There is nothing like moving to make you realize how much stuff you have. I have no false pretenses about the number of books I have (my shelves are always overflowing), but let's just say I had an optimistic idea of the amount of clothes, cookware, camping items, and beauty products I own...
When the idea to move closer to work initially occurred to Jonah and me, exactly three weeks ago, we acted quick. After deliberating for maybe two days, our long commutes made the decision for us, and we started looking for apartments closer to our West Hollywood offices. When we found a two-story, two-room apartment in a 1920s building that was twice as large as our old place, but only marginally more expensive (about $100 per month, split between us), we pounced. We signed our lease on Monday of last week, five days before our only free weekend until October—which meant we had four evenings and two weekend days to complete our move, from start to finish! This was Jonah and my fifth move together—three apartments in New York, plus our cross-country move to Los Angeles—so we're no stranger to moving, but this one was particularly brutal (or maybe I just have selective amnesia about how hard the others were?). We were still exhausted from a weekend trip, I got hit by a spell of insomnia, and we both had busy weeks at work. But, we survived and managed to not only move, but also completely unpack and break down every single box within six days. Here are the tips I learned over the course of an intense, but successful, move:
A lot of friends will ask if they can help, but don't accept it quite yet—their help will be needed soon, but the initial packing time is when you want to be alone with your things, to have the freedom to decide if you need to bring each item to your new home (now is the time to KonMari!), bicker with your significant other over how closely NyQuil's expiration date should be followed, and thoughtfully pack each item you do plan on bringing.
Remember that TLC show, Clean Sweep, where homeowners divided their possessions into "Keep," "Sell," and "Toss" piles? Moving is the perfect time to channel that show and purge! Make it as easy as possible to get rid of items you don't really need to bring with you, so you don't end up carrying items you don't use over to your new home. I created a designated corner of my living room for clothing and books I planned to sell at a second-hand shop, items for our moving sale, and piles for donation, trash, and recycling. We added to these piles all week, then devoted the entire final day of our move to properly getting rid of them. It's so, so easy to just throw everything you don't want into a dumpster when you're moving (things are hectic!), but take the time to be thoughtful about where you're taking things—properly recycle batteries, donate art supplies to schools, categorize miscellaneous donation goods, sell pieces on Craigslist. One of my favorite things we did was have a moving sale, which I announced on Instagram, with the proceeds going to Everytown. The benefits were two-fold: I knew pieces I loved but couldn't bring with me were going to a happy home, and I was able to donate to a cause I care about. While I announced my moving sale on Instagram, you could do the same thing by choosing a cause and posting it to sites like Nextdoor and neighborhood "Free and For Sale" pages on Facebook. It felt so much better to have only pieces we love and use as we unpacked Saturday.
As soon as we signed our new lease, Jonah and I created a shared note on our phones with a running list of to-dos: Transfer the wifi and renter's insurance, change address for subscriptions, pick up laundry from old dry cleaners. There are so many things to do when you move that it's easy for things to fall through the cracks—any time we thought of a new item, we'd add it to the note so we were both held responsible for handling it!
When I asked for moving advice on Instagram, the vast majority of the tips were about labeling! Several of you suggested using a different colored tape to pack up different rooms, and many of you recommended using spreadsheets. My favorite tip was to ban the word "Miscellaneous" from boxes, and challenge yourself to think of a more specific descriptor. I'm not kidding—when I received that tip, I had just written "Bathroom Misc." on a box, and crossed it out to write a more apt description. Because our last apartment was small and we don't have that many belongings, I found it useful to simply write my planned future location for the box's content, so: Upstairs Closet, Guest Room/Office, Bedroom, Living Room, Coat Closet, etc.
First of all, I learned you never have to buy boxes, ever. Jonah and I almost exclusively used wine and vegetable boxes from Trader Joe's, plus a few shipping boxes from our offices. After work each day, we'd each stop by a Trader Joe's and fill each of our cars to the brim with wine boxes—just walk in and say "Do you have any wine boxes I can use for moving?" and they will be more than happy to lead you towards a wall of them! I loved how sturdy they are, that they were already built (one less thing to do), and that they were the perfect size, especially for books—they never got so heavy that we couldn't carry them—and I used the spacers for wine bottles for packing delicate kitchen glasses. For larger items, like kitchen appliances, I found like-new U-Haul boxes on Nextdoor. It's eco-friendly and cost-effective (free). We put our bedding, pillows and curtains into trash bags, which worked great.
