Moving to a new home can be a challenge at the best of times. From packing to searching for the coffee pot on the first morning, there are many moving parts (pun intended). There is so much to think about—from keeping new home documents organized to decluttering and rightsizing your current home in preparation for the big day. To help with your next transition, we put together our tips for moving like a professional organizer!

Sample Move Timeline:

Two months before moving

  • Review employer relocation benefits.
  • Set your moving dates.
  • Get estimates from a professional organizer/move manager or moving company.
  • Begin rightsizing.
  • Create a moving binder to track everything: receipts, estimates, and inventory of items you are moving.
  • Transfer school, dental, and medical records. Meanwhile, ask for new referrals.

Six weeks prior

  • Contact the utility company and transfer your services. However, leave utilities on until the day after moving.
  • Transfer your driver’s license(s) to your new state.
  • Establish new bank accounts if your current bank doesn’t have a branch in your area.
  • Finalize your living arrangements; get homeowners/renters insurance at your new residence.
  • Contact the IRS or your accountant for forms and info regarding tax-deductible moving expenses.
  • Order tape, packing paper, and markers.
  • In addition, contact your mover (if you are packing things yourself) for specialty boxes and crates.

One month prior

  • Finalize your move dates with your mover. Make storage arrangements.
  • For high-value or specialty items, call your insurance company and mover for an appraisal and see if you will need extra liability coverage.

Three weeks prior

  • Notify the Postal Service of your new address. In addition, send change-of-address cards to friends and relatives and update any subscriptions.
    Arrange for installations, repairs, and utilities in your new home.
  • Make any travel arrangements, including reservations for lodging.
  • Collect important papers—wills, birth certificates, social security cards, car titles, medical records, and financial documents. Store them in a separate, safe place.
  • If you are doing your own packing, start now.
    Plan for child care or pet sitting for moving day.
    Set aside flammables to be moved by you or disposed of.

Two weeks prior

  • Return library books or anything borrowed from neighbors or friends.
  • Have your car serviced for the trip.
  • Take care of bills and other financial matters.
  • Get pet immunizations and transfer their records to the new vet.

One week prior

  • Drain oil and gasoline from power equipment. Likewise, drain garden hoses.
  • Review moving plans. Are you on schedule? Any last minute changes?
  • Refill and transfer your prescriptions.
  • Remove items from your safety deposit box and put them in the safe box you will be taking with you on move day.
  • Arrange for newspapers or other delivery services to be discontinued.
  • Defrost and dry the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Pack suitcases with clothes, toiletries, and jewelry.
  • Obtain cash for the move.

Plan Backward from Your Moving Date

When planning your move, use a calendar. Start by planning backward from the final move date. Then, decide how much time you need for packing and decluttering, what needs to be fixed in your new home before occupying it, etc. As a result, you can avoid running out of time—the number one stressor in terms of moving. Overall, start early and keep a manageable timeline.

Rightsize Before You Pack

Here’s a familiar scenario: You realize that you don’t have time to declutter before moving day. You pay to have those items that you don’t want to be packed up and moved, or pack/move them yourself. Later, you unpack them and realize how many items are duplicates or unwanted altogether. Moving items out of state can cost an average of $6-10 per pound. Save time, money, and stress; declutter before you move.

Schedule a pick-up with your favorite charity (Community Warehouse, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and Union Gospel Mission are just a few). If you are uncertain, get in touch and we can help you figure out how to pass along your unwanted stuff. Take a picture of sentimental items like kids’s artwork or stuffed animals, then let them go.

Place items you are unsure about letting go in a “maybe” area. Return to them later, once you have begun packing in earnest. The act of touching everything in the home makes people realize how much they own and can help with decisions.

Organized Packing

Pack in an organized way and unpacking in an organized way will be easier! Don’t pack by room, since items may be relocated in your new home. Instead, visualize your new space and group “like” items together. For instance, gather decorative items, and label them “decorative” (note specific items for extra points).

