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our guide for a (nearly) stress-free move – part 2

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.

We are onto Part 2 of our tips for a (nearly) stress-free move! Last time I shared with you our tools and strategies for the packing part, today we’re onto the actual MOVING part of the move process. We discuss how to settle in quickly and spend less of your life in boxes! Get your Advil ready because we’re about to do some heavy lifting.

We all have our gifts in this life, while you might think that being an Interior Designer means that is my #1 gift, it miiiiight actually be that my gift is organization, strategy, and project management. Which, let me tell you, comes in SUPER handy when you’re managing a move. And I’ve got all my pearls of wisdom ready to share with you for a streamlined move day and unpacking phase.

Having a plan for how you’ll execute your move will do a few things for you. Approaching things in the right order will save you time from doing things twice. It will also free up your brain from constantly having to think “what should I be doing now or next!?” and instead you’ll be able to execute – and more importantly, DELEGATE – to make things go faster.


Your boxes are packed and your moving truck (and maybe even professional movers!) are here. How do you approach this day to make the most of the help you may have?! You want to work smarter, not harder.

· FIRST THINGS FIRST – this is going to sound like the DUMBEST tip, but it is a lifesaver. Ladies – wear a pair of leggings with cell phone pockets. Put your phone in one pocket and a pocket knife for opening boxes in the other. It will give you great power. Men don’t have this problem because they dress for practicality with pockets every day.

· YOUR OPEN FIRST BOXES – we talked in the last post about creating Open First boxes filled with the immediate need items like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, hand soap, water bottles, snacks, cell phone chargers, etc. First priority is getting those items into their respective rooms.

· LABEL YOUR ROOMS – if you’ve marked your moving boxes SAMMY’S ROOM and MASTER BATH you want the movers to be able to find these rooms easily without much intervention from you. Grab extras of your color coded labels and quickly label each non-self-explanatory space (everyone can probably figure out which room is the kitchen😉)

· PUT DOWN RUGS – If possible, bring these to the house ahead of your movers, or ask your movers to make this the last thing on the truck so it can be the first thing off. Moving a large rug is a BEAT DOWN when you don’t have a crew of people. If your rugs are down first and generally in the location you think you’ll want them, all the furniture can go on top of it and put in its final place in one swoop (remember in step 1 when you identified where all of your big heavy furniture pieces will go? It’s payoff time). Eliminate double work!

· REFRIGERATOR AND PANTRY – the last thing you need is hangry people on moving day. Unpack the fridge and the pantry next. I’m going to challenge you on something here so stay with me. Attempt NOT to just shove things in your pantry. Where things land is where things tend to live. We hear from clients all the time that say their organizational “systems” are limited to where things were put when they moved in. We are all creatures of habit, and a new home is a perfect opportunity to re-wire us to do things better. I could do a whole post on how to set up your pantry (and maybe I will!) but just think in ZONES rather than just food types. Put lunchbox items together in a basket, breakfast together, snacks together, dinner items together (canned goods, broths, pastas, grains), and baking items together.

· IMPORTANT BOXES – these are the boxes you marked with a *star* during the packing phase. These are the most important items that you will want to have ASAP after the move. This includes items like bedding, alarm clocks, everyday plates and cups (or paper and plastic), things you need on your nightstand, towels, coffee maker and favorite mugs (you will thank yourself tomorrow morning), organizational baskets and bins, etc. Get those boxes unpacked next to start to give everyone their creature comforts. Listen : DO NOT unpack every other box willy-nilly. Do these first. This is important (more on that in a minute)

· TV + INTERNET + TOYS – as much as it pains me to admit, setting this up early will make everyone’s life easier. If you can give little kids a show to keep them occupied there will be far less complaining and will keep your frustration level down since they won’t’ be under your feet. We talked in the last post about getting a couple of new toys or books for younger kids that they’ve never seen before and giving it to them once you land at the new place. Novelty is a powerful tool, friends.

