Part 3: Getting Started and Getting it Done

This is a moment that can be very overwhelming no matter how well you have planned. Attacking the packing in an organized manner and completing one whole area of your home at a time can reduce anxiety and bolster your confidence as you see you accomplishments stack up, literally. Decide where to start, lay out your supplies, put on some music, and take a deep breath. You are ready to begin.

  • Leave most of your boxes flattened but build a few of various sizes. In the kitchen and the garage you will find items of all sorts of shapes. Having a few different size boxes open and ready can help you visualize better and make the best use of the space. Don’t try too hard to pack only one box at a time, it can be limiting and you’ll waste time playing Tetris with things that just don’t fit.
  • When you build a box, tape the bottom like you mean it. I had a client pack her fine china into a box with the bottom simply folded closed. When I picked up the box it almost all fell out the bottom.  It was ugly and she was legally liable because she had packed the box. I’ll say it again: tape is cheaper than almost any of your personal belongings.
  • Use what you have around you. Roll knives in placemats, stuff towels in around pictures, pack the fragile decorative  pieces with throw pillows from the couch. Use your ingenuity and imagination to conserve packing supplies and afford great protection to your goods.
  • When it comes to junk drawers be honest with yourself. If you are never going to sort it, dump it in a shopping bag, tie it up, and throw it in a box with the other bagged junk drawers. We won’t judge you and it unpacks very quickly in your new homes’ junk drawers.

The Garage: An area of special interest. The garage, is one of the worst places in any home to pack. Camping gear, tools, fishing tackle, and the like are all over the place in terms of size and weight which can be challenging. The tendency of many people is to ignore the garage until the last possible moment or to glance out there, see some totes on the shelf and think that the garage is basically ready. This is a mistake. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to getting the garage ready for a move:

  • Pull that stuff down from the rafters, lest it be forgotten.
  • Place tools in small boxes, just like books or other heavy items.
  • Get large boxes and fill them with tackle boxes, tents, larger hand tools, etc.
  • Make sure all the totes and pre-packed boxes are sturdy and sealed just like the other boxes. Just because it is in a box now doesn’t mean that box is a moving box.
  • Wrap yard tools and brooms together in one giant bundle with stretch wrap or tape. That way you can move all of them at once, instead of two at a time.
  • Discard all old chemicals and cleaning solutions properly before moving and pack only the solvents you need into a specially marked box. Movers like me can’t legally haul hazardous chemicals and will likely ask you to move them yourself. Don’t take anything you don’t need.
  • Break power tools down into their smallest components. If your table saw is calibrated, you’ll need to re-calibrate it at the new place anyway. Remove the fragile and sensitive parts and pack them securely. Tools are expensive. Remove all blades from saws that don’t fit in boxes. This is for the safety of you and your moving helpers.
  • If you want to move shelving, empty it. For some reason many of my male customers assume we can move shelving with 400lbs of stuff on it. This is not true, even if the shelving unit is on wheels.
  • Sort and discard!!! The garage can be such a catch-all and is tough to pack anyway. Get rid of all the things you don’t want or need before beginning to pack the garage.
  • Clean stuff. Why get filthy in the process of hauling your old dirt to your new home. If you have muddy tires on the wheelbarrow, greasy tools, dusty woodworking tools, etc., clean them up while you’re preparing the garage and outside areas.
  • Be understanding. Maybe you intend to finish that hot rod someday, but for now you are faced with moving a frame on wheels and 10 large crates of parts. These are not “ordinary” household goods. Don’t let your friends or the movers get hurt trying to move something that should  have been done with a hoist and a special truck. If you have some item of extraordinary weight or size, plan ahead and research your options well before move day.

The Patio, Porch, and Yard: This is the hand-down most often overlooked area of the home when it comes to moving. Though there is not typically a lot to pack in these areas, there is some key prep work that can make a huge impact on move day. A lot of what is kept outside is patio furniture, fountains, gardening tools, statuary, and plants. All of these things get dirty and are tricky to move.

