Organizing a Move

moving boxes

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When planning a move the more organized you are during the process the more smoother it will go. There are many steps you can take to reduce your stress level and the chaos that typically is part of any move.

Now having said that, when we bought the house we are currently living in, we had about two weeks from the time we sold our old house to pack up and move into our new home. It was nuts, but thankfully the beauty of using containers made a particularly daunting task somewhat easier. When you use a few hundred containers throughout your house all you have to do to pack it up is pick up the container and pack it up in a box with the contents still in tack. This way on the other end all you have to do is take out the container and place in your new drawer/closet/shelf, etc. Instant organizing!

If you haven’t been as obsessed about using containers as say some freak lady who’s blog you happen to read regularly (who could that be?) then my suggestion is the more you can organize and purge before you move the more you will appreciate it on the other end. As you are packing items up, ask yourself, when was the last time I used this? If your answer was over a year ago, then do yourself a favor and get rid of it. Don’t waste your time and money moving it across town or worse across country. Be realistic and ruthless.

The other bit of advice I have is something my mom did when they moved to Ontario last year. She labelled each box not only with the room name but also a number. Then on a master list she had the number of the box and the contents of what was inside that corresponding box. This is particularly helpful if you are unable to unpack everything right away, making it quick and easy to find what you are looking for.

Preparing a moving checklist of tasks needed to be done before you move is a good idea.  Save time and download one from the internet to help you stay on track. This one that I found looked pretty thorough.

Rather than re-invent the wheel the following is a really great online article with plenty of helpful tips for an organized move. Take a look:

“It’s Just a Sea of Boxes…”
Helpful Hints for an Organized Move

For many, moving is an exciting event. New home, new job, new environment—the adventures are just around the corner. But, for others, moving can be one of life’s most stressful events. Besides feeling excited, you may also be feeling sad, anxious, and overwhelmed. For various reasons, moving can be an unpleasant experience.

Being organized can alleviate some of the anguish and stress associated with moving. Here are some helpful organizing hints to use while getting ready for ‘Moving Day.’

Create a home for your paperwork

A binder with pocket dividers will work well for the storage and retrieval of all your move-related papers such as contracts, driving directions to new home, and packing lists. Use the pockets for holding wallpaper samples, new address labels, information on your new neighborhood, and any other papers pertinent to your move.

Being Able to Find Important Papers Will Save You Time

Purge before you move

Moving is a great opportunity to see what you own, determine what you would like to take with you and figure out what you can leave behind. Many movers charge by the box. You don’t want to have to pay movers to transport boxes of stuff you never use and don’t need anymore.

Purging Before Moving Will Save You Money and SPACE

Budget your packing time

How long will it take for you to pack up your entire apartment or house? On average, it takes approximately 2-3 months to carefully pack the contents of a home. Start by packing things you don’t use very often or that are decorative such as knick-knacks or holiday dishes. Set a goal to pack 5-10 boxes a week. This will give you the time to pack leisurely as opposed to feverishly…

Setting Packing Goals Will Save You Time

Pack by room

Would it be easy to find your stuff if you randomly threw it into boxes? I don’t think so, either…Developing a packing system is the key to quickly locating and placing your belongings in their new home.

Create a floor plan of your new home as a reference for unloading and unpacking (this can be kept in your binder). Mark each room on the plan with a specific letter or number. You will then write the corresponding letter/number on the boxes that go into that particular room. It is recommended to jot down the general contents of the box as well. This will make it easy for the movers to put your boxes where they belong and for you to find exactly what you need.

For example,

Room A=Kitchen

If room A is the kitchen, the boxes would be labeled:



A-Baking Utensils

Room B=Master Bathroom

Boxes for the master bathroom would be labeled:

B-Shower Curtain & Hooks

B-Light Bulbs & New Fixture

Create a box labeled: ‘We’re Here!’ This is a box of items that you will need as soon as you get to your new home. Figure out what you and your family will require on that first day or two in your new home such as: kids favorite toys, paper plates for take-out food, doggie snacks, etc. and pack those things in this box.

Packing by Room Will Save You Time and Lessen Stress

Make it visible

Mark boxes on all sides in a thick black marker (get yourself a few of them—they may dry out after much usage.) Yes, this is a pain, but when your boxes are stacked high and wide, it will make the process of finding what you need much easier. Spending a few minutes labeling the boxes before you move will save you hours of time once you arrive at your new home.

