How to Stay Organized When Moving to a New Home

Staying organized while moving seems impossible to some people. Between packing up all your possessions, transporting them to a new home, and eventually unpacking, it’s easy to get disoriented, frustrated, or develop an intense urge to burn everything that doesn’t fit into a neatly labelled box.

In an attempt to gain a better understanding of what causes so much disorganization during a move, and how to combat it, we were lucky enough to chat with the multi-talented Jennifer Robb, a professional organizer, owner of Simple Organizing Strategies, and founder member of the Association of Iowa Professional Organizers.

Hi, Jennifer, can you start by just telling me a little about Simple Organizing Strategies and how you became a professional organizer?

Being naturally organized in a linear, minimalist, everything tucked away neat and tidy kind of way led me to believe I had it all figured out. I quickly learned that it’s not people like me that need help getting and staying organized, but people who are creative, visual, brilliant, and vibrant – people from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s those who are artistic or musical, it’s lawyers and writers and doctors; people who live life full of thoughts and ideas that need open and visual systems that compliment their creativity and visual tendencies. It’s also people who know how they want their space to look and function, but may be physically limited in some way that they can’t rearrange furniture or carry or lift boxes of heavy items.

Being a Professional Organizer has allowed me to live my entrepreneurial dream while having the flexibility to raise my daughters and support my family doing jobs I love for amazing people and families. When people ask “What do you do?” I have the pleasure of responding with “What do you need?” and then assisting them each step of the way, or finding the right network or resource for them, such as Adamantine Spine Movers (the best company to work with, I might add). Simple Organizing Strategies is all I could have imagined plus so much more!

That’s an awesome journey, and thanks for the huge compliment! What’s the most common mistake you see that leads to disorganization while moving?

Disorganization itself. Not having a plan or a guideline to follow. If you dive into a move without an organized system, items become displaced or lost and you won’t have a proper timeline of “to do’s” to be able to check off your list as you progress through the move. Moving is overwhelming enough, don’t count on your memory to remember all the details.

Are there any major misconceptions or common traps people fall into when preparing for a move?

Timing can be tricky. Jumping the gun and packing up things you might need again too soon can cause stress and chaos. When we get anxious or excited we tend to either jump right in and do too much too soon, or we procrastinate until it’s too late.

Is there a particular category of possessions that people have trouble organizing for move?

When you are planning a move, sometimes the move is temporary and sometimes it is permanent. If you have items that you love or that are sentimental, but you will not have space for them when you move, what do you do with them? Do you keep the items or pieces of furniture for future living, store items in storage, or do you let them go? It can be tough to decide – not just logistically but emotionally as well.

That’s a good point. There’s also a matter of prioritization. What should be done with possessions people need right up until moving day? How far ahead of moving day should packing start and what should be prioritized?

As long as items are categorized and labeled as you pack them, this process should be relatively simple. I would recommend first purging your home room by room, space by space, shelf by shelf, and drawer by drawer t0 weed out the items.

Once the purge phase has lightened your load, you can begin putting the items you are keeping into categories to determine how and when to pack them. Take clothes, for example: you can pack things that are out of season and you will not need before your move day, label them “winter clothes,” and start placing them in an area for boxes that are ready to go and that are labeled with contents and what room they should go in. You can number them and make a master list of your numbered boxes of inventory as you go. Save areas like bathrooms and kitchens until closer to move day and try to use up pantry and food items so you have fewer groceries to move on the big day.

That purging phase can be difficult, but it’s so nice to get rid of excess stuff. There’s always far more unanticipated “stuff” that seems to grow out of nowhere. Can this be avoided with better planning?

In my experience, it is better to have what you need than to be cutting back into packed boxes at the last minute ,searching for something you need but can’t get to. Anticipate on moving day that there will be more “last minute” items than you planned and make sure you have extra boxes of various sizes just for this last minute task. You can label them “Last Minute – Open 1st” or something like that since it’s likely these are the items you needed up until time to move, so you will likely need them right away as you unpack.

That’s a great point. Since you may need certain possessions right up until moving day, is it better to plan to move everything at once, or to move in phases?

It depends on the distance of your move. If you are moving far away, multiple trips may not be an option. However, if you are moving a short distance, making trips can be great. For example, when moving/downsizing a family into independent living recently (which was about 2 blocks in distance), it was great to be able to move rugs over first and then get large furniture pieces placed so they could then have a better idea of exactly which smaller pieces and decor they would have room to accommodate.

That’s really helpful. Are there any other considerations for how long distance moves should be handled versus local moves?

Long distance moves require more planning, and a firm estimation of your new square footage and what items you will take with you. If you are downsizing for sure, a scale draft or blueprint layout of your new space with furniture drawn in can help with spacial perception. Also note any kitchen, pantry, linen closets and other storage spaces and compare with what you have now and how full those areas are.

Moving to a different area also means becoming familiar with your neighborhood and new surroundings. Don’t be discouraged if the unpacking process of a long distance move takes a little longer, as you will likely also need time to acclimate to your new environment and neighborhood as well as unpacking and settling in.

The time it takes to unpack can take forever sometimes. In fact, a lot of people will joke about how, after moving, they’ll open some essential boxes, but others will und up staying boxed until they move again. What’s the best way to actually get everything unpacked in a timely manner?

Having boxes placed in the rooms they will be unpacked in is a great way to avoid moving things to storage. It also keeps them in the line of sight rather than allowing them to become out-of-sight, out-of-mind storage. Hopefully, if you have done a good job in the planning and purging phase of your process, you will need most-to-all of what you brought along, and will be motivated to get the boxes unpacked and to place your things in their place in your new home.

Thanks so much. How can people contact you or learn more about Simple Organizing Strategies? 

Simple Organizing Strategies can be found on Houzz.com, on Facebook and at our website, SOSorganizer.com. SOS helps you get it together. Whether you are visual or a minimalist, in times of crisis and through transitions of life, SOS is here to ease the burden and create organization.

Plus, in addition to SOS, there is a valuable network of resources to be found in Iowa’s top group of Pro’s, the Members of the National Association of Iowa Professional Organizers. Check us out at IowaProfessionalOrganizers.com and find the best match for your next move or project! Simple Organizing Strategies and the Members of Iowa Professional Organizers have you covered. Don’t Agonize…Organize.

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