A typical move into a new home usually ends with a chaotic mess of boxes everywhere,with little advanced planning for how to unpack after a move. Movers might help by unloading items all over every available counter space and scattered on the floor. You’re lucky if you can just throw everything into the drawers and shelves and deal with it later, much later, or perhaps never. But there is a better way.
Maureen Guzman of Katy Home Organizer has a better way, organizing and planning even before you move and continuing to organize from the moment you start unpacking in your new home. She’s found this “unpackanizing” helps her clients know where their most important stuff is right away and avoid the oh-too-common unpacking inertia that strikes those who lack a plan.
Planning for a Move
She suggests starting as soon as you know you’re going to move by going through your house, sorting and looking for things you no longer need. This will help avoid paying for moving stuff you really don’t need that ends up boxed up for months, or years, to come.
“This is time to get real about what you really use and don’t use,” she says. “It will set you up for better success on the other end.”
As you pack, set up a system that lets you know what’s in each box and what room it goes in. Mark what you’ll need first and either travel with it in your car or make sure it’s easy to access at your destination.
Once the move is completed and the boxes are in the new home, she says to prioritize the rooms you unpack first. Maureen recommends a specific order for getting it done.
Kitchen Organization: You already know what you have. Look around the kitchen and think about where you want everything to go. Use sticky notes on the cabinets with a brief description of what goes in.
Unpacking the Playroom (or Kids’ Room): If the playroom is a separate space from the bedroom, she recommends making this a priority over their bedroom. Getting the kids set up and entertained while you are taking care of the rest of the house is vital to parental sanity.
Setting Up the Master Closet and Bedroom: Getting dressed come Monday morning is important, plus the sooner you get the clothes out of boxes, the faster the wrinkles will fall out. You may be tempted to set up your kids’ rooms before yours, but kids are much more flexible and resilient. Put your oxygen mask on first; then your kids’.
Emptying Boxes for the Younger Kids’ Rooms: Little ones obviously can’t unpack their own things. If their playroom is in their room, this space may have already been done.
Tidying Up Older Kids’ / Teen Rooms: Fortunately older kids, even as young as 8 or 9, are fully capable of unpacking boxes. It will keep them busy while you take care of your own room. Have realistic expectations, though; after all they are still kids. They will still need you to help get organized.
Rooms to Unpack Last or Later
Unloading Bathroom Items: Other than toilet paper, soap and a hand towel, this room can be put off until later.
Putting Together the Living Room: This room usually is comprised of large pieces of furniture which are placed in location upon their arrival. Some moving companies will even hook up your TV for you. All that is left is to unpack are decorative items, which can wait until later.
Utility Rooms or Storage Space Assembly: Although these spaces won’t take very long to set up, it might be worth waiting until later to see what else needs to be added in from other rooms.
Unboxing the Home Office: Unless you work from home, this space can wait. It is typically a lengthy process to set up. In preparing for your move, create and clearly label a box with what is most important from the office that you will need right away. Move it yourself if you can so you don’t lose it.
Coordinating Garage Items: Usually the last space because it is where all the empty cardboard boxes go until recycling day, and we don’t live in the garage so it’s not a priority.
If you have shelving already in your garage, have your movers put the holiday decorations on the highest shelves for you. Think of your garage in zones (long term storage items, garden/ lawn, tools, outdoor activities, etc.) and direct movers to places boxes nearest the appropriate zone. In this way you are pre-grouping for when you have time to unpack.
Avoiding Unpacking Burnout
If you didn’t have time to purge and clean out before your move and now you have A LOT to unpack, don’t panic. Maureen says you can keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed and burned out by dividing up the work: start with one room at a time, set a goal for the number of boxes you’ll unpack and the time you’ll spend each day, and be realistic.
She adds to not be afraid to ask for help either from friends and family or hire a professional organizer to come in. Also, put on some music! “Music magically neutralizes unpleasant tasks.”
Above all, “celebrate your progress!” Maureen says enthusiastically. “Recognize your efforts and stay positive! Appreciate your new home for what it has, not what it’s lacking.”
Photos courtesy of Maureen Guzman