A Minimalist's Guide to Moving
As someone who has relocated numerous times in my life, I consider myself a moving expert.
I've hired packers and movers. I've done the job myself enlisting the help of friends and renting a truck. I've rented a pod. I've mailed my items to my new home. I have configured my moves in multiple ways.
Even though I've let go of many many items that I was holding on to because I thought I might need that kerfluffle someday...maybe, I do like the stuff I own. Even with pared down stuff, I want the stuff to arrive safely at my new home.
And I want to arrive without feeling completely frazzled. Here's how I manage those goals.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something. Please see my Affiliate Link Disclosure policy for more details.
Plan ahead for large items and furniture.
Identify those larger items and furniture that you will keep.
If you are going to sell, start selling furniture early, so you can get better prices. Be sure to have a strategy in place. I have always started offering furniture for sale at work and within my building or complex. I have found the majority of my better buyers this way. And by better, I mean willing to pay a little more because they are buying from a convenient source and not having to meet someone in the grocery store parking lot. For that reason, Craigslist is a last resort for me.
If you are going to donate, be sure to research which charities will pick up items and find out their schedule. Some places require a donation pick up to be scheduled a few weeks in advance. Don't forget to ask for the receipt. Come tax time, you may be happier.
If you absolutely must get rid of something quickly, offer it for free. In Denver, I had no idea how to get rid of my mattress. Not even the charities would take it. I put out an email at work that I was offering a queen-sized mattress for free. The catch was that the new owner would need to pick up on a certain date. I had a reply within minutes.
Plan ahead for packing.
I've acquired boxes in many different ways. I've bought different sizes. I've had a friend at Target save me three shopping carts of various boxes. I've bought some plastic bins for moving and later storage.
If you're moving yourself with a truck or pod, I highly recommend buying book boxes. The small ones. They are easy to move and easy to stack. They also keep you focused if you're trying to eliminate stuff. I set aside larger items for my plastic storage bins and try to fit as much of my stuff into the book boxes.
Yes, there will be more of these boxes, but I swear I've moved faster by creating uniformity. If you stack them in your home at the height of your dolly, loading and unloading the truck or pod becomes about moving stacks, not individual boxes.
These boxes also make unpacking easier. If it takes you several days or weeks to unpack, shuffling smaller boxes around is much easier than trying to shift the larger boxes.
Multiple times I've bought these 25 smaller boxes from Amazon. They’re sturdy and get the job done.
On our last move, we decided to buy one set of the 20 medium boxes from Amazon. They also did not disappoint.
Buy quality tape. 3M. No one likes to see tape peeling and boxes popping open. Buy 3M Scotch Packing Tape. They are the best!
Buy bubble wrap for high-value items. Monitors. Small Appliances. Dishes or glassware. Anything truly fragile.
This 3M cushion wrap with 1/2" big bubbles works wonderfully for those medium-sized kitchen appliances that you don't want to scratch.
The smaller bubbles from the 3M cushion wrap with standard bubbles work well as filler between books, protecting electronics, and covering any delicate surface that might get scratched.
Identify old towels or linens that can help protect fragile items or furniture. Set those items aside so you don't accidentally toss them. If you don't like the idea of throwing these items out at your new home, then donate them to an animal shelter or local vet. The animals love soft bedding and are not particular about thread count or color coordination.
Plan ahead for meals.
Cook meals for the week you'll be moving about two to three weeks ahead of time. Freeze. This strategy allows you to pack up all of your kitchen gear without feeling like you have to eat out for a few weeks. Leave a box to pack those last containers as you wash them in the last week.
Create snack packs too. For the drive, if you have one. Or just for around the new place. Moving makes you hungry. Once you start some unpacking momentum, having snacks around keeps you from getting distracted.
On your last night before the big move, plan to eat out. Sure, you could order a pizza, but I like eating out. Particularly, if I'm leaving a city. I like to choose a restaurant I'll truly miss and enjoy one more delicious meal there.
Plan ahead for snail mail and address updating.
Since I try to be as paperless as possible, I don't get much physical mail. But I don't want to miss any important documents. And there are plenty of organizations that still need a current address on file. So I keep a checklist of utilities, groups and institutions I should notify of my new address in Evernote.
Whenever I do receive an oddball piece of mail that I actually do need, I add that group to this checklist. I never delete this list. I just edit it from time to time.
Once I've moved and notified the groups on my list of my new address, I check the box in my note. Once all of my boxes are checked off, I can easily uncheck them for the next move.
Back up hard drives and prepare your portable devices.
Sure, the cloud is great. But if you have things organized on your computer just the way you like them, then back everything up to a hard drive before you disassemble your command center.
Also consider what electronic recreation you may want to have downloaded to devices before traveling. Audiobooks. Podcasts. Music libraries. E-books. Wifi may not happen right away in your new home. Your data usage will go up. Depending on your plan, you may not want to access that podcast through the cloud.
Pack with focused determination.
Moving is a great time to declutter. Even if you're not a minimalist, you probably have stuff in the back of closets and under the bed that you don't need. Why pay to move something you don't need?
As you pack, evaluate every item:
Are you just keeping this thing because you think you may need it someday?
When was the last time you used this thing?
Do you really need it?
Does it still work? or fit?
Could someone else make better use of this thing?
Are you holding on to this thing for sentimental reasons?
Create an area for donations and trash. Create a "holding pattern" strategy, if you must.
I had several sentimental items that I could not see donating. I packed those items into a few smaller boxes. Very snug. Very secure. When I moved into my Tucson home...back in 2007, I put those boxes in the top of a closet. They sat there, untouched for years.
When I moved to Denver, I just couldn't deal with those boxes. They moved with me...again. I was finally able to donate the items in those boxes in 2014. I had not looked at the stuff for seven years! How much of a sentimental attachment did I really have? When I acknowledged that there was no real attachment to the things, I could unpack them and donate away.
Keep an inventory as you pack.
I use Evernote. I don't like labeling my boxes. Sadly, we live in a world that I just don't trust anymore. I don't want people seeing boxes labeled with names and getting any ideas.
Instead, I number my boxes and keep a running list of what's inside each box in Evernote. Some people prefer to take pictures of the contents of each box. Evernote can do either.
If you have to disassemble items, bag up the hardware and label the bag. Tape the bag to the inside of the piece of furniture or place the bag inside the box with the other pieces of that thing. This strategy makes reassembly much easier.
Whenever I create a little hardware baggie, I make a note of it in my Evernote inventory.
Create your First Days bag and box.
Basically, this bag and box contain everything you need for your first night in your new place.
What do you need to unpack first to make your life manageable? Consider every member of your family, including pets. My family is small, so I've always had one bag and one box. I could see a larger family organizing this idea by person or by room.
Medications, including over-the-counter stuff. Having to stop at the store is a pain and acetaminophen takes up very little space.
I also keep a Go bag for emergencies. This bag gets loaded onto the truck last. And into the cab. The zombie apocalypse could happen as I'm driving. And since my Go bag contains things like flashlights and extra cash, those items come in handy during a move.
And that's it. Moving is incredibly stressful, but also incredibly reinvigorating. I love decluttering. Getting rid of things I'm not using feels fantastic. I've found the more I plan ahead, the easier the move goes. Sure, I try to anticipate the bumps and maneuver around them. But even when things go wrong, I focus on how great I feel about transitioning to my new city or home with less junk, and my outlook suddenly gets better.