How to Pack, Organize, and Sort for a Flawless Move (No Stress!)

Stacking of cardboard boxes in the living while moving house. House moving service. New home owner.
Credit: Oscar Wong / Getty Images Credit: Oscar Wong / Getty Images

Moving can be stressful even for the most organized of people. Especially if you’ve lived in your current home for a while, you might be wondering how exactly you’ll be packing up all — or at least some — the things you’ve amassed over the years.

Learning how to move most efficiently takes a little work. Whether you’re a pro at packing or avoid it like the plague, it helps to have a strategy before you start filling up box after box to head to a new city, town, or wherever you’re relocating to. To help guide your way as the big day approaches, here are some of the best moving and packing tips, complete with a room-by-room guide.

Tips for Moving

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, kick off the relocation process by doing the following:

Book Moving Pros and/or Vehicles

Whether you’re hiring pros to do the work or will be driving the truck yourself, book those services as soon as possible. Not only will you get the best availability, but you could also score a discount if you book far in advance.

Confirm Moving-Day Details with the Property Manager/HOA

The good and bad news of dealing with HOAs and property managers at either your current or future home is that you probably don’t have much choice in when you move or who you hire as your movers. Avoid a hassle by reaching out to the appropriate parties to ensure that you’re all on the same page when it comes to your upcoming moving day.

Take Time off from Work, if Necessary

Unless you’ll be starting a brand-new job at your destination, you’ll need to take time off from your current one to make the move. Even if you’ll be making the actual move on a weekend, you’ll appreciate having at least a day off to settle into your new space before resuming your hectic work schedule.

Collect Moving/Packing Supplies

Alert friends, family, and neighbors to start collecting their unused boxes for you. Sure, you’ll still need to purchase things like tape and bubble wrap, but you might be pleasantly surprised to see how many sturdy boxes you can collect before you need to buy any.

Declutter Before You Pack a Single Thing

One of the biggest packing tips for moving is to declutter first to avoid loading up boxes with unnecessary items. This can be easier said than done, so here’s a short list of questions to make your decisions a bit easier.

  • Will I like, use, and need this item in my new home?

  • If the answer is yes, will it cost more to pack than it will to repurchase later?

  • If the answer is no, what’s the best way to discard it?

To help you navigate that last question, here are some solutions based on your time and financial situation.

  • Do you have time and could use some extra money? Sell items at a yard sale or online marketplace.

  • No time? Donate or recycle as appropriate.

  • Some time and some extra cash? Hire a disposal service.

  • Some time but no extra cash? Contact local charities — some have removal services to benefit their thrift store.

how to pack checklist
Credit: Design: Apartment Therapy Credit: Design: Apartment Therapy

How to Pack for a Move

Packing can be stressful — especially if you’re not hiring professional movers and you attempt to pack up your entire space at once. Instead, create a strategy for each room, then tackle one at a time. These room-by-room decluttering, organizing and packing tips will get you started.

Bathroom(s)

  • Assess cleaning products and toiletries. If you have any brand-new items that you don’t need to open and use before the move, pack them in a well-labeled box. Leave out just enough toilet paper and cleaning supplies to use during the final days in your current home. Be sure to make a list of cleaning products/toiletries that you’ll need in the new house for easy shopping/replacement later.

  • Pack or declutter any decor. Sorry, but you’ll have to deal with an undecorated bathroom until you get to your new place.

  • Pack most of your towels. Leave out just enough bath towels to use in the days/weeks leading up to the move. Use the rest to wrap or cushion items during packing.

Bedroom(s)

  • Review out-of-season wardrobe. Go through clothing that you are not using for the current season. Donate anything you don’t want/can’t use in your new home.

  • Review your current wardrobe rotation. Go through clothes/shoes of the current season. Curate a capsule wardrobe for the remaining days you’ll be at home and pack the rest.

  • Pack up extra bedding. If possible, pack up everything except for what’s currently on your bed. Use those extra blankets, sheets, and pillowcases for padding as you pack.