If you hire movers, they will pack absolutely everything as is—even the trash in the trash can. Pre-pack in advance by staging things that you want packed together in one place. Remove trash, recycling, and donations. Again, if you have decluttered already, it will make this process so much easier.

As you pack, focus on one area at a time. Start with less-used areas: storage, the garage, etc. Pack the kitchen last. Label boxes thoroughly: contents, designated room, and priority level for unpacking. Use neon index cards to communicate this clearly. As a result, movers can be quick and efficient, limiting the time spent in your home. Create a color key, using a different color for each room, and share it with your movers.

When we packed up this home, we labeled each box thoroughly. This helps for a more efficient, easy move.

Donating before you move will save you so much time, money, and stress!

Move with an “Unpack First” Box

Place any essentials, such as toiletries, cleaning supplies, and garbage bags, that you will need for the first few days in an “unpack first” box. Pack regular or paper plates and cutlery to avoid going to the grocery store or purchasing plastic. Load this box last, so that it comes out of the moving truck first.

More Pro Packing + Moving Tips

  • Clear plastic bins are great for garage items. You can keep them stored in the garage in your new place, too.
  • Leave clothes on hangers. When packing hanging clothing, place a garbage bag around 10 or so garments, and tie it at the top (near the hanger) with the drawstring of the bag.
  • Don’t empty your dresser drawers. Instead, keep clothing and nonbreakable items inside of them. Fill empty space and keep items from sliding around with packing paper. Wrap the dresser in an old blanket, then with shrink wrap. This keeps the drawers from sliding out during transit. On the other end, unwrap  your dresser and you’re good to go.
  • Maximize the space you have to pack. Consider using small luggage as your “unpack first” box. These should not go on the moving truck; instead, keep them with you.
  • Create a separate place for documents like passports, certificates, etc., instead of packing them, in order to get your hands on them quickly if needed. Again, these should never go on the moving truck; keep them with you.
  • Pack books in small boxes, and never large plastic tubs. You can purchase book boxes wherever you get your packing supplies, and liquor stores always have small boxes to give away.
  • Take pictures of:
    • The complex wiring of your TV, computers, or other entertainment systems, to arrange them at your new home.
    • Anything you need to disassemble for the move.
    • Anything particularly fragile or valuable, in case it goes missing or gets damaged during the move. Photos are useful if you need to make an insurance claim.
  • Retractable Sharpies are great for labeling boxes! Using a retractable marker saves time removing or keeping track of the lid, and it prevents you from accidentally marking items if you set it down (we keep ours in our tool belts).

On Moving Day

On moving day, it’s also important to take care of yourself by eating well and staying hydrated. Wear shoes you will be comfortable in, also.

Do a final walk-through of the house, garage, and yard to ensure nothing has been missed. Afterward, turn off lights and lock windows and doors.

Make things easier and faster for your movers. Label doors to rooms in your new home with name/purpose so they know where things go; this is where your color key comes in handy. Set up your main-level bathroom with soap and paper towels. Similarly, have disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer handy. Consider having refreshments to share with movers. It’s a nice touch and is greatly appreciated.

We’re often asked, “how much should I tip the movers?” Generally, 10-15% of the final bill is standard.

Unpack with Purpose

Remember that your new home is a blank slate for organization! You will never get a better opportunity to start fresh. Add shelf liners and organizing products, and place items thoughtfully. After all, if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you get to start over?

Finally, after moving, break down boxes and put them up for free on OfferUp, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Buy Nothing. The planet, and the next person to use them, will thank you.

If you get stuck or overwhelmed, then give us a call! Big Rocks Organizing provides pre-packing, move management, packing, and unpacking services.

If you missed our “Ask the Organizer – Prepping for a Move” event, watch the replay here with our special guest, Paul Jelderks, a relocation specialist with 42 years of experience in the industry.