How to move in one week - and pack your house in 7 hours
During our almost 20 year of marriage, Frank and I have moved a LOT. In fact 8 times in the past 16 years while Frank and I have lived here in the States. We moved here from Denmark in 2000. You would think that I hate to move by now, but I still love it. Super love it.
I think it's because I have a system. With the system we use, I can pack our house in just two days and I can have the entire move completed in one week from the time that the first candle stick is packed into a box until the last picture is hung on the wall in the new place. With everything where it belongs and ready to invite guests for a housewarming party.
I want to share it because for the past couple of moves I have fine-tuned it and I now know I can pack my house in those two days, spending about 3 and a half hours a day on boxing it all up on average. That's right. Our 2850 square foot house. Packed into 71 boxes in 7 hours over the course of 2 days.
And I have done it several times, with this proven system.
I think one of the reasons some people don't like to move is that they let it drag on and on and on. But if it only takes a week, you are back to your regular life in no time. Then it is not such a dread.
Of course careful planning needs to take place to pull this off. And I do start a couple of months before the move itself, to plan everything. Here is the schedule that I use.
1 - 3 months before the move
Purge, purge, then purge some more. Keep, sell, donate, trash. So much of this.
Go through all cabinets and drawers, including the ones you are moving with you and sort into sell, donate, trash or keep. Only keep what you really use and what makes you happy. Clear your clutter. Get rid of everything you don't love or use. Or don't, but that's what I do.
I do this every year also when we are not moving, but when I know we am moving, I cut a little deeper.
As I am going through this process, I am already thinking about the place I am moving to. More space?, less space? I make a loose plan about what to keep and what to sell. I firm up as planning progresses.
This move, we were downsizing to half the size. Our new apartment is only 1350 square feet, so I had my work cut out for me, but I welcomed it. "Cut deep, cut wide" was the motto I used. i was pretty ruthless. Every time I packed up another bag for trash or donate, I thought to myself: "Here is another box worth of stuff I don't have to pack, carry, pay to move, unpack and then store". I got totally into it and there was so much purging and it felt so good. Liberating.
If this is your first time purging you can definitely take a softer approach. It's not about being ruthless unless you want to, it's about going through your stuff. All your stuff. Touching all of it and making a conscious decision to keep or toss. Plus, after you are done, you will know where everything is and what you have.
The great thing is that when you sort out all the crap you don't care for, you are left with a pile of stuff you really love. That feels really good. It instantly lifts the energy of your whole house. And you. That is my favorite part.
Let me tell you about one of the first times I went through all my stuff. It was back in 1998. We had just moved into the house we had built the year before.
It was a two story house and we had only finished the downstairs, where we lived while finishing the upstairs. During that time we had stored 24 boxes of things upstairs that would eventually go into those rooms once they were finished. After the boxes had hung out up there for 6 months, I asked Frank to name 10 things in those boxes. He couldn't. I remembered a bath rug (that I didn't like anymore) and an answering machine. Hey it was back in the day. And that was it. We could not name a single other item in those boxes.
So I quickly concluded that we must have 24 boxes of
crap things we didn't need, so why did we even have them? I went through those boxes with a vengeance. The bathroom rug was the first thing to go. A few things did emerge from the depths that we kept, but most of it went straight to recycling.
Since then I have gone through all our belongings once or twice a year. The more familiar I have become with the process and working through all the feelings, like the guilt of letting go of the vase from aunt Agatha (I don't really have an aunt Agatha) and the 'just in case I need it later' things and the 'I better hold on to this half of something until I find the other half' things, the process gets easier. Now I get a regular high when I can fill up a whole trash/donate bag.
2-3 weeks before the move
About a month before we had to move, we began searching online for an apartment. Then on the weekend we toured our top picks, picked one and signed the lease. It's fortunately very easy to find an apartment around here.
We picked a small town home with two bedrooms. We are trying this new thing where we don't have a dining room. Instead we use the dining nook next to the kitchen as our home office space. We usually eat together at night in the living room.
The trade-off for such a huge temporary downsize was to get a storage space while we live here for the next foreseeable future.
I usually have a very strict 'no storage unit' policy. It's an extra cost for things I don't deem important enough to have at home. No thanks. I have restrained myself for years from getting an animated front lawn Christmas deer, because it would mean that I would have to get a storage unit for it. First buy the deer. Then pay to store the deer for 11 months every year. Does not compute.