Living Room

  • Consider what furniture you’ll really need until the move. If you can’t part with your couch and big-screen TV yet, that’s OK, but consider packing up your coffee table or other small pieces of furniture.

  • Remove decorations. Pack or declutter them.

  • Gather up your remote controls. Avoid the disappointment of a misplaced remote control at your new place by placing all your remote controls and charging cables in a small box.

  • Call the cable/internet company. Arrange for the return of cable box/internet router (if necessary).

Kitchen/Dining Room

  • Hold off on big grocery hauls. Time your food shopping with your final days spent in the home. Do not buy anything you can’t fully consume.

  • Donate non-perishable food items. Bring any unopened, non-perishable items to a local food pantry, unless it makes financial sense to pack them.

  • Assess cookware. Choose a few basics to get you through a few final cooked meals and pack the rest.

  • Leave out a dish towel or two. Use the rest to cushion plates, etc.

  • Use disposable/recyclable items. Purchase disposable/recyclable dishes, cups, and utensils while you pack up the rest of your cabinets.

  • Take notes for future purchases. If you’re getting rid of anything that you’ll need later (i.e., a set of incomplete glassware), make a note of it to purchase soon/quickly once you move.

  • Use up cleaning supplies. Like with the bathroom, pack up any unopened products and leave/use up the bare minimum of kitchen cleansers.

  • Declutter spices. Make a note not to repurchase any that have barely been used.

  • Get rid of any expired foods. Make a goal to cook/consume everything so that your next shopping trip is in/for your new home.

Laundry Area

  • Leave out some detergent for a few final loads. Keep in mind you might be doing laundry more frequently depending on how much clothing remains unpacked.

  • Gather up your hampers. You might be able to use them to store/pack loose items during the move.

Closets

  • Start off easy. Pick a closet that you can quickly and easily pack up. Once it’s empty, use it to store small packed boxes and/or moving supplies.

  • Put empty closet space to good use. Use the free space to store stacked boxes, etc. This will help declutter your space at least visually — a good thing if it’s being actively shown to new owners/tenants.

Basement, Garage, and Additional Storage

Unless you are a professional organizer — and we’ll even give those folks a pass! — chances are the storage spaces in your basement, garage, and shed are a bit out of control. Here’s how to take charge of them for a move.

  • Assess seasonal items. Decide what goes or stays, keeping in mind any HOA rules regarding outside decorations at your future place.

  • Declutter duplicate/unnecessary tools. Do you really need a dozen tape measures? Probably not.

Miscellaneous Moving and Packing Tips

Moving day will look different depending on the items you’re taking with you and the homes you’ll be moving between. Regardless of whether you’re downsizing or expanding, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Label every box, using a system that will make sense for you when you get to your new place. Be sure to make an inventory list so you can confirm everything has indeed arrived at your new home.

  • Leave any appliance manuals in an obvious spot for the new tenants/owners. (It’s a nice thing to do.)

  • Figure out what you will actually need in the weeks/months before moving day and pack/leave things out accordingly. (If you feel like you’re packing for a vacation, you’re on the right track.)

  • Don’t bring more things into the house unless they are packing supplies or food/consumables.

Looking Ahead to Your New Home

Settling into your place is a lot easier when you’ve got certain services and processes set up and waiting for your arrival.

  • Set up mail forwarding or hold. If possible, do this on the USPS website well before you leave. When you see no/less mail coming to your current home, you know the forwarding worked.

  • Change new utilities to your name. Keep in mind you might have utilities in your new place that you didn’t have prior (i.e., oil heat). Contact your new landlord, HOA, or just do a walk-through of the space and make a note of the utility companies you’ll need to call/contact.

  • Set up cable/internet. Especially if you work from home, you won’t be able to go for very long without internet access. If it requires an on-site visit with a technician, schedule the appointment for a day/time that works with your schedule.

If you’ve got a moving day on your calendar, take a deep breath. Then, make some notes and lists. With the right packing strategy, you’ll settle into your new home much more easily.