One thing I'd advise: Stay away from newspaper when packing light ceramics. I'm still trying to scrub the black ink stains out of our bowls!
On Friday evening, the day before the designated "Moving Day," I went over to the new apartment with a friend who helped me move into our kitchen (yes! now is the time to accept help from friends!). We spent hours focusing on that single room, and I'm so glad we did. It was the calm before the storm, and I was able to devote all of my attention to figuring out our new pantry and fridge configuration. By the time Saturday morning rolled around, my entire kitchen was unpacked, with the exception of one box of heavy pans I'd reserved for the movers. If I had waited until Saturday evening or Sunday, I would have been too exhausted and decision-fatigued to approach it.
Movers are expensive, but I don't know how we would have done it without them. While we moved most of our boxes ourselves (through several packed-car trips), they moved our furniture and heavier boxes, like the large plastic bins we keep our camping gear in and our bikes. Also, if they give you the option for a Morning or Afternoon time (many movers do two moves in a day), choose Morning. We selected Afternoon, and they gave us a 1 PM to 4 PM arrival window, but they had no way of knowing that their morning move would be much harder than they anticipated, so they arrived at 4 PM and were exhausted. They worked incredibly hard, and I have no complaints about the company we used, but we didn't end up finishing until 9 PM. Another thing: Always budget for one or two additional hours than you think it will take! We anticipated it taking the movers three hours, but it was closer to five.
When I asked for tips on Instagram, I received advice from both ends of the spectrum: Move in as slowly as possible, and move in as quickly as possible. I definitely subscribe to the latter! The quicker I'm unpacked, the quicker I can start settling into and enjoying my new space. I like to have everything completely unpacked within 24 hours which I know is impossible if you're moving into a larger home, but it's 24 hours of very hard work for the satisfaction and calm of being done and settled. I felt infinitely better Monday morning knowing that the only thing left to do was hang art (more on that below!).
In truth, I didn't end up doing this because I ended up unpacking all my clothes and beauty products the first day, but I received this advice from so many readers, and plan on using this tip in the case that I move into a larger home! The idea is to pack a bag like you're going on a week-long trip. As one person DMed me, "That way, 1) you can pack everything else in your house asap because you don't have to worry that you will "need" it before you move and 2) once you get to your new house, you will have everything you need immediately right there." So smart!
We also did not do this—which is why I know firsthand how important it is to do! Our bed got moved in last, because of the way our mover's truck was packed, and all I wanted to do was crash directly onto it at the end of our 18-hour moving day. If you're able to move your bed in earlier, make it right away so you can go to sleep as soon as you're moved in and don't have to deal with the pure struggle that is stuffing a duvet into its cover.
A few hours before the movers headed over with our furniture, I drove our cat Meesh to the new apartment and set up her food, water, and litter box (and a pile of laundry, as a "treat") in our second bedroom and sat with her for about an hour to help her calm down. We kept her in there for 24 hours, visiting frequently as she went through all 12 stages of grief, then let her out once we'd unpacked. She proceeded with caution at first, but as soon as the recognized our old furniture (and smells) and realized she can survey our entire apartment from the top of the stairs, she was back to her normal self.
The idea of the "touch it once" rule is, instead of picking up an item only to set it down for "later," you take care of it and find a space for it in that first moment. I applied this rule as I unpacked on Saturday and Sunday—when I moved my box of workout clothes upstairs, I didn't just set them down on the desk for later, but unpacked and refolded them into their new home then broke down the box. Every time you pick something up, put it in its correct place (or as close to it as you can guess; you can always move things around later if it isn't working!), and you'll be unpacked in no time. The same rule applies in a figurative sense to to-dos—even if you're tired, call the wifi company the day you move in and email your landlord or order a lightbulb the second you realize it's out.
Again, I like things be done, done as quickly as possible, so I always hire a handyman or Task Rabbit to come two days after a move to help with small tasks like hanging art (while we usually hang our art ourselves, the splurge of hiring a professional is worth it to me for hanging an apartment's worth). I also have a theory that if you don't hang art within two days, or address small home improvements, like patching holes and swapping out light fixtures, they'll take years to address.
P.S., If you know someone who's moving, the best housewarming gift you can offer is delivery (even if you live far away)! In the middle of our moving day, my mom sent Jonah and me a text to say takeout was on her—and to buy two day's worth of food, so we didn't have to cook for two nights. I can't tell you how much we appreciated it!