How To Unpack After A Move Without Packing A Burden On Your Back

By Amanda Cohen on January 19, 2019

Moving is hard… between creating lists, packing boxes, organizing clothes, buying/renting furniture it’s exhausting. There is no single right way to unpack once all of those boxes and suitcases are sitting in your new house/apartment, but there are ways to make it a little bit easier. Between college, internships, and post-graduate plans, I’ve moved and unpacked quite a bit, so my family and I have some tricks to make the entire process less burdensome, more effective, and much more efficient.

Even though my method isn’t perfect, it has gotten me through many moves and is currently getting me through this upcoming move to start a new post-graduate program. Depending on the kind of living space you’re moving into, your roommate situation, if you’re relocating to a new city or state, and the number of people, if any, that you will have helping you during the move, the list will have to be tweaked, but this is a good general list that covers most moving situations. So, sit down, read, listen, and be amazed! Here is a short version of the list, but be sure to scroll for more detail!

  • Get Rid of Anything and Everything you no Longer Need nor Want
  • Unpack and Break Down All of the Boxes
  • Plan What You’re Going to do First, Second, Third, and so on
  • Have a List of Phone Numbers and Contacts that you Might Need During the Process
  • Divide and Conquer but Don’t Have Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
  • Bring your Toolbox

Image via.

Get Rid of Anything and Everything you no Longer Need nor Want

This is an extremely important step that must happen before your big moving day. You must go through your clothes, your accessories, all of your drawers, your storage spaces/units, your bags, etc. There is no need for you to pack up and unpack items that you are going to get rid of anyways, so do it sooner rather than later. Moving is expensive and time-consuming, so the less unnecessary stuff you have to worry about the better.

When organizing/getting rid of stuff, create different piles so that you know what to do with the items: (1) sell, (2) donate, (3) throw away, (4) give to family and/or friends. Look through every last nook and cranny in your current living space so that you don’t leave anything behind and so that you don’t bring something that you don’t need. In addition, take your time during this process… you don’t want to accidentally get rid of something that you really needed in your new home. When selling your items, make sure you look at local consignment stores in your area, the website Poshmark, Facebook Buy and Sell groups, and other different companies and platforms.

Further, utilize social media to sell items that you don’t think stores will want. You can post to your Instagram story, your Snapchat story, and a Facebook status so that people can contact you about purchasing one of your items. However, only sell items that are still in-tact. When donating your items, divide up your items between different non-profit organizations, shelters, charity groups, etc. so that you can spread the love to many people who would be thrilled to get your gently-used items.

Unpack and Break Down All of the Boxes

Boxes take up an enormous amount of space and as undergraduates and postgraduates, I’m assuming that your new home isn’t exactly ginormous. I know this may seem silly, but the sooner all of your items are out of the boxes, the sooner you can start organizing. Even if your boxes are labeled and you have a vision as to where you want everything in the box placed in your new home, just take it out, put it anywhere, and then move onto the next box. Once everything is emptied, put all of the cardboard boxes in the recycling area and then you can get to the fun part of organizing, placing, and decorating. However, I would save a few boxes and just put them in the hallway in case you have something you need to return or transport elsewhere. In addition, when unloading and breaking down your boxes, make sure that you don’t throw out any receipts or wrapping for certain items just in case you have an issue with what you shipped/ordered and need to exchange or return it.

Image via.

Plan What You’re Going to do First, Second, Third, and so on

Obviously, the first thing you do on the day of the move. is what I said above: unpack and break down all of your boxes. Before that day, you get rid of everything you don’t need. However, after that, you want to create a strategic plan as to how you’re going to move in without making it harder on yourself. Here is a list that I think works best and causes the least amount of stress:

  • (1) Get rid of anything you don’t want or need before the big day
  • (2) Have a list of contacts that you may need on the big day
  • (3) Unpack and break down all of the boxes
  • (4) Place down all rug pads and rugs
  • (5) Put all new linens in the washing machine—i.e. towels, sheets, etc.
  • (6) Put all glassware, silverware, etc. in the dishwasher and wash all pots and pants
  • (7) Place all furniture (that has come in already) in the correct place
  • (8) Put all new linens in the dryer
  • (9) Make the bed
  • (10) Put away all clothes—both in the closet and in the drawers
  • (11) Set up any electronics—i.e. printer, television, etc.
  • (12) Clean the apartment once the majority is set up and in place—i.e. vacuum, mop, wipe down surfaces, etc.
  • (13) Decorate (which is the fun part)
  • (14) Make a list of anything that you’re missing and either go to the store and buy them, or order them online
  • (15) Grocery shop