But. Beggars can't be choosers. We have made a pretty sweet work bench that we use a lot for building furniture and storing all our tools. It would not make sense to get rid of that when we know that we are going to use it once we buy a house again. Then we also had a bit of outdoor furniture, camping equipment, Christmas stuff and our DIY supplies. And artwork. So we made a conscious decision to store all that for now. I found a 10 x 10 storage unit for 102 dollars a month which is a pretty sweet deal. They usually run 180 around these parts. It is cheaper than getting a three bedroom apartment, so it made sense this time.
Some lovely pictures of our storage room. All our DIY supplies in those boxes. Our work bench to the right. It's an IKEA hack. I have a three part post about how we built it in 2013 but never could get a decent after picture that I liked. So that is why you have never seen it until now. Just know that it is awesome.
We have a date with our storage room soon, to make it a little more organized. Storage rooms count towards your total Feng Shui, so ours needs to be a little better than what you see now to keep the chi flowing. Like you do.
During this time I have this list of utilities/services to book, move and/or cancel for when we move:
Gas, electric, trash, water, landscaper, insurance, bank, trash haul.
For insurance I checked that the storage room was covered. It was. And that both residences were covered during the move. They were.
I also ordered checkbooks with our new address on them and booked a moving company. I got it in writing. Always get it in writing.
I booked a trash haul - that was a one time thing this time because we had a huge mattress to get rid of and a lot of other big stuff that would not fit in my van. Otherwise I just take it to the dump myself.
The week before the move
Selling all the furniture. Well almost.
This was the only part of the move that I was really apprehensive about. Because you are relying on other people wanting what you are selling. I can not even begin to tell you how one of my friends stepped up to the plate on this task. She basically cleared her schedule for 3 days and worked her fingers to the bone until every last bit of furniture was put up for sale, picked up and paid for. And I can't believe how quickly she did it either. Thank you again SO much.
On Thursday she posted everything for sale on a local mom's group board. On Friday and Saturday everything got picked up. It was a circus. But so much fun. Only because I had her help.
We sold our dining room, the outdoor dining set with bench and chairs, some lamps, the chaise, two rugs, the thinking chair - seen leaving the house in the above left picture, the daybed, coffee table, two bookcases, the fur chair and a toy chest. This was in addition to all the things the new homeowner's bought from us, which was a list of another 7-8 things.
We definitely lightened the load. And the timing could not have been better, just before the move.
It was cutting it very close to do this just the weekend before you start packing, but the Universe was on our side and thanks to my awesome friend, it all worked out. I recommend beginning a little earlier than we did.
The week of the move - scheduled for a Thursday - begin packing Monday
Before putting a single thing into a box on Monday, I made sure I had these things set aside: a carry-on with clothes for three days for all of us, a basket with paper plates and forks, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, dish towels, dish rags. A tool kit with pliers, hammer, screw driver, etc.
I also bought bottled water for us and the movers and followed up with them to make sure I was still on the schedule. I was.
Then, while taking breaks from packing, I changed addresses either on the phone or online for all the other services that did not need a lead time like the utilities: mail forwarding, Bank, AAA, Netflix, Tollroads, Radio, Golf, DMV, Dentists, Medical, Credit cards, Insurance (other), cell phone, CPA, Attorney, Clients, and if it applies to you: job and school. We homeschool, so I just told the Principal (me) in a casual conversation. And I work from home, so notifying HR (also me) was really easy.
Then I got out the boxes to start packing. After I procrastinated for a while, then had lunch, then I sprang into action around 1pm on Monday, with the movers scheduled for Thursday.
We keep our boxes after each move. We use a mix of Danish and American moving boxes.
Did you say Danish moving boxes? Yes, can we talk about Danish moving boxes for a minute.
You might think Danes are the happiest people in the world because of their 6 weeks paid vacation, but I am here to tell you that the secret lies elsewhere: Their (our) super awesome fantastic moving boxes. It's true. Everything awesome in a box.
Allow me to demonstrate:
No tape needed for these boxes, which means they last for move after move because you are not peeling off a layer of cardboard every time you rip off tape to fold them back up. And there is of course not the tape itself to wrestle with. Buying it, scratching the end to loosen it, using it, running out of it, forgetting where you put it, getting more of it.
