6 Steps to Simplify Moving

posted by Andrea | 04/28/2015

Although Dave and I are oddballs and moved into our house the week before Christmas (yes, in frigid West Michigan), spring is actually the peak “moving season” in most parts of the country.

Already this spring, we’ve seen numerous homes go up for sale along our walking path… and I’m surprised how quickly many of them have sold. It must be a seller’s market where we live (although Dave and I definitely are not interested in selling!)

I’m often asked questions about how to stay organized when moving and/or how to simplify the moving process, so I figured it was time to do a blog post about it.

Keep in mind however, that I don’t have a ton of personal experience moving. Growing up, my family never ever moved. My parents still live in the same house I grew up in — and my dad owned that house before my parents were married (so yes, a long time!) I “moved” to college — if you can really call that moving.

I “moved” into my first house with Dave after we got married — but again, that wasn’t really a true moving experience because we hardly had to MOVE anything there. We mostly needed to accumulate things once we were moved in (it’s crazy how little we had when we first moved there!)

So my only personal experience truly moving all our possessions from one home to another was back in December of 2010 when we moved to our farmhouse. And based on that experience, I’m thankful we have no plans to move anywhere any time soon 🙂

That said, I have helped many other people pack and prepare for a big move (friends, family, and organizing clients) as well as unpack and put everything away in the new house. I’ll let you in on a secret, when it’s not YOUR stuff and YOUR house, the process of packing, unpacking, and organizing all the stuff is actually kind of fun!

Whether it’s for a new job, a relationship, more space, or a fresh start, moving can be a stressful and emotional time. After all, you’re not just boxing up pictures, toys, books, and clothes. You’re boxing up memories, stories and special moments. It’s stuff, but it’s also your life. It’s everything you own — valuables full of meaning — and it requires you to handle it with care.

If you have plans to move this spring or summer (or if you’re dutifully helping friends or family move) here are 6 tips that should simplify and streamline the moving process!

6 tips to simplify moving

1. Create a Plan and a Schedule

Moving can be a very stressful process… however, as with almost anything in life, having a plan in place should help things run a lot smoother.

Know what date you’ll be closing on your new house, know when you’ll get the keys, make sure you have it properly insured before you step foot in the door, figure out your exact move-in date, and rally up a bunch of friends or family members to help out.

Also, once you have your moving date set, start gathering medium-size boxes with good handles. We snagged a bunch of extra banana boxes from our local grocery store (they were the perfect size for so many thing), and we also got a bunch of FREE packing and moving supplies on Craigslist. When we were finished moving, we put all our  moving boxes back on Craigslist (for free) and ended up getting rid of them to a lady who lived down the street!

2. Purge, Purge, Purge

If you have a ton of old junk that you just don’t need or use anymore, consider using a local dumpster company to declutter your home before moving day.

Clearly, moving LESS stuff will be simpler, easier, and faster than moving MORE stuff — especially if it’s a long-distance move.

When we moved, it was only about 5 miles away (and we didn’t even have kids at the time). However, I can not even tell you how much stuff I purged, sold, donated, and trashed before the big day. And yes, it felt REALLY good!

Even after just 4.5  years of marriage, there were so many things we weren’t using, didn’t need, didn’t love, didn’t want, etc. etc. and moving was the perfect excuse to purge them all.

In fact, the year before we moved was the year I really started getting into Craigslist (with no kids, I had much more time to devote to online sales) and I actually made almost $10,000 that year selling furniture, home decor, yard tools, electronics, and other home gadgets we didn’t want to take with us. It took a considerable amount of time; but almost $10,000… I think that’s worth it!!!!

Oh, and once you purge, take a second look through everything and purge a little bit more. I guarantee you won’t regret it once moving day arrives!

3. Designate a home for everything you’re going to keep.

As you go through your things, try to picture where each item will live in your NEW home. If you can’t come up with a proper storage space for it, consider doing a bit more purging.