· FURNITURE SETUP – there is nothing that you want more at the end of moving day than a hot shower and a cozy bed. Prioritize getting all beds set up on day 1 if possible Many moving companies will do this for you if you’re going to be short on time. Yes, you can absolutely spend a night or two sleeping on a mattress on the floor. But make sure that mattress has bedding and pillows on it and you will feel so much better.

· KIDS SPACES – if you have young kids, moving can come with a mix of emotions. Having their rooms set up first will help your new place feel like home and will settle them in emotionally. If you have teenagers, they will claim to not care about this, but they are lying or in denial. Have older kids and teens help with their room setup to take a load off of your plate.

· HANGING CLOTHES – if in step one you opted to keep your hanging clothes on hangers, three cheers to you! Shuttle those bad boys into their respective closets. Attempt to put some organizational structure to this and put like items together (shirts, pants, seasonal, whatever your jam is). You can ROYGBIV the colors later!

· REST – do not stay up all night unpacking boxes if you don’t have to. Get your bathrooms set with essentials, bedding on the beds, food in the pantry, order a pizza and cheesy breadsticks, have a glass of wine, and then stop. You will need energy for the rest of the unpacking. You did great today!


My dad grew up in a military household where moving around was part of life. He would tell us stories about how my grandma would have pictures hung on the wall at the end of moving day, which I always thought was equal parts awesome and absurd. It’s not possible to settle in that fast! Well, friends, it almost is possible. We moved out of our 2,300-ish square foot house just a few weeks ago and were FULLY UNPACKED in 4 days. Let that sink in. No boxes in sight, closets filled, drawers organized, art on the walls, everything in its place in about 100 hours.

Now, disclaimer, we are in a temporary home and very strategically packed about half of our stuff semi-permanently with the intention of not opening it until our final move next year. So it stands to reason that it will take longer to settle in if you’re unpacking literally everything you own. I also understand that this isn’t going to be achievable for every move, but I’m going to share the exact order of operations in how we did this.

If you learn nothing else from this post, hear this: DO NOT OPEN EVERY BOX ALL AT ONE TIME. I am very serious. Again, working strategically rather than just randomly will make your life so much easier.

Here’s the strategy:

1. One at a time - You are going to open a single box, fully unpack it, and only then move onto the next one. I will say this one more time because it bears repeating: Where things land is where things live. Organize as you unpack. You MUST resist the urge to just shove things into cabinets and shelves. I know you’re thinking “Tara this will make me move slower, not faster” but we aren’t just about speed, we are about being effective and only doing things once, and doing them right. Yes, yes you can always come back to adjust and improve, but don’t just SHOVE it somewhere to be done with it. Do your Future Self a favor. Watch one episode of Get Organized with The Home Edit on Netflix and you’ll see the herculean effort it takes in order to clear a space and prep it to get organized, you will see the wisdom in this line of thinking. You have a blank slate – take advantage of it!

2. Have a staging area for boxes waiting to be broken down, somewhere out of the way. This is a mental game. You want to see your house coming together by seeing fewer boxes in it. I don’t care if it’s the garage, a spare bedroom, the backyard. But get it out of your main line of site. Then when you need a mental break OR if someone asks “what can I do to help?!” you have them break down boxes.

3. Set up your living areas – a couch, a couple of throw pillows, and cozy blankets go a long way towards making your house feel like home. Aside from having your beds set up, you’ll want a cozy spot to crash and take a break. Get your kids toys out and accessible but DO NOT attempt to organize them at this stage. Organizing kids toys in the midst of unpacking is like trying to organize grains of rice in a wind storm. It is futile. That step comes later, ideally when they are in school or otherwise occupied.

4. Bathrooms – get everything unpacked in here. Medicine cabinets, extra linens, all of your products. Again, think in zones. All your morning skincare products together, hair styling products together, evening skincare together. Fill in the blank for what you have and your routines.

5. Bedrooms – you’re doing great and you’ve got the kids bedrooms set up. Now it’s time to set up any other furniture. Nightstands, lamps, alarm clocks, book cases, dressers.

