Whether you are a frequent mover like I am (college does that to a person), or getting ready to move after being dug in for awhile, there are a lot of the same challenges to address. The amount of stuff you have, how transportable that stuff really is, and how to get all that stuff ready to go can be a lot to conquer.
Take this approach one task at a time – most people freak themselves out, and are either too overwhelmed to get started, or bounce around too much to get anything really completed.
My approach to these issues is pretty straightforward. Like should go with like, and never rely on your memory. Also, label everything.
*** This is a storage-bin based approach. I tend to keep my bins around all the time, with the items inside. It keeps everything cleaner and of course, are easier to move around.
As you go through this process, you will always be bouncing around. Going through drawers of random items is going to cause that. Make sure that you can access all of the bins/boxes you’ve created for the entire process. Everything needs a home, and should go to a home- this requires patience and discipline, but it is totally worth it.
After nine moves in not quite seven years, I have learned a few things.
I only have a few supplies that I like to use:
– A really big Sharpie
– Broad-width masking tape
– Notebook paper & a pen
– Sturdy, medium-to-heavyweight Rubbermaid storage bins.
(The clear ones are nice to be able to see into, but I find that the plastic gets brittle and breaks more easily. The silvery ones seem to have the most rubbery and durable. Don’t go for the biggest sizes either. If a 4-year-old could nap inside of it, it’s too big. They are harder to fit into cars and closets at that size.)
These are my mainstay, they come in various colors, but silver/gray is the most common.
For all of the various bins and boxes, you should do a few things.
Use masking tape strips to make a place to label what’s inside. You likely will re-use the bins at some point, and you don’t want to constantly be scribbling out what was there before. Write large, and label two sides. That way, no matter how things are stacked, you will be able to read what’s inside.
I like to tape over any holes, at least in the plastic bins, as I am scared that bugs will get inside and chose to live in my clothes. There generally is at least one hole on either side, where the handles are. I think they are to make it easier to put on/remove the lid when the pressure changes.
Make a manifest. This has been the single most helpful thing I have learned to do. As I pack a bin, I write down every single item, in detail, on lined paper and tape that paper to the inside of the lid. If you are ever searching for one item in particular, you will know right away that you are on the correct track to find it. I cannot express enough how helpful this has been.
Try not to over-stuff the bins or boxes. They may seem like they can fit more, but if they start to bow out, the lids won’t fit right, and things won’t stack well. They tend to start caving in if the lid isn’t seated properly.
Start pre-moving a few weeks in advance. That way, if you need a break, you can take one in good conscious. When you are on a deadline and feel rushed, you are far more likely to just toss stuff in boxes, which will only perpetuate your problem. And you have more time to give items away to the proper places. (Books to a library book sale, clothes to Goodwill, furniture up on Craigslist, etc.)
I personally like to begin with out-of-season items. That way, I know I won’t need what I just packed.
Pull out all of the items you aren’t using and won’t use for a few months. Wash everything that needs it and mend any tears or button or whatever. You have time to make things right, so do it!
Any items that don’t fit, won’t fit or are missing a mate, either set aside to donate or trash. Mittens that haven’t found their mate in three years aren’t likely to this year either. Don’t trash things yet though – by sorting through your whole house over the next few weeks, who knows what will turn up. Just put the strays in a box in the corner, and the to-be donated items in another spot.
Fold and place each item in the bin, recording them as you go. That way you will be able to glance at your list and know that the first items listed are going to take some digging for.
Label the bin, and stack it somewhere accessible.
Move on to decorations, either event-related, holiday or stuff you have for your everyday home, but aren’t currently using.
Follow the same process as with the clothes. Pack carefully, as you are going to be stacking these. You can write “Fragile” on the bin, but they need to be able to not be babysat. You need to pack, stack and forget.
Next come old school papers, books, notebooks and supplies. These you will need to ask yourself some questions to get through.
Are you really ever going to look at that textbook again? And is the information available online? Anything you aren’t going to consult should go to the donate bin. A lot of schools collect old textbooks to recycle or send to a Third-World county.
Are the school supplies even usable? And will you use them in the next few years? If you babysit or have kids who will start coloring in a few years, keep the crayons- but not in the school bin. Set any craft items aside that you will use.
For old notebooks, if there are just a few pages you need stuff from, take pictures of those pages with a good camera, and keep them on a computer. Recycle the old pages and use the notebook. Or donate it.
This is where those crayons go. As well as half-finished projects, be they painting, sewing or learning to crochet. If you have lots of stuff for one particular type of craft, consider creating a bin just for paints, or yarn, etc. Just make sure everything is labeled accordingly.
Books and magazines-
Move on to books and magazines next. If they are ones you love, and have sentimental value, they can go one of two places: the books bin, or the future kid stuff bin (which comes next).
If you have books you read once and won’t return to, donate them. If they were alright and you will read again, but will be easy to get from the library, donate those too.
Magazines are much harder to get copies of, so I am inclined to say keep those if you actually care. If they are around because you hate throwing away so many pounds of shiny, colorful paper, they can be donated to a school or recycling center. Anywhere that takes newspaper to recycle can also deal with magazines.
I like to pack a few of the silica packets that come in shoe boxes in with the paper items to protect them from moisture. Those things actually have a good use after all!
Again, label everything.
These are important. A lot of people tell you to toss old things, but I for one, loved going through my parent’s old stuff. Just make sure you don’t get out of control. If it mattered to you as a kid, keep it, but if you didn’t care then, it’s not worth the space.
This is where old toys, clothes, books, school projects or knick knacks go. If there are things you want to give or use with your kids, this is where they should live until that time. For example, my old crib mobile is in my sentimental box.
Nothing special here. Make a manifest, label, and toss in a bar of soap or a few dryer sheets to keep things smelling nice.
The categories you didn’t think of right away-
Now we are getting to the point where it’s time to create categories of things and bin them accordingly. Some of the categories are best served with the smaller, clear roughly shoebox-sized containers. They are about 3 for $2 at places like Big Lots, and Target/Wal-Mart often put them on sale for $1 each.
Gift wrap and standby gifts-
This one doesn’t need a manifest, but labeling it is still important. I would find a flatter, clear container for this, as you don’t want items to get crushed or damaged when you dig around.
Photos, frames and artwork-
Treat these similar to the gift wrap bin. I have all my stuff in an under-bed box- that way it all gets to lie flat, and I don’t have to worry about anything getting stacked on top of it.
Use a manifest for this one, as you will go nuts looking for the extra ear-bud covers otherwise. Put all the cables you have, manuals, extra accessories, connectors and warranty information here. Include install CDs and game boxes as well.
Smaller everyday items-
These I tend to keep in containers year-round. They are small items that get lost easily and suck to dig through. I like the clear shoebox containers, baskets and those plastic carts with drawers in them. Sterilite makes them in lots of colors.
Create spaces for:
- Nail polish and related tools
- First Aid
- Office supplies (pens, markers, scissors, extra staples)
- Hair accessories
- Pet care items & toys
For household care goods, like hammers and Spackle and whatever else, designate a bin for it all, but keep it accessible. Especially when you are about to move, you will need these items, and it will be inconvenient to have to work to find them. But they should all end up in the same home. Items like those tend to get scattered far and wide easily.
The everyday life stuff-
With all of these categories sorted though, you should be approaching the point where you have just the day-to-day living stuff around still.
For those items, methodically go through all of the clothes and pull out those you don’t wear.
Re-home dishes and appliances that are never used and just taking up space.
Repeat this process for whatever other major categories of things live in your house. Snowboard gear, outdoor stuff, sports equipment, etc., etc.