My best tips for Packing and Moving

First of all–no, we aren’t moving anytime soon. This is completely out of the blue. I was listening to an old Joy the Baker podcast and they were talking about moving and packing. Yet I think I do have some helpful things to share about the packing/moving process. And today marks two years ago that we landed in Portland after our cross-country move from Brooklyn. It seems way longer than two years!

Now–all of my moving experience has been without pets or small children. That is a whole other beast, one that I have no ideas about.

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1. My best tip about packing and moving is to remember that it sucks. There’s no way to make it easy and beautiful and stress-less. Unless you are very rich and have an extra house you can live in while you pack up another one.

2. Are you over the age of 25? That means that you are a grown-up and it’s time to hire movers. The time and effort it will save you is SO WORTH THE COST. I hired the same company the three times that I moved while we lived in New York (Manor Movers). They were so fast and efficient. Plus they wrap/protect big items that you can’t fit in boxes. It made moving day so EASY. (Relatively speaking. Remember, moving sucks.)

The extra-grown-up option is to hire movers to actually *pack* for you. I hear that this is an excellent option for those with small children or babies. Leave the house for a few hours and come back to boxes all done up? Yes please!

3. I don’t know about you, but the idea of scavenging around town dumpsters looking for assorted grungy boxes makes me all anxious and shuddery. How long will it take to find them? How many stores do you have to go to? What if it’s the wrong day and the boxes are all gone? What if you don’t find enough boxes? What if they’re all too small for your stuff? What if you run out of boxes? NO THANK YOU. Buy yourself a pack of actual, new moving boxes from a site like this. They arrive at your door super fast, they’re new and sturdy, and you don’t have to go DO anything to find them. They have sets that include different, coordinating sizes, depending on how big a space you’re packing. Again, SO completely worth the cost. You can then flatten them on the other end of your move and store them for the next move. (I do this. While in Brooklyn, I kept flattened moving boxes under the bed, under the futon, and behind our dresser. And probably some in one of the closets too.)

4. Buy more boxes than you think you’ll need. If you’re anything like me, you are way underestimating how much crap you have. Even though I saved the boxes from the previous sets, I always needed another set of them! I just accumulate stuff over the years!

5. During the packing process, cull as much crap as you can. We stuffed my car completely full and actually stopped at Goodwill on the way out of the city, with another three big bags of clothes plus a few random things like my old printer and maybe a lamp. Books are a really easy thing to start with–you can always pick out 3-5 books each time to see the bookshelf, and put them aside for the donate pile. (Our Brooklyn apartment building had a little library shelf in the basement laundry room–so we could just drop our pile there.) Be ruthless with your clothes–as you’re taking them off hangers and out of drawers, ask yourself if you have worn it recently and if you reeeaaallly need it.

6. Organization…I remember reading someone’s smart idea about numbering each box and then keeping a master list of what was in each box. I was totally on board with that and did that….for about a day. Then I got lazy and/or forgot.

My strategy is generally just using a big marker (those box sets include a marker) and noting not just the room, but the contents. So instead of just writing “kitchen” on three boxes, for example, label one “plates and dishes”, another one “coffee maker and blender”, another one “mugs,” etc etc. Being specific is your friend on the other end.

Then there is this smart idea: tape that is labeled with room names! 4 Bedroom Labeling Tape I saw another tip recently about using these labels on the boxes, *and* labeling the appropriate doorways and entrances, so that it’s kind of a matching game as the moving truck is being unloaded. Easy peasy for you and for any movers who are working with you.

It’s helpful to put the boxes in the rooms they belong in; that way you’re not overwhelmed with unpacking your entire house worth of sixty boxes in one place! And if there’s an unpacked room that’s stressing you out–just shut the door. The boxes will wait. šŸ™‚

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7. The Important Box. This is my favorite packing strategy. You probably already know to keep your suitcase/backpack ready with your toiletries and changes of clothes. But what about small things that you really don’t want to lose in a sea of boxes? Put them all together in one Important Box. That box stays with you, it doesn’t go in the moving truck. I put things like my assorted charger cables, my passport, my main notebooks/planner, a book I’m reading, that kind of thing. So that box is a mess, sure, but I can rest easy knowing that the real stuff I need every day (or that I just need to know where it is), is with me all the time, nice and safe.

