Make a list
Write everything down! You’ll thank yourself later. Before you pack even one box, create a simple record keeping system. Create a computer-printed list of numbers with a space to write the contents. Or have a spiral-bound notebook for the job. You’ll place a number on EVERY box you pack and list the contents on your list. Don’t put the list down unless it’s in a place you’ll call Packing Central. This is where you’ll find your labels, marking pens, box tape, and other supplies. When describing the box contents, be specific — “A-D files” is better than “files”, and “Tulip dishes” rather than “misc. kitchen”.
Have plenty of supplies
You’ll need LOTS of boxes–probably more boxes than you think, and having enough boxes will make your life easier! Have about 10 boxes set aside to use for last minute items on moving day, such as bedding, clothing, and cleaning supplies. You’ll need strong plastic packing tape to close up the boxes securely. Use unprinted newsprint (newspaper can stain your items) or packing paper or bubble wrap to wrap and cushion household good. Again, you’ll need lots more supplies than you think, so get extra so the packing can go smoothly. Return any unused supplies after the truck is packed.
Designate a color for each room in the new home, such as yellow for kitchen, orange for dining room, etc. Apply coloured stickers on the box near the box number. In your new home. Put a matching sticker on the door to each room. The movers will know where to put everything when they arrive at the destination. It’s also helpful to post a big sign on the wall in the room where you want boxes stacked, (“Boxes here please”) to keep them out of furniture and traffic areas.
Keep things together
Insist on keeping things together when you or the movers are packing boxes. Keep bookends with books, light bulbs with lamps, and extension cords with appliances. Small, loose parts can be attached to the item they belong to with tape or placed in small envelopes — to keep picture hooks with pictures, shelf brackets with a bookcase, a special nuts and bolts with the wall unit. Keep larger corresponding items (such as a cable TV cord) in resealable bags, and tape these to the underside or back of the item. As a backup, have a “Parts Box” open on the kitchen counter and fill it with cables, cords, parts, pieces, brackets, or nails that are removed from any items of furniture. Keep this box with you, or mark it well with a rainbow of coloured stickers so it can be easily located on move-in day.
Anything you can pack ahead will save you time on moving day. If it’s summer, get your winter clothes out of the way. You don’t really need 5 radios or TV’s around your house for the last few days there. Box up your shampoo and extra toothpaste and live out of a travel cosmetic case for the last week or two. Pare down cooking utensils and food supplies to bare essentials. Wastebaskets can also be packed (put things in them!) while you switch to using plastic grocery bags (hang them on a cabinet door or door handle to collect trash.)
Consolidate cleaning supplies
If you clean your old house after moving out, put together a kit of basic cleaning supplies and cloths. Clean anything possible ahead of time (the inside of kitchen cupboards, the oven, windows, etc.), and if possible, vacuum each room as movers empty it.
Use your luggage
Fill luggage and duffle bags with clothing, sheets, towels, and paper goods. Even for local moves you’ll be able to quickly spot your navy suitcase holding your favourite sleeping shirt, whereas “Box #189″ might remain elusive for days.
Keep important papers with you
Your list of “important” papers might include: birth certificates, school records, mover estimates, new job contacts, utility company numbers, recent bank records, current bills, phone lists, closing papers, estate agent’s info, maps, and more. Keep them with you!
Use brightly coloured storage boxes, one for each person. Let each family member fill theirs with items they’ll want ‘right away’ in the new home — a set of sheets, a towel, a couple of extension cords, a phone, nightlights, address book, pens and paper, keys, tissues, and travel cosmetic case, and so on.
Moving may not be the most fun you’ve ever had, but planning ahead will go a long way toward making the process bearable.