7 Steps for Staying Organized During a Move


Patricia Lee
August 18th, 2020

[ https://www.houzz.com/magazine/7-steps-for-staying-organized-during-a-move-stsetivw-vs~139697522 ]

Moving can be physically and mentally overwhelming in the best of times, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adds new challenges. The recommendations on social distancing mean you’ll need more coordination to manage your move to ensure that you and those working for you stay safe.
As professional home organizers, one of our services is managing the moving process for our clients. Here are seven strategies we use to help our clients stay organized — and that we recommend you adopt if facing a move yourself, pandemic or no.

1. Create a Master Plan and Schedule

Before diving into any part of the moving process, it’s important to understand the big picture of all the tasks that need to be completed and all the people who will be involved in each part. I recommend creating a spreadsheet or a calendar of events so you have a visual of the overall timeline as well as your current progress.
A defined plan can prevent you from getting buried in or overlooking any of the details. Having a plan also makes it easier to delegate tasks and manage the different crews that will be in your home. I recommend that you add to your schedule the contact information for key people involved, including your real estate agents, packers, movers, inspectors, architect and designers.
Tasks to include on your spreadsheet or calendar might be real estate agent meetings, packing deadlines, moving dates, inspector visits, donation pickups, trash removals, and utility cancellations and setups, among others. I also suggest you create corresponding to-do lists for each of these tasks.

2. Declutter Before You Move

Packing can be hard work. Most people must make decisions about which items to move and which to let go. This can be mentally exhausting, especially if you’re downsizing to a smaller space and have accumulated many items over the years. Your first instinct may be to pack everything and review belongings once you’ve moved. But I recommend putting in the hard work of decluttering before the move.
Decluttering before your move will make unpacking at your new home more efficient and less chaotic. Also, the fact is that many people find that they feel no urgency to declutter immediately after a move. Instead, they end up storing unopened boxes for long periods, eating up valuable real estate that could be used for other purposes. Plus, most moving companies charge by weight. If you need to declutter but don’t know where to start, it might be helpful to ask yourself if you like an item enough to spend money moving it.
Try to start your decluttering process as early as possible. It may take longer than you expect and you can minimize exhaustion by spreading out the work. Inevitably, you might not be able to decide on every item ahead of time, but do what you can to filter out unwanted belongings before your move.

3. Remove Unwanted Items From Your Home

When I declutter, I don’t feel relief until the items are actually out of my home. This feeling may be magnified during a move. Once unwanted items are gone, you’ll have more space to focus on what you’re keeping. In addition, you’ll eliminate the possibility of accidentally moving unwanted belongings to your new home. The pandemic does make removing unwanted items more challenging, but there are still many options:

  • Return items that belong to others. Many people have items at home that aren’t their own, such as kitchen containers, tools, books and clothes. I recommend you gather all these items and return them to their owners. This also applies to items your grown children have left behind. Have them pick up their items or give you the OK to dispose of them.
  • Charitable organizations. Before COVID-19, you really didn’t have to plan your drop-off to charitable organizations ahead of time. Now it may be more challenging to find an open location, so check ahead with your local organization on their hours and pandemic-related policies.
  • Junk-removal services. Many fee-based junk-removal companies are offering no-contact pickups. These services accept and coordinate appropriate distribution of almost everything — trash, donations, recycling, yard waste, large appliances, furniture and more. However, if you have hazardous waste, you may want to check with the company, as some may not accept it.
  • Waste management services. In preparing to move, you may create trash, recycling or yard waste that exceeds your weekly curbside pickup. Your waste management company may have services to handle the additional material. Some services may be included in your contract (such as a one-time courtesy annual dumpster) and others may involve a small fee (such as leaving a few extra bags of trash next to your bin). Check with your waste management company beforehand, as they aren’t responsible for anything outside the standard bins without previous arrangement.
  • Rent a dumpster. If you have either lots of trash or many large trash items such as old couches and mattresses, your waste management company may not accept these. If that’s the case, consider renting a dumpster. You won’t have to worry about bagging items and you can typically rent the dumpster for as long as you wish, allowing you to clear out at your own pace. If the dumpster needs to be placed on public property, such as a street or sidewalk, be sure to verify whether you need a permit.
  • Hire an estate sale company. If you prefer that someone else deal with the items you don’t want to keep, consider hiring an estate sale company. It will present your items for sale, give you a small percentage of the profits and help you dispose of the rest. Different companies offer different services, so be sure your desired services are covered in the contract.
  • Sales and consignment. Many consignment and secondhand shops are closed during the pandemic, but there are endless options for selling your things online. Some sites require you to list and manage the sales yourself and some will handle the entire process for you and even donate items that don’t sell. If your time is limited, consider selecting a company that will handle the full process. You may not earn as much, but it might be a good tradeoff for having more time to manage other parts of your move.
In addition to these options, there are many organizations that handle specific items. For example, schools may welcome office supplies, animal shelters may appreciate old towels, and specialized companies recycle textiles. Find your best match with a quick internet search followed by contacting the organization for its latest COVID-19 policies. If your time is very limited, hiring a junk-removal service to take it all away and distribute items as appropriate may be worth the cost.