8. Take pictures. I learned this the hard way: take pictures of your new place before you unpack or unload your stuff, and take pictures of your old place when you’ve packed it all up. This is evidence of the state of your place before and after, in case you need proof of what you did or didn’t damage.

It’s also a nice idea to take a picture of your street, and your house/building from your street. Just to have as a record, just a picture of where you lived, where you built up lots of experiences and memories. Then of course, take a picture of your new street and the front of your new house. It’s kind of exciting to think about what kinds of experiences and memories you’ll have there.

9. The hardest part of packing up is the last 10%. You’ve got all the books, all your clothes, all the furniture, all the towels. But then…there’s this random assortment of other crap. It doesn’t really have a category, and I never know what to do with it. Half of it ends up tossed in on top of unrelated boxes (the top half of book boxes always end up stuffed with random stuff), and the other half has to get thrown into new boxes and labeled “misc”. The dreaded “misc”! Where does it go? Where do you unpack it? Why do you even have it?!

I don’t have any answers or tips or advice for that. (Other than that I know that if I culled better/more and collected less stuff, I’d have less of these leftovers!) If you do, I’d love to hear it.

10. Other moving options: renting plastic bins instead of buying boxes, driving your own stuff in a rented truck, or using a service like PODS. I think the bins idea is really neat, but you’d have to be moving in or to/from locations that have them. We thought about driving a rental truck for awhile. I looked around online and heard about some U-Haul horror stories and saw lots of recommendations for Penske. So I called Penske and made a reservation just in case, and found their service to be fantastic, and the rates very reasonable. We did decide to use PODS instead and drive my car, though, and it was very simple to cancel the reservation. (I was kind of sad to do it, though!)

PODS was overall a good experience for us. However, apparently there is a special city division that I talked to at one point who gave me a clear window for when to have the POD delivered and picked up the same morning–and then on subsequent calls they had no idea what I was talking about. I was like, DUDE, you can’t drop off a 16 foot storage container on a Brooklyn street for a month! Thankfully it all ended up working out, but just be aware of that if you want to use them in a big city.

We waffled on whether to drive a truck, or drive ourselves (since I had a car) and use the POD. Like I said, we went with the POD. The rental truck was way cheaper, but there were additional costs to consider: would have taken a lot of gas money (moving trucks get TERRIBLE gas mileage, versus my little car that got 30mpg on the highway), it would have been harder to drive/park, and maybe harder to take random side trips on the way. Not to mention: we would have either had to ship the car (which was $1000-1500), or tow the car behind the truck…which would have been possible, but a huge pain in the ass for sure. The total cost difference between the two ended up being only about $1000. Which yes, it’s a lot of money, but reducing the hassle and increasing the adventure was worth it.

11. If you can, make it an adventure!

We got to drive across the country! We visited my husband’s family and some of my cousins, saw a number of beautiful national parks, dipped our toes in the Mississippi, and almost broke down on the side of the road under a blazing western Nebraska sun. Adventuring all over the place. šŸ™‚ It was extra special knowing that our babies were ‘with us’ on the inside, and that it would be a long time before we could do an adventure of this level again, so we tried to soak it up as best we could.

However, as exciting and fun as road trips are….they can be REALLY boring at times. Especially on the Midwest, when the entirety of the directions were “Continue West on I-80.” šŸ™‚DSC_5626_WEB

At some point we’re going to have to move again, so I’d love to know your best moving tips to add to this list, so please leave a comment below!

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2 thoughts on “My best tips for Packing and Moving

  1. We moved this summer with an 18 month old. Oh heavens, it was an experience.

    We ultimately hired a moving company. We packed everything except the kitchen. The movers did that. Best. Decision. Ever. The nicest thing about our company was they gave us “free” boxes, packing materials, and tape. We just had to call and they would drop off a load of boxes. It was so nice not having to scrounge for boxes.

  2. Plastic moving boxes that you mentioned are definitely the way to go if you are moving locally (can’t use them for interstate moves). There are a couple of companies in PDX that rent them (not us) but if you do use them, or know somebody who will, we shot some “moving tips” videos showing the boxes here: http://www.elfboxes.com/moving-tips

    We’ve been to Portland the last couple of years for the World Domination Summit. It’s a cool city, you will love it there.

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