  • Hose it down!! Things get dusty, dirty, muddy, and slimy outdoors. Cleaning all your outdoor décor a few days before move day will make everything easier and more pleasant to handle. You may also prevent a run in with angry spiders, snakes, or scorpions depending on where you live.
  • Dry it out. If you are moving a fountain, disassemble it, clean it, and let it thoroughly dry before you ask anyone to help you move it. Fountains are heavy and awkward. If they are slimy, they might slip and break or hurt someone.
  • Clean your grill and disconnect the propane. Don’t move a grimy, greasy grill to your new yard. Also don’t let the overflowing grease cup spill in the truck on the way and soak all your other possessions with the remains of meals past.
  • If you’re going long-distance say goodbye to the plants, if you’re staying local get a pickup truck. Plants don’t survive well in moving vans and no mover is allowed to haul plants over state lines. If you have large plants that you want to keep, plan for that. Have the right truck or hire a landscaping crew to move them. Definitely don’t water plants the night before a move as this makes the dirt become mud and add lots of weight to the pots.
  • Clear the shed. The shed may be made of super lightweight plastic, but when it contains 4 broken-open bags of potting soil, 15 ceramic pots, rakes and shovels, etc, it is no longer lightweight and is not ready to be moved like that.
  • The Hot Tub: call a professional spa service. Period. If they brought it in with a crane when you bought it, you and your buddies probably should not try to just “lift it over the fence.”The other option is to leave it for the next guy.

The Kitchen: This is usually the trickiest room inside the home to pack and prep for moving, partly because it is one of the most functional rooms, and partly because there is so much storage in the kitchen. The kitchen always takes a long time to pack, even when you have help. I suggest doing the kitchen in stages, starting at least a few days before the move and keeping a few boxes handy for the last few items you’ll need the morning of the move.

  • Start with the obscure. The Christmas dishes, the ice cream maker, the peculiar gadgets, and wedding presents you seldom used can be packed weeks in advance of move.
  • Thin the herd in the pantry. Check dates on boxes and cans and toss out anything expired. Donate the cans and non-perishables that are still good but that you don’t want to keep.
  • Box the decorations. A lot of people have special kitchen décor, be it saved wine bottles, old jugs, artificial plants, or old-timey cooking implements. These things can be boxed up and removed from the living space early on.
  • Double check all cupboards and under the stove. There’s always an extra box worth of stuff hiding in every kitchen that appears packed.
  • Keep 2 meals’ worth of dishes (and of course the coffee maker) out and unpacked until after breakfast on the day of the move. This goes a long ways toward helping maintain a sense of normalcy while everything else is being packed up and moved around.
  • Leave all the cleaning supplies unpacked and leave a box or two behind to move them after the old kitchen and the old house have been cleaned.

Books, Files, and Media: There are only two rules when dealing with books, CDs, DVDs, files, documents, etc.

  • Put them in small boxes. They are small, but they are heavy compared to other things. If you toss you entire family’s music collection into large box, don’t be surprised when you can’t move it or the box disintegrates. A bookcase with 6 shelves will fill about 8-10 small boxes with books.
  • Yes, you have to empty the desk/file drawers into boxes that you must  seal and label. The same goes for the workbench, utility table, nightstands, and safes.

Kid’s Rooms: Depending on the ages of your little ones the kid’s rooms could be pretty easy to pack and prep, or your children could be teenagers. This is a list of a few general tips for getting kid’s rooms ready for a smooth transition.

  • If you built the crib, you should disassemble or collapse it prior to moving. If it took you and your buddies 24 beers and 3 hours to make this crib stand on 3 and a half legs, it may take a little bit of trial and error to make it move-ready, too. Remember, many things built within rooms don’t fit through doors when fully assembled.
  • Bunk beds are always trickier than they look. Plan ahead and take it down before the day of the move. If it was tricky to build, take pictures as you take the parts off, keep the nuts and bolts separated and organized in kitchen storage bags, and write yourself notes if you have to. All this may seem dorky, but it’s a lot cooler than fighting with your spouse in front of sleepy kids at midnight after you’ve been moving all day.
  • Help your kids pack and help them decide what to keep and what to get rid of, don’t just force them to throw things away. If you think of how stressful moving can be, imagine how it is for your children. Keeping them informed and involved helps them understand what’s going on and makes it feel like it they are part of the situation. This in turn tends to make kids and teens more helpful and less likely to act all crazy during the process. Very young children in particular need a sense of control. Help little ones pack, label, and carry a special box with their favorite toys. You’ll be amazed at how much that can smooth the whole situation.
  • No matter what age your child is, don’t just toss them some boxes and say, ‘go to town.” Packing and moving are major life skills and this could be an awesome opportunity to teach young people some valuable lessons about caring for homes and belongings, spatial relations, and why you never buy the cheapest tape.