I liken this moving box a little to the grocery bag handle which has made its successful entry in the US although not everywhere. In the 80s I used to hear it suggested more than once that someone should come over here and become a millionaire by 'inventing the bag handle'. Hardie, har ha...
Is it time for the tape-less, reusable moving box to follow the path of the grocery bag handle? Please say yes, because my Danish moving boxes are coming up on 16 years and 8 moves and I do lose one or two each time. Anyway. Free entrepreneurial tip of the day. Someone jump on that idea. Please.
We also use regular cardboard boxes, because we don't have enough Danish boxes anymore. So yes. First hand knowledge of all the tape troubles outlined above.
How to pack your house in 7 hours
Here is how I approach the packing of boxes. There is no dilly dallying while boxing up all the stuff. I don't watch TV while I do it, or make phone calls or breakfast or tidy up, movie things from one room to the other or reminisce about every item I uncover.
Once I am this stage, everything in each room I already know I want to take with me because I have just looked at it in the past month and decided that it is part of our life at the new place.
The only thing that is going on while I pack, is packing and nothing else. If I do see something that is donate or trash, I just leave it out on the floor. I don't leave that room until it is all packed. I take a nice break between each room. That is why I only schedule 3.5 hours of packing per day. That way I have time for snacks, procrastinating, gazing out the window, picking my nose and whatever else. Between rooms.
I always get a couple of reams of packing paper. It's like newspaper, but without the print on it, so no tearing of newspapers and no black hands during wrapping. I use the paper to create air pockets between the items. Here are just a couple of examples. When packing like-sized plates, I use one sheet for 4-5 plates depending on size and I use only one sheet for 2-4 glasses depending on size and shape. For the glasses below, I rolled up the middle glass, then stuck a glass to each end and rolled up the rest. It makes packing faster and you use less paper. For a local move this is all I do. When we moved internationally and I packed everything for a 3 week trip on a container ship across the Atlantic ocean. so between each layer of glasses and plates, I used our duvets and pillows as an added layer. Number of things that arrived broken: 0.
This time I was able to shave off significant time from our last couple of moves. Probably because I downsized so much.
The time to beat from our last move: 8.5 hours of packing. I beat that time with a stick with only 7 hours for 71 boxes. New personal best. A time I have no intention of ever beating again, because I definitely paid the price on Saturday. Anyway...
Even if it takes 8 or 10 hours to pack your house, it should still enable you to keep the one week moving goal. Or there about. It's not about keeping the one week goal so much as it is not dipping into a three month move, amiright?
Here is how long each room took to pack this time. Yes, I totally timed it.
Day 1: 3 hours and 20 minutes of solid packing - 6 rooms packed.
Office: 1 hour and 15 minutes - 15 boxes.
Upstairs hallway: 25 minutes - 4 boxes, 4 large bags.
Game room: 15 minutes - 2 boxes, two small bags.
B's room: 25 minutes - 6 boxes, 1 large, 1 small bag
Living room: 35 minutes - 5 boxes - so much artwork.
Downstairs hallway: 25 minutes - 4 boxes.
I began on Monday around 1pm and finished around 6pm so you can see I had enough time to take breaks between each room. I attacked the biggest rooms on day one because I knew my energy would be highest on the first day.
Day 2: 2 hours and 25 minutes of solid packing - another 6 rooms packed.
Master bedroom: 10 minutes - 2 boxes
Master bathroom: 10 minutes - 2 boxes
Bathroom 3 and 4: 5 minutes - 1 box
Back yard: 10 minutes - 1 box
Powder room: 5 minutes - 1 box
Garage: 15 minutes - 2 boxes (plus 1.5 hours earlier that went into storage - 12 boxes)
Day 3: 1 hour and 15 minutes - 1 room
Kitchen: 1 hour and 15 minutes - 14 boxes.
Total: 7 hours - 71 boxes
Frank usually spends a couple of hours taking a few things apart like getting the TVs off the wall, taking apart our IVAR shelving in the garage. Those hours are not included in the above.
