Although we have discussed picking up and moving a few times over the years, it has just never felt right to leave our abode. Sure, we can never predict where the road will lead us and know that things can change in an instant (never say never right?), however, we are content staying put for quite awhile.
Yet one of the hottest email topics I receive on a frequent basis, is more
cowbell moving tips! And being that I haven't personally moved in 14+ years, prior to the days of documenting and blogging, I don't have any posts to share. But my friend Sarah recently moved, and she did document her tips for us today. And for that, I am extremely excited and grateful. So thank you Sarah for saving the organized moving day! Here she is now.
Fall greetings, iHeart Organizing friends. As always, I’m over-the-moon delighted to be back on Jen’s corner of the blogosphere, which always feels like a home away from home. Speaking of homes, my husband and I were fortunate enough this year to build and move into our dream home.
For those of you who have built your own home, you know that this can be a prolonged process. We were fortunate that it only took about 5 months from initial planning to closing, and it would have taken longer if we hadn’t managed to sell our house in 3 days. I attribute this success to doing our homework when it came to prepping and staging our home.
I spent hours combing the internet for the best tips on staging a home for sale. I’m sure you’ve heard some or all of these:
- CLEAN - We gave our house a good deep clean from top to bottom, and made sure to keep it clean during the showing process.
- DEPERSONALIZE - I wanted potential buyers to be able to image themselves in our home. So while I love my ceramic cats and collection of tea pots, these are the kind of personal items that really turn off home buyers. But even beyond kicking out the kichy, depersonalizing extends to things like swapping out family photos to neutral subjects like lovely landscapes.
- DECLUTTER - We have pretty big living room and dining room furniture (inherited from my husband’s single days), and in reality the scale was just too large for the size of our town home. So we rented a fairly good size storage locker and moved our large sectional couch, a couple of dining room chairs, a small cabinet and a TON of boxes. Luckily my lovely sofa from my single days was still upstairs in my husband’s office and looked great in our living room, making it much easier to move around the space.
- GIVE IT THE SPA TREATMENT - White linens work amazing magic, making a space feel clean, calm and clutter free. I purchased some inexpensive white towels and shower curtains for staging our bathrooms (the towels were only put out on showing days) and our dark comforter was covered with a white blanket.
- HIGH QUALITY PHOTOS - If possible, you want your listing photos to look like an amazing lifestyle blog or after shots from a Property Brother’s re-do. If you don’t like the realtor’s photos, find someone in your life with a DSLR camera and a knack for great photos. Potential buyers will decide whether or not to check out your house based on those photos, so make sure your home looks like a must see.
When I packed the 20 or so boxes we put in storage before listing our home, there were a lot of unknowns: how long would it take to sell our house, how long would it take to finish the new house, would we have to stay somewhere temporarily, was I going to lose my mind? I knew some of our stuff might be in storage for a long time and many boxes would remain packed for a while even after we moved into the new house. So I knew I needed an excellent system for packing and moving that would enable me to keep track of where things were during this prolonged process and allow me to quickly locate exactly what I needed after we had finally moved into our house.
In the end, I landed on a three-pronged system: color-coding, a numbering system and a packing manifest.
STEP ONE: COLORED DUCT TAPE
The first part of the system was marking each box with a piece of colored duct tape. Every room in the new house was assigned its own color of tape. After I was finished packing a box, I would grab the appropriate color of tape and stick a piece on the top and on two sides. If you pick up nothing else let it be this: don’t just place the tap on the top of the box. You know what happens with boxes? You stack ‘em.
If you only put tape on the top of the box, bye-bye super awesome, easy to see color-code system. I also wrote the room name across the tape, just so the people helping us move wouldn’t have to refer to a color-key to know what room to head to. As a result, the movers quickly got into the groove and everything ended up in its rightful place.
I opted for duct tape versus just coloring a corner with a marker or using small office labels because I wanted the label to be highly visible. I picked up two packages from Amazon, spending about $30 to get 12 different shades.
I wrote the room name on the inside of each tape roll, to make it easier to remember which color to use.
I dumped the duct tape rolls into a bucket along with scissors, a packing tape dispenser and a couple of markers. Thus I could carry everything I needed with me while I was moving around the house packing, without having to go in search of items or run up and down the stairs.
I recommend both a regular black sharpie and a white sharpie or chalk pen. The white works better on the darker colored tape, helping to make the room name much more visible. I also kept a color key in the bucket for my husband’s reference.
