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our guide for a (nearly) stress-free move - part 1

Quick Disclosure: Some of these links happen to be affiliate links which means when you click the link to purchase something on this page, it won't cost you more but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. Which is neat, because I was going to share it with you anyway! You can view our full disclosure policy here.

“Moving is so much fun!” Said no one. Ever.

While the end result of moving is often awesome (a new house! moving in with my husband! moving to a new city!), the process is often the pits. Putting everything you own into small boxes for them to go on a truck and then have to be unpacked again isn’t super satisfying. But, until we can figure a way to teleport all of our belongings without us having to pack them (looking at you, Tesla), we are stuck with the moving process as we know it.

BUT, there are things you can do to make the move go SO MUCH SMOOTHER. In Part 1 of this series I’m going to walk you through the pre-move phase and set you up for success with the 3 Tools we used to make this move seamless; plus a whole load of tips that will make your move easier. Think of it as your "Relocation Ecosystem."

As with most things, the more you plan, the more likely you are to have a better result. If you wait until 2 days before you move to throw everything into boxes, Future You will hate you once you arrive at your new home and can’t find anything you need. I’m going to show you a better way. We want to set Current You up to make Future You less stressed.

All of the Type A people are nodding their heads up and down, and the Type B’s are probably tuning out. Stay with me guys!

A little backstory – We recently moved out of our home of 7 years to move into a rental for 9 months while our new home is under construction. Our goal was to unpack as little as possible to keep us from having to pack our whole house twice within the span of a year, but unpack enough to make our 9-month stay comfortable. We needed systems that would allow us to access the things we needed right away and know what was inside the long-term storage boxes (in case we needed something without going through each and every one).

So let’s dive into these tools and tips!


Here’s what you don’t want to happen. You think you have all the time in the world to finish packing, and surely it will all get done. Then you’re up until 4 AM the night before your move frantically throwing things in boxes and trying to remember everything that has been on your mental to-do list, and you wind up in tears on the kitchen floor. We can do better.

Rather than asking your brain to hold all of this information, get it on paper. Or better yet, get it in Trello. I’ve outlined the steps that you’ll want to take starting 4 weeks out from your move date. The beauty of Trello is that you can customize these tasks to your needs, adding what’s relevant to you and deleting what isn’t. And Trello works on your phone, so you can easily jot down to-do list items as you think of them.

The best system is the one that you’ll actually use, so if you’re more of a pencil-and-paper person, go with that! The important part is to get it out of your brain and onto paper so you can free up the metal energy for the actual packing.

Get the board here!

COLOR CODED LABELS – I am a BIG fan of color coding. I ROYGBIV basically everything in my house, because color coding is such a simple way for our brains to recognize information quickly. When it comes to moving, this is an especially helpful tool to have in your arsenal. You may just need a few colors, or you might have 20. Let’s talk about how this can help you:

  • Color coding by time – this is how we approached it for our temporary move. All of our short-term boxes that we would open at our rental house were coded Blue. All of the long-term boxes were filled with items we don’t suspect we’ll need until our final move were labeled Pink. All of the garage boxes were labeled Green. This cut down more than half of the questions from the movers during unloading. Green to garage, Pink to the storage room, and Blue would go to whatever room was written on the box. We put a sticky note at the doorway to each room to call out that space (Henry’s Room, Master Bedroom, Office) and the guys got the hang of it after a couple of loads.

  • Color coding by room – Coding by room makes so much sense. As boxes come in off the truck, the movers will very quickly figure out that all the Pink labeled boxes go into the room with the Pink sticker on the door, Orange to Orange, etc. The best part here is that they won’t have to ask YOU where they go, so you can spend your time pointing out where the larger pieces of furniture go rather than directing traffic on every box.

Important tip – be sure to label both the TOP and FRONT of each box. That way if they end up stacked you’re still able to read them! Put a big fat *STAR* on any box that you want to open quickly upon arrival. Examples – bedding, toiletries, coffee maker and mugs, everyday plates and cups, towels, alarm clocks, nightstand essentials, etc.

These are the moving labels I used during our move. They come in 17 colors, so you can color code to your heart's content. And they all stayed stuck through the whole move! Plus get yourself a bunch of sharpies, because you will absolutely misplace one or two in your mountain of boxes.


