getting there, say a prayer of gratitude for the new opportunity, do something nice for yourself, only unpack your essentials box (see tip 5). Then start fresh to tackle “moving in” the next day.


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