In addition to a roll of tape for each room, one roll of duct tape was reserved for our “Day One” boxes. These boxes included the items we would need the first day and night we spent in the new house, to make sure we could address our immediate needs without having to unpack a lot of boxes or go out a buy items. This amounted to 3 boxes included:
- Bath towels and washcloths
- Kitchen towels and washcloths
- Disposable plates, cups, napkins and silverware
- Chef knife
- Cutting board
- Dishwasher tabs
- Dish soap
- Light bulbs
- Box cutters
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Cleaning supplies
- Laundry soap
- Dryer sheets
As a general rule I recommend packing things by the room, but these Day One items were an exception. As I was packing, I had a cloths basket set aside to corral these items as I came across them. I didn’t pack these items until the final day and I didn’t tape the box closed until we were literally heading out the door for the last time, to make sure I had everything. The first thing we did after closing was open these boxes. Well, after walking around and admiring the house. I had never done this for any of my previous moves and it made move in day so much easier.
STEP TWO: NUMBERING SYSTEM
In addition to assigning each room its own color of duct tape, each room got its own unique number. Like the duct tape, the number was added to the top and 2 sides of the box.
Some of you are probably like… um, you already color-coded, why did you to number all your boxes, too?
Good question! While the duct tape was about getting boxes to the right room, the number series was about knowing what was in each box. By the time we closed on our old house, our belongings were spread across our storage unit, the garage of the new house and our temporary lodgings. When move in day arrived, I wanted to be able to quickly access the items I needed to unpack immediately, like dishes and glasses, and be able to identify which boxes fell into the I’ll-get-to-it-when-I-get-to-it category, like books and décor items. It was the numbering system that enabled this and it saved my sanity time and again.
Rather than just labeling the first box #1 and going on down the line, each room got its own number series: the basement was the 100 series, the kitchen was the 200 series, and so on. This again was about making things easy to find. Our basement ended up with 37 boxes. Did I mention I have a lot of books…? If I had just gone in chronological order, those 37 boxes may have been #1, #47, #108, #205, etc. It would have made it a lot harder to quickly locate the box I was looking for. For example, when I recently went in search of my sweet niece’s birthday gift, I’ll I needed to do was scan the stacks of boxes for the one ending 36, which made it super easy to find. Without the numbering system, I would have had to unpack a ton of boxes or go buy her new gifts and hope those size 24 months clothes would still fit her by Christmas.
Which reminds me of a side tip on packing: be strategic about how you pack. Rather just going through each room and boxing up its contents, think about how your items will be used and stored in your future home. Will they live in new places in your new home? For example, wrapping stuff lived in my craft room in our old home but was reassigned to our basement storage room in the new house. Rather than packing the paper and bows with all my crafty bits and bobs, I tucked it in with other basement items. As a result, I avoided carting a whole bunch of stuff down the stairs. Since one of the goals with the new house was fewer stairs for me, this was a huge win and a time saver. I also recommend packing all your storage containers in one box (or in my case, 3 huge boxes). Even if you purchased or created something for a specific purpose in your old home, you may find a new use for it when you move. When it came time to start organizing in the new house, it was so nice to be able to look at my full collection of options and pick the one that worked best. As a result, there was a lot less going out and buying new storage solutions.
Using a numbering system and being strategic about how you pack your boxes definitely takes more time. When numbering the boxes, I had to find the next number in the series, label the box and add it to the packing manifest (we’ll get to that momentarily). I avoided so much frustration and wasted time, making any extra effort and time upfront well worth it. As with any good organizational system, time spent in the beginning pays huge dividends over time. And anytime my husband says “Do you know where…,” my reply is always “Yes!” and within minutes I can put my hands on requested item.
STEP 3: PACKING MANIFEST
And finally, the packing manifest. This is where people sometimes get a fearful look in their eyes and start slowly backing away. Don’t worry, I said manifest, not manifesto. I’m not crazy, my mom had me tested. (Not really… I don’t think). But it is true that I numbered every single box, bag and bin with its own number and added that number and a description of the box’s contents to my manifest. So I supposed that may be its own kind of crazy.
I set the manifest up in a spreadsheet and created 4 columns: room name, unique box number, description of contents and location.