This might sound like a super simple tip, but it’s actually one of my best tips for simplifying the moving process. Whenever I help anyone pack for a big move, I constantly ask them, “Where will this go in the new house?” or, “What will you do with this in the new house?” or, “Where will you store this in the new house?”

If they can’t come up with an answer, they are much more willing to purge.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who just moved from a home with many small rooms to a home with a very open floor plan. She said that she never thought about the fact that she hardly had any walls in the new house, so a lot of the furniture, artwork, and wall decorations she had in her old house had absolutely no place to go in the new house.

She ended up selling and donating massive amounts of stuff within a month after moving — if she had just considered where her things would go in the new house, she could have saved herself loads of time and hassle moving those items twice.

4. Pack anything you can live without for a few weeks/months.

The tricky part of moving for me is that I’d ideally like to have everything packed up well in advance — but when you’re still living in your old house, that’s nearly impossible to do.

So for me, I like to start by packing up anything I know I can live without for a few weeks to a month — things like seasonal decorations, off-season clothing, non-essential kitchen gadgets, books, DVD’s, memorabilia, extra linens, etc.

Just leave the basics unpacked.

This exercise can also be really eye opening as to how much of our stuff we can actually live without for more than a couple weeks (possibly forever). I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve worked with (usually unpacking into the new home) who are so surprised that they never missed their favorite jacket, the extra toaster, the wine glasses, or the random decorations they had packed away months ago.

Often, they decided to donate or sell many of the things that had been packed away after realizing they could easily live without them. This brings me back to step #2… and how essential it is to PURGE as much as you possibly can before you move!

5. Pack your things with “unpacking” in mind.

As you pack your things, continually keep the process of unpacking in mind. Again, this might sound obvious to many of you, but it’s surprising how many people never consider this.

Although many of the rooms in your new home will function the same (or very similar) as rooms in your current home, there are bound to be some differences. If you consider this during your packing process, your unpacking process will be SO much simpler and more organized!

For example, maybe your children were sharing a room before, but they will all have their own rooms in the new house. If this is the case, make sure to pack each child’s things separately so you can unpack them separately into their new rooms.

You can even go so far as to label each box with the room it will need to be unpacked in (this will help a ton if you have friends and family helping you move).

6. Label Everything.

And speaking of labeling the boxes, please take the time to LABEL EVERYTHING as you pack. There is nothing worse than looking for one specific item in a sea of unlabeled moving boxes.

While I try to be very organized when I’m packing (all ‘like’ things together) that’s almost impossible to do towards the end when all the little miscellaneous things get thrown in the last few boxes 🙂

One idea I thought was pretty clever was to label each box with a number… and then take a picture of the contents. That way, you can scroll through your pictures until you find what you need — and then simply go to that number box. You could even go so far as to print off the pictures and tape them to the box.

Obviously, there are many other factors to consider when moving (like the financial and legal aspects — both of which can be quite stressful); however, when it comes to packing and unpacking, I hope these 6 tips will help to simplify and de-stress that part of the moving process!

What are your best tips to simplify the moving process?


Filed under: OrganizingHomeMisc.

Leave a comment


  1. Colleen


    I have an international move coming up and was happy to see Jennifer’s comment. Although I’m doing the packing myself. I’m feeling completely overwhelmed. I have 3 young children 6, 4 and 9 months. My husband has already left and I really don’t have anyone around to help or take the kids. Its taking all I have to just make it through the day with the 3 kids with feeding, laundry etc..

    We’re getting rid of just about everything except the house! As we plan to rent it. I’m hoping to keep our belongings to 2 pallets but possibly 3. I’m running around with my head cut off and nothing is getting done! (a side note too is I’m trying to sell as much as I can too as money is very tight which is part of why we are moving. My husband is from the UK so that’s where we’re heading back to. The good news is he already got a job and starts Monday! Yay!!)