Coding Boxes Will Save You Time and Alleviate Stress

Bonus Packing Tips:

1. Pack heavy items (such as books) in small boxes and light items (such as your Pez collection) in big boxes.

2. Take advantage of FREE packing materials such as…

– Supermarket flyers and glossy inserts that come with the Sunday paper for stuffing boxes

– Boxes from a liquor store (Boxes from the supermarket are not recommended because they could have food products in them.)

– Suitcases can be filled with clothes or other items for the move.

– Your sheets, blankets and towels can be used to wrap your breakables.

Article by Stacey Agin Murray, professional organizer and owner of Organized Artistry, LLC. Visit for your FREE e-list of ‘Top Ten Tips for Organized Living.’

*********************** also has a ton of great articles on packing and moving plus a great one if you are trying to sell your home.

See also:

The Ultimate Collection of Moving Tips


Filed under: Moving, Organizing
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33 Responses to Organizing a Move

  1. 1
    JennaG says

    We are a military family and have become moving pro’s! I have found that no matter how much I purge before we move that I still get to our next destination and think, “Why did I keep that?” and end up purging more! Nothing like moving to maintain an organized home!

  2. 2
    Katie says

    Thank you SO much for writing this post for me! It is SOOOOO helpful, I have so many great ideas now, and I am ready to kick it into gear!

    I was just feeling so overwhelmed, and stuck, and that is a very bad place for me to be – because I will just end up procrastinating longer when I get that way, and then I will be totally stressed out! This is already going to be a sad move for me because we are leaving our smaller town, and our church, and friends, and moving to a large city. I thought being a little more organized in the move, would help it to be a little less difficult for me (and my family who have to be around me on that day!)

    Thank you so much, I printed a lot of what you had on here out, and am ready to get going! I started on my kids rooms this morning, purging toys – trying to get rid of all of those silly little kids meal toys, and other things they don’t play with much anymore. That went well, and I am ready to get to work on the rest of it.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and help me out so much!! I appreciate it very much!

  3. 3
    Terri @ In His Hands says

    We just moved in August and I did the master list thing so I numbered every box and put what room it would go in and on my list next to the number I listed the contents. Really kept me organized! There wasn’t one box that had me guessing.

  4. 4
    trish says

    When we move, I like to also write on the box the basic contents of the box. We just tape an extra piece of paper to the box with a list of what the box contains. This cuts down on searching through a bunch of boxes in a room for one item.

    For instance a kitchen box, might contain pots and pans and black kitchen utensils, so we write that on the paper and tape it to the outside. It comes in handy for your first couple of days in the house and you don’t want to hunt specific things down like things to cook with.

  5. 5
    Amberly says

    Amen about the container thing! We’ve moved 6 times in the 12 years we’ve been married and I have learned over the years, especially since adding 3 kids to the mix, that containers save a lot of packing!

  6. 6
    jodi says

    When I moved, I first rented a small u-haul trailer (the smallest size they had). I then parked it out front and decluttered right into the trailer! It made it fun to go through and get rid of things, easy to haul away (actually ended up hauling off two loads) and I can honestly say that I have officially decluttered all the stuff I dont use! It was a wonderful feeling…I’d encourage anyone to do that!

  7. 7
    OneCoolMama says

    These are great tips! We moved 3 times in 5 months and are now finally settled. We took advantage of all of those free packing materials. I think we used EVERY towel and t-shirt in our house to wrap!
    Thanks for stopping by my site. Have a good weekend!

  8. 8
    Kim says

    Great tips Laura. We move very often with my husband being military. I swear I’ll purge more with each move. This is the move I plan to get rid of everything that won’t get unpacked with the first 3 days. We just had absolutely too much stuff. With me having another year with him deployed coming up, I should be able to get everything organized to my standards and ready for the next move!

    Have a great weekend, my friend.

  9. 9
    Lynn says

    When we moved into our house seven and a half years ago, I was so traumatized by the move that I told my hubby that it was the last move that I would ever do, and that if ever we have to move again, our kids will do it for us. Maybe I should print your suggestions out for them…just in case.