Day 3: the day before the movers came. Make move-in report, get keys and move the kitchen
On day 3 I packed the kitchen in the morning and moved it in right after I packed it. I have done this the last several times we have moved. This of course only works if the move is local.
When we got to the apartment, I got the keys and B and I went around and took notes on the move-in report about any spots, cracks, holes etc. Then I moved the 14 boxes of kitchen goods into the kitchen and we unpacked it right then and there.
It is so nice when you get to the new house with the movers the next day, that the kitchen is already up and functional while you are unpacking everything else and since the kitchen is already set up with cabinets (hopefully) it is pretty easy to unpack this room. And it leaves you with now 14 empty boxes that you can take back to the other house for all the 'last things'.
I usually make a plan for the kitchen right after we know where we are moving and I know how the kitchen is configured. It took a couple of hours to unpack the kitchen. On the left below you see the aftermath. I later straightened up all those pieces of paper and had a nice pile to give to a local friend who was moving the month after (This month).
In the evening we made a second trip to the apartment, our van filled with artwork, TVs and computer monitors.
Day 4: MOVING day.
Day four is the big day of course. Other times when I have moved, this has been day 3, which also works. Then you just move the kitchen the night before instead of allocating a whole day for that.
The movers came and immediately began packing the truck. We had already carried the lighter stuff down into the garage leaving them with only the heavier stuff upstairs. While the movers did that, we had those 14 or so boxes from the kitchen for all the 'last things'. There are always at least a couple of 'last things' including at the very end the cleaning supplies, paper towels, paper goods, dish towels etc. Therefore I always have several boxes ready to go during the move. Movers know this and they bring boxes which you can then buy that day, probably not at a discount. It's so nice to have your own.
Let's talk about the movers we used this time. A relatively new company called Prodigy Moving and Storage. They are out of LA, so they charged a minimum of 6 hours to come all the way down to Orange County to where we are - about an hours drive or so. I thought we might not be needing them for that long, but that is actually exactly how long it took, because they charge double for the driving between the two residences. (This is an industry standard here). And driving with all your stuff, they can't go all that fast, so while it takes me half an hour to drive between our old house and the new apartment, it took them 45 minutes, understandably, and then they double that, so that is an hour and a half out of those 6 hours right there. #somuchmath.
But that is not even the most important part I want to tell you about them. It's how fantastic they are. They are hands down the best moving company I have ever hired. And I have tried the whole range from the company that never shows up, to the company that uses 50 rolls of tape, then charges you 6 bucks per roll, to the company where everyone works s o s l o w l y that you can run circles around them, while carrying your boxes to the truck, to the company that could not pack the truck, so what should fit into a 15 ft truck ends up flowing over in a 26 ft truck and the movers end up having the rest on their laps in the front. I have seen it all. Done it all. Laughed and cried through it all.
This company. THIS company. On time, super professional, hard working, smart working. Putting tape on loose items with the sticky side out so as not to damage the surfaces. Writing on the tape where what goes. Using a reasonable amount of moving blankets. Working quickly. Packing the truck with thought for where everything goes later. I have not have one other company do that. Packing the boxes first, so they come out last. Bringing in the furniture first, so you only move them once, then the boxes. Packing the truck like a ninja. A master level Tetris playing ninja. Packing up some keys they found inside an empty tape roll so they wouldn't get lost. Putting felt pads under our furniture at the new place. Oh and free tape.
There is really only one gold standard when it comes to service: Deliver the type of service you would give your sweet old lovable grandmother who always has candy in her purse for you. That's the level we are talking here. (Need to get candy for purse.)
Once we arrived at the apartment, they backed the truck up to our balcony and carried everything over that way, saving so much time.
This is the living and dining room right after they left. Like I said. Tetris ninjas.
To keep everything manageable in the living area downstairs and because we are going to store most of our office stuff in one of the closets upstairs, I marked both Master bedroom and all office boxes with 'Master bedroom'. Therefore, as you can see, our bedroom looks very uhm boxed in - below left, while the living room looks very empty - above right. Some of B's boxes also ended up in our master, but that gave him room to quickly being able to set up his desk and computer in there. See below right. We were playing our own game of Tetris.
On the day of the move, all we did after the movers had left in the afternoon was to make the beds and plunk down in front of some take-out and enjoy the beginning of our new adventure.