Dining Room: This can be a breeze or a challenge depending on the level of décor in your home. This room tends to have many decorative pieces that are fragile, as well fine china and silver. Use the Disk-Packs and Cell Kits and lots and lots of paper to protect the expensive and fragile items found in the dining room. Here are a few quick packing rules that will ensure grandma’s gravy boat remains intact:

  • Pack plates and saucers vertically. Wrap each in paper, or specialty foam envelopes and stand them on their sides in the box. Plates placed horizontally could crack under the weight of plates above.
  • Fill void in vases, glasses, stemware, etc. Crumple paper and stuff into hollow spaces in mugs and glasses and such. This creates internal support and helps resist breakage. Do not stuff it with such force that the glass breaks in the process. It can be done and quite defeats the purpose.
  • Wrap the stems of stemware with folded up paper, to make a more uniform shape. Part of the fragility of wine glasses and champagne flutes is their shape. By filling the voids of the stem and the cup, you’ve made a more solid object that can be packed more snugly and securely. A well-wrapped wine glass should be almost indistinguishable from a well-wrapped pint glass.
  • Fill all strangely-shaped voids with paper or padding. No matter whether your packing 600 cruets (decorative glass genie jars with glass stoppers) or a large brass sculpture, the spaces can be deadly. Paper can offer more support and protection than you’d think. Just remember that the more cubic you can make something, the better it will move.
  • Figurines. You can roll these in healthy bundles of paper, and stack them in small boxes carefully. Err on the side of caution in general with really fragile items.

Decorations in General: Though you could probably just move your Led Zeppelin poster from the garage rolled up, the original oil on canvas passed down from your wife’s great grandmother could probably use a bit of attention. When possible, put mirrors, paintings, and large photos in Mirror-Pack boxes, made for just that. Line the corners with crumpled paper and place as many in one box as will fit. For other types of décor items, use common sense and lots of paper and bubble wrap to protect fragile edges and surfaces. Really fine paintings on canvas may require specialty acid-free packing supplies so make sure you research that before packing any oil paintings in normal paper.

Bathrooms: The only quick and easy rooms to pack in the house. Put it in small and medium boxes! Very few things in the bathroom are fragile except decorations. But you packed those already in nice boxes with lots of paper, right? If it’s the master bathroom, keep your individual things individual. It will help greatly when it comes to unpacking.

Remember to toss out any expired medications!

Linen Closet: The other easy one. Get large boxes and stuff them full of linens! They don’t weigh a lot and you can squish many a blanket in to a large or extra-large box.

Coat/Master Closets: Pack the loose items in to large boxes, but don’t worry too much about trying to pack these. Get Wardrobe boxes (often rented or provided by the movers) and quickly transfer your hanging clothes from the closet to the bar in the Wardrobe box, and on to the bar in your new closet. Fill the bottom of those boxes with shoes and loose accessories.

Jewelry and Small Valuables: Always pack these yourself and move these yourself. Be responsible for your most expensive and irreplaceable objects.

Very Special Items: Not every home is the same, but most people have dining tables, sofas, TVs, etc. There are some things items that are rather unique and may require special materials or knowledge before they may be handled properly. One example would be a home recording studio. The equipment used in recording is expensive, heavy, and fragile and most studios contain thousands of feet of cords. Other examples might include salon equipment, a collection of historical artifacts, drafting/designs tables, stone polishing tools, tanning beds, or artworks and supplies. Any of these can be moved successfully but since they are less common it is a good idea to be involved and thorough in their preparation. Do not expect your friends or movers to have prior knowledge of your specialty items. Help them out by being organized, prepared, and informative when it comes to those off-the-beaten-path rooms and goods.

There’s more to packing and I could go on for days on specifics. The general rule is that no matter what it is, if it can be sealed into a proper moving box, it should be. You can email me anytime with questions on how to pack certain things and I’ll gladly offer advice, perhaps even a rough diagram of sorts. Packing is important, but it is only the first step. At some point, you or a hired mover has to carry everything you own out the door, drive it somewhere and put it all back in a new home.