A few months ago, Alex and I packed up our lovely home in Eugene and moved. While we are still working on getting settled here in Portland and so we don’t have advice to share yet on the process of moving in (those posts will come later!) we do have some tips to share that we learned from our experience of packing up and moving. I was inspired to write this post after reading Tracy of Shutterbean‘s posts about packing tips & tricks on her fantastic column High Straightenance on the collaborative website Homefries. The posts with Tracy’s great packing advice can be found here: Part 1 and Part 2. While Alex and I don’t claim to be experts on the subject (far from it) we learned quite a bit while we fumbled through the process, and hopefully our tips can help you out during your next move.
1. Start small
One of the things that helped me the most was focusing my attention on small projects. Often if I thought about all that we had left to do, I would get extremely overwhelmed – so instead, I would focus on going through just this one drawer. Or just the medicine cabinet. That’s all! Just get that one thing done. Having small, realistic goals helps prevent the paralysis that can come from trying to do everything at once. I promise, if you try to pack your whole apartment/house at once, you’ll end up frustrated and will probably just leave it for tomorrow. So start small!
2. Have enough supplies
This seems obvious, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to have enough supplies on hand while you are packing. It’s a pain to have to stop when you’re in the packing zone just because you don’t have enough boxes or tape. Here’s a list of the main supplies we used while packing.
- Boxes – You can definitely buy boxes if it’s easier for you but it’s really not too difficult to pick up boxes for free. You can ask stores if they have any out back and then go dumpster (recycling) diving. We got boxes from our university’s bookstore, a nearby shipping store, a grocery store, and lots of wine boxes from our good friends at Marché Provisions (thanks guys!). I’ve also heard Craigslist can be a good source for these. Get some various sizes to pack items of various shapes and weights, and tape the bottoms before loading them up. Get a lot more boxes than you think you will need. You will use them all and then need approximately one thousand more.
- Tape – Packing tape! The clear wide stuff. Get a roll that won’t stick to itself, because it will save you a bit of your sanity. Get lots of tape.
- Cardboard packing tubes – These are really helpful for packing posters, prints and other papers that you don’t want to damage in the move. You can just get a couple large ones and put all of your prints in them.
- Newspaper/Bubble Wrap – Newspaper is helpful when you’re stacking dishes or cookware. Bubble wrap is great for more fragile items like wine glasses. It’s kind of expensive, but worth it – you don’t want your stuff to break. You can also use the dishtowels and linens you’re already packing to cushion some less fragile items.
- Small plastic bags – I was surprised at how useful sandwich-sized plastic bags were to us while packing. It’s not a typical packing supply, but I don’t think I’ll ever move without them again. They’re great for corralling any group of small items that you wouldn’t want to just dump in a box as is – think pens, hardware for furniture, jewelry, keys, batteries, toiletries, craft and office supplies – and they can be labeled with masking tape and a Sharpie for easy identification later.
- Paper bags and plastic trash bags – Paper bags with handles are great for holding recycling when you’re sorting through stacks of paper, and for carrying random items (ask for some extra ones when you’re at the grocery store). Trash bags are also really helpful, not only for trash but also for bulky items like blankets and pillows. Both types of bags work well to hold Goodwill donations (don’t use your precious boxes!)
- Markers – This one is pretty obvious. Get big markers to label your boxes. Consider creating a consistent labeling system: we just labeled our boxes on a few sides so the label would be visible from different angles while things were stacked up, or you can be extra organized and try Tracy’s method of writing a brief description of what’s in each box.
3. Take all the help you can get
If someone offers to help you toward your goal, say YES. And enlist your friends and family for help! While packing up your stuff and figuring out what to keep may be tricky for someone else to do for you, you know people who can move large objects for you, or may want to buy or take your couch/table/clothes/kitchen stuff/etc., or drive you to Goodwill, or take a dinner break with you, or drive your moving van, or offer words of support. Take the help and be grateful for it.
4. You don’t need to keep that
I’m guessing that this will vary based on your own personal philosophy, and you’ll find your balance as you go. All I can say is that by the last stage of packing, I yelled to Alex in the next room, “Do you want to keep this?” and he yelled back “NOPE” without even knowing what I was referring to. Just realize that you may get to this point, and keep that in mind as you pack. People accumulate a bunch of stuff, and you may not really need to move all that stuff. Treat your packing as a cleansing process and try not to dwell too much on what to keep and what to get rid of. Sell what you can, donate the rest. Don’t weigh yourself down in your move with things to “go through later”. If you don’t want it in your next home, don’t put it in a box. Keep in mind the quote by William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
5. Remember to eat
This is a food blog, so I had to say this, right? Yet it’s so important. This is true for us at any time, but especially when dealing with stressful situations: if hunger creeps up, any existing stress is exacerbated and emotions get out of control. When your kitchen is in disarray and you’re on a roll packing, it’s really easy to forget to eat. Don’t do it! It can get ugly. So do whatever works for you – put out some pita and hummus on the table and grab a bite between boxes, order takeout, or take a break and go get a hot dog (we did all of these). Try to keep food on hand, too, that doesn’t require cooking (granola bars, pb&j, anything simple) so you don’t spend your whole security deposit on takeout. Are you sans table? Have a picnic in your living room! We had pizza, salad and wine on the floor on the last night in our place to say goodbye, and ate pad Thai on our mattress on the floor. Embrace the craziness. Just do whatever works, but make sure you EAT!
6. Enjoy the process!
Okay, this one is difficult. Packing and moving is an overwhelming and tiring process. But it can also be really exciting! It’s a chance to cleanse your life of unnecessary clutter and start fresh. It means you have a new home in your future. Depending on how early you start and how you treat the process, you can make it fun and not too stressful. Put on a favorite show (we watched hours of 30 Rock and Arrested Development) or some upbeat music as you pack, or have some takeout on the floor (see #3!). Try to focus on the positive instead of how much you have left to do (this can be tough). Start going through things early so you’re not rushing too much. Take lots of breaks – just work for a bit each day. Also, don’t forget to spend time outside of your home taking in the things you’ll miss once you move, like seeing your friends and going to your favorite restaurants.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful for you during any upcoming moves. Just remember that before you know it, the whole ordeal will be over, and you’ll be saying goodbye. Then you will soon be saying hello to a new home! Do you have any other tips for packing and moving?