  10. 10
    Julie Julie Bo Boolie says

    My Parents own a moving company. This is their website if you click on tips and tricks there are 3 helpful links my sister created. This isn’t a plug since my parents only move people within Ottawa.. but it IS a helpful list :)


  11. 11
    Kara says

    Great ideas :) When I helped my friend move she did like your mom, labelled all the the boxes by room with a number (like A1, A2) and wrote in a notebook what was in each box. I wish I’d done that last time I moved! I still can’t find things!

  12. 12
    Judi says

    I hate moving. This is great advice you have given!

  13. 13
    Jennifer says

    Very helpful info! We’ve moved 4 times in the last 10 years, and I totally agree with the purge before you move thing. I will add to that to continue the purge after you arrive. You have to touch everything to pack it (although we were packed by the corporate movers each time, so I just had to sort before we were packed up), but you also have to touch everything when you unpack it, so it’s another chance to ask, “Do I really need this?” I kept a throw away and a give away box handy while I was unpacking.

  14. 14
    Catherine says

    I’m more organized than I thought I was. I basically did a modified version of this when we moved. I had to be especially careful when packing boxes, because I was 7.5 months pregnant, so I did everything I could to make our move as smooth as possible, for me and hubby!

  15. 15
    Shelley says

    Just read a comment you left on Blessed Beyond Measure’s blog…about the song played on General Hospital, “Think of Laura”. It wasn’t played at Luke & Laura’s wedding, but when Laura had disappeared or was kidnapped or something like that(forget exactly what happened offhand). Just thought I’d let ya know :o)

  16. 16
    Sandra says

    Laura maybe I should just have you move my stuff for me LOL

    I’m sure you would do a much better job. :)

    Thanks for this, we’re supposed to be moving soon (being military it’s not a shocker lol), this will definitely help me a lot.


  17. 17
    Jungle Mom says

    I am getting ready to move internationaly from Venezuela to Paraguay! Could you just come do it for me please!?!?!

  18. 18
    Overwhelmed! says

    Awesome list! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  19. 19
    Moving NOW says

    I’m reading this after just being notified that I will move in FIVE days and 13 hours. YIKES! I did not expect to move for at least six MONTHS, and that was a stretch. I feel like I *should* be running around wildly and stuffing things into things, but this post has calmed me *significantly.* Seriously, I cannot thank you enough. Just the notion that you packed a house in two weeks is enough to give me hope for me and my condo. I’m typing a spreadsheet now, and I will begin packing by in 3 hours, I hope. I may not sleep or eat much in the next week, but I *will* be ready when the movers appear (as I’ve called them while reading this post and scheduled!) THANK YOU is all I can say, but I really want to find you and hug you. I’ll do that after the move maybe :)

  20. 20
    Jennifer says

    My dad is in the ministry and so we moved every 4 years or so while growing up. We purged every time, so we never accumulated a lot of junk at once, which helped keep our home a pleasant place to live. However, I would caution you to be careful about what you purge of your kids’ belongings. My mom threw out things she deemed “junk” without asking me if they were important to me (she didn’t go through my room…it was stuff that was stored away, but still things that I loved). I had a teddy bear that my father bought me the day I was born. I loved that bear so much, even though I eventually outgrew him. But I had planned to give it to my children one day and now I can’t.

    On the bright side, all of that moving prepared me to marry my dear hubby whose field has him moving every few years, as well. And so now I have a few of my own tips:

    1) Before the movers bring furniture into the new place, make a map of each room and post it on the door, indicating where each piece of furniture should go. This will save you a big headache from running around trying to answer the question, “Ma’am, where do you want this?” when you could be doing some productive unpacking of boxes. It may not work the way you thought, but you can always move the furniture later.

    2) Unpack and set up your bedrooms and kitchen first. Those are the rooms you’ll need right away. The bathroom comes next (pack a bag of toiletries and a change of clothing to make the first night easier).

    3) Before moving, after you’ve purged, have a yard sale and use the money to buy take-out for your first night in your new home, or on the road if you’re moving cross-country; or buy a new piece of furniture or keepsake to remind you of your old home, or a new tree to plant in your yard to measure the passing of time. It’s always fun to drive by your “old” house and see how big the tree has gotten.

