Packing all of your earthly possessions—and we do mean ALL of them—strikes fear in the hearts of many. Maybe you feel like it’s a huge task that could consume countless hours of precious time. Or perhaps you have no idea where to start, which might make you put off packing until the last minute. And just about everyone worries about getting everything done in time. Finally, if it’s been a while since you last moved, you might feel even more stressed about the milestones, mishaps and mistakes.
We move thousands of families to, from and throughout the Hawaiian islands every year, and we’ve learned a thing or two during our 35+ years in the business.
In this article, we’re going to make it easy for you to pack your entire home. In fact, we’ll break it down into 9 easy steps. Using this list, you’ll know exactly what to pack first and what to pack last. We’ll also include a few tips to eliminate some of the most common moving challenges, like not having the essentials at hand when you arrive at your new place, challenges locating your most important possessions and more.
Let’s get started!
Step #1: Make a Plan
We get it: When you’re faced with a task like packing up your entire life, it sometimes feels good just to do something—anything.
However, if you’re willing to sit down and create a plan before you pack one single object, you’ll set yourself up for an organized, stress-free move. This means you won’t find yourself:
- Packing boxes until 2:00 am the morning of your move.
- Unpacking 20 boxes at your new home to find that ONE thing you need.
- Stuffing an important item in a random box and assuming it’s lost forever, only to find it three months later in a rush of relief.
If you’re game for creating a plan, here’s what we suggest you include:
- A timeline of what you’re going to do and when. Put a deadline on every step of your plan. You can even use our next eight steps as your milestones. Assigning a date to each step has an important psychological effect: You’ll realize that everything is doable. This can reduce your stress significantly—and give you a roadmap to getting it all done on time.
- Create a labeling system that everyone in your family uses. For example, we suggest labeling every box with 1) the room it’s going to and 2) a brief description of the contents. Repeat this on three sides, at a minimum.
- If you’re really passionate about organization, consider creating a master inventory sheet. Give each box a number, and create one master sheet that lists each box, what room it belongs to and its contents. This will not only help you find things on the other end, but it will also help ensure that nothing gets left behind or misplaced.
Finally, if you’re a super planner, you might even consider bringing in some principles from project management. You might find the Deming cycle—plan, do, check, act—helpful.
Our suggestion? Don’t let the planning drive you crazy. If you create a timeline and a labeling system, you’ve got a great system that will reduce stress and keep you focused.
Suggested Timeline:60 days out
Now, let’s talk about the milestones you might want to include in your plan:
Step #2: Don’t Forget to Downsize
We’ve already talked about how downsizing before your move can save you money. So consider this a gentle reminder: Transitioning to a new home can offer you a great excuse to get rid of those items that you don’t use anymore. (And why pay to move things you don’t even want?)
If you’d like a little assistance in letting go, check out our downsizing article.
Suggested Timeline: 60 days out
Now let’s address the flip side: the things you can’t live without.
Step #3: Set Aside the Essentials
No matter how you’re moving, there’s going to be a period of time when you’ll be without most of your personal possessions. If you’re doing a local Hawaii move, this might be a couple of hours. If you’re moving to or from the Mainland, this could be a couple of weeks. And no matter how long your items will be in transit, there will still be a period of time when most of your items are in boxes.
To help you make sure you have the most important items at your fingertips, you’ll want to put an essentials kit together.
- If you’re flying to your new home, set aside a section of your suitcase.
- If you’re doing a local move, create a last-in, first-out essentials box.
Consider including items like:
- Medication or medical supplies to get you through the transition. Don’t forget about things like test strips and syringes for diabetics.
- Pen & paper in case you need to jot anything down, like a phone number or a shopping list
- An extra phone charger
- A towel for each family member
- A flashlight or a headlamp with batteries
- A few essential tools like a hammer, a screwdriver, a pair of scissors and/or a knife
- A book to keep you occupied until your cable and Internet are installed
- Energy bars or a few snacks in case you get hit with a bout of hunger
If you’re moving locally, you might want to include a few more items to save you an emergency run to the store, including:
- A roll or two of toilet paper
- A few rolls of paper towels
- A roll of trash bags
- A spray bottle of cleaning solution
- A few extra light bulbs, just in case
With these items in hand, you’ll have most of what you need on hand to start getting your new home set up.
Suggested Timeline: You may not be able to pack most of these items until a few days before your move. However, you may want to at least put aside your suitcase or create your box 60 days out so you know where it will all go when you’re ready.
In addition to the essentials, you’ll also want to do a sweep through your home to give your most important possessions the special care they deserve.
