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Last year, as we were preparing to move out of our house to a temporary rental, I knew a few things:
We were going to be in our rental for about 9 months, which isn’t a super long time but also isn’t a short time.
I didn’t want to fully unpack in our rent house. We wanted to live lean.
I needed to pack strategically and separate out the short-term stuff that we’d need now and the long-term stuff we could live without.
I worked up 3 strategies to get organized and make this process as painless and efficient as possible. In case you missed it, I shared all of these strategies and tools here. I wanted to share today how I adapted this system for our Phase 2 move, and talk about what worked well (and what didn’t).
#1 – The Pre Move Timeline
We used this checklist during our first move to stay on top of what needed to be done each week and keep us from panic-packing at the end. It’s also a great spot to jot down the random things that pop into your brain (we need to change our address with the bank!) so it doesn’t fall off the radar.
The second time around, I used the same timeline but with one major difference – we had so much less packing to do! Because we left half of our possessions packed, the To-Dos under 4 weeks out and 3 weeks out were nearly non-existent. We had broken down and saved all of our moving boxes, had purged unused items (though we did another small round of this, mostly with the clothes the kids outgrew in the last 9 months), and most of the low-use items didn’t need to be packed because they were already in storage.
We added new items that we didn’t have before, like registering the kids for their new school and selling appliances.
Verdict – still an invaluable tool. Knowing that this information lives in a readily accessible place freed up my mental energy to focus on other things (like finishing the One Room Challenge). I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night worried that I’d forgotten something.
This list is created using my all-time favorite app, Trello. It’s a free desktop and mobile tool that lets you organize your entire life, and it’s SUPER easy to use. I use it for Meal Planning, my daily and weekly To Do list, planning our client projects, and so much more. You can get this moving template for free here.
#2 – Color Coded Labels
In our first move, I needed a way for me and our movers to quickly identify which boxes needed to be unloaded into each room to be used now, and which boxes needed to go into long-term storage. I used a very simple color-coding system – blue boxes were short-term and pink boxes were long-term. Each box got a sticker on the top and the front, so no matter how they were stacked, you could see a sticker. It eliminated about 100 questions of “where does this box go” and long-term boxes getting mixed in with short-term ones, taking up space or accidentally getting opened when they didn’t need to be.
Every box was still labeled in the usual way with a sharpie to indicate what room it would eventually wind up in (kitchen, master bedroom, etc.) but the sticker made sure that the long-term things all got stacked in one spot, together.
This time around, short-term and long-term weren’t relevant, since every box will be unpacked at our new home. What is more important for me is that the right boxes get put upstairs and downstairs because I wanted the big, burly movers to do all the up and down stairs hauling. So I got 2 more sets of labels – orange for upstairs and purple for downstairs and covered the old labels.
Verdict – First time around, this was completely critical to keep long-term and short-term boxes separated. Second time around – eh, not so much. We had a team of 3 movers unloading the truck. Each of them would fill their dolly with 5 boxes, roll them up to the front of the house, and then look at me to see where they would go. It was faster than them reading each box and loading it with other boxes going on the same floor. If I could see the colored label in the stack, I’d tell them. Otherwise, they’d just wheel it into the entryway and just read the room name and take it there. Color coding by level wasn’t super helpful. But color-coding by room probably would have been had we gone that route.
#3 – Moving Box Spreadsheet
This is where I lost some of you last year. Ha! Along with numbering all of our boxes, I cataloged them in a spreadsheet with a brief description of what was inside each box. Does this sound a bit “extra?” Well, yeah, it is. But guess what?
IT. PAID. OFF.
There were a handful of times during our 9-month tenure at the rental house where we needed something that we suspected was in long-term storage. I was able to bust out our spreadsheet and do a quick word search and identify not only whether it was in storage, but exactly what box it was in. Since our rental house had a spare room that held all of our long-term boxes, we could quickly find the box we need, extract the item, and then move on about our day. Without this we would have either A) torn the house apart looking for the random thing or, more likely, B) blew money ordering it on Amazon rather than digging through 50 boxes trying to find it. Sure, sometimes it just wasn’t worth it to open a box and dig out the cocktail shaker, so I would borrow one from a neighbor. But other times it was a pricey piece of photography equipment that we wouldn’t have been able to affordably get any other way.
Benefit number 2 of this system – when it came time to re-pack the boxes, I didn’t have to burn brainpower trying to figure out what to pack together. I’d grab a broken-down box, look it up on the spreadsheet, know what was inside it last time, and re-pack it the same way. I didn’t follow this to a T or anything, but if it was labeled “cake pans and pie tins” then I would start there, and then fill in with something else if I had extra room.
Verdict – I hope not to move again in the next 15 or more years, but if I do, I would 100% do this again. It only took maybe an extra 30-60 seconds per box to set up, and then I saved all of that time easily on the back end when re-packing. Totally, completely, worth it.
This is super simple to set up on your own in Excel or Google Docs, or you can grab our template right here!
Bonus Strategies – Moving day
I also shared a second post about moving day tips and how to unpack in half the time. We unpacked our entire rent house in 4 days last year, including hanging art on the wall, organizing drawers, and decorating the house. It was a DOOZY. But it allowed us to settle in quickly and feel less like we were living in a temporary situation and more like we were at home.
This time around, we’re taking it slower. Rather than a goal of being fully settled in a week, I’ve allowed myself more time to get out of boxes. I’m very thoughtfully organizing and decorating since our plan is to be here for the long haul and not just a few short months. My goal was to have all the main living spaces box-free within a week to give us that feeling of being settled and at home (which we totally accomplished). I’m not rushing to decorate or hang art but allowing that process to unfold more naturally.
But the other strategies in that post, like wearing leggings with pockets on moving day, creating Open First boxes, and getting beds set up immediately – we did all of that.
Verdict – I still believe getting out of boxes quickly is a key to mental health and happiness after a move, but this is more of a “to each their own” type of thing. I know many of you used this moving system and LOVED IT, and others felt personally attacked that I suggested it was possible to get out of boxes that quickly 😂. For us, it was great to have a goal to work towards to keep us from getting lazy. That's how boxes sit unopened in the garage or attic for years (which, I'll he honest, has happened to us in the past)!
Do you have other moving tips and strategies that have worked well? Any military families out there that move on the regular? Drop your best tips in the comments below and share your knowledge!
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