Packing Tips: Make Your Move Smoother

Even a packing pro like Sandee Payne – a military wife who's no stranger to packing and moving – can get a deer in the headlights feeling when their entire household looks over them in frightening piles.

Payne’s first relocation experience came when her military husband was reassigned from upstate New York to Missouri.
“I had only heard stories about the dreaded (moving) process and was about to face it head-on," said Payne, moving expert and author of Move Your House.
Some people panic and begin tossing everything into garbage bags or rolling up fragile items in sheets of newspaper.

Payne’s tips for jumping into packing -- honed after years of experience -- are perfect for when you have no idea where to begin (and getting an emergency storage unit isn't an option).

1. Stay focused (and breathe). Concentrate on the room you’re standing in and prepare one room at a time.

Focusing on smaller individual tasks is always easier than trying to take on the whole job, Payne said.

2. Simplify. Let go of the things you don’t want before packing so you’re not tripping over half-dead house plants and remnants of your magazine collection when you’re trying to pack your living room.

3. Hold on to comfort items -- like the stereo you’re using to blast some inspirational heavy metal – and pack what you use least often first.

4. If items have many small pieces, (like desk items, collections and toiletries), take the time to pack them together in a clear plastic closeable bag.

5. Doing the laundry can be therapeutic – plus you’ll be thanking yourself post-move.

Make sure bed linens, blankets, pillows and towels are washed and dried and place them in tall kitchen bags with a dryer sheet for freshness.

If you’re really ambitious (or anxious), wash and press your window treatments.

6. Get yourself a package of nice new markers and write a list of the contents in the moving boxes that you pack – you’re pre-emptively reducing unpacking stress and keeping yourself organized.

7. Create a household inventory. Payne suggests a written itemized list, videotaping or (for the tech-inclined) a digital photo library. While it takes some work, this step can help assuage moving anxiety and give you recourse if anything goes missing or gets damaged in the moving process.

Put receipts and warrantees for valuable items in a binder or envelope along with your inventory. Hand-carry this home inventory with you.

If you get an organized and level-headed start, chances are the pattern will continue throughout your moving process.

Annika Mengisen is a freelance writer who edits the Freakonomics Blog for The New York Times.


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