Day 5 and 6: unpacking and getting storage
I had scheduled my house cleaner to come and clean the old house top to bottom. The rest of the time for these next few days I spent unpacking all the boxes. My philosophy is to get everything emptied as quickly as possible, even if a few things have to sit on the floor for a little while. I find that if I don't get the boxes empty quickly I risk losing momentum. Then one day becomes the next and soon you have boxes in the corners for months.
So I attack one box after the next with the thought: "Oh a box, how exciting, I wonder what is in it?". And because I did all that de-cluttering, it is actually joyful to open them. There are no items that give me a sinking feeling of oh no, where should I put that or why do I still have that or ugh.. I hate that. That part has already been dealt with. So everything I get out is more like "ohhhh, I can't wait to use that here, or put that there". Makes unpacking go so much faster and dare I say it - enjoyable.
While everything is getting unpacked, I begin to access what type of storage we need, so on these days of unpacking we always go shopping for shelves, or bins and things of that nature. This gives the day a welcomed break, totally feeds my box and bins fetish, and it makes it even more exciting to empty more boxes because the things have somewhere to go. For this move we went to Target to get metal shelves for inside some of the closets and some bins to hold underwear now that we don't have our fabulous walk-in closet anymore (sniffle).
We also went to IKEA to get some shelving and other things for B's room now that he does not have all his built-ins anymore either.
On day 6 - which was Saturday - we took a long break from it all. We spent all Saturday morning in bed watching TV and doing nothing. My back really needed rest. In the afternoon we went back to the house one last time to make it ready for the new owners and give them the keys.
Day 7 & 8: Empty the last boxes, organize and hang artwork.
As a dangling carrot, I do something fun as soon as the last box is empty. I hang the artwork. I usually go around our new home and place everything on the floor below where it is going, then I get out my little box of nails and wall hangers and go to town hanging everything up.
I also go through our closet and the pantry and organize everything one last time. It's just easier to do well, after everything is unpacked and you see what you have.
After all the boxes were empty Frank stored them under the stairs in the garage. And with that, we were all moved in, in just one week.
Everything is put away and artwork is up on the wall.
People who visit us right around this time often comment how they can't believe we have not already lived here for months, when it has only been days.
Here are some sneak peeks of our home office, located in the dining room. I took these pictures as I was hanging some pictures. We have a lot of pictures, but even a little goes a long way to make your new house feel like a home.
Here is the day by day schedule I kept for this move:
First day of packing.
Started around 1pm: Upstairs hallway, Office, B's room, Game room, Living / Dining room and Downstairs hallway
Notify people about the move. See above list.
Second day of packing: Master bedroom, Master bathroom, Bathroom 3 and 4, Backyard, Powder room, Garage
Trash truck pick-up for large trash.
Third day: Packed the kitchen in the morning.
Picked up keys at new place. Took pictures, filled out move-in report, moved in and set up kitchen.
At the house: Carried boxes and smaller items downstairs. Packed computers and TVs and took them to the apartment.
Moving day: Packed all art, electronics, plants and valuables etc.into own car.
Helped movers with what goes where. Got movers lunch for break at new place.
Directed the move-in and emptied car.
Made the beds.
Unpacked boxes. Went back to the house to let in house cleaner. Removed nails. Touched up paint.
At apartment: waited for the refrigerator to be installed. Set up computers and TVs.
Shopped for organization at Target. Organized clothes.
Took a break. Watched TV all morning. Was tired.
Last trip to house in the afternoon. Swept garage, one last check and paint touch ups. Gave keys to new owners.
Went to IKEA for shelving.
Emptied more boxes. De-cluttered. Organized B's room, the living room and office.
Unpacked the last couple of boxes. organized the bedroom, walk-in closet and kitchen pantry. Hung artwork.
Put boxes away under stairs in garage.
After the move was all done we were ready for a housewarming party.
We threw a very small house warming party for just a few of our friends. Usually we throw a bigger party, but since we no longer have a dining room or much room of any kind really, this worked for us this time around.
We served Champagne and lemonade and finger food and had a lovely afternoon with friends.
I am a Danish American decorating life in Seattle. I love all things design and DIY.
I can’t think of anything more fun than coming up with project, making it, photographing it and sharing it with you on my websites.
I am a Graphic Artist and home maker by day.
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