6. Kitchen – Unpack the rest of your kitchen. Start with pots and pans, small appliances, then everything else. Think through how you will cook in the space and try to put things where you’ll need them. Pots, pans, spices, and utensils by the stove. Bakeware and mixing bowls near the oven. Ziploc bags, Tupperware, a sharpie, and lunchboxes near where you’ll prep lunches. Knives and cutting boards where you’ll prep meals. Glassware near the fridge. Coffee mugs, coffee, and sugar near the coffee maker. You get the idea.

7. Cleaning supplies – depending on your style, these might go in the kitchen or they might go in laundry. Again, think zones and routines. My cleaning products are decentralized. I keep a caddy of all of our frequently used cleaning products under the kitchen sink that I can tote around the house when we’re doing big cleaning. Each bathroom has its own toilet bowl cleaner and antibacterial spray for daily/as needed cleaning. The laundry room has the less frequently used cleaning supplies like furniture polish or floor mopping. You might be the type of person that wants things centralized, and if so, awesome! You do you. The best system is the one that you’ll use.

8. Laundry room – this is inevitable. Eventually you will have to do laundry again. Get your iron, steamer, dryer balls, detergent, etc. all ready to go for when you need to do that first load.

9. Office – if you have a home office, get that going so you’ll be ready to be up and running once you’re back to work. Ideally this is a spot that will NOT be filled with boxes and reminding you of your endless to do list. You’re going to be irritated by it. Set up your computer, task lighting, office supplies, printer, etc.

10. Kids toys – Now that the rest of the house is coming together, it's time to tackle the kids toys. Organizing toys is best done when the kids are at school so you can work in peace. Feel free to toss or donate a few things while they are not looking.

11. Any other rooms not mentioned – dining, outdoor spaces, closets. Unpack one box at a time and continue plugging away. Do not get hung up on looking through sentimental items. Get things on shelves, reasonably where they will live for the long-term. Now is not the time to go sorting through old photos and clothes from your babies. You are nearly at the finish line!

12. Decorative items – I save décor until the very end, partially because you need all of your horizontal surfaces clear and furniture in its place to do this right, but also because it’s a nice little reward at the end to make things beautiful. I generally unpack all the decorative objects, put them in one big pile, and then start filling things in. You might prefer to keep things in the room you had them in before, and if that’s the case, do that! I like to change things up and where I had a vase at the last house may not be where I want it now. We are aiming for done is better than perfect at this stage. It will not look magazine worthy at this juncture, and that’s FINE. We’re going for homey and settled. You can play with it later! I give you permission to shoot for “good enough for now.” Having your coffee table set up with coasters and a plant and a candle will feel like a huge treat, and will signal to your brain that you’re nearly settled in and the to-do list is winding down.

13. Hang things on the walls - DO NOT WAIT an eternity to hang things on the walls. Just do it. Yes you will put some things in the wrong spots. That’s fine. It’s better to patch a few nail holes than to have art leaning on your floors for YEARS. I cannot tell you the number of clients that we come and help that have lived somewhere for 1 or 2 or 3 years and are still too afraid to hang things on the wall. Sometimes you don’t know what will look good until you just go for it. Swing a hammer, take a chance. Done is better than perfect.

PHEW! I know that list was long, guys, but I promise if you follow a framework and a logical flow of unpacking it will make things to so much more smoothly and will reduce your stress level ten-fold. Moving through a plan feels so much better than randomly opening boxes, getting halfway through them, and then living in Box Land for months. Clutter in our home is directly tied to stress levels, particularly in women, so we want to do all we can to get out of that zone as quickly as possible so you can get on with living in your new space!

Here’s to new memories in a new home!

PS: A note for temporary moves – if, like us, you’re moving into a space for a short amount of time, I highly recommend not unpacking everything you own and just trying to live with the essentials. Then when it comes time to unpack in your final home, really evaluate what was stashed in those long-term boxes. If you lived without it for six months or a year, do you really need it? Sometimes yes. Photo albums and your wedding dress and your wedding china might be things you need. But the other stuff? Consider letting it go after learning to live with less. I’ll be sure to follow up and share how many of our long term boxes we actually got rid of at the end of it all!

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

Feb 02, 2021

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