I remember at one point during the calm before the storm that is packing your entire life into boxes, Jason said to me, “This shouldn’t be that bad. We really don’t have that much stuff.”
I straight up laughed in his face.
In Jason’s defense, though, we are only a 2.5 person family. (Jason will probably give me crap later for saying that Salem is only half a person, but whatever. That is how the expression goes.) We are just starting out on our life together. We really shouldn’t have that much stuff.
But somehow, we do. And if we are really being honest, I am to blame for a solid chunk of it. I’m generally a pack rat, even though I have gotten better. I love books and have a bunch of them. (The more the merrier. Seriously, I want the library from Beauty and the Beast someday.) Most of the mementos and tchotchkies on the shelves are mine. The kitchen is generally my domain, so you can probably chalk up all the items in there to my tally, too.
Anyway, regardless of who brought what into our marriage, it is all ours as a collective unit now and it needed to get packed so it could be schlepped down to North Carolina. As you might remember from my previous post about picking movers, we ended up going with the partial pack option where we would be packing most of our items and having the movers pack the breakables in the kitchen. This meant that there was a lot of packing in my future and below are 10 tips I can share with you having now been through this ordeal:
1. If you are lucky enough to both a.) know in advance that you are moving, and b.) work at a job that ends up throwing away a ton of cardboard boxes, start collecting those boxes and bringing them home. Or, in the alternative, let friends know you are on the look out for cardboard boxes and ask them to save any they may have for you. Boxes for moving aren’t terribly expensive, but getting boxes for free is one way to save money on the already-expensive process of moving.
2. In the same vein, start saving or collecting newspapers. Newspapers are a great tool to help protect fragile items that you are packing. You can see from my picture at the top of this post that we collected quite a few newspapers, which definitely came in handy. Clean rags or even lounging clothes like t-shirts are also great for this purpose.
3. If you are looking to pare down, now is the time to do it. There is no better time than a move to get rid of items you no longer want because you have to go through everything in your house while packing anyway. Collectively, Jason and I ended up donating approximately ten boxes and bags of items plus some furniture to a local thrift store, not to mention the bags upon bags of things like old papers we were able to toss.
4. Give yourself more time than you think you will need to pack. If I could pick only one thing for you to take away from this list, this is it. If you think you need 3 days, give yourself a week. And by a week, I mean 7 days. This sounds ridiculous, I know, but this goes hand-in-hand with how I started off the post. You always end up having more stuff than you think you do. Because you have more stuff than you think you do, you are going to need more time to pack it than you initially think you will need. Paring down – deciding what to keep and what to toss – can also be time consuming. I thought I could get the house together and fully packed in a few days. I planned for a full week just to be safe. It took me that full week and I probably could have used one more day. Another reason that packing can take longer than you expect leads me to the next tip:
5. Packing is a game of Tetris. Wouldn’t it be great if all the contents of each shelf fit perfectly and neatly into their own boxes? It would! But that is not real life! Real life is that nothing fits neatly into a box, and unless you want to use a zillion boxes – yes, a zillion – you need to play packing Tetris. I really came to understand this when I was trying to pack up our hall closet, which has as all the odds and ends of our life in it. Medicine, bandaids, sunblock, bug repellant, soap, toothpaste, towels, extra pillows, sheets, and blankets, a hair dryer I hardly ever use, notepads, pens, a three-hole punch, envelopes, wrapping paper, holiday decorations, old Halloween/Purim costumes, every cell phone I’ve ever owned and been afraid to throw away, and the list goes on. When I was trying to pack this closet shelf by shelf, I found myself getting frustrated because nothing seemed to fit into boxes in an orderly fashion. So I decided to just take everything out of the closet and lay it out to get a good look at what I had and what could fit where. This helped immensely. For example, when I got to the end of a box and had a few crevices left for small items, I could look out over my array of stuff and find some things to utilize that empty space. It may sound counter-productive to have a sprawl across your living room or kitchen table of things you are trying to pack, but I found it to be extremely helpful.
6. Break big projects down into smaller, manageable tasks. About an hour in on my first day of packing I found myself overwhelmed and sitting in a chair thinking, “How am I ever going to do this?” When you are facing an entire house – multiple rooms, multiple closets, a full kitchen – that all needs to somehow find its way into boxes, it is easy to get overwhelmed. If you find yourself in this place, the best advice I can give you is take a breath, give yourself a moment, and then begin to break down the bigger projects into smaller, manageable tasks. For example, the big project is to pack up your whole living room. The manageable step is I am going to pack this one shelf and then move on to the next shelf. Or, I am going to pack all the books from my shelves and then move on to my knick-knacks. I’m not going to tell you that once I figured out this strategy that I never got overwhelmed again while packing, but once I did start the process of breaking bigger projects down into smaller tasks and focusing on those manageable steps, it became easier to calm down and reassure myself, “You can do this. Just take it one step at a time.”
7. Give yourself incentives. Another thing that helped me stay away from the overwhelmed breaking point was giving myself incentives. Besides for breaking down my big projects, I would tell myself, “Ok, I’m going to pack all that I can until noon, and then I’m going to go for a walk and pick up lunch.” These incentives can be whatever will motivate you to get things done. Sometimes I would take a break and watch an episode of a show on Netflix or Hulu. Sometimes I would surf Facebook. Whatever it was, these incentives and built in breaks helped refresh me and ensure that I didn’t get burned out on packing.
8. Put on something in the background that can help pass the time, but is not distracting. Let’s face it, packing things in boxes for hours on end is boring and frequently frustrating. Create yourself an upbeat playlist on Spotify to keep your flow going or catch up on a few podcasts. My preferred method is the Spotify sing-along, but find out what works for you. Just make sure that whatever method you’re using to help pass the time doesn’t detract from your main goal of getting packed. (I didn’t intend that to rhyme, but I’m going to leave it.)
9. Number your boxes, indicate on each box what room it needs to go in, and keep a list of what is packed in each box. While we have not received our stuff yet in North Carolina, these small organizational tasks are tips I received from many friends when discussing our move. Numbering your boxes can help ensure that all your boxes make it to your new home. Indicating on each box where it needs to go in the house helps the movers know where it should be placed as well as saving you the hassle of moving the box from one room to another later. Finally, having a list of what is packed in each box can help you find something in a pinch or at least help you narrow your search down to a few boxes rather than having to look through every one, hoping you get lucky. While I stuck with making a more general list of what was in each box, your list can be as thorough as you want to make it. Just remember tip #4, things are always going to take longer than you expect.
10. Accept help, or at the very least, delegate some tasks. Anyone who knows me is going to laugh at this tip because it is a piece of advice that I don’t even take myself. Just because I’m stubborn and a control freak, though, does not mean that it is not good advice. There are times and circumstances where I am happy to accept help, but packing up my life is not one of them. But, I do have to say that with our move, I did end up realizing that I could not do it all myself and there were things I needed to delegate to others. For example, I could not go through all of Jason’s items and decide what was being kept, donated, or tossed. That was something he needed to do and it was delegated to him. And, I know this is cheating, but I delegated packing my plates, glassware, and other breakable kitchen items to the movers, haha.
I hope you found these tips helpful and if you have any others, please feel free to share them in the comments!