While I didn’t necessarily name every item in the description, I did get pretty detailed. For example, none of my boxes said “kitchen items.” I wanted to know where the dishes were versus wine glasses versus cook books, so I could unpack boxes in a logical order based on need and organization. Like the unique numbers, this level of detail helped me find exactly what I needed when I needed it. For example, my new craft room doubles as my home office where I work from home 3 to 5 days per week. While unpacking my craft supplies is a work in progress as we build new work surfaces and storage solutions, I needed my office supplies. Being able to quickly search the packing manifest for “office supplies,” locate the exact box I needed using the numbering system and unpack just the items I needed was a huge help in the busy days after first moving in.
Here’s another quick tip: if you have to work in a room filled with boxes, and piles of boxes stress you out, pile them behind your desk so all you see is the lovely view out your window.
The final column, location, may not be applicable for everyone. Because our items were stored in a few different places, I wanted to know exactly where everything was in case I had to access something while we had packed away. We made sure we had important items with us when we moved to our temporary accommodations -- like passports, financial documents and items needed for closing on the house – but I didn’t want anything to be temporarily “lost” because we didn’t know where it was. Also, my husband waited about a week or so after we moved in to clean out the storage locker, so it was helpful to know what items I wouldn’t come across in the first week of unpacking.
Make sure to print out a paper copy of your manifest. Luckily we did this or a good part of that hard work would have been for naught. My husband is a computer loving guy, so all of our computers are networked in our home and content is saved on a shared drive. Somehow, when we shut the server down for the last time before moving out, part of the tracking spreadsheet didn’t get saved. If I hadn’t had the complete paper copy, I seriously would have cried. As it was, it was frustrating not being able to just pop open the spreadsheet and do a find for all items. There were some occasions where I thought an item had truly been lost because I just couldn’t initially find it when scanning the paper copy.
All that being said, you don’t need to do all three to up your moving game. Even the color coding alone, which is pretty quick, makes a big difference. Whether you hire movers or trick wrangle friends & family, color coding allows them to drop each box in the right room without having to go to the trouble of reading. While reading doesn’t seem like it would take that long, this little time savings really add up in the carefully timed dance that is moving day. My boss also liked the idea because she thought it would help get her kids involved in the process. The colored tape is not only fun but would tell them which boxes are theirs so they can help with the packing and unpacking process (if you dare…).
But if you will have items boxed up for a while in storage, in multiple locations or just in your home, this three-part system might be worth considering. It just might save your sanity, not to mention your very precious time.
If you’re still with me (aren’t you sweet!?), you may be asking yourself: why didn’t she just unpack all her boxes? It’s been 4 months… Our project list has been quite long since day one. Part of my vision for our dream home of course involved a lot of great custom storage options. Rather than going with the builder basic installs for closets, which let’s be honest totally fail to maximize space, we wanted to design and install our own storage solutions. Ditto for the mud room, laundry room and bathrooms. The combination of the color-coding, numbering system and packing manifest enabled a just-in-time system, allowing us to unpack only what we needed exactly when we needed it, rather than having to unpack everything just to get on the items we really needed. This freed us up to spend the majority of our time on the projects to make our house feel like a dream home.
Would I use this system again? 100% without a doubt. But hopefully I shouldn’t have to any time soon, because the only way I’m leaving this place is kicking and screaming.
One final quick tip before I go. My brilliant husband discovered that we could purchase gently used boxes via Craig’s list. They were delivered right to our house and were a fraction the cost of new boxes, plus reusing boxes made me feel slightly less guilty about all the packing materials I was going through. We still had to purchase some boxes from the big box store, but we definitely saved money on the move. We’re just now getting the last of the boxes unpacked and when we’re done, we can call the same industrious young fellow to come collect the boxes.
If you decide to use all or part of this system, I hope it helps makes your moving experience a little less stressful. I would love to hear about any improvements you discover. Or have you already moved and landed on a system that was the bomb-diggity? (Are we still saying that?). Thanks to Jen for letting me stop by and I hope everyone has a lovely fall!
"My name is Sarah and I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN with my husband of almost two years, Eric, and our two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Hermes and Brontë. I am a Communications Consultant by day and by night/weekend/any spare moment, I indulge in my passion for writing, crafting and organizing. I am honored to share with all you dedicated iHeart fans my tips, tricks and secrets for organized crafting, which will not only help you get control of your craft clutter but also allow you to make more efficient and productive use of your precious crafting time. While I am blessed with an entire craft room, I promise to explain how all the solutions I share can be tailored to your specific situation, whether it be a dedicated room, a small storage space or mobile crafting. In the meantime, Happy Crafting!"