Step #4: Gather Up Your Valuables & Keepsakes
In the past, we’ve shared with you that there are seven things we don’t want to move for you—nor does any mover. And it’s not because we don’t want to be helpful. Instead, when it comes to high-value or irreplaceable items, we want you to carry those with you. That’s the safest place for them to be.
We’re talking about things like:
- An irreplaceable wedding album
- Important documents like passports, birth certificates and social security cards
- Jewelry, collectible items and family heirlooms
Start your packing process by gathering these items so you can give them the special handling they deserve. You don’t want them accidentally packed into a random box.
Instead, take a peek at our article on packing your most valuable possessions, and we’ll show you the best way to get them to your final destination.
Suggested Timeline: 45 days out
Now that you’ve taken care of your special items, it’s time to dive into the heart of the process and get packing. Let’s discuss where to get started.
Step #5: Pack Storage Areas & Rooms You Don’t Use Often – First
Your garage, your attic, your guest room—these are all prime places to start your packing. Tackle these rooms first and you’ll end up packing things you likely won’t even miss in the weeks leading up to your move.
Suggested Timeline: 30-45 days out
Then, once you’ve tackled your lesser-used rooms and storage areas, it’s time to do a top-level sweep.
Step #6: Narrow in on the Non-Essentials
Next, you’ll want to go through your house and box up any non-essentials that you can live without for a few weeks, such as:
- Out-of-season clothes
- That second set of china you got at your wedding. Pare down to just one set of dishes and silverware per person in your house
- Artwork, knick-knacks and other pieces of décor
- Your library of books
Basically, anything that you feel confident you can live without for a few weeks should get packed into a box and labeled.
Suggested Timeline:30-45 days out
Once you’ve done a sweep for easy-to-spot non-essentials, it’s time to start attacking each of your rooms systematically.
Step #7: Start Packing Room by Room, in This Order
Between 2-3 weeks before Moving Day, kick your packing into high gear. Assuming you’ve already done the lesser-used rooms in your house that we suggested in Step #5, tackle your house in this order:
- Dining Room – If you have a formal dining room you don’t use every night, this one will be easy. And, if you did a sweep for non-essentials, you likely already got most of the decorative items in this room. Do a final packing job in here before heading on to your . . .
- Living Room – Your family may spend a lot of time in here, but you’ll have to bite the bullet sooner rather than later. Before you pack up the entertainment area, make sure everyone in the house has a book or a tablet to tide them over until your new electronics are in place.
- Kitchen – As you get close to your move, it’s going to be time to put all of your kitchen utensils, plates, dishes and cups in boxes. (Check out our dish packing tips if you need a little assistance!) You may want to grab a pack of disposable plates and utensils to get your family through after you pack your kitchen.
- Bedroom & Bathroom – Your bedroom and your bathroom should be the last two rooms you pack, for one simple reason: You’ll need them until your very last day in your new home. As you’re packing these last two, remember to keep your essentials separated out into the suitcase or box you’ve designated.
Suggested Timeline:7-14 days out, but keep in mind that much of this work will be done in the last week before you move.
Step #8: Celebrate Your Last Night in Your Home
If you created a plan (and stuck to it!), your last night in your home will be a simple one. You’ll probably need some time for final packing in your bathrooms and bedrooms. However, don’t forget to make time to celebrate everything you and your family has done—and don’t be shy about ordering takeout to eat on disposable plates!
Suggested Timeline: 1 night out
Step #9: Go in Reverse on the Other End
There’s one final bonus that creating a plan offers you: You’ll have a perfect roadmap for an easy unpack.
Just follow your plan in reverse order, starting with your bedroom and bathroom, then on to your kitchen and so on. Unpack the important items before you start hanging art on the wall or placing knick-knacks on shelves. Finish up by unpacking those lesser-used rooms that you started with.
By going in reverse order, you’ll naturally get access to the things you use the most, saving you from hunting through tons of boxes to find that one thing you desperately need.
Suggested Timeline: First week in new home
Nine Steps to a Stress-Free Transition
If you’ve ever searched through nine packing boxes to find that round baking dish you need for tomorrow’s barbecue, you’ve also probably promised yourself that next time, your move would be different. The truth is, most of us start packing with the best of intentions. There are a million little things that can derail you. Maybe you had to execute a quick move on a short timeline. Maybe you didn’t know exactly where to start.
Your next move can be different. With our nine-step plan, you’ll create a stress-free, organized move that won’t require any all-nighters and won’t leave you cutting open boxes in a frantic search on the other end.
Want to skip the packing and have us do it for you? We’d be happy to! Our Certified Moving Consultants move thousands of families in, out and around the Hawaiian islands every year. Just get in touch with us for a quote.