4. Keep Track of Your Packed Boxes

When you’re ready to start packing, invest the time to track what you’ve packed. This will make it easier to direct movers when they unload at your new home or, if you’re the one moving your boxes, to know where to place items yourself.
I recommend recording the following information in a spreadsheet as you pack each box:

  • Box number and contents. Number each box and record the number on your spreadsheet. This will help you keep track of the total number of boxes to be moved and easily identify any that get lost. List the contents of each box on both the spreadsheet and the box itself. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should be specific. For instance, instead of writing “Kitchen Things” or listing every item in the box (which takes a long time), use short, descriptive labels such as “Baking Supplies” or “Summer Shorts and T-shirts.” Packing in categories will make labeling, locating items and unpacking easier.
If you’re short on time, you can skip listing the items on the box and just list them on the spreadsheet. But always number your boxes.

  • Room destination. Label each box with the room you want the movers to place it in. I recommend putting the room destination in large letters on the same spot of each box (such as the top) where the movers can easily see it. To make it stand out even more, I like to print the room destination on a white label, using a different font color for each room, such as green for the kitchen, red for the master bedroom, blue for the living room and so forth. The movers will be working quickly, so the clearer the label is, the less chance a box will be placed in the wrong room.
  • High-value and fragile items. Add to your spreadsheet an inventory of high-value items. Most moving companies consider anything worth more than $100 per pound to be high-value. Quality jewelry, valuable comic book collections, art collections, sterling flatware and currency are in this category. Be sure to complete the high-value inventory form provided by your mover so that if anything happens, you have the best chance of being covered for the full value of your loss.
Also label fragile boxes. Preprinted stickers are widely available and will save you much time by not having to handwrite “Fragile” on each box. Stickers may also be easier for the movers to see.
  • Box size. This isn’t too important to record, but we do record it for our clients. It’s just an extra step for identifying a box. It takes very little extra time to record the box size, and since the movers count this information, we like to keep track of it as well.

5. Pack Essentials for the First Few Days

You may want to pack some essentials to get you through the first few days in your new home without having to open a bunch of boxes. Label these boxes “Pack Last” and the movers will load these on the truck last, meaning they’ll come off the truck first. Of course, if your move won’t be completed in a single day, some of these items will need to travel with you and not be loaded onto the truck.
Include items needed to care for yourself and family members, including pets. I typically advise my clients to pack as if they were going on a short trip, including such items as:

  • Towels
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Toiletries
  • Pet food and supplies
I also recommend that clients include essentials to help them settle into the new home smoothly, such as:

  • Scissors and box cutters
  • Basic tools for furniture assembly
  • Tape measure
  • Pen and paper
  • Flashlight
  • Scotch tape
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Dish soap and sponge
  • Hand soap
  • Household cleaners
  • Disposable gloves
  • Trash bags
  • Paper plates and disposable or compostable cups and utensils
  • Shower liners and rings
  • Pillows and bedding

6. Keep Valuable Items With You

Some items should always stay with you and not be out of your possession, even during a move. These would include things like:

  • Important documents such as passports, deeds and trusts, birth certificates and Social Security cards
  • Medications
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Electronic devices and chargers, such as work laptops
  • Cash
  • Checkbook
  • Credit and ATM cards
  • Keys
  • Valuable, sentimental and irreplaceable items. For instance, while a large jewelry collection may be too much to keep on your person during a move, you should definitely keep irreplaceable pieces like wedding rings and heirlooms on your person.

7. Delegate as Many Tasks as You Can

Moving is an enormous job that involves both big-picture management and attention to small details. No one should have to do it alone!
Graciously accept help from friends and family who kindly offer, even if it’s something as small as asking them to drop off a meal on moving day. If your budget allows, entrusting certain parts of your move to professionals such as home organizers, expert packers and move managers can ease your burden and keep you sane amid the process.

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