This list will vary depending on how many people are helping you move and whether your apartment comes furnished and/or carpeted or not, but it pretty much covers everything. Some of the stuff may seem tedious (like washing/cleaning new linens, glassware, and silverware), but I promise you it’s worth it. If you shipped these items, you don’t know where the items came from and who was handling them, so it is better to be safe than sorry. Other things, like cleaning the apartment once it’s all pretty and set up, you may think that you will do later, but you probably won’t. When moving into your new home, you want it to be as finished as possible at the end of the big move, so don’t put anything off until later because, if you’re like me, you will either forget to do it or not want to do it. When putting away your clothes, depending on the amount of space you have in your closet and whether you have drawers are not, you will want to be strategic in how you do this. You may need to rearrange your stuff, but get the bulk of it down so that you can just get it done with. Try to plan ahead, but don’t spend too much time fixing every little detail because you will have time for that after you get the majority of the move done.

Infographic by Amanda Cohen

Have a List of Phone Numbers and Contacts that you Might Need During the Process

There are so many different moving parts when it comes to moving. Setting up your TV, getting cable, getting your Wi-Fi, making sure the thermostat is working, getting all your furniture in the correct place, and so much more. Even if you have family and/or friends helping you, there are some things that you may want to leave up to a professional. Instead of having to Google search different companies for different tasks, have numbers and contacts in a list on your phone so that when lightning strikes, you’re fully prepared and know a reliable person/company to call and help you. A great resource is Task Rabbit, but there are other companies that are great as well. The bottom line is that you don’t want to waste valuable time searching for someone to help you with your move, have it prepared beforehand and you’ll be all set on the big day.

Divide and Conquer but Don’t have Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

If you have help from family and/or friends during the move, it will go by so much more quickly and efficiently if you all divide and conquer. Put everyone in charge of a different task and everything will go swimmingly. While everyone is working on something, make sure you all keep track of what items are missing and what else you may need. Once you make this list, one of you can go to the store while the others continue moving and setting up your new home. However, I caution you that there is such thing as having too many cooks in the kitchen, so don’t have too many people helping you. Things can get messy when too many people are involved and, since it’s your new home, you will probably want things done a certain way, so I would say have 1-3 people helping you maximum. When I move, the people I will have helping me are my sister, my mom, and my dad since they all know me well and will know how I want things done. However, everyone is different, so you have to do what’s best for you.

Bring Your Toolbox

You may think that a pair of scissors and a kitchen knife will be able to accomplish everything you need in your new home, but you will need much more than that. New homes, whether it be an apartment or a house, always have small things that need to be screwed in, or you may need to make holes in the wall to hang something up, or maybe you want to zip-tie your cords together so you don’t trip over them. Either way, having a toolbox/toolkit with screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, measuring tape, zip-ties, command strips, a drill, etc. is a major necessity. My sister and I have never moved anywhere, including our dorm rooms, without my dad bringing his trusty tool bag. It never hurts to be prepared; think of your toolbox as your own personal Mary Poppins bag. Fill it with the basics, and then put in some extras, like mounting tape, so that you can decorate your apartment and personalize it however you want.

I know that packing, moving, and then unpacking is stressful and takes a lot of time, but it will be worth it when you are all set up in your new home. I know that this article is focused on unpacking your new house/apartment, but don’t forget to have fun during this whole process. Go on websites like Amazon, Etsy, Urban Outfitters, Anthropology, eBay, etc. so that you can find accent pillows, wall art, throw blankets, and more that will make your house feel like a home. All of the rim and roll of moving in and unpacking won’t be worth it if your new place doesn’t feel like yours, so take the time to personalize your apartment/house so that you feel comfortable there and it becomes your own personal sanctuary.

Okay, sorry about the tangent. Follow the suggestions above and I promise you that you will get through all of the unpacking and the moving. Utilize your resources, stay organize, write lists, ask for help, and, most importantly, take it one step at a time. What’s that Jordin Sparks song? “One Step at a Time.”

“One step at a time
There’s no need to rush
It’s like learning to fly
Or falling in love
It’s gonna happen and it’s
Supposed to happen that we
Find the reasons why
One step at a time” (:13-20).

Take Jordin Sparks’ advice: breath and take it one step at a time. You got this. To help you out a little more, here’s a list of companies, apps, and websites I used when packing, moving into, unpacking, and decorating my new apartment:

  • Amazon
  • Task Rabbit
  • Verizon Fios
  • West Elm
  • Mattress Firm
  • Macy’s
  • Jennifer’s Furniture
  • Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
  • U-Haul
  • UPS
  • IKEA

Happy moving and good luck in this next chapter of your life!

I am currently a junior at the University of Michigan.

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