    Any tips for getting this all done on my own would greatly be appericated!


    Andrea Reply:

    wow — this sounds crazy to me! but congrats on the big move!
    My initial thoughts were to go ahead and sell the house (especially since money is tight). That would be one less thing to worry about while living in another country — but I obviously don’t know the whole situation or reasoning behind why you’re keeping the house.

    Anyway, I think you’re smart to purge and sell as much as you can. You will always be able to find a good deal on whatever you truly “need” when/if you come back again — so just keep the memory stuff that you can’t buy again. !

    Happy moving!


  2. Jennifer


    I just completed an international move for my husband’s job. It was probably different from the experience of most people, since we had a packing company do the actual packing and moving, which of course simplified some of the work for us – but added the complication that we will be 6-8 weeks without most of our belongings, other than what we could fit in suitcases to take on the plane. So if any other readers are in a similar situation, here are my tips for a very long-distance move:

    – Yes to what Melinda said – pack a suitcase as if you are going on a trip, with the clothes, toiletries, a book to read, etc. that you would take on a trip, either for a few days or up to a couple of weeks so you don’t have to dig around in boxes for that stuff. Or, if your things are in storage or in transit, you won’t have access to the boxes anyway!

    – Make tons of lists as much in advance as you can, essentially thinking through every part of the process as thoroughly as you can beforehand. I made a list of easy meals that didn’t need storecupboard ingredients, so when I was in a new place without a working pantry full of food I would have some ideas for what to cook. I also made a list of ‘buy immediately’ items like soap, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. for when we first arrived, and this made it so much easier when tired from travelling but needing to get the basics for an empty home.

    – Make a master sheet of important addresses, phone numbers and the like. Ours had our new mailing address and phone number (which it took me a while to memorize), my husband’s new work address, our hotel where we stayed before moving into our apartment, and any important reference numbers like driver’s license. I carried that sheet of paper EVERYWHERE for the period of moving, and it came in so handy in filling out forms.


    Andrea Reply:

    wow — thanks for the tips! Hope everything went smoothly!


  3. Melinda


    We’ve moved a lot and the best tip I can offer is to pack a suitcase for each person, and pack it as though you’re traveling for a few days. No matter how hard you try to keep track of your clothes and that bathroom box, you will eventually get frustrated looking for them. These need to be kept with you at all times if possible.

    One time we didn’t pack suitcases because we thought a move across town didn’t warrant the time involved to do it. Boy were we wrong! We found that we still ended up searching for clothes & bathroom necessities anyway.

    Great post as always Andrea!


    Andrea Reply:

    YES, Dave’s parents did this when they moved cross country a few years ago too!


  4. Julie


    My tip for a short move that has worked for me twice in the past, is to pack dishes, pots, pans, etc in towels instead of newspaper. That way you can quickly unpack them, wipe down only if necessary, and your not spending valuable time washing clean dishes.


  5. Roxanne


    We did a lot of the same things you listed- we used printer paper boxes that my husband snagged from work and just used a sharpie to label everything that was inside, as well as to what room it would go in our new place. We tried to use up as much food as we could in the weeks leading up to the move and used paper plates and plastic silverware when we packed our real dishes away! It’s funny- you never realize just how much stuff you have until you’re forced to take *everything* out from every nook and cranny, then look around and wonder, “where did all this come from?!” 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    I know, I hope we don’t move for a LOOOOONG time because it’s just crazy how much stuff we accumulate over time (even with me purging all the time!)


  6. Nora


    We just moved across country. We knew that we would be renting first while we waited for our house to sell and figure out where we wanted to buy in our new state.

    I am so grateful that we invested in rubbermaid tubs instead of boxes. We had to move quickly with my husbands job and didn’t use any bubble wrap/packing paper. Not ,one item broke!

    Bonus is that they can be re-used for our next move. They also nest down and take up little space.