I will admit that this is-next level and a bit extra. Rather than be satisfied with a box labeled “Kitchen – Dishes” I wanted to be able to know exactly what dishes might be in there (oh, and the chopsticks that got thrown in, and the coffee grinder, and the Tupperware) without having to write everything on the outside of the box. Beyond that, I wanted it to be searchable, so that if I was looking for one specific item I could know exactly which box to open, without running around the house looking at every box.

Enter, the Box Tracker.

Each box gets a unique number, written on the color-coded label. It gets a room name and a very basic description of what’s inside (Kitchen – Dishes). Then comes the spreadsheet. That’s where I’d write the details of what was inside. Vintage Pyrex, phone charging cables, alarm clock, from the useful to the obscure, it goes into the spreadsheet. That way, if "Future You" desperately needs to know where the can opener is so that you can actually eat food, you can search inside the spreadsheet and go straight to that box.

Game. Changer.

This may not be necessary for everyone, but it’s helpful if:

  • Like us, you’re doing a temporary move and don’t want to have to unpack every box in your rental space.

  • You will be busy when you land at your new home and you know you won’t be able to open everything right away.

  • You are a Type A Control Freak and this spreadsheet will allow you to control just ONE THING about moving (aka, My People)

Get the spreadsheet here!


These are some very awesome hacks that helped us make our pre-move so much simpler:

  • Plan some time off. If at all possible, take off work the day before you move and several days after your move if you can. It is so much better to power through and settle in. Otherwise you risk the dreaded months and months of boxes. And you don’t want that.

  • Create Open First Boxes. TP, tissues, hand sanitizer, soap, all purpose cleaner, a roll of paper towels, towels, feminine products, granola bars/snacks, any medicine that people would need to take (Advil for us old people), post it notes, and a big fat sharpie. I made one for each bathroom and one for general stuff that I put in the kitchen.

  • Kid Kit - Consider a new toy for your kids – something small or simple is best, and something they’ve never seen before, to keep them entertained. Coloring book, bubbles, whatever. Have it ready to give them as soon as you land. Novelty will buy you time.

  • Hanging clothes – Don’t take them off hangers and don’t spend money on wardrobe boxes. Lay them in boxes with hangers still on (folding them in half) if you have to. Or lay them in your car. OR shuttle them back and forth using a curtain rod/shower curtain rod. Then straight into your new closet. Voila!

  • If you’re hiring professional movers, don’t unpack your drawers. We went through 3 moves before we figured this out. They will wrap your furniture in plastic and move it with things inside the drawers. This wouldn’t hold true for bookcases full of books.

  • Speaking of books, ONLY pack books in small boxes. Do not fill up a large or extra-large box with books. It becomes way too heavy and will bust.

  • Know ahead of time where all of your major pieces of furniture will go. If you hire movers, your job once you get to your new home will be Traffic Control. They will come in knowing nothing about your house or where you want anything. You want a mental map (and more likely a furniture plan) with all of your big pieces of furniture drawn. Yeah, you’ll probably have to call an audible as no amount of planning will be perfect, but you want things set generally where they are going to live while you have the big burly movers there to help you. Pack smart – put like things together.

  • Think in Categories. Don’t just randomly shove things in boxes because there’s room. You will hate yourself later when the dishtowels that you need Day Two are lost inside your picture frame boxes that you won’t open until many days later.

  • It’s worth saying again - be sure to label the TOP and FRONT of each box. That way if they end up stacked you’re still able to read them! Put a big fat *STAR* on any box that you want to open quickly upon arrival, like bedding!

There you have it! My pre-move strategies and tools brain-dumped for you! Next time I’ll share my tips for Moving Day and Settling in to see you all the way through your (nearly) stress-free move. Until then, happy packing!


Head on over to our Moving Tips INSTAGRAM HIGHLIGHT for an up close visual of ALL THE ACTION!

Quick Disclosure: Some of these links happen to be affiliate links which means when you click the link to purchase something on this page, it won't cost you more but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. Which is neat, because I was going to share it with you anyway! You can view our full disclosure policy here.

1 Comment

Broad Hazlewood
Broad Hazlewood
Dec 29, 2023

I can't thank North Toronto Movers company enough for the stress-free move they provided. From the initial quote to the actual moving day, everything was seamless. The crew was punctual, friendly, and worked tirelessly.

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