Where Do I Start Packing for a Move?

Johnna Kaplan

Even when they’re positive experiences overall, major life changes, like moving into a new home, can be overwhelming. Just the thought of getting all that stuff into all those cardboard boxes and coordinating all the little details of getting from Point A to Point B can be enough to make you want to never move again. But when you understand exactly what moving entails, and plan for it properly, the process really isn’t that bad-we promise.

The Extra Mile’s moving guide was created to help you take the guesswork out of this complex process. And that begins with one of the first questions you may ask yourself when planning a move: where do I even start?

Plan and Prep for Your Move

When starting to plan a move, think of the process as starting eight weeks prior to your actual moving day. You can of course start earlier if you prefer; or, if you don’t have eight weeks to plan, you can adjust this timeline to fit your own circumstances. In fact, figuring out your own individual timeline is part of the process. And remember that things will always come up that will slow you down or force an aspect of your plan to speed up along the way, so this timeline is only a guide.

In the first four weeks, you’ll be doing less packing and more planning. Think of this as your Plan and Prep Phase. During this time, you’ll be getting ready so that when the real mayhem of moving starts, you’ll be prepared. Here’s what you need to do during this phase:

  • Decide whether you’ll hire packers/movers or do it yourself.
  • If you are hiring movers, contact companies for quotes.
  • If you’ll be renting a storage unit for the move, or clearing out a unit you currently rent, make those arrangements now.
  • If you need to hire anyone besides movers to help in your packing process (e.g. house cleaners), or if you are sending large items like carpets or furniture out to be cleaned or repaired, do this now.
  • If you’re asking for help from friends or family, make arrangements now so no one feels pressured at the last minute.
  • If you aren’t having professionals pack your things, figure out where you’ll get your supplies, whether you’ll buy packing materials or find free ones, etc.
  • Acquire your packing supplies.
  • Declutter your entire home, removing everything you will not be taking with you. Go room by room-or by type of item –to break down this process into manageable chunks.
  • Get rid of the items you aren’t packing. This might involve holding a tag sale, throwing away or recycling items, taking things to a donation center or arranging for a charity to pick them up, listing items for sale, or giving things away to friends or family.

Packing for Your Move

How long packing will take you depends on many factors, including the size of your home and how minimalist or maximalist your décor is. Assuming you’ve already cleared your home of clutter, the general rule is to leave one to two days per bedroom of the house, i.e. one or two days to pack up a studio apartment and four to six days to finish a four bedroom house. If you’re not accustomed to packing, if your home has many storage areas, or if you like to work slowly and methodically or take frequent breaks, estimate that it will take you considerably longer. This is especially true for rooms that contain many small or fragile items, like bathrooms and kitchens. You may prefer to power through and pack very quickly, but you may find it takes you many days to fully pack a room. Either way is fine, and this is just one more reason why it’s so helpful to give yourself plenty of lead time before moving day.

Before you pack up anything, get all your supplies ready. This way, you won’t have to rush out for last-minute extras. (Well, you probably will, because that’s life, but it will happen far less frequently if you’re well-prepared!) You will need:

  • Boxes
  • Packing tape
  • Packing materials like newspaper, tissue paper, and bubble wrap
  • Stickers, paper, and/or pens for labeling your boxes
  • A receptacle for items you decide not to bring with you (Even if you declutter thoroughly before you begin packing, you’ll probably uncover a few things during the packing process that can be donated, sold, or thrown away.)

Four Weeks to Move Day

Four weeks before you move, you can start packing certain items. The best ones to start with are those you know you won’t need again until after the move. Start packing up:

  • Storage areas, like your attic and basement
  • Other places where you keep extra supplies like the garage, shed, or closets
  • Out of season items (e.g., if you’re moving in the summer, heavy sweaters and winter boots can be packed ahead of time)
  • Tools and equipment that won’t be needed again before moving day
  • Any collections or display items you don’t actually use

Three Weeks to Move Day

Three weeks before you move, continue to pack display items like artwork and home décor objects. Also pack anything you don’t need on an everyday basis. This will probably include:

  • Most of your books
  • Music
  • DVDs
  • Tech gadgets
  • Office supplies
  • Hobby equipment
  • Specialized kitchen equipment and other things you use less frequently

Two Weeks to Move Day

Two weeks before moving day, packing gets serious.

  • Start tackling the kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets, as well as electronics and other valuable and fragile items.
  • Go through drawers and cabinets to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. (Check easily-overlooked spots like the top shelf of the closet and the drawer under the stove.)

As you pack, make a conscious effort not to box up things you’ll be needing in the coming days or during the move itself. For example, when you pack the linen closet, be sure to leave out a set of bedsheets so you can change the beds. In the kitchen, leave out enough cookware and utensils to get you through the next two weeks. And keep essential, everyday beauty products and clothing separate to ensure you don’t pack them.

One Week to Move Day

This is the final stage of packing and cleaning. Now is the time rooms should start emptying with an official stamp of “complete.”

  • Pack up loads of laundry as you finish them, then pack up the laundry room.
  • Pack any items you won’t be needing in the next few days.
  • Remember to leave out what you’ll need on moving day, like last-minute cleaning supplies, snacks, and clothing.
  • Start assembling a bag of moving-day essentials; if you’re moving long-distance, make sure you pack everything you’ll need for however many days you’ll be in-between homes.
  • Be careful to not pack away documents and other necessities relating to the move itself.

One to Two Days to Move Day

Start taking apart furniture and getting ready for the move. Complete packing the remaining household items you have been using. Plan simple meals to minimize the items you’ll need for cooking and eating. (If necessary, buy a small stash of paper plates and cups to get you through this time.) Pack up curtains, area rugs, and other furnishings. Finalize your bag of essentials, which should include:

  • Toiletries
  • Two days’ worth of clothes (or possibly more, if you’re moving long-distance)
  • Any medicines you take, glasses and/or contact lenses, etc.
  • Essential documents
  • Snacks and water
  • Phone and charger

Move Day

You’re probably feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at this point, but this is an exciting moment: it’s almost over! Pack your bed and bedding, and any remaining medications and toiletries not going into your essentials bag. If you have pets, double-check that you have everything they need for the move. Also make sure you have snacks, drinks, and paper goods handy for yourself and your helpers, and keep supplies out for last minute cleaning once the home is empty.

Although unexpected snags can always come up in a transition as complex as packing and moving a household, advanced preparation and good planning will set you up for a move that’s as painless as possible. We hope this guide will help you break the packing process down into manageable pieces, and maybe even enjoy the adventure of moving to a new home.

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