  21. 21
    Desi says

    Something that is often overlooked, but I’ve found to be important is to put the information from your old home in the binder for your paperwork. Having your account numbers/phone numbers easily accessable for the old place really helps keep the final bills from falling through the cracks since mail forwarding doesnt always work.

  22. 22
    Eleanor Beebe says

    Being married to a military man, I have moved many times. My best tip is collect and use plastic shopping bags. Ask all your friends for them. They cushion fragile items. And if something happens to break all the pieces are in one bag. But best of all, they leave no ink stains on anything.

  23. 23
    Lynda says

    Hi Laura,
    Great tips. Being in the ministry we have moved often, including overseas. One extra tip I have… I would first go to the local newspaper office & ask to buy the end of a roll. Sometimes I had it given to me, other times I paid $5.oo….great for packing without the ink!!!! I would tape a large piece of that newsprint on the wall with three lists on it… Keep, Sell & Give Away. That way before I even started packing into boxes (or barrels – which was our first move overseas) I already had organized in my mind where things went & didn’t have to think about it again. It also helped because when guests came to visit they saw my list & would ask about the give away or for sale items!!
    The last time we moved overseas we purchased the hard plastic moving boxes that have the lids attached. You can buy them in any Canadian Tire store now, but we couldn’t then. They were great for moving overseas, + that we could see them being loaded onto the plane & knew they were all there, going with us :-)
    I agree with liquor boxes…they’re the best for packing & storing. Last time we moved overseas for four yearsI gave each of my three kids a liquor box. They decorated it the way they wanted & it was theirs to keep whatever they wanted. Four years is a LONG time for a 10 year old to store something. When he was 14 he purged most of it himself, but it was one small box that was JUST THEIRS when packing up. We also divided their toys. They each got to keep & take TWO very special toys that were REAL important to them. The others we divided up. They gave the special ones they didn’t need to keep to friends we were leaving behind & all the others to needy kids or the Salvation Army.
    When we moved back to Canada, we sorted all our clothes. We were moving the end of May & would not be settled into a house until the beginning of Sept. We each had a school shoulder bag for the summer. In it we included socks & underwear for 5 days, T-shirts for 3 days, 2 pair shorts, one pair jeans, one pair dress pants. That was it + toiletry bag. We had three extra bags the same size – one for bathing suits & towels (for family of 5) one for sweaters & one bag with our newly acquired leather jackets. We visited family & friends who all had a washing machine & were glad to help us keep clean. It all packed into our little VW Rabbit with room to spare :-)
    All the other clothes were used for packing breakables & stuffing in small places. Throw them in the washer & dryer when you get moved & they go right into the drawers & closets clean & ready to wear.
    I also write the room & contents on every box….it’s easier to find than searching in a book. :-)
    Another tip, for military or anyone else moving overseas or across the country. I had my two year old help me pack all his toys into the barrel that was coming home to Canada. He had two special toys to bring home on the plane, but he knew which barrel number had his toys & he claimed it & helped unpack it when the barrels arrived in Canada 4-5 weeks later. :-)
    Just a few tips that I found helpful when moving. Hope they help someone else. :-)

  24. 24
    Kathy in the Kitchen says

    Loved all the advice. We are going, at least for a time, to Florida to be close to our grandkids and see what opportunities are there for us. My husband is a Pastor and is looking for a church at this time. We came to Alabama to bring my mom back after my dad died and then she passed away too. Now we are ready to start a new phase of our lives and it looks like it may be back in Florida. We have moved so many times in our ministry. Listening to some of the comments above has helped me gain prospective again and given me inspiration to get started today. I have about 2 weeks. Pray for me girls. I’m not as young as I use to be. Thank you Laura Kathy in the Kitchen………………..

  25. 25
    Kita says

    i wish i had read this a few months ago!! we had the best of intentions, but here i sit on my lovely procrastinating bottom 4 days before we move.. and only the pantry is packed.. should be good.. right?? lol

  26. 26
    Jared's Moving Tips says

    What do you think of selling/donating almost all possessions and starting over when moving? The stuff that you do keep can be shipped in boxes via UPS. This would save a lot of time packing and money. Of course, you would have to by new stuff, but at least you don’t have to packing and transport it.


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