  7. Evie


    Hi, Andrea. This is not a moving question or comment, but the last photo in the post above made me remember something I’ve been meaning to ask you. What color and brand red paint do you use on your furniture?? I know I’ve read a post about it, but I don’t know where to find it. My entry doors are red, two different shades while I figure out what I want. One is BM Caliente and the other is SW Fired Brick. I like them both, but not well enough to commit to one or the other. I keep thinking maybe your red is *the one* and today YEAH I’m asking what it is. Thanks!


    Andrea Reply:

    haha –glad you like my red (however, keep in mind it probably looks different on my blog than it does in real life!

    That said, here’s the link to the post about my favorite paint colors 🙂


  8. Courtney Edwards


    Packing can be such a daunting task. I couldn’t agree more with your “Purge Purge Purge” philosophy. It’s so important to get rid of items that are out of date, broken or that aren’t used. I also love that you discuss packing with an unpacking mind. Unpacking is so much easier when you move with this mindset. Thanks for sharing! Courtney


  9. Jenny


    I’ve moved 8 times in the 15 years since I went off to college and have gotten pretty good at moving. Another thing to think about.. do you want to move your food? For most people that is a no so I stopped buying groceries about 6 weeks before I moved (other then perishables) by the time I moved I had very little food left but it made it easier to not have to worry about something breaking or leaking. I also set aside a little extra money for the last week before I move/1st week after assuming I’m going to get take out more often. It is nice to have that to look forward to.

    Also, computer paper boxes are great for moves. Depending on how much paper your office goes though it can be fairly easy for most of your boxes to come from there. They are a good size and because they are uniform it makes it easier to stack.

    The last time I moved I worked on de-cluttering during the week and would bring home an empty box or two each day. During the weekend I pack what I had decided to keep.


    Andrea Reply:

    WOW — that’s a lot of moving! You must be a pro!

    Also, I love your system of purging during the week and packing on the weekend. Sounds like a great way to prevent yourself from getting totally overwhelmed!


  10. Siobhan


    Two years ago our home was flooded by Superstorm Sandy..and we moved our family 6 times in 6 months. Had my house been more organized and decluttered it would have made that crazy process a whole lot less chaotic. We were lucky to be able to move back after 6 months and from that point on I have been a lot more intentional about keeping the house decluttered and organized. Your tips have been so helpful to me. We also hope to sell our home in the next year or so..keeping up with purging items will hopefully help in the long run.


    Andrea Reply:

    Sorry to hear you had to go through all of that. WOW! I’m so glad my tips and blog posts have been helpful for you — and yes, keep up with your purging!!!


  11. Amie


    My parents just moved from a house they’ve lived in for 17 years. A new idea my mom had – and it worked great…she has lots of framed pictures….she took pictures of the pictures on the walls – to remember how she’d hung them – in case she wanted to do the same in the new house. AND – the best thing she did – she took pictures of the key pictures in the boxes and taped them to the outside of the box – that way she knew the exact pictures in the box – so she could sort the boxes better – rather than labeling every box – “Pictures” and not knowing which was which. I loved this idea!


  12. Jody


    This is timely for me!! My husband is finishing his medical training in late June and we will have our sixth (and hopefully final) out-of-state move in twelve years of marriage during all his training. Purging what is broken, you still haven’t used or don’t expect to use is so important. All the boxes to unpack at the destination can really take a lot of time. keep your important documents handy (we will take our important files with us in our cars) because you may need to deal with something during the actual move. Like Andrea, I start packing a month before. Make sure you have boxes that will fit the items you’ll pack at the last minute–for us that is our bedding, a dvd player, etc. I test the items in the box to make sure it will fit, label it and put it behind the item so I can quickly pack it the night before or morning of the move.


    Andrea Reply:

    Jody, when I was reading your comment, I thought you were going to say “sixth and final child” and I was thinking “how does she do medical training and have 6 kids 🙂

    I’m sure moving 6 times during